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ROMANIT research project

Prestige and Power. Romanian Museums' Antique Items of Trade. Non-metallic adornments, with an archaeometrical study regarding the origin of amber beads.

For archaic and antique societies, adornments expressed more than a contemporary might consider. In fact, the content of the adornments' social message has not changed that much. Besides the decorative effect, the public display of an adornment item indicates the person's affiliation to a certain cultural group, designated by a certain material standing, a sexual and age group and, more often, a certain ethnical origin. In any society, regardless of time, the possession of an "exotic", rare, strange, and probably expensive item, proved the capacity of the group to inter-act with human groups located far away, over which hang legends rather than histories. The access to "special" materials assured the prestige, that represents nothing else than the way to power. In all the ancient societies, especially in the pre-monetary ones, fame was the real "hard currency", reason for which all social leaders, no mater the level of power, seek to achieve the objects granted, first of all, with a highly emotional value, often imaginary, but no less effective. This was, probably, the key of the far distance "commerce" (Curta 2007), more motivating, for example, than the alimentary necessities. The ancient societies were economically autarchic, succeeding thus to assure the "simple reproduction" through their own means, or changes and services in the neighborhood area, but they were dependent of "fame", which was associated with myths and legends; yet, "autarchic" was equivalent with the lack of political claims. This global hypothesis, of a consistency close to natural law, will be archaeologically and archaeometrically verified, for each case apart.

The Romanian museums held thousands of adornment items collections, with tens or hundreds of thousands of objects, most of them recovered from funerary contexts. By the force of habit of a "tradition" as old as the Romanian museums, outcome of the lack of specialized departments, of equipment and interdisciplinary research, the archaeological artefacts are classified only through a simple macroscopic investigation, by a humanistic background personnel, without elementary knowledge as regarding metallurgy and mineralogy; therefore, many of the "identifications" are at least questionable.

The main purpose of this project is to create a way out from this endless approximation, for the scientifically and patrimonial valorization of the national heritage at its true value. The solution cannot be found within the museums, but within the scientific community, capable of giving answers at not at all easy questions. We intend to change the "multilateral developed researcher" (theoretic product moreover of the Illuminism, rather than of the scientific and informatics era) in the "inter-disciplinary researcher", aware of the complexity of the problems that he deals with, capable to know with whom he should work with.

This project excludes from its objectives metallic artefacts - which make the object of another on going project, Archaeomet - focusing on non-metallic materials, of an amazing diversity (to only name here mineral and organic materials, of bone, horn, shell-of land and water, or composite materials, anthropic, such as glass or ceramics).

One of the major objectives is the building of a database comprising the types of materials from archaeological and museal inventories, starting with their most basic recording, in the largest archaeological museum from Romania, the National History Museum. The database will comprise the name of the identified materials, photos and descriptions (including the physical properties), being opened to the public, without restrictions, through the Internet; undoubtedly, such an informational corpus might represent a real help for the museographs from all over the country (and not only!). The set of information will also be accompanied of source area maps, in the surface geological levels, suggesting thus to the curators possible sources of raw materials.

The composite materials, of anthropic origin, raise special problems regarding their origin; each of them (such as glass and ceramics) requires directional research programmes, due to the fact that they require laboratory analyses and comparative data. For this reason, they will not make, for now, the object of a detailed investigation, but of only a primary classification.

A special category of items is represented by amber objects (generally beads). As regards the archaeological amber items, there is a vast literature, as well as many speculations concerning their origin and commercial routes; nevertheless, in Romania, up to the present, there has not been a significant tentative to try to clarify, with scientific means, the origin of these materials. This is exactly what this project will try to achieve.

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