Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Rope and Roma

Just snippets this Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.

Interesting piece in Past Horizons: 40,000 year old mammoth ivory rope-making tool from Hohle Fels Cave.

I was interested for several reasons.

The first was simply the survival of the artefact from such a long time ago. The second was the mammoth connection, an animal long past.

The dates were interesting too, for 40,000 years takes you back into the early settlement of Australia. When I first studied prehistory, it was still in its early stages as a discipline. Australia was quite advanced in global terms. Indeed, the early dates here made us seem unique.

As I think I commented at the time, I was surprised when I visited the Danish National Museum last year at just how far knowledge of the European prehistoric past had advanced. Spending the morning in the relatively small prehistory section - I ended up ignoring everything else - I was left depressed at the way our knowledge of the Australian prehistoric past had fallen behind in relative terms. Here they could tell the story of a relatively small area in a coherent way when I was struggling to do the same thing for New England!

This second shot shows an experiment testing the use of the artefact to make rope using plant material found then and now. One of the difficulties in interpreting ancient artefacts is to know how they were actually used. You actually have to experiment. This may not confirm how they were used, but does indicate how they might have been used.

Staying loosely linked with history and culture, there was an interesting story on marriage customs among Bulgaria’s Kalaidzhi Roma community subtitled Inside Bulgaria's traditional ‘bridal market’ where teen girls are ‘sold’ for hundreds of dollars.

I leave it to you to read the story and watch the embedded video, Personally, I have always been fascinated by the Roma or Gypsies as I still think of them Theirs is a quite a complex tale, dating  back to  origins in what is now Northern India.

I think that my personal fascination with them came from what I perceived as a romantic life style. When I was at primary school, my mother had a romance novel set in a travelling Gypsy band in Ireland. It must have been quite an old book even then, certainly pre-partition. It featured horse breeding, horse stealing, strange customs and feuds in which love finally triumphed!

This fascination is still there from time to time, although now that I am a little older I can more readily see the virtues of hot baths or showers. Still, the desire to become a Gypsy lingers!

There were two subtexts in the story that I found interesting. The first was the desire to maintain one's culture and traditions. This may be impossible or even unwise, but it's not irrational. It is, in fact, a perfectly normal human reaction. The second was the response of the reporter and the two documentary reporters faced with customs that they disapproved of that were yet played out in ways that seemed familiar and could be understood. They were left somewhat adrift.

The rules governing courtship and marriage vary enormously over time and between societies and are some of the most complex cultural structures you will find. In many societies including Australia's Aborigines, breaches of those rules could be punishable by death.

Recently, I have been privy to conversations among women - all Australian - from different ethnic groups swopping views on marriage, marriage customs and men. The trigger was a number of very different weddings. I was struck by the variations, but also the way in which certain common themes worked themselves out within different cultural frameworks,

I am not making any especially profound point. I just found the discussions interesting.                              


2 tanners said...

I've spoken to Indian men and women who have said the comfort and certainty of arranged marriages was a good thing as far as they were concerned. So yes, different world views. And the wives, who often had to pay dowry if the marriage was 'advantageous' said they won twice - first by getting up in the world and second by having a husband who had just received money. Not always the case if the dowry went to the family and not the husband, of course.

Doubtless Ramana can give a more educated view than my anecdata (thanks for that, kvd, loved it!).

Jim Belshaw said...

That's an interesting piece of anecdata, 2t. Happy to borrow the word too. Yes, India was one example I had in mind. The descriptions of some of those Indian weddings are mind blowing!