The Bronze Age and Ritual Equipment

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The Bronze Age and Ritual Equipment

Postby MEversbergII » 01 May 2015 02:06

Many years ago, I read a book on the bronze age (or there abouts) that was written probably sometime in the 40's or 50 - quite old in any case. In it, it was stipulated that bronze age equipment (military I suppose) was all "ritualistic", and that they couldn't really be used in any meaningful way.

We know that's utter hogwash. However, I don't remember all the details, or the reasoning behind this line of thought. How does anyone with enough brain cells to string words together enough to form a book think that a solid slab of metal only amounts to a ritual object? Surely they knew you could end someone with a garden hose if you like?

Or to be less bombastic, what were they trying to convey by telling me these were ritual goods? This is an old school of archaeology, and not simple to find on Google, unfortunately.

Thanks,

M.
When I was a fighting-man, the kettle-drums they beat,
The people scattered gold-dust before my horses feet;
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With poison in my wine-cup, and daggers at my back.

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Re: The Bronze Age and Ritual Equipment

Postby Dan Howard » 04 May 2015 02:02

It originally stemmed from the misunderstanding that bronze wasn't any good for weapons and armour. If iron replaced bronze then it must have been better. We now know differently. Even when iron started to be used, bronze was still superior. It required a good understanding of quench-hardened steel before iron started to make better weapons and armour.

The other aspect of this is that whenever an archaeologist uncovered something that they couldn't understand the function of, they automatically classified it as "ceremonial".

When you have these two mindsets then the assumption that "all bronze weapons and armour must have been ceremonial" makes complete sense.

The above has been reinforced by dodgy experiments like the one by Coles in 1962, which is still widely cited today. This is copied from my book:

The most commonly cited shield test was published by John Coles in 1962. His target was a thin piece of copper plate; its 0.3 mm thickness was based on several extant bronze shields, which were of a similar thickness (such as the one from Coveney Fen). Not surprisingly, the thin sheet of copper was easily cut by the sword he used. Ever since, authors have used this test to demonstrate the ineffectiveness of bronze shields and armour. However, this conclusion is easily shown to be unfounded. Firstly, the so-called 0.3 mm shield was likely to be merely the facing for a leather or wooden shield; it was part of a composite construction and never intended to be used on its own. Shields made entirely of metal were considerably thicker. Secondly, Coles tested soft copper while most shields and armour were made of harder alloys that had been worked even harder. Despite its shortcomings though, Coles’ test does contribute to the body of evidence. The main conclusion one can draw is that Bronze Age shields cannot have been made solely from 0.3 mm of copper. Any extant finds of this type must be more thoroughly examined to see if any trace of a wooden or leather backing remains.

It is further perverted by people who can't even cite the experiment properly. Nicolas Grguric wrote in Osprey's The Mycenaeans that Coles tested 3mm of bronze, when he actually tested 0.3mm of copper.
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Re: The Bronze Age and Ritual Equipment

Postby MEversbergII » 05 May 2015 16:14

Ah! I remember that exact experiment! I do seem to recall the "ritual object" association, though I evidently didn't make the connection. Sloppy archaeology on their part. I think I recall references from the Bronze Age Centre, which I haven't been by in many years (still around?).

I know in the 70's or so a new form of archaeology / anthropology started coming about so maybe it improved after then. Academia is notoriously conservative, however.

So how did these people think combat was conducted during this age? Song and dance? I'm pretty sure the Trojan War was a bronze one, and quite well read in the Illiad at the time.

Thanks for reminding me about your book; I'm going to have to finally get a copy.

M.
When I was a fighting-man, the kettle-drums they beat,
The people scattered gold-dust before my horses feet;
But now I am a great king, the people hound my track
With poison in my wine-cup, and daggers at my back.

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Re: The Bronze Age and Ritual Equipment

Postby Dan Howard » 06 May 2015 23:22

MEversbergII wrote:Thanks for reminding me about your book; I'm going to have to finally get a copy.

It summarises all the best tests such as Hulitt, Blythe, and Molloy.

I think I recall references from the Bronze Age Centre, which I haven't been by in many years (still around?).

Yep.
http://z8.invisionfree.com/Bronze_Age_Center/index.php?
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