By Amy Gazin-Schwartz, Cornelius Holtorf
Archaeology and Folklore explores the complicated courting among the 2 disciplines to illustrate what they may study from every one other.
This assortment comprises theoretical discussions and case reports drawn from Western Europe, the Mediterranean and North. They discover the diversities among well known traditions on the subject of ancient websites and archaeological interpretations in their background and that means.
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Extra resources for Archaeology and Folklore
Acknowledging the historical dimensions of items of folklore can allow us to develop analytical approaches to their use as historical sources. As many problems as there are with assuming the ‘AS LONG AS EVER I’VE KNOWN IT…’ 13 antiquity of folklore, it is well established that oral traditions can be very conservative and indeed preserve the memory of certain events or practices over very long time periods (see Blench and Spriggs 1997: part IV; Vansina 1985) The value of such traditions in understanding African and Polynesian history has been demonstrated by Vansina (1985), Tonkin (1992), Friedman (1992) and others.
Emma Blake draws on the philosophic tradition of Pragmatism to argue that ethical judgements cannot be applied to abstract ideas; ideas can only be judged by their effects, when they are translated into action. A third use for folklore in the present volume is to provide an ethnographic parallel for prehistoric thought upon the past and its monuments. Julia Murphy adopts this approach in her study of Welsh megaliths, as do Emma Blake and Mats Burström. This approach can be developed to hint at the malleability of meanings attributed to monuments, despite the apparent durability of folklore.
Two of the classic anthropological objections to treating legends as historical documents should be noted in response to Staeck’s analysis. The first, the Functionalist objection, is that legends must make sense to the narrator and audience. They must, that is, appeal to contemporary issues and take place in recognisable settings, as when the marriage at Cana or raising of Lazarus take place in fifteenth-century Dutch settings (Fuchs 1978:13, 19; cf. Malinowski 1954:125–126). Before inferring a historical content, consideration should be given to ways in which the plot of a legend appeals to members of the contemporary society.