Your accessories can say a lot about you.
Myself, I like my hats old. I was following the trail of a helmet I found in the Swiss National Museum at Zurich. I like helmets: I loved this one. It reminded me of the punk headware of my youth, all those studs and mohicans and so forth.
This helmet was pulled out of the ground at a settlement where all the important tracks of the Alps, and a few others besides, meet. At Giubasco, Switzerland, without any apparent settlement to fuel it, ancient man made a Necropolis; a city of the dead. 565 graves lie at the meeting of the ways, some of them impossibly ancient. Bronze age urns from the 11th century BC lie alongside Roman-era graves.
The place was finally deserted by the living some time after the 2nd Century AD, when Rome gave up the ghost, and everyone forgot about the dead city at Giubasco. The helmet in question belonged to the man from grave 423, who was buried in the latter days of the necropolis, around 30BC.
It was found again by treasure hunters in 1900, and plundered mercilessly until in 1905, the Swiss National Museum organised a dig and made finds secure for posterity.
These days Giubasco is a small community. It has three hotels, with 56 beds between them. Looking at the unassuming train station it is hard to believe that this was such an important city, once upon a time. Albeit for dead people.
The Swiss do not seem to have our passion for inventing and reinventing history. Here, it’s in the air; breathable. People love Jane Austen’s Georgian era, the grace of Regency; they love the ribald soap opera of the Tudor dynasty, and the colour and fire of the Saxon and Viking times.
British history has its nerdy corners, though, where slightly obsessive enthusiasts have cornered the market in some very weird ware indeed.
Take flint knapping.
They are fighting it out for supremacy in the flint knapping world: survivalists and archaeologists. This is the process of making stone knives, shaping a substance like flint or obsidian, knocking flakes off until you have a sharp blade with which to cut.
It is how man started to make sense of his world, developing tools like these, and the reconstruction of the ancient skills has found quite an audience. Now you can attend flint-knapping workshops to learn how to make axe heads or knives, and take them home to amaze your family at the end of the day.
But when the necropolis at Giubasco began, that was state-of-the-art technology.
Not quite as state-of-the-art as this, however:
This is a cave drawing from the Sevilla Rock Art Trail, Clanwilliam, Northern Cape, South Africa. Stone knives were only the beginning for Prehistoric man. They moved on to develop ways of combing materials to meet their ends; one of them being the longbow. And what an accessory. Cave paintings acquire a new dashing appeal; forget the passé spears, take a look at this merchandise.
Truth is stranger than fiction.If you wish to make a prehistoric longbow today, there are people here in Britain who will tell you how. Like Will Lord: maker and purveyor of fine hunting accessories for the English prehistoric gent.
I wonder if they found any evidence of these at Giubasco?