This chapter introduces the volume and sets out its aims. It introduces the concept of bricolage: an archaeological approach to meaning-making that juxtaposes diverse data and bodies of theory to develop narratives for understanding complex and fragmented assemblages. A preliminary definition of innovation is presented, and the structure of the book is explained.
This chapter explores the idea of invention and asks what, if any, insight archaeology can offer into something that is often considered both momentary and rare. The invention of metallurgy in Eurasia is explored both to delineate the variety of archaeological tools applied to understand this phenomenon, and to demonstrate that invention is considerably less transient than typically imagined. Taking a social approach, the chapter argues that invention is a process with both spatial extent and time depth, and one that involves a network of people, crafts, and ideas. To explore this further, a discussion of imitation and emulation is developed. This brings together archaeological and anthropological narratives of technological imitation with more recent work on iterative processes and re-combination in the digital sphere. The chapter argues that the idea of parsimonious inventions developed by singular (male) individuals is a myth that elides the complex social networks and historical processes that shape this creative process.
This chapter explores in greater depth the interpretative tools available to archaeologists interested in innovation and technological change. It begins with an extended discussion of the research history of early-agriculture studies and the various narratives and interpretative frameworks that have developed in this thriving field. Evolutionary approaches to innovation are discussed and found to be limited in their applicability because of their inability to grapple with the complexities of social relations and socially constructed technologies. Instead, the chapter argues that the most appropriate approach to the study of innovation, particularly when examining highly fragmented archaeological data, is through the application of social models that emphasize connections between persons and things, a relational approach foregrounding ideas of social construction, negotiation, and historic trajectories. This approach allows us to bring together complementary data and to work at multiple temporal and spatial scales to tell thick histories of innovation and resistance.
This chapter askes how innovations spread – both over space and through time. It attempts to bridge the distance between the individual-scale sharing of knowledge or skills and the regional scale patterning visible archaeologically. The case study explored in this chapter is the spread of Lapita material, people, and practices in the prehistoric Pacific. As the study makes clear, especially when small-scale and pre-modern societies are concerned, kin networks are crucial vectors for the dissemination of new ideas, technologies, and practices particularly through teaching and learning. This observation leads to an extended discussion of craft learning that explores the ways various training models identified ethnographically and historically encourage or discourage innovative practices. Evolutionary models of knowledge transfer are contrasted with more embedded approaches, such as models of situated learning and communities of practice. The discussion then broadens to explore the geographies of innovation dissemination. While archaeologists fixate on narratives of diffusion and migration, research in the contemporary world focuses on the development of regional innovation systems. The chapter argues that these dominant approaches overlook the role of peripheral populations and the creativity of marginal communities.
This chapter explores the motivations for innovation adoption in the past and present. It is built around a discussion of the complicated ways indigenous people incorporated (some) European materials into their material culture through a culturally contingent process of re-definition and negotiation. This fraught process is contrasted with common-sense adoption narratives built around a scaffolding of economic rationalism and superior functionality. The chapter argues against this sort of post hoc ergo propter hoc interpretation, suggesting instead that the choice to adopt an innovation is best understood through the lens of specific social and interpersonal relationships. In order to shift our perspective away from more traditional adoption narratives focused on influential or aggrandizing male elites, the chapter looks at shifting patterns of community and identity linked together by women and children through phatic labor. The role of kin – biological and fictive – is emphasized.
This chapter explores the tricky question of non-innovation, and how we might understand it both archaeologically and in the present. At its core is the case study of Romano-British Cornwall, during an apparently static and stodgy period where archaeologists have observed a marked tendency towards continuity from much earlier periods in settlement pattern and material culture. By assuming that this seeming non-change reflected active, negotiated choices, a new model emerges in which maintaining traditional practices and ways of life is part of an active resistance of Roman domination. This case study is used as an entry point, first to discuss how to identify and understand innovation resistance or non-innovation in archaeological contexts and, second, to understand the various practices that are bundled together under the umbrella of conservatism. The chapter emphasizes how innovation and non-innovation result from and affect flows of power, and the effects of these on personal and social networks. The logic of anti-innovation is explored, and the modern myth of disruption as unalloyed good is, itself, disrupted. The chapter builds on post-colonial literature to argue that persistence is a better frame for non-innovation than conservatism, but that even the identification of a given practice as innovative or not is a subjective judgment affected by power relations, histories of practice, and local context.
The ‘bog bodies’ of north-western Europe have captured the imagination of poets as much as archaeologists, confronting us with human remains where time has stopped – allowing us to come ‘face to face’ with individuals from the past. Their exceptional preservation allows us to examine unprecedented details of both their lives and deaths, making us reflect poignantly upon our own mortality. Yet this book argues that they must be resituated within a turbulent world of endemic violence and change, reinterpreting the latest Continental research and new discoveries in this light. The book features a ground-breaking ‘cold case’ forensic study of Worsley Man: Manchester Museum’s ‘bog head’ and brings the bogs to life through both natural history and folklore, as places that were rich, fertile, yet dangerous. Finally, it argues that these remains do not just pose practical conservation problems but philosophical dilemmas, compounded by the critical debate on if – and how – they should be displayed, with museum exemplars drawn from across the globe
Bog bodies have inspired poets, authors, artists and musicians, exerting a power over the present that is unique in archaeology. This chapter features some of the best-known examples, examining why they have caught the public imagination and how they can be used to talk to us about issues in the present, confirming their status not only as archaeological icons but moving individuals whose lives and deaths have much to teach us about human nature.
This chapter discusses the phenomenon of bogs in the wider context of later prehistoric wetlands. What makes these places unique? How were they perceived and used by those communities? Rejecting the notion of them as mere marginal zones, it conjures their pivotal role as landscapes rich in craft and building materials, ore, fuel, fodder and fowl. Through the use of archival material it examines the disputes fought over rights to use them, the difficulty in mapping them and the folklore associated with their strange properties – ghost or corpse lights, boggarts and ‘hell holes’. It uses ethnography to capture some of the uncanny properties, as well as the dangers of being in the bog, driven by the rewards of the turf.
This chapter presents a critical historiography of bog body discovery, from medieval allusions to well-preserved bodies, to seventeenth-century accounts of peat diggers’ finds and eighteenth-century displays of the dead, exhibited by early antiquarians. It argues that we need to appreciate how marvellous preservation was conceptualised in each of these eras, to understand the fate of their remains and the uses to which they were put. It thus examines the changing meaning and significance of such bodies, from icons of national identity in nineteenth-century Denmark to stigmatised victims in Nazi Germany and celebrated ‘Celtic’ princes in neo-pagan Britain. Finally, it foregrounds the forensic trope that dominates contemporary analysis, relating this to the real and suspected murder victims, ancient and modern, found in the mosses and bogs.