Lunula (Part 2) - Displacement Behaviour

March 26, 2020

blessington lunula

“Displacement behaviour occurs when an animal experiences conflicting drives, which in some cases is called approach–avoidance conflict. The animal may do something irrelevant, such as scratch or preen, in these situations.”

Michael D. Breed, Janice Moore, in Animal Behaviour (Second Edition), 2016

In the first part of this story I recalled how, late last year, my lovely clients Pam and Mark O’Loughlin Doyle of the Lunula Art Sharing Group, Dublin, had asked gamely about the possibility of making a glass version of the Blessington Lunula. You’ll also remember, then, that I was so flummoxed by the question that I almost asked them to repeat it in English.

What followed was an intensive few months during which I read just about every learned treatise on the subject of early bronze age gold artefacts that I could lay my hands on. I discovered that the lunula (or in the plural, lunulae) is/are a really important part of Irish heritage and archaeology - and that I was indeed an extremely ignorant English dunderhead for not knowing this.

The truth of the matter is that I found myself absorbed by the most fascinating months-long ancient history detective story. As the tale unfolded, yes, I learned a great deal of history, of course I did. But I learnt significantly more about my own ability to so easily fall into a bottomless pit of displacement activities, each capable of diverting my attention away from having to focus on actually starting work!

My research took me from a starting point of the Blessington Lunula’s current resting-place, the British Museum, all the way around the world - virtually, via the internet, of course. Disappointingly, I found that the finance officer (more accurately known as my wife, Pauline) doesn’t allow archaeological field trips.

Armed with the answers to the basics – Q: so, what is a lunula? A: See Part 1, you dunderhead. Q: where was the Blessington one found? A: Blessington, Co. Wicklow, stupid! Q: where is it now? A: Why, the British Museum, in England, where else? (That’s a whole different bone to pick though – mainly with a now long-deceased English clergyman who thought it was okay to have the thing away for his own private collection in Durham and then later to sell it to a wealthy American banker for the equivalent today of nearly a million quid.)

It has to be said that Mr Google helped a lot with my virtual field trip, mainly with keeping matters between me and the finance officer sweet. Had her strictures not been both figuratively and literally placed upon my wallet (she confiscated my Visa card for the duration), I would most likely still be researching somewhere around the world. So captured was my imagination by the story of the Blessington Lunula!

Of course, I now realise that my activity was every bit in the spirit of St Augustine’s wayward prayer: ‘Lord make me pure – but not yet’.  Eventually, I knew, the research would have to stop and the work of bringing the project to life in glass needed to start – but not yet!

Ordinarily, the commissioning process begins with an extensive consultation with clients, who explain what they would like the outcome of the exercise to be. There is then a further (compulsory) phase during which we, as gently as possible, explain how the soaring wings of their lofty aspirations will have to be seriously clipped to give the notoriously capricious medium of glass – and us as its lowly servants - a fighting chance. We then generally introduce folks to the glass itself and talk colours, textures and the like.

In the case of the lunula commission there was none of this. My lovely clients, Pam and Mark, having tasked me with their objective, simply vanished without trace back to Dublin, like phantoms into the night. As their receding tailwinds died away, so did my confidence in the success of the project. Remember, at that point I had only briefly seen a Googled photo of the Blessington Lunula…

I must point out that by this time my fascination with early bronze age gold artefacts hadn’t yet burgeoned. Not much was actually happening, either. I was (naturally) ‘very busy’ deciding things about the lunula project, wasn’t I? Oh, and there were other important (but as yet vague and ill-defined) aspects to consider even before work could start, weren’t there?

It was quickly quite obvious to my colleagues that other displacement activities were apparent, apart from my (actually quite genuine – but most untimely) interest in EBA (as we by-now-hugely-qualified aficionados usually call the early bronze age) gold thingamajigs. I learnt about the spread of EBA lunulae (See? Acronyms like ‘EBA’ trip off the tongue quite naturally now, don’t they?) from Ireland throughout southern Europe and Scandinavia. Thus, I delved into dusty treatises on the subject of the Beaker Folk and their origins (again, see Part 1).

Throughout the late winter months of 2019, I dwelt dreamily among past academics of Britain, Ireland and the world. I read their notions about the sacrificial deposition of gold (and how it probably didn’t happen with lunulae - they thought these were buried to prevent theft). I was entertained by their theories about the use of lunulae as sundials or calendars (a bit fanciful by my reckoning). I hung upon their every printed word about ‘EBA this,’ and ‘LBA that’. (Seriously? Do you really need my help to work that acronym out for yourself?)

Of course, in their own realms, these elevated historians and archaeologists had had zero commercial pressures urging them onwards to create something tangible from their learned offerings (anyway, they certainly didn’t now – most of them were dead) but I did – and, by now, pretty sharpish at that!

And so it dawned upon me that my scratching and/or preening might soon have some serious commercial consequences.

In the next instalment I will talk about how the project went into production, but for now, can you just scratch between my shoulders please? That’s it. Now down a bit. Across to the right. Yes!!

In the meantime, here’s a photo of some of that oh-so-all-important preparatory work that eventually did take place...







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