occasional bronze weapons and gold jewellery. But what of the people? Are they really that homogenous? Could there not have been societal divisions where part of
the population still associated themselves with the ‘incoming’ set of ideas, whileanother considered themselves to be ‘native’ in their background. At a remove of
several generations from the genesis of such a society all such distinctions are (interms of the physical evidence, at least) unimportant
s terms Unionistsand Nationalists are vastly politically different, but they share a material culture: both sides have flat-screen TVs, broadband internet, and drive VW Polos (
it’snot like one side are all ‘modern’ and the other lot are grimly li
ving in the 17thcentury, with their muskets, horse-drawn carts, and exciting, woodblock printedmonthly journals. Similarly, in my hypothetical Bronze Age scenario, you canaccommodate multiple traditions with competing/mutually exclusive mental culturalmaps and landscapes, yet sharing a near identical lifestyle.The other idle though of mine today was about the strong cohesive (andsimultaneously divisive) power of such ceremonial activities as marching andparading. I know there are plenty who see it as an oppressive force, deliberately andaggressively flaunting its authority and ascendancy. On the other hand, the scenenear my house was of large numbers of people feeling part of a shared history,culture and community. These views are mutually exclusive, but each has somethingto recommend them. As I say, I have no interest in passing comment on modernpolitical divisions. Initially I was thinking of the fantastic
of Irish Bronze AgeHorns and how they could have been used in just such a way
loud droninginstruments to attract attention: invoking positive feelings of inclusion andacceptance in one social group and precisely the opposite in another. The serioussuggestion in all of this that, perhaps, we should attempt to move beyond studies of manufacture and deposition of these instruments and begin to look at them in termsof the political/religious power that they may have had
not just to bind a society
together, but to highlight differences too. I’ve probably already pushed this argument
too far, but I may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb: in writing all this it has juststruck me how similar the gold lunulae and gorgets are to the sashes worn by themembers of the Orange Order. Both can be seen as demonstrating affiliation withone particular cultural ideology. Perhaps the Bronze Age goldwork too had specific
connotations that evoked differing responses from different groups of spectators. I’m
not sure how one would go about searching for, or drawing out, such threads of cultural dissonance, but perhaps they are there to be found by the right researchers.
In any case, they can’t ever be found unless someone raises the possibility that they
might exist at all. Overall, I am suggesting that we need to develop a more nuancedapproach to past societies, and attempt to see beneath any apparent homogeneity and reflect how different elements within that society regard the outcomes of powershifts and religious/ceremonial changes.In the meantime, I present a small selection of photographs from the parade as itpassed near my house and remind ourselves that, despite whatever political views wehave that may divide us, we have culturally much more that unites us!
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