Note: Allison Casaly is the 2018 recipient of the Larkin Research Fellowship in Irish Studies. For this month’s feature she gives us a deep dive into the Irish Bronze Age and the objects of personal ornamentation at the core of her research.
I am extremely grateful for the generous funds offered by the Larkin Fellowship, and particularly for the willingness of ACIS to incorporate archaeology and prehistory into its purview. My research considers the interregional movement of people and ideas during the Irish Bronze Age (ca. 1500 – 800 BCE), in which existing conventions of settlement, mortuary behavior, trade networks, and metalwork deposition were overturned. I am particularly interested in the development of Irish regional identities and how they were used to negotiate this socially dynamic environment. My research explores the form, distribution, and depositional context of objects of personal ornamentation from the Irish Bronze Age as a proxy for social groupings, with the intention of identifying the foundations of regional consciousness in the Bronze Age.
An extensive body of anthropological literature has developed regarding the role played by systems of personal ornamentation in social environments. The function of personal ornamentation as a category is understood to intertwine closely with social identity, and thus to prove vital in the both negotiation and broadcast of individual and group personas through the manipulation of one’s appearance as a social interface. Ethnographic work by Ian Hodder and others suggests that the use of ornamentation in this way is particularly apparent in dynamic social environments in which the need to differentiate between proximate groups is more pronounced.
I am currently working on the data collection phase of the project, for which the Larkin Fellowship’s generous support will be instrumental. Funds from the Larkin Fellowship will allow me to visit the collections databases of the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin and of the National Museum of Northern Ireland in Belfast; these institutions house records concerning every archaeological artifact recovered from their respective territories. After identifying sites which yielded objects of ornamentation through this collections research, I will visit the archives of the National Monuments Service in Dublin to access site reports produced by commercial excavation, the majority of which remains unpublished. The specific location, context and associative data derived from these site reports will allow me to extend my analysis to the active use, manipulation and deposition of ornaments rather than solely on their passive form, and thus on the ways in which humans incorporated ornaments into their social and/or cosmological structure.
I am honored to be chosen for the 2018 Larkin Fellowship, and I am grateful for the generous support. Through this research, I hope to serve as a vanguard for the integration of archaeology and prehistory into the warm and welcoming community of ACIS.