Archaeology & Anthropology Study Day
I have spent an interesting day with the Durham University's departments of Anthropology and Archaeology. With the former, we considered the evolution of art through the ages. Some art, like language, is seemingly impenetrable to the outsider. It is dependent on symbols rather than icons and requires some prior knowledge of the group. This was evidenced by two examples of Aboriginal art as well as several languages. The more open a culture is to outside influence, the more likely it is to be understood and appreciated by people outside the group.
With the latter, we discussed the evidence for ancient peoples with Dr Derek Kennet. There are three significant early civilisations: Egypt, Mesopotamia and the Indus Vally, which is now covered by India/Pakistan. They were all prevalent around 2000BC. The former two are well researched, while the latter has been neglected. Dr Kennet suggested that during his excavations, its cities' remains have yielded little by way of palaces, temples, images of rulers or evidence of an elite, and very few examples of weaponry. Its streets' drainage system, however, was of a better quality that that enjoyed by many contemporary Indians. Some have therefore suggested that it was some early, egalitarian and pacifist paradise, preferring the welfare of its people to the exaltation of its wealthy. An interesting interpretation.
I also enjoyed a tour of department's laboratories, wherein a couple of American researchers explained how they were able to sex and date skeletons. One lady was sifting through the remains of a fourth-century Roman burial, trying to deduce whether the infant buried with its mother was unborn at the time of death or had been placed with the older corpse. Another was examining a nineteenth-century Quaker skeleton, the owner of which had clearly suffered from rickets, having bowed bones. He had suffered from vitamin D deficiency, his hard life doubtless denying him time in the sun.
The more I learn, the more ignorant I realise myself to be.