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SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: Ogam, ogam, Ogham, ogum; Pictish symbol stones
CATEGORY: language
DEFINITION: A Celtic script used for writing in northwest Europe, probably created in the 2nd-3rd centuries AD, and used for writing Irish and Pictish languages. The alphabet has 20 letters represented by tally marks on either side of or crossing a horizontal baseline. The script is better suited for carving on stone (or possibly wood) than for writing in ink. It is believed to have originated in Ireland or south Wales as a secret script and it spread throughout the Celtic areas for use on memorial stones. It is also found associated with the symbols and carvings of the Picts, who used it till the 9th century. Ogham is used on memorial pillar stones in the Celtic regions of Britain, usually consisting of no more than the name and descent of the dead man. It was often the custom, particularly in the south and west in Wales and Cornwall, to provide a translation in Latin minuscule and this has proved important for the translation and dating of ogham. Of the more than 375 ogham inscriptions known, about 300 are from Ireland.
Pictish symbol stones
CATEGORY: language; artifact
DEFINITION: Pictish symbol stones are a unique class of sculptured monument of the Pictish people in the Post-Roman period. The Picts occupied Scotland north of the Forth and possessed a distinctive culture, seen particularly in their carved symbol stones. The stones are roughly divided into three chronological categories. The Class I stones (5th-7th century) are rough-hewn, undressed blocks or pillars, inscribed with pictorial symbols of spiral creatures, such as fishes and birds. They are also decorated with strange geometric shapes as well as inanimate objects like mirrors and combs, grouped together in various combinations. Class II (8th-10th century) stones are regularly dressed slabs which the same range of carvings but with the addition of new Christian elements and humans in animated scenes. Class III stones (from 9th century) are, in most cases, free-standing crosses decorated with a combination of a distinctive form of interlace as well as some elements of the older motifs. Some bear Ogham inscriptions from which it has recently been shown that three languages were in use, two Celtic and one pre-Indo-European. From these memorial stones, we know something of the Pictish royal succession.
structural archaeology
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: structural anthropology, symbolic archaeology, cognitive archaeology
CATEGORY: branch
DEFINITION: A branch of archaeology based on the assumption that codes and rules, beliefs and symbolic concepts, produce human culture systems. It is a research perspective that views culture as the shared symbolic structures that are cumulative creations of the mind and is closely related to postprocessual archaeology. The objective of structural analysis is to discover the basic principles of the human mind as reflected in myth, art, kinship, and language. Structural archaeology is concerned with how people manipulate the meaning of material culture, embedded in structural codes, to make new meanings and statements.
CATEGORY: language
DEFINITION: Expression which is arbitrarily associated with what it conveys; an arbitrary or conventional sign used in writing to represent operations, quantities, elements, relations, or qualities.
symbolic anthropology
CATEGORY: related field
DEFINITION: A research perspective which gives prime attention to the role of symbols in society. Culture is a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms which are used to communicate and develop knowledge and attitudes. The function of culture then is to impose meaning on the world and make it understandable. The role of symbolic anthropologists is to try to interpret the guiding symbols of each culture. In this view, culture becomes a public phenomenon transcending the cognitive realization of any single individual. This field is based mainly on the work of Clifford Geertz.
symbolic language
DEFINITION: Language as a communications system characterized by (1) the use of a finite number of symbols, including sounds, to create an infinite number of words, sentences, and ideas; (2) displacement where topics can deal with the past or future and thus are not limited to the present time and space; (3) arbitrary in that the actual symbols utilized need not bear any relationship to reality; and (4) learned behavior.
CATEGORY: ceramics
DEFINITION: Pottery ware of the Spanish Copper/Early Bronze Age of Almeria, as at Los Millares, decorated with stylized designs, especially oculi (rayed sun) motifs. The designs which are thought to hold symbolic meanings.

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