Hi Doug, hi all,
Doug Weller schrieb:
> The language change issue isn't for archaeologists to solve, although
> they may contribute to its solution.
Well, we seem to differ on that one, I'd say. Actually, this "language
change" argument has arisen in archaeology to dogde the problem of
having no evidence for (largescale population) migration but ending up
with several societies in the British isles (which, when looking at them
via the archaeological record, seem to be considerably different) that
all speak similar languages, have quite similar cultural practices as
soon as they are recorded in writing either abroad or locally, have
similar social structures, similar laws, similar religions and so on,
and as such, archaeology (or better, the theories developed by
archaeologists that require such a language change) should also be able
to explain how that language change should have happened - which it
absolutely can't as yet, at least as far as I can see. As such, I'd say
that's taking the easy escape route to avoid the problem of having to
explain how it came to be that all those similarities arose in societies
that seem to be mostly local developments and seem to be considerably
different in the archaeological record. In fact, this problem threatens
the very self-understanding of archaeology, and especially
Anglo-American archaeology since the rising of "New Archaeology", as a
discipline able to explain cultural processes in the past based on the
material remains as recovered in excavations.
In fact, I'm with Sir Mortimer Wheeler on this, in that "archaeology is
about people, not about things", and as such it should not reduce itself
to explanations like "there was a XY change, but we don't know why or
how that came to be, because that's for others to solve".
> The reasons that a people in one
> place adopt bits of the culture from another place vary, but are
> fairly obvious - trade, religion, intermarriage, maybe small
> invasions/migrations, etc.
Well, but that doesn't solve the question as to when, how and why
Britain became "Celtic" (if it became at all), this only sound well. We
could immediatly end all archaeological research, as the above
commonplace actually explains every cultural change in human history if
we add "local development" and "mass migration" to the above list.
In fact, the British, for whatever reason, adopted not only a few
elements of continental Celtic culture, but rather a horrible lot, to
such a degree that, in the second Iron Age, most of Britain is
considered to form part of the wider european La Tène cultural complex
(even though there may not at all have been that many adoptions that
this actually is justified, that's something one could discuss). And
it's not only the material culture, it's obviously a lot of other
things, including language etc., that were "adopted" as well, in fact,
almost the whole cultural package seems to have been "adopted". This
needs specific explanation in my opinion, which is not what I currently
can notice in English archaeology (at least not in the currently
especially influential "Celtosceptic" lobby), which argues that the
"British" never were "Celts" because there are differences in material
To me, this looks like claiming that archaeology can tell us that the
theories developed by scholars in linguistics, literature, art history,
ancient history and similar disciplines are wrong because the
similarities they see do not fit with what differences archaeologists
have unearthed, but at the same time being absolutely unable to explain
why there are all these similarities these other disciplines see. James'
"Atlantic Celts" is very enlightening on this - while he argues that
archaeology prooves that the ancient British were no "Celts", and while
he extensively tackles the historical aspects of the development of the
term "Celtic" for the Iron Age cultures of western and central Europe,
he silently avoids to tackle the numerous similarities that cannot be
explained away either by differences in material culture or the
political agenda behing the development of the term "Celtic" in the last
centuries. Retorically well done, I have to say, but intellectually
> British archaeologists are well aware of the lack of uniformity in European
> 'Celtic culture'.
Well, I'd not be that sure about that, given what I've heard in various
discussions with British archaeologists, who insist on the distinct
differences between various British Iron Age cultures in contrast to
"European La Tène culture".
> Archaeology deals with the 'hard' facts, and those indicate continuity
> of populations.
Well, but this tells us little about how that alleged "change" that made
Britain more or less "Celtic" happened to happen. In fact, there's a
very interesting paper on the Roman conquest of Gaul, seen
archaeologically, in Hill&Cumberpatch (eds.) "Different Iron Ages.
Studies on the Iron Age in Temperate Europe." BAR International Series
602 (Oxford 1995), arguing that, wouldn't we have Caesar's record, the
Romanisation of northern Gaul would rather seem to have been a slow
acculturation than a conquest.
I don't doubt that there was a continuity of populations, but this only
rules out mass immigration with almost total annihilation of local
populations, nothing more. As such, the question as to how this "change"
happened to happen is not in the slightest solved with this
interpretation of the "hard facts", it only pretends to solve it.
> But you also wrote:
> "Only in the long term if at all. There's little indication of one
> determinable migration from somewhere in central Europe to Britain (or
<snipped my own stuff>
> best of small population groups (most likely social elites)."
> I thought you and I were more or less in agreement when I saw that!
We are more or less in agreement. I will definitly not argue mass
migrations with annihilation of local populations. But I definitly do
think that the current "archaeological solution" of the problem of
"Celtisation" of Britain is no solution at all.
Anyways, all the best from someone who whould perhaps start to think of
himself as a British archaeologist as well, given that I sit here in
Mag.phil. Raimund KARL <mailto:[log in to unmask]>
Universität Wien, Institut für Alte Geschichte
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