Jillian Tamaki

More Learning!

Mar 30th, 2009

Sometimes the Internet is so awesome. Archaeologist HN de Jong of Bristol, UK wrote me to answer my question (musing?) about Viking toys in the last post. Namely, how can one truly make the conclusion that an object is a “toy”? HN sez,

How archaeologists decide on whether an artefact is a toy, is a complex can of worms. It’s partly because a toy could be so many things, and a large part of culture is play, or indistinguishable from play when all you have are the remains of activities.

Toys can be identified on the basis of their size (miniature adult tools) or that they are clearly made in such a way that they’re not up to the job (useless, or rather impractical); so that the child/adolescent learns by imitation of their parents (play house, etc.).

Ritual objects or tokens also fall into the category of things that can be small and may be useless, and both toys and idols have this symbolic content, as they both clearly stand for something else, and using them means something more than just using them.

In short, it’s a bit of a problem, and has a high -damned if you do damned if you don’t- quotient, because you can spend a lot of time taking iffy artefacts and researching them, to only have to conclude that they’re toys, used by children, who ultimately are practicing to be adults, i.e. not the presumed movers and shakers.

Thank-you! It warms me to think I have such interesting people reading my blog.