Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Thesis Sneak Peak !

Most of you probably won't care, and it's not finished yet, but I thought since it's such an important aspect of this year and since I haven't blogged in a few weeks, I would post a bit of my thesis.

So, here's a bit of the foreword! (Unedited, btw!!)

The archaeological record has been built around changes. It has been commonly accepted and anticipated amongst prehistoric academics that the defining point between one time period and another is the change that occurs. It is interesting however when taking the Upper Palaeolithic period into consideration to note the amount of continuity, rather the lack of changes. As put forth by Martin Porr in his 2010 article ‘Palaeolithic Art as Cultural Memory: a Case Study of the Aurignacian Art of South West Germany’, there is a degree to which continuity occurs between the Aurignacian and the later Gravettian period especially when considering their artistic qualities (Porr 2010b). Both the Aurignacian and the Gravettian periods yield evidence for both parietal and mobiliary rock art, most notably in the form of figurines depicting animals and anthropomorphs (Porr 2010b).
Martin Porr’s article on the uses of ‘Cultural Memory’ within the period of the Upper Palaeolithic raises a number of very valid points. In particular Porr makes reference to the ‘Venus’ statuettes, predominately related to the Gravettian period, and their interpretation but focuses mainly on information given by the new-found Venus of Hohle Fels in south-western Germany. In his article Porr suggests that this new addition to the ‘Venus’ phenomena contributes to the idea of a continuity between Aurignacian and Gravettian art in relation to “figurative expressions and related elements of cultural memory” (Porr 2010b, p. 103).
Between the Aurignacian period of the Upper Palaeolithic in Europe between 40,000-28,000BP and the later Gravettian period from 28,000-22,000BP, prehistoric archaeologists have often indicated the birth of real ‘art’. ‘Art’, which the Macquarie Study Dictionary refers to as “the production or expression of what is beautiful or visually attractive; the products of human visual creativity, such as drawing, painting, sculpture, architecture”, is a vastly complicated area of archaeological study (Moore 1998). In the modern Western world today art can be almost anything and everything therefore creates a number of problems for archaeologists in ascertaining what from the Palaeolithic can be considered art, and what the people of the Palaeolithic themselves considered art. The controversially famous ‘Venus’ Statuettes are amongst the most prominent studied aspects of Upper Palaeolithic ‘art’, as well as the earliest known use of ceramics, and have to date instigated numerous arguments over the nature of their significance. 
This project, however, is aimed primarily at the importance of the physical and contextual significance of the Venus Statuettes of the Upper Palaeolithic across mainland Europe. By investigating many of the previous works and interpretations of and about the Statuettes themselves, the context in which they were found, and other significant contextual information surrounding the archaeological sites, I have hoped to infer significance of these figurines in relation to their surroundings. In order to do this I intend to closely regard a number of different types of evidence and information to therefore systematically establish a greater picture of the subject matter.
Forums of evidence such as spatial distributive information of the sites in which Venus statuettes of the Gravettian have been found, ethnological similarities with known cultures, size data regarding the statuettes, physicality and style information, site contexts, and the raw materials used to construct them will be used in this investigation to reach a conclusion. 
From my research into the context of the Venus Statuettes I also aim to establish whether there can be any evidence for a spiritual culture or belief system that took place during this time. The difference in settlement style, from permanent to more obscure hunting or fabricating sites, the artefact collection types surrounding the Venus, the geographical location of the sites and manor in which the Venus was found are all significant for this investigation.
The existence of the Venus Statuettes within permanent settlements, whether buried intentionally, suspended from somewhere by the small loophole at their head (found on some of the figurines, such as the Venus of Hohle Fels) as opposed to in burials or without a related cultural layer is greatly significant. This shows that the statuettes were of some importance to the people but not in the sense that they should be placed with the dead as burial goods. Although as yet there is little evidence to suggest that the Venus figurines were not important tokens for the people of the Upper Palaeolithic even in death, this site contextual information is greatly important to the understanding of these figurines. In turn comparing the site contexts of the statuettes between the Aurignacian and Gravettian may also lend answers to the degree to which continuity between these two archaeological time periods has occurred which is my overall aim.
Unfortunately, and ashamedly, the following interpretation of the contextual significance of the Venus Statuettes is derived majorly from previous works, monographs, and excavation reports, not from my personal visitation or excavation of the sites. Although the visitation to the sites and personal handling of the Statuettes would greatly strengthen or disapprove my arguments here, the budget available at the time of my research did not permit for excavation or travel to Europe. Respectively, excavation of the sites and firsthand analysis of the Statuettes myself would be the first step in further research of the topic.  
A number of different types and shapes of Venuses have been used in this investigation to give a well-rounded and hopefully fairer interpretation of the cultural complex. Over fifty statuettes have been used to make my argument, based majorly on previous documents and monographs that document them, in order to do so including figurines from the Grimaldi, or Balzi Rossi, sites of Itlay, Brassempouy in France, Dolni Vestonice I in the Czech Republic, the very famous Venus of Willendorf from Austria, and the numerous examples from the sites of Kostienki, Avdeevo and Gagarino on the Russian Plain. I have also used the singular Aurignacian ‘Venus’ example from the site of  Hohle Fels in south-western Germany.
I have chosen to use these examples to view in greater detail rather than those from other sites such as Mal’ta and the Mediterranean simply because the area is already so great that it would be even more difficult to do justice to the enigmatic cultural complex. However, having not included every site and ‘Venus’ in my investigation I acknowledge that any interpretation I make is based on the sites I have looked at, not the entire phenomenon and that further research is required to be able to do so. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Cracking back to the Chronicles - 29th Battalion Teaser!

