Sources and Methods #34: Lynne Kelly

Lynne Kelly 101:

Lynne's website

Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies

The Memory Code

Lynne on Twitter

33 Memory Experiments

Show notes:

2:20 - Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies was published by Cambridge University Press so it is the academic version of The Memory Code.

3:10 - I was looking at the way indigenous cultures, in particular Australian Aboriginal cultures, record information about animal behavior and I started to realize that they were storing information about a huge number of animals in memory.

8:07 - I listed ten different aspects of these memory systems that indigenous cultures used which would show up in the archaeology and in order to claim that a site such as Stonehenge is in fact a memory palace, I want at least eight, if not the whole ten, of these different aspects as indicators. There has to be public and restricted places. There must be performance spaces because all knowledge is performed in oral cultures because dance, song, and mythology are far more memorable. There must be sequenced sets of locations because that's the way all oral cultures are explored around the world. There are also handheld devices that I found: The African Lukasa, or memory board of the Luba people, the Australian Aboriginal, Churinga, which is an inscribed object that has abstract signs. I found these sort of devices everywhere so I started wanting them in the archeology, as well, and that whole pattern is what is required, not just odd little bits and pieces that I can jump to the conclusion 'Oh that must be memory!'

10:08 - In literate societies, we separate things into separate domains and we like our knowledge to remain separate, but indigenous cultures don't do that, they integrate everything and that's why I had to learn from Aboriginal cultures, and then from Native American, in particular the Pueblo people, but also looking at African and Pacific cultures and how all of these things work in an integrative way. So if you look at Australian Aboriginal songlines, Australian Aboriginal people still move out north and still move around the landscape, moving from sacred location to sacred location and at each of those locations, they would perform a ritual. Now, a ritual is a repeated event and so they would repeat a song or a dance or a story at each location. Some of the research shows that seventy percent of those songs were about practical stuff.

All cultures had the same idea of broad landscape sets of shrines and sacred places where they performed the information.

19:16 - I have yet to have anyone fault the theory. It's been received very well. There are some that are quiet about it, but the book as you will see in the front of The Memory Code is endorsed by big name archaeologists; Rosamund Cleal in England, William Lipe who's endorsed it, he was also one of my examiners, is a big name in America.

23:12 - Oral cultures do not stay static, so they will add new information/adapt all the information, depending on what's happening.

If you look at the artwork of Australia, we've got some of the oldest continuous art tradition and they are constantly touching it up, but also adding things. So right up north which is where the longest art tradition is being mapped, you get the moccasin, the fishing boats from Indonesia, getting added on top of the rock art a couple hundred years ago because they were being added into the story, into the oral tradition, into the knowledge system. So things have changed and updated, but the basic structure isn't.

25:38 - My 33 memory experiments - What I have tried to do is take each of those sorts of those devices and those sorts of information and start trying it myself.

29:47 - Indigenous stories, if you read the originals, do not have a straight linear narrative unless they are translated for Western cultures in which that's added into them.

34:23 - Here we've gone to a lot of group work and projects without this grounded information stored in. Plus, we have little kids singing and dancing and making up stories and then as they get older, they behave insensibly. That's what we're going to be working on the funding for primary and secondary here and we're setting up what's called the Orality Centre in Castlemaine, where we're going to start embedding songlines.