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BRITARCH  February 2010

BRITARCH February 2010

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Subject:

Re: Huns: Part 2

From:

Guillermo-Sven Reher Díez <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

British archaeology discussion list <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 24 Feb 2010 23:35:41 +0100

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Dear Barbara. After reading your macropost, and believe me this is no small task, let me offer you my opinion.
First a note on background: I specialize in historical ethnicity, so I feel there is much (much more than you suspect) to be said for this hypothesis.
I really enjoy historical novels, and I grant that many licenses are tolerated regarding historical accuracy. The period you are dealing with is fraught with complications (and plenty of literature on ethnicity) because of:
-lack of written sources (and these are rarely duly criticized and contextualized)
-germanic/soviet tradition in archaeological cultures, which means that objects are used as ethnic markers during the volkerwanderung. This is wrong in the extreme, as plenty of anthropological literature demonstrates
-instability in the social and political structures for a prolonged period of time
You have (using someone else's work) seen lots of parallels which apparently fits a narrative which is clearly attractive for you for literary reasons. The problem is that you could probably build very different narratives also using suggestive patterns in the evidence.
An example would be your use of the eagle as a symbol. As Brather and others have proven repeatedly for this period, most elements in material culture can be interpreted as indigenous. The eagle is an important symbol in the Roman world, and I have little doubt it is also present in iconography of the "Roman Iron Age" (a concept I ignored completely, which refers to the Roman period beyond the limes).
Another usual problem is scrambling for evidence in a flurry of epistemological madness, a text here, toponyms there, and further anachronic evidence throughout. The period you are dealing with is approximately 5 centuries (!, 25 generations) in radically different locations, and using barely structured evidence. Let me give you a tip: an ethnic group is not something alive, which moves from here to there and which 'survives', it is constructed through practice. Only while it is meaningful is it ever present. Changing contexts may call for different expressions, different identities and different levels. It is true the volkerwanderung is a period with great stress, a reason that may stimulate enduring ethnic identifications. But frankly, Huns only exist when they manifest such an identity (not "intermarrying in order to be more numerous", that would be overstretching).
The volkerwanderung is built around a narrative of peoples that are created and migrate and build new societies in the meantime. That, however, is still to be revisited. Some say that these peoples may be just groups of mercenaries, or even Wensku's ruling elites which confer their ethnicity to their followers. There truly is more to be said. A perfect situation for writing a novel, don't you think?

If you are interested in following this discussion, or desire bibliography on this or that, please feel free to write me.

> Date: Wed, 24 Feb 2010 15:40:50 +0000
> From: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: [BRITARCH] Huns: Part 2
> To: [log in to unmask]
> 
> (Please forgive the dodgy formatting from a technological dinosaur...)
>  
>  
>                The Danish Vikings were Huns
> 
>                          Some Ideas, Part 2
> 
>   I was looking at a topographic map of Europe to see whether there was
> any correlation between areas of Viking or Hun dominance and flatlands,
> where their methods of equestrian warfare would make them most
> successful. And there does, in fact, seem to be a correlation! It's
> quite striking that all the areas of Denmark and Sweden where the Huns
> and Vikings seemed to be in control were flatlands, and the whole of
> the Danelaw area in England, as well as the areas they controlled in
> Ireland: Dublin, Wexford, Waterford, Limerick and Cork. All flatlands,
> river valleys and coastal areas, where equestrian warriors could
> operate most effectively!
> 
>   It really seems that the high mountains of Norway are what saved the
> Norwegians from total subjugation, because they could escape into the
> high places where Hun warfare tactics were ineffective. If the
> Danish/Hun-controlled Vikings periodically claimed the "throne" of Norway,
> it must have been only after an occasional defeat of a few coastal
> areas, not affecting the Norwegian hinterlands, and not really
> long-lasting. Norwegians seemed to throw off Danish domination again
> and again.
> 
>   Although Albania doesn't fit into this pattern at all, being very
> mountainous, the Hungarian Plain fits nicely, and that seems to be where
> Prof. Hedeager found great clusters of Hunnish earrings and mirrors. From her map, it looks like most of them were found in the river valleys rather than in
> the mountains. Also, the Varangian Guard which operated in Russia, and was also associated with Vikings (and with the River Var and Avar people in the Hungarian area), fits nicely into that area of flatlands directly east of Denmark. Some Vikings went West to get treasure and Danegeld from Britain, while some went East to Russia. Flatlands may be the key.
>  
>   The trouble with the Varangian Guard is that some illustrations show
> them with very thick curly black beards, not at all Asiatic! So I don't
> know what to think of that, except that some of their cheeks seem to be deliberately scarified like those of Huns.
>  
>   I think it's important for us not to mix Huns up with Mongols, despite their
> similarities. Mongols use lassoes attached to long poles to round up
> animals, and don't use them on human opponents, as far as I know, so
> they don't need to shave the backs of their heads.
>  
>   One other thing I'd like to mention is the Huns' use of terror tactics,
> and their reasons for conquest. Despite the mighty reputation of the
> Roman Armies, whole tribes of people didn't flee from them in terror
> like they fled from the Huns. Documentary sources say that the entire
> lands of the Angles in Denmark were left empty after they fled to England, along with the Jutes and Saxons. And for the fierce Gothic tribes to actually flee to the hated Roman Empire to plead for protection from the Huns is truly startling.
>  
>   I think it was more than the lust for gold which motivated the Huns. I
> think it was also bitter envy, and the huge ego-boost they felt that
> such a small, primitive people could terrorize and dominate such tall,
> strong and famously beautiful tribes as the Germanic ones, and such a
> vastly superior culture as that of the Romans. After seeing how
> effective terror was at subduing whole populations, it became habitual
> to them, even up until the Norman period. 
>  
>   Others have pointed out connections with the Sogdian letters and Xiongnu of China, and it seems to me that the "Caucasian mummies" found in western China, including one redhaired woman whose eyes had been gouged out in life, were most likely to be slaves brought there from Europe, rather than populations living in the area. She bears mute witness to brutal treatment.
> 
> 
>   One last point: the Winged Hussars of Poland wore their cumbersome wings into battle as protection from the lassos of their Tartar enemies. This clearly illustrates the centuries of continuity in the use of lassos as battle weapons by Asiatic peoples such as the Huns. Please look again at the bog people of Tollund, Lindow, Worsley, Clonycavan, Old Croghan, Windeby and Yde. Please look again at that new Anglo-Saxon Staffordshire hoard, especially the bird-headed finials so similar to Hun-Magyar “Turuls”. Please look again at the Bayeux Tapestry, and the Annals of Ulster and Ireland. 
> 
> 
>   Please have a closer look, and consider the possibility that King Alfred the Great, far from being the useless wimp described by Bernard Cornwell,  battled valiantly against a foe far more ruthless and terrifying than the jovial bearded rogues of popular imagination--- a foe who reappeared little more than a century later, and laid waste to this land once more. 
>  
>  
> ******************************************************************
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