Wednesday 9 February 2011
Play was a central element of people’s lives as far back as 4,000 years ago. This has been revealed by an archaeology thesis from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, which investigates the social significance of the phenomenon of play and games in the Bronze Age Indus Valley in present-day Pakistan.
The author of the thesis, Elke Rogersdotter, explains:
In traditional archaeology, traces of play have commonly been dismissed as less significant. Such remains are recurrently seen as traces of idle pastime, which is to say, they are viewed upon as something non-serious. On these grounds, they are usually not given further, research-related thoughts. Traces of play can sometimes also be explained in terms of social rituals, such as associated with social status, or be seen out of ritual or magic aspects. The remains can in this way be said to be made serious; be provided a role within that ancient societal structure that is in focus.
The main question of this thesis concerns the possibility of illuminating the presence and impact of the irrational element that is play in an ancient societal structure. With this question as a lodestar, the investigation has come to concern the development of an alternative way of work that can manage to embrace the positively loaded, “fun” dimension of play.
The view of fragmented archaeological remains as autonomously working unities has been of central importance for this mode of procedure. The study is based on selected game-related finds from the site of Mohenjo-Daro. Located in Sindh in southern Pakistan, the site constitutes the remains of the largest urban settlement of the Bronze Age Indus Valley realm (ca. 2500-2000 BC). One of the typical features of this realm constitutes a focus on small-sized art.
Among other artefacts, numerous small objects of a supposedly game-related purpose have been found in Mohenjo-Daro, such as dice and gamesmen. The study tests its way along different paths. The mode of procedure builds on a modified form of grounded theory. In this form, emphasis has been put on the concept of abduction in the version of Bateson. Stress has also been laid on Simmel’s description of the process of understanding. With this reasoning, the researcher’s self is accentuated as an integrated component in the process.
The consequence of the modifications is a model in the shape of a grid — a working grid — where the different rows, internally divided up into compartments representing stages of work, constitute different, autonomously working ways. The empirical investigation is based on a critical reading of older excavational documents. Rather than aiming at a systematic division between what is game-related and what is not game-related, the reading is undertaken with the aim of seeing whether this kind of material can be studied despite the problematic appearance of the sources. Through a practical application of the working grid, the bearing capacity of the materials is tested from different angles.
See online : The thesis of Elke Rogersdotter