Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Collectors' Methodologies (2): Mega-cabling

Mr Hooker complains (see post above) that I do not give any examples to support why I do not approve of his amateur methodology of bundling loose ideas together, instead of making a logical case. This post will give just a few examples, mainly to offset the above criticism - it really is getting way off the topic of this blog.

As an example of the collector Hooker's 'thought cables' attempting to make sense of decontextualised objects, we might take his latest post on the religion of La Tène elites. In it, Hooker jumps around from topic to topic making his bundles ("cables"). So we have an alleged use of the same component of an image on some Celtic coins (none other than the Coriosolites which pop up in almost every other post on Hooker's blog, no matter what the topic, because he's studied lots of drawings of them) and, jumping jehosphats, some of them appear on megalithic monuments !! Rectangles with diagonals for example. There must be a connection, eh? Put it in the cable!

Coin (Ossimi) after Rudd
More "cable" fodder is a stater of the Osismii which Hooker reckons "tells the whole story of the year" going round the head of somebody he is sure is "Hermes Ogmios". There are heads joined with a beaded line which "carry the story". Why one coin would have the "story of the year" on it is not explained. Personally, seeing as the many Celtic coins carry heroic themes, I'd ask why these are not trophy heads on ropes. But that'll be dismissed as me being "too lazy to research" to prove John Hooker right. I see though that Chris Rudd is also "too lazy" to agree with Hooker.

Some more "looks like" cable fodder, a ('girdle') clasp from a German site has a complex decorative scheme around a human head, and Hooker pulls out just a small part of the design a tendrilly-thing probably ultimately inspired by south European motifs. "Look", he says excitedly, "the same shape is on a Coriosolite (who else, eh?) coin from my book!" Cable! No matter that he gets the name of the well-known classic site wrong (Weiskirchen, not Weisskirchen/Weißkirchen) more serious is that Hooker seems oblivious to the fact that plants are plants and hair is hair and the resemblance between the two, in reality as well as representations is just a coincidence. To have any meaning at all, Hooker would have to show much more than he does. But hey, that's me being "lazy" no doubt unwilling to climb the "cable" of coincidences. Neither would I do so following the double-S-shape that is another "cable" strand. Hooker dodges showing any more "megalithic" motifs that he can find coincident ones on Celtic coins and metalwork - nasty archies put "copyright" on their pictures and Hooker doubts whether his is "fair use" I presume.

Now, actualy there is not much here that is new. First of all there are a whole load of other people (loonies some of them) who've written books about "Britain's Ancient Heritage"  (I've got a few from a crooked book club I used to belong to) and which predate Hooker's "cables". They do the same thing, find signs on standing stones and the suchlike and then show the same things in later 'art' (including medieval churches) which they see as firm evidence of spiritual continuity. I see no difference between that and what Hooker is doing. Its also the same idea as Alois Riegl had at the beginning of the last century (Stilfragen: Grundlegungen zu einer Geschichte der Ornamentik).

Skipping over the triple spiral, Rig Veda ("an intermediary position between Newgrange and the Celts"), Pythagoras and Lucian (and dismissing the untrue assertions about the absence of platinum inclusions in Cornish gold - of dubious relevance to the subject under discussion anyway), we come on to some 'supporting evidence' that there is some sort of  ("ties in") connection between 'megalithic culture' and Celtic art of the elite. Cable! From some [1960]book on Brittany  in the popular Thames and Hudson Ancient peoples and places Series, Mr Hooker seizes on a passage that "ties in" with what he's trying to prove. Unspecified "skeletal evidence" led the French authors to reason that "the inhabitants of Brittany just before the Roman conquest consisted of about a 50/50 mix of recent Celtic arrivals and descend[a]nts of the Megalithic indigenous populations". Whoopee, cable! This is really amateurish. First of all, physical anthropology has  certainly made a lot of advances since 1960, so do later studies of skeletal micromorphology confirm this half-century-old conclusion? Which skeletal traits were these anyway? Surely not the old outlived "long heads long barrows, round heads round barrows" trope of nineteenth century barrow diggers? Thirdly, studies of this kind today are done on DNA haplogroups and so on. Has Hooker looked at the evidence from that (warning doing it on the net inevitably brings you into contact with some pretty nasty 'Blut und Ehre' Neo Nazis). Anyway, if we are talking about bloodline connections between megalithic cultures and celtic elites patronising the artists, Brittany is irrelevant since, as far as the rest of us mortals are concerned, the art styles had their beginnings well to the southeast, pretty well outside the range of anything that really could be called 'megalithic'. This "cable" does not seem particularly strong.

Quite apart from the fact that for Mr Hooker, a large part of the bit of prehistory that he is dabbling in can be explained by migrations, often the main evidence he offers is a philological interpretation of the exonyms. As my old professor used to say of these models of the 1950s and 1960s, "instead of using imagined migrations as an explanation, how about explaining the migration?".  

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