A Life In Fragments

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The First Fragment

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Yes, I have jumped on the 2005 bandwagon and begun a blog! I’m hoping to do a mixture of things with this, the most important of which being to try and make my PhD accessible for anyone interested, whilst also keeping a self-indulgent record for myself of what I am achieving, even when it feels like it’s going nowhere – this is a frequent concern amongst PhD students! (It will also hopefully give a point of reference to those of my friends and family who frequently forget what it is I’m actually doing with my life!)

So for all those who are wondering what it is I do…

My PhD is in Archaeology at the University of Exeter (and sortof at the University of Bristol because funding reasons…) My semi-official title which changes on a regular basis depending on how I feel about how it’s all going is:

The Intentional Destruction and Decommissioning of Bronze Age Metalwork South-West Britain: An Assessment of Prehistoric Personhood and the Relationship Between People and Objects” *phew!*

or more simply…

Why Did Bronze Age People Break Stuff?

The Bronze Age sits firmly in prehistory (see my jazzy timeline and brush up on your British chronology! #learningisfun)

Please Note: The Bronze Age comes before the Romans, but after the Dinosaurs.

Please Note: The Bronze Age comes before the Romans, but after the Dinosaurs.

and as such all we have to study social practices by is the material remains that survive for archaeologists to dig up and analyse. One of the most distinctive features of the period is the hoarding and burying of huge volumes of metalwork, which ranges from weapons (e.g. swords and spears), to tools (e.g. axes, sickles and hammers), to ornaments (e.g. bracelets and armrings), all made of lovely, shiny bronze, copper, or gold.

Many of these objects were deposited in a fragmented condition, whereby they could no longer serve a functional purpose, such as bent swords, broken axe blades, or crushed bracelets.

Some objects show signs of having been used for many years, whilst others appear to be freshly cast and never used when they were deposited. This all begs the question: “Why were they doing this?” And this is essential what I’m studying. I’m going around local and national museums, looking at their collections of fragmented and damaged pieces of Bronze Age metal and trying to assess why some of these pieces were deliberately broken and why they weren’t simply reused or remelted. Was it to do with the location they were being deposited in? Was it linked with individual people or local communities? Did it have something to do with death or regeneration? Or was it an offering to a deity?

I’m about 7 months into my PhD now and I can sum up what I’m doing in 3 simple words: I’ve. Been. Reading. 7 months of hunching over my terribly cluttered desk, drinking coffee and reading anything that had the words “Bronze Age”, “metalwork” and “destruction” in it, steadily going mad and driving anyone who will listen to me mad as well!

If you happen to spot my sanity in there, please let me know

If you happen to spot my sanity in there, please let me know

The reason I’m starting this blog now is because things are finally about to start getting interesting. I begin data collecting tomorrow, so there will be lots of museum visits and pictures of fantastic metal things coming up, as well as trips away to play with making my own objects and if the funding Gods are kind I may even get the chance to break up my own stuff to assess the technical capabilities of these objects and the effort required to actually destroy them.

I already bent one sword. I want to bend more!

I already bent one sword. I want to bend more!

So as you can probably tell, I’m far too obsessed with all this stuff and with another two and a half years to go, there’s plenty of room for this obsession to grow before, like the metal objects I’m studying, I too break down into pieces!

1 Comment

  1. […] my first ever post (ahh memories…) I presented a little timeline of where the Bronze Age sits within the grand scheme of time. And as […]


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I’m Matt, 26 years old, a glutton for academic punishment, a lover of all things Bronze Age, always willing to continue talking even when my friends have lost interest, and never happy unless overwhelming busy. Find out more here and be sure to follow me on Twitter @mgknight24 and Facebook

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