sml logo Dark Ages Re-Creation Company sml logo

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

*How* Big? Scale & Objects

A recently recovered artifact is all the buzz in the Norse re-enactor's community.
It is a three dimensional depiction of a woman, cast in silver. The bottom of the figure has been broken off (thought to be plow damage from working the field it was discovered in).

The Harby 'Valkyre' - click to see the published image size (!)

(Metal) Detectorist Morten Skovsby found the ... figurine late last year at Hårby on Funen, (Central Denmark)

Go to the report

 Pulling a couple of the starting comments from the Norsefolk2 discussion group:
On 09/01/2013 04:24, Hilde wrote:
Hopefully, a high quality scan will be available some time in the future.

On Tue Jan 8, 2013 6:15 Charles wrote:
This is where the fun starts, now begins the search for archaeology to back up the outfit worn by the figure.
The need is there to make this more than an artistic representation.
The first rush was divided into to main topics:
1) Depiction of female with sword and shield - 'proof' of women in combat.
2) Deciphering details of the clothing.

There is a gap between the falling hair and the back of the neck. Much was being made of this : A pendant? Hung as a ritual object* ?
( Of course since the bottom of the dress line is broken, we can not tell if the piece was flat based to sit on a table, or might have once had details of the feet.)

But before we go too far - Look at another object from the Viking Age which has also been examined and argued about in minute detail:

'Odin fra Lejre '
by Tom Christensen

1,75 cm høj, 1,98 cm bred og 1,25 cm dyb,
(high / wide/ deep ?)
(images and quote from Christensen's report) 

The recent 'discussion' has centred around the sex of the figure. One camp sees a female, based on the length of the garment and seeing the dotted bands on the chest as four rows of beads. The other camp sees the figure as male, based on the band around the mouth seen as a moustache, and the iconography of the thrown of O∂in.  

Now - a reality check. Take a look at this image:
'Warrior' - click for detail
 Look at all that detail on the figure's costume (or lack thereof)!

This is actually one of those 30 mm cast tin alloy miniatures so many of us used for war game / Dungeons & Dragons playing 'back in the day' (and still may do, for I know).

But before you start to attempt to determine all those fine details - Let's try something first:

All objects reduced to LIFE scale in these images.

It has been my overwelming experience that no matter how much you work with artifacts, you never really understand then until you see them in life, actually before you. Reading the measurements does not really impact you. Almost everything is either way SMALLER, or way LARGER in actual truth, than what you imagine it is. 

This is absolutely critical. 
I have gotten into the habit now, for any object I have never actually seen before me, to take the source image, scan / open it into Photoshop (or the like). Then convert the image best as I can to the *actual* size given for the object. I will often put a piece of blank graph paper into my printer and print the life sized image on to that. This makes for very easy conversions of details into physical measurements. 

People have been going a bit overboard (in my opinion, not so humble), attempting to derive the finest detail from the published images of the objects. Yes, it can be a wonderful tool to take a very high resolution photograph, then look at that expanded version.

But what about the ancient artist who made the original object in the first place?
How small a thing was he really making?
What limits on detail were imposed by the medium he was working in?
Or by the tools he had available to work with?
Are you really looking at intended details of a reality? 
Or is all this combined through an artistic style? 

Let me tell you, as someone who has actually worked with lost wax casting techniques, there is very much a limit on just how much detail you can physically place on any object that is as small as these pieces are!

* "Ritual Object'
Archaeological short hand for : 'We don't know what the heck this is for'

Cross Post from Darrell's own 'Hammered Out Bits

No comments:

Post a Comment