Martiality in practice. An experimental archaeology and use-wear analysis approach to the study of the phenomenon of sword depositions in the Southern Netherlands between the Late Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age.

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Martiality in practice. An experimental archaeology and use-wear analysis approach to the study of the phenomenon of sword depositions in the Southern Netherlands between the Late Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age.

Type: Research master thesis
Title: Martiality in practice. An experimental archaeology and use-wear analysis approach to the study of the phenomenon of sword depositions in the Southern Netherlands between the Late Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age.
Author: Gentile, Valerio
Issue Date: 2017-01-31
Keywords: Bronze Age
Weapon Depositions
Use-wear Analysis
Experimental Archaeology
Archaeology of Warfare
Abstract: During the Bronze Age (BA), in the Southern Netherlands, swords have been systematically surrendered into main rivers for hundreds of years while they are completely absent in coeval burials. Such a sharp pattern was extensively used as a platform to develop hypotheses on the social organization of the communities that performed the rite both at regional and at European level. Being a warrior is considered to have been a threat for the social cohesion of the small and egalitarian BA communities of the Low Countries: therefore, warriorhood must have been a temporary identity which was ‘worn’ when necessary, and then dismissed through the ritual deposition of certain martial paraphernalia (the swords). However, the above-mentioned model does not explain entirely why not all the swords in circulation, but only a few specimens (roughly one every 10 years), were deposited. In order to better understand the selection mechanics, I propose to analyze the possible value-giving events in which these selected items might have been through. Given the nature of the objects, combat constitutes a probable factor governing the selection of these tools for deposition. This thesis aims to illustrate a methodology for the investigation of combat practices, as well as to propose an interpretative framework suitable for gaining insights about socio-cultural aspects drawing upon data on objects’use. Through a combined approach which envisaged an experimental investigation of combat that conciliates realism and control over the variables, and an in-depth analysis of usewear traces on ancient specimens, it was possible to assess the use in combat of archaeological swords. The presence of fresh combat marks together with possible signs of ancient repairs on the swords analyzed suggests that swords have been through more than one cycles of use before being deposited. Furthermore, the incidence and the type of combat traces documented on the archaeological swords analyzed support the thesis of a skillful use of these objects in the past. By interpreting the data through a framework based on practice theory and the related conception of value-through-action, it has been possible to gain alternative perspectives on the phenomenon of deposition and on the social identity of the warrior. Drawing upon the evidence of skillful and continued use of the deposited swords, a multidisciplinary exploration of warriorhood as a practice resulted in a more fixed and socially-structuring picture of this social identity than the one proposed by previous literature providing points of discussion which question the current discourses regarding European Bronze Age society.
Supervisor: Fontijn, David R.Gijn, Annelou van
Faculty: Faculty of Archaeology
Department: Archaeology (Research master)
Specialisation: Prehistoric Farming Communities of North-western Europe
ECTS Credits: 35
Evaluation: Recommended
Handle: http://hdl.handle.net/1887/46054
 

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