So,  last night was my night off. I finished the first draft of my thesis, handed in my Grant Proposal and spent a good few hours lounging about and watching TV. Then I realised something that had me rampaging and clenching my fists to not throw a tantrum. Which is about the time I decided to convert my anger and frustration into creation instead, and in doing so decided to have another crack at writing the Chronicles
For those of you that don't know it, the Chronicles is my longest running novel - It's been about eight years since I started drawing up and playing with the concept. The details are below in my writing section for more info so check it out!
This scene is a bit of a turning point in Allora's story; she's run away from the palace and joined the 29th battalion in the war against Messinia's rival nation, Braegar, only to be caught on the battlefield - narrowly missing a fatal blow, I might add. Her bravery earns her a bit of contempt by a fellow soldier who spreads the rumour that she is a Braegan spy, and when the 29th battalion winds up camping alongside the 2nd Regiment, which Dominic (her lover) is Captain of - shit hits the fan. 
So, in this scene Allora comes face to face with an angry Dominic, who, trust me, is NOT happy she has run away to join the army.

Allora sucked in her breath, trying desperately not to gasp; nothing could give her away as she stood aligned with the rest of her regiment, her short size putting her in the front row.
She tilted her face slightly downwards, hoping that the hair she’d brushed to the side of her helmet would obscure her features and keep her identity hidden.
She’d bulked up her small frame with bandages, using one to wrap her breasts and flatten her chest, and the armour she wore was so tough she hoped it was enough to obscure her curves.
Dominic, or Captain Wellsby as he was known amongst the regiment and the camp, strolled towards her down the line, barking orders to the recruits as he went.
He brushed past her, and Allora shivered in fear that he would recognise her but he was gone with less than a second’s pause.
When he reached the edge of the line, Dominic turned back to address the regiment, “Gentlemen, this is a war. Abandonment will not be tolerated; however any of you unlucky enough to feel unable to progress will be put to work protecting the capital. We are Messinians: we are honourable, proud and fierce. We will protect our kingdom and our monarchy with all our power!”
The regiment shouted in agreement, Allora bleated a startled ‘yes’.
Dominic continued. “We will fight the Braegan onslaught, we will defend our people!”
The regiment shouted again, this time Allora was ready for it and raised her arm with the rest.
“We will defeat our enemy, retain our peace and protect our families!”
When the shouts and cheers finally subsided, rallied by Dominic’s brief but passionate speech, Allora began to follow the rest of the battalion towards the camps suddenly very aware that she could not afford to let down her guard for even a second lest she be discovered. At that moment a burly soldier stumbled into her and forced the breath from her lungs as she was thrown to her knees.
“Get out of the way, whelp!” the man cried, as he shoved his way past her. “The army is no place for weak little boys like you!”
Allora gasped and struggled to her feet before she was crushed by the oncoming soldiers behind her, and stepped to the side to catch her breath. She let out a squeak of alarm when a hand clamped down on her shoulder hard and spun her around.
A different tall, brusque man stood there with weather-worn skin and gray feathered hair. He slanted a grim smile and tugged her back the way she had come.
“Let me go,” she ordered, her voice deliberately hoarse in disguise. “I gotta get to camp. We got training in the morning!”
Her newest captor gave no reply as he continued to drag her along towards a large tent the opposite direction from the battalion’s campsite, just far enough away for relative privacy. She suddenly had a bad feeling.
He stopped in front of the large tent and barked out something she couldn’t understand. She barely had a moment to puzzle over it when the tent flap was jerked aside and a higher officer emerged to usher her inside.
Dominic stood bent over a desk against the far wall, a map spread across it and covered in tiny figurines numbered to represent each battalion. She saw the tiny number ‘29’ for the battalion she had joined, perched toward the centre.
