Yesterday lunchtime I went to a brilliant talk given by Gareth Beale, who is using computer modelling to test different hypotheses relating to Roman Sculptural Polychromy. Essentially he is modelling a Roman sculpure in various different scenarios and according to different polychromal techniques. His aim is not to show ‘what the sculpture would have looked like’ but to test and whittle down the current archaeological hypotheses and interpretations. For more information, visit: http://twitter.com/#!/GCBeale
Gareth’s interesting and refreshingly honest talk led me to think about the nature of my own research, and whether or not the search for the archaeological ‘truth’ is actually a futile endeavor. Perhaps we as archaeologists need to start questioning that which we consider as fact, and begin accepting that we are not and never will be an objective discipline.
Speaking directly about the Bronze Age, many European prehistoric authors saturate their work with stock phrases that denote a sense of finality to what they are saying. This is particularly true of Central Europe and the Balkans, with authors still grasping at the cosmological significance of material culture and burial rites. Often, it sounds like they are just making it up!
Prehistorians need to embrace the limitations of their own subject and not hide behind statements that try to persuade the reader that their interpretation is the only interpretation. There should be nothing wrong with saying something along the lines of: ‘we don’t know exactly how it was done, but we now know that it didn’t happen like this.’ With my own research, it is pretty clear that I will not be able to pinpoint the creative abilities of one select individual, and nor should I wish to. My research is rooted in possibility and what I aim to do however is to access whether or not creativity is a useful concept for archaeologists through implementation of a methodology, and also see if it can shed a little bit more light on the Bronze Age in Pannonia.