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Hecatombs! (was Horseflesh)

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  • Alastair Millar
    ... [nitpicking mode] Now this is the sort of thinking that gets archaeology a bad name... Some questions/problems with the above: How do we know that the
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 9 6:51 AM
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      Jeff quoted Gyula Laszlo:

      >"We know that the deceased's steed was sacrificed, but as
      >only the skin, together with the skull and lower legs, was
      >actually placed in the grave to provide transport for the journey
      >to the other-world, we may assume that the horse's flesh was
      >eaten at a burial feast, with certain parts being 'offered' to the
      >deceased."

      [nitpicking mode]

      Now this is the sort of thinking that gets archaeology a bad name...
      Some questions/problems with the above:

      How do we know that the horse belonged to the deceased and not a generous
      neighbour, pious community etc?

      Why assume that the horse is there to provide transport for the journey to
      the otherworld? (It would have to be a pretty short journey - a shadow's
      widhth, perhaps? - if the beast hasn't even got whole legs...)
      It could equally well have been because horses were a sign of status
      or wealth, and nothing to do with beliefs in the afterlife at all.

      And where's the _evidence_ (ethnographic, historical, literary, or other)
      for this "burial feast"? And for "certain parts" being offered to the dead?
      It's one
      possibility, yes, but why *assume* it? Perhaps the whole body was offered to
      a particular deity, for example, or fed to the dogs, or distributed to the
      hungry/needy....

      [/nitpicking mode]

      (Sorry, Jeff, nothing personal - I know that *you* didn't write it!! - but
      this is an excellent example of how reconstructions can get screwed up by
      academics who ought to know better.)

      Grumpily, and definitely tetchy due to overwork

      Alastair in Prague
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