Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Hutton and the Iron Age

Reading Hutton's "Pagan Britain" has been slow going.  Part of it is that I've been reading it later than I should, and thus not getting as far as I like.  And, it's a little dry reviewing some of the current archaeological literature -- it's necessary, but not quite as sexy as, say, reading about (mostly) British 20th century ritual magicians.  I do wish the book's end-notes were footnotes, because the end-notes are sometimes funny and because I wouldn't have to flip back and forth and track two bookmarks.

As evidenced in the end-notes, Hutton continues to re-visit his earlier works, "The Pagan Religions in the Ancient British Isles" (1991), "Blood and Mistletoe: The History of Druids in Britain" (2009), and to a lesser extent "Stations of the Sun" (1996).  "Pagan Britain" continues to benefit from improved research and dating methodology.  The gist of his latest book continues to be, "We can't say say anything definitive about what stone- and iron-age pagans were doing in Britain, so you're free to imagine whatever you like as long as it fits in with the evidence; just give the same imaginative license to others."  

One of the more interesting turns in archaeological interpretation of the Iron-Age is the Lindow Man, which is in the process of changing from proof of the Druidic "triple death" to looking like something more mundane.  

There are a few times in the end-notes where Hutton appears to have had his feelings hurt by various folks who have either mis-heard him at lectures or been annoyed at him pointing out there is no evidence for certain speculations about what prehistoric Pagans were doing.  To the latter, he hints at specialist and non-specialist relations, and asserts that the non-specalists' imaginaings are a refreshing and exciting way to look at the available evidence.  I think Hutton's difficulty is that he can't blow things up the way Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage do on Mythbusters.

Next... The Roman Invasion of Britain.  
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