Thursday, July 06, 2006

June 27, 2006

Ship's Log
June 27th 2006
Departure Location: Eckero, Aland Islands
Departure Time: 8:30 hours
Distance Traveled: 59.59 Nautical Miles
Arrival Location: Arholma, Sweden
Arrival Time: 17:20 hours (lost one hour by crossing back into Sweden)
Weather: Rough seas and rain in the morning. Overcast in the afternoon with winds dropping off throughout the day.

Personal Comments:

Today was the day that John and Dane have spent the last few weeks secretly hoping for. Although most of us are content with the blue skies and calm seas that we have enjoyed throughout the majority of the trip, it has not made for particularly interesting sailing. Thankfully when we awoke this morning the trend had been broken, with high winds and consistent rain waiting for us up on deck. John, Jonas, and Dane spent most of the morning bundled up in sweaters and raincoats, smiles on their faces and water dripping off their noses. Caleb even used the occasion to break out the foul weather gear that his dad equipped him with before departure. He wants to take the opportunity here to pass on a thank-you to Mason and tell him that everything was as helpful as it was meant to be.

At midday we stopped in Marienhamn for supplies before pushing on to Arholma in the afternoon. For the first time we found ourselves docking next to American travellers who were also out sailing the Baltic. They had stopped at many of the same places that we had over the last weeks and it was nice to have a momentary break from the language barrier that faces us everywhere we go.

In all fairness it is worth mentioning here that almost everywhere we have been, whether in Finland or Sweden, we are almost always able to use rudimentary English. The Swedes now learn English throughout all of their required school years and this is reflected in most of the younger people that we converse with. It has been a luxury that we are grateful for. Still, there is much that is missed in conversation when one of the participants is struggling against a language barrier, and it was nice to be able to chat and joke with people who did not have to work to understand us.

The day ended with a walk through the small back roads and communities that occupy most of the island. It was a foggy evening and the walk was made even more beautiful because of it.

Research Comments:

In an earlier blog we raised the question whether Vinci’s hypothesis should be deemed to have a major stumbling block in the fact that Greek epic tradition, which presents an immense body of detailed collective memory—nowhere systematically narrates a migration south from the Baltic to the Mediterranean. Surely this would be as important to them as, say, the Exodus was to the Israelies, and would be enshrined in narrative memory?

The simplest response is to say that a majority of classical historians still consider the evidence to be substantial that a significant proportion of what later became the classical Greek population did in fact migrate there from the north, as part of a much larger set of waves of Indo-European migrations. The problem of the absence of a narrative epos about any of these migrations (something larger than the problematic and fragmentary reference to the so-called Dorian Invasions) is every bit as much a problem for them too, and yet it has not caused them to disavow the evidence of such migrations (as is discussed throughout Vinci’s book).

A quite different approach to the problem can be developed from Vinci’s allusions (pp. 95 and 191) to key passage in Hesiod’s Works and Days which speaks of the different races of men each destroyed by the gods after the previous—the Gold, the Silver, the Bronze (p. 95, “those terrible Bronze Age warriors mentioned by Hesiod”), and “ ‘those who died at Thebes and Troy’ in an intermediate period between the Bronze and the Iron Ages” (p. 191). The myth of four or five ages of men, or of kindred races preceding the present race of men, is world-wide, and can be fruitfully attached to other catastrophic myths about the Deluge, about world conflagration, about combat in the sky affecting the whole earth (as in Zeus and the Olympians’ battles with the Titans and Typhon in Hesiod’s Theogony). Indeed, a famous fragment from the epic cycle shows Zeus altering the seasons at the time of the Trojan War and another shows him deliberately using it to reduce population at a time when it was so great it made the earth groan (as in Genesis and some Mesopotamian myths as well). If these myths are the cultural memory of intense environmental stress, interpreted religiously as due to the will of the gods and sometimes also to the crimes of humans, then it is to them we would have to look for the break between Baltic and Mediterranean homelands Vinci posits.

Finally, it is worth spelling out what is involved in Vinci’s principal argument on this issue, namely, that memory of the earlier pre-Mycenean migration from Baltic to Mediterranean was then lost in the Dark Age which brought the Mycenean kingdoms down. Here too one can simply state the failure to give an adequate epic narrative of what brought about this so-called Dark Age is a problem for all mainstream Greek historians, not just for Vinci. Further investigation into problems of dating this Dark Age (which first was posited out of deference to Egyptian chronology, now questioned) and problems of accounting for what caused it (merely military/systemic societal collapse, or some form of catastrophic environmental stress) may elucidate this problem common to Vinci and the mainstream. A principal collection of essays for starting this kind of investigation is Natural Catastrophes during Bronze Age Civilization (Archaeo Press, Oxford 1998), the highly interdisciplinary proceedings of the conference at Cambridge 1997 devoted to that theme. In particular, Benny Peiser’s long essay amassing literally hundreds of studies from different disciplines, arguing for a global environmental catastrophe c. 2300 BCE, can be fruitfully collocated with Vinci’s reliance on the mainstream climatological concept of the climatic downturn between the 2500 BCE Post Glacial Climatic Optimum and the subsequent events leading finally to the foundation by northern invaders of the Mycenean kingdoms.


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