With wild surmise, from a hill at Kerkenes Dag, a discovery:
|This looks down on a sea of flowers in the spring|
This is a "Blog Comment Follow Up," so it's primarily a response to Graydon talking about thalassocracy. I have opinions! More importantly, Michael Munn does. Make what you will of this fabric of speculation, but Munn deserves respect. As I'm going to take a while to get to his argument, the shorter summary is that "thalassocracy" is an Athenian ideological conception meant to distinguish the Persian Empire-in-Europe as hubristic, in that it passes the "natural" boundary between Europe and Asia, while Athens' Delian League, which can be understood as an Athenian (European) empire in Asia is pious and godly, because it is a "thalassocracy."
Incidentally, and on my own hook, I'll throw in some observations about the likely realities of Ancient naval warfare, these are in part aimed at the claims of the Trireme Trust but could just as easily go to the Nineteenth Century argument about the steam ram.
To make things more complicated, I've also had a nice email from Lameen alerting me to a post at the Mountain reviewing Brown, Wichmann and Beck establishing that Chitimacha, a Louisanan language previously thought to be an isolate, is actually genetically Totozoquean. That is, a Mesoamerican language transmitted by a prehistoric Mesoamerican colonisation of the Gulf Coast, perhaps at the beginning of archaeologically-attested corn farming there. The origins of the idea of "thalassocracy" are, it seems to me, linked to changing ideas about the religious foundations of natural sovereignity that are easily lost when we insist on immmanent national-religious identities that distinguish Asian (Phrygian, Lydian, Persian, Median, Cimmerian) identities --and languages-- from "European" (Greek, Scythian, Thracian). This becomes even more pressing when we consider the evidence that the boundary between "Europe" and "not-Europe" was moved from the Halys, which practically runs under Kerkenes Dag, to the Hellespont, thus moving the Phyrgians and Lydians from Europe to Asia. I continue to believe that the language changes with which the early Iron Age was so fertile would have been impossible were it not so hard to express Big Ideas without fancy new jargon with its own implict, prescriptive grammar. That is, that spread of ideas, and not migration of nations, should be the preferred model of language change for the Iron Age and the much-discussed Spread of Indo-European. This is why Kerkenes is important here. I might have lost this thread a bit, but Kerkenes is an archaeological anomaly which makes no sense in our understood scheme of the spread of Indo-European, so, naturally, I'm demanding that an alternative paradigm rather than an alternate reading of the archaeology and/or specific language history.
This post is also an exercise in talking about books and scholars that I've read that deserve wider exposure, and it deserves a bibliographic section. I would put one in, were it not that it is already 4PM in the freaking afternoon as I write.
The Digressive Prologue, To Get it Out of My System, Hopefully
As readers of this blog may be aware, insofar as I understand the historical linguistics stuff, and my music tastes should sufficiently demonstrate the tin ears that handicap me here, I tend to prefer accounts of language change that privilege technological change, broadly understood, over migration narratives. New techne are brought by people, to be sure, but they can only teach with the vocabulary they have, and that vocabulary carries its own prescriptive rules that enter the local discourse and modify it, perhaps --perhaps!-- creating a language different enough from the original that we can then proclaim a genetic relationship with the prestige-tongue that brought the new techniques in the first place.
This particular change is particularly heavily loaded. We are talking about the formation of Eastern Woodland civilisation: turkey at Thanksgiving, college football, sundowner towns. Important stuff. The horizon our linguistic scientists have discovered, c. 850AD, is pretty clearly not the first moment of diffusion of corn farming into North America, much less of Mesoamerican crops, since tobacco precedes corn by perhaps a thousand years. What it is, is a cultural horizon
|What happened to you if you texted during lecture in the old days|
that makes corn farming visible. It's a cultural horizon that is associated with the rise in North America of a civic architecture of mound-pyramids erected over levelled plazas on which sacred games are played, and with which are associated earth lodges in which the members of fraternal societies gather to drink the heavily caffeinated "black drink." I am not being entirely whimsical in associating all of this with the modern college campus, or in suggesting that if scholars as insightful as Tim Pawtucket can go on record suggesting that this doesn't reflect the propagation of Mesoamerican cultural influences through the Eastern Woodlands hinterland, then the denial is almost more interesting, than the archaeology itself.
Fifteen hundred years ago, the glamour of Azatlan spread through this land. The moccasin and canoe blade of the sacred traveller, practically invested with the task of carrying toolstone down to the alluvial flats, but protected by the sacred glamour of the shadow of Azatlan. If it is erased, it is because a few centuries later, the routes reversed, and a new story, of a land of techne across the sea, was overlaid upon the story of the Place of Reeds. Lost, confused, yet mythopoeically overwhelmed with the project of creating a country for themselves, Americans compromised by building their own Place of Reeds that looks out over "seapower" rather than back the hutted knoll of their birth (1, 2, 3; though I'm not sure that I've ever rambled on about Wyandotte and American origins here.).
Uhm, Kerkenes! You see the connection, right? Look! A video!