“Thank you, Lieutenant,” He rasped without turning around, simply stroked a hand over his stubble darkened jaw. “That will be all. Report to me at 0600.”
“Yes, sir.” The officer bowed and exited the tent. 
“Do you know why I have ordered you hear?” Dominic asked once they were alone, his back still toward her.
She gulped and forced her voice not to shake as she replied huskily, “No, sir.”
Her turned then and she cast her eyes downward, knowing that one look at the fear and yearning for him would give her away.
He strolled toward her and cocked his head. “You’re unknown amongst the battalion,” he began, circling her slowly. “It’s almost as if you have appeared out of the blue.”
“The blue, sir?”
“Yes, the blue. And battalion’s talk, you see, they express their fears, their beliefs. Do you know what they believe?”
She started to sweat, terrified. “No, sir.”
In a move so quick she hardly saw it, Dominic had withdrawn a dagger from his belt and thrust it against her throat. “They think you are a Braegan spy!”
She gasped loudly, her eyes shooting to his and Dominic froze, his hand grasping her back to force her towards his blade. The knife fell through numb fingers as he recognised her landing at their feet with a muffled clang.
It was silent within the tent, neither of them even breathed for a moment.
Dominic regained himself first, his fingers digging painfully into her back as his free hand reached up to tear the helmet from her, sending her long hair cascading down around her shoulders.
He roared in fury as he tossed the helmet to the floor. “WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?!”
“Dominic, I –
“No!” He pulled her to him and crushed her in a fierce embrace. “Do you have any idea that you could be killed or worse?! What were you thinking masquerading as a soldier?!”
She pushed away from him, putting distance between them as she trembled. “I wanted to help! My father and brothers have been called to war; I wanted to help them and you! I cannot sit by and do nothing when someone I love could die!”
“Don’t you see, Allora?! You could die! All it would take is one slip of a blade on the battlefield or in camp and you could be killed!” He clenched a fist as his jaw worked to keep his force from becoming too loud lest anyone hear too much outside. “We have been through this before after we escaped from Hasah, and I cannot bear to have you killed through your own stupidity!”
Allora burst into flame at his insult, and pulled a cushion from the floor near his pallet and pelted it at his head with a fury. “Do not call me stupid!” She shrieked as he dodged the cushion. “I did what I thought best!”
“What if the Braegans had captured you?! What do you think would happen if they discovered you were a woman, let alone the Princess of their enemy?”
She shook her head, tears of anger and frustration filling her eyes. “But they didn’t!”
“But they could have!” Dominic barked, barely able to suppress his rage even though he knew he was scaring and upsetting her. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, willing himself to calm down. “I’m taking you back to the palace,” he said after he’d managed to reign in his fury enough to speak reasonably. “You’ll be safe there with the royal guard.”
Allora shook her head emphatically, clenching her own fists. “No! I’m not finished here; please don’t make me, Dominic! I won’t go!”
He strolled up to her and grasped her wrists, forcing her to look him in the eye once again. “Yes you will! Tomorrow morning I’m going to take you back to Messinia myself.”
She struggled against his hold but was unable to break free. “Dominic, please! You have to let me help; I want this war over as much as anyone! My people are dying!”
“Jesus Christ, Allora! Don’t you understand that if Prince Adam’s troops were to find you, they’ll kill you! They will kill you because of who you are!”
The reality of what Dominic said stunned her, and Allora sagged against him – images of a sword cutting towards her flashing in her mind. She unclenched her fists and he released her to wrap his arms around her, hugging her fiercely to reaffirm she was alright.
Allora clung to him, knowing even then what she had to do. Knew she had to keep her peace for now,  and that she couldn’t tell him her new plan.
“Tomorrow,” Dominic whispered against her hair, clasping her tightly to him.
She sighed. “Very well.”
He pulled back slightly from her to search her eyes, saw the acceptance in them and with a sigh of his own kissed her.
Allora wrapped her arms around his neck and met him, kissing him back with a fervour she hadn’t anticipated.