Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Some day my "prince" will come

If I say a prince to you, what do you think of?

This guy? (Image: Telegraph)

This guy? (Image: Disney)

This guy?

Male of royal blood, right? Prince Charming, Prince Edward, Prince Harry. The Oxford dictionary defines a prince by his relationships to other royals- the son or grandson of a monarch.

None of these chaps look much like the individual who was buried in a tomb in Lavau, France during the 5th century BC, whose grave goods have been all over my social media for the last week or so. It's an amazing burial, with some incredible artefacts. My eye was caught by a gorgeous vessel imported from Greece, which looks like it shows a scene featuring Dionysian revelry- aka the formalised and semi-ritual consumption of alcohol. The metalwork, including a bronze cauldron, is pretty fabulous too- and some of it looks very Etruscan. In short, it's right up my street.

But we've been here before. A tomb was discovered, the excavators got excited, got the press involved, described the burial as that of a prince. That was in Tarquinia, Italy, in September 2013. But guess what? The burial turned out to be that of a woman. Cue lots of equivocating and burying of the story. Plus, it would just be darn rude to mention Vix.

As far as I'm aware, there haven't been osteoarchaeological analyses done of the individual buried in the Lavau tomb as yet. The detailed discussion provided by the rescue archaeologists who have been working on the burial since October last year doesn't mention this, at least. So, first off, we don't know that this burial is male. Second, going back to the point I wanted old Charming and Harry to make, we definitely don't know that this individual, even if it is male, was part of a system of inherited power that we might correlate to a monarchy.

Yes, it's a very impressive set of goodies to be buried with. Somebody wanted to make a big impression when this person left the world. It's conspicuous consumption-tastic. But that doesn't make this burial that of a prince- it makes it the burial of a wealthy individual with serious long distance trading connections. But that doesn't make for a sexy sound bite.

So, once again, we're back in the same old frustrating place with the same assumptions underlying every news story reporting this amazing discovery, relentlessly snipping away the joy in the find with inappropriate language and the promotion of a very particular set of stereotypes being squashed onto the archaeology itself.

But at least you got to check out one of the world's most eligible bachelors, right?

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What do you think? I'd love to hear what's in your head.