Valerio Gentile is a PhD candidate at the Faculty Archaeology. He studies weapon depositions in Late European Prehistory.
Warfare is one of the most extreme forms of social interaction. It is enmeshed in a society’s value-system and often embedded in the ritual sphere. Warfare has a meaning which pervades society at every level, even in times of peace.
The Bronze Age (BA) is the period in which tools explicitly designed for interpersonal violence (like swords) first appear. Weapons are frequently found in graves, depicted in rock art, or deposited in ‘ritual places’. Because of this, martial ideology is believed to pervade BA societies. Archaeological research indicates that BA conflicts were conducted with extensive use of ranged and impact weapons (like bow-and-arrow and maces). Yet, in ritual contexts those weapons are practically absent, whilst swords and spearheads are prominent. Moreover, prior to deposition, many of these weapons were intentionally bent or fragmented.
Apparently, some weapons were deliberately selected to convey a specific message. This suggests a significant difference between idealised forms of martiality, and the actual practice of warfare. This research aims to narrow the gap between the practice of combat and its transfiguration into a broader cultural aspect. It will do so by investigating patterns in selection, use, and treatment of the ‘ritually’ deposited objects as a key to unlock their significance.
In this manner, this project will contribute to answering the following main research questions: What made certain weapons worthy of such special treatment? What can such attitude towards weaponry tell us about cultural values?
Material culture studies; themes in European prehistory.
Valerio Gentile obtained his BA Cum Laude in History and Preservation of Artistic and Archaeological Heritage at the University or RomaTre in Rome in 2013, with a thesis on the weaponry from an Iron Age necropolis of Central Italy. In 2014, he moved to the Netherlands to study at Leiden University where he obtained his Research Master Cum Laude in Archaeology in 2017, with a thesis on use-wear analysis and experimental archaeology applied to the study of Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age ritually deposited swords of Southern Netherlands.
In 2015 he has been awarded with prize for the best presentation at the Symposium Onderzoek Jonge Archeologen (SOJA) and he contributed with his findings to the exposition Vlijmscherp verleden for the National Museum of Antiquities (RMO) in Leiden (1 April - 2 October 2016) and to its accompanying publication.
In 2017, Valerio was awarded with the W.A. van Es Prize by the Dutch Cultural Heritage Agency for ‘the best Master thesis in Archaeology of the last two years’.
In the same year, Valerio won a 4-years grant from the NWO (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research) to pursue a PhD at Leiden University on the topic of weapon depositions in Late European Prehistory. His main investigation areas will be the Low Countries and the Italian peninsula, and the famous battlefield of the Tollense Valley (Germany).
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