Interpretative Methods Essay

1060 words - 4 pages

Interpretative MethodologiesJane Dickins and Ronan O'Flaherty use different methodologies to learn about the past. Jane Dickins talks about ethnography which is the descriptive documentation and analysis of a contemporary culture. O'Flaherty discusses experimental archaeology which is a branch ofarchaeological investigation in which carefully controlled experiments are undertaken in order to provide data and insights that aid in the interpretation of the archaeological record. Dickins discusses what constitutes the ritual behaviour of Bronze Age axes and Central Australian tjurunga.O'Flaherty constructs a replica of the Early Bronze Age halberd and uses it on 20 sheep skulls.Jane Dickins talks about the use of ethnography which is the central interpretative methodology in this paper. The strength of this ethnographic method is that it "presents the possibility of varied and heterogeneous reasons or causes for a practice" (Dickins, 1996), for example the possibility that a Bronze Age person would deposit an axe in bog/wet land as part of an offering or to obtain a higher status. In this paper Dickins aims to analyze what constitutes the ritual behaviour of the Central Australian tjurunga and the Bronze Age axes. However, there are many flaws to this ethnographical analogy of the past. The weaknesses to this method is that the documentation about the contemporary culture is constructed on the basis of cross-cultural generalization without any note of the various different social backgrounds and beliefs that the people had that made them (Dickins, 1996). Although little records of the finds of axes have been kept as most were found by accident, the ethnographic documentation that has been recorded suits Dickins aim as the record of Irish axes and where they were found provides an answer to the aim of the paper. A hoard of 11 axes were found at Co.Kerry lying in a hollowed hole with their cutting edges facing outwards. This shows us that considerable care was enforced in placing these axes highlighting their significance in the ritual behaviour. Also, out of the 240 Bronze Age axes found, only 12 were found with something other than an axe. This again highlights their ritual significance. The ethnographical analogy used also suits the aim with regards to the Central Australian tjurunga. The term tjurunga describes sacred objects or boards which are kept hidden in isolated caves and rock shelters. They are passed down from spirit ancestors. We learn from records about the rituals involved in hiding a tjurunga. When a person becomes an o wner of a tjurunga, they are taken to a hidden store-house(caves/rock shelters) where their tjurunga are deposited in isoltaion from other sites and activities. The site of a tjurunga store-house is determined by the dreaming stories that it contains. The store-houses are usually marked by a feature in the landscape such as a cave, rock shelters or on hills. Although at Ilbalintja, in the eastern-central desert, there...

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