Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Dating Bond-related objects from the 007 gun symbol

Back in February, I published a piece on the evolution of the gun symbol or logo. Towards the end of the piece, I suggested that the gradual evolution of the symbol, with each design being fixed to a certain period of the Bond series or linked to a particular run of films, gives us a relative chronology, and allows us to date objects carrying the symbol with reasonable accuracy. Should the symbol be the only piece of writing surviving on a toy car, dvd case or any other Bondian artefact unearthed by future archaeologists, then so long as the archaeologists have the typology of gun symbols to hand, they should be able to date the object to within a few years by the symbol alone.

As an archaeologist, I can't resist applying methods of typological dating that use everyday when I date ancient Roman pottery to Bondian artefacts. Let's look at a few examples.

The first object is a bottle of Perrier. The label depicts a Bond figure within the second zero of the gun symbol. It may be obvious now that the bottle was used to promote GoldenEye and therefore dates to 1995, but the link may not so clear in the future as cultural memories fade. However, looking at our logo typology, we can match the symbol, particularly the angular seven, with that used for GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough, and can therefore date the bottle to between 1995 and 1999.

Having said that, from technical point of view, it is possible that the bottle was made after 1999; although the use of the symbol within the films dates from 1995 to 1999, the label could have been printed after that period. However, the date of the bottle is extremely unlikely to be earlier than 1995, as the design of the symbol didn't exist before then (just like, say, a time capsule can't have been deposited before the date of the newspaper placed inside it).

What about the second object, a postcard showing the gun barrel with a Bond figure inside? The gun symbol resembles the type used on the Perrier bottle, but on closer examination we can see that the symbol leans to the right. This dates the postcard to 1999 or later, as that form of the symbol was used for The World Is Not Enough. However, with the extra information on the card – Cubby Broccoli's centenary – we can revise the date to 2009, making the gun symbol a residual occurence; in other words, it continued to be used despite being effectively out of date by 2009, by which time a new version of the logo was current in film marketing.

The third object is Corgi's Lotus Espirit from For Your Eyes Only. We know that the car can't have been made before 1981, the date that the film was released, but was the car made more recently? In fact, the gun symbol on the base of the car points to a date of manufacture after 1987, as the symbol matches that used for The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill. We should be cautious, though, if we want to date the car up to 1995, when the style of the symbol changed with the release of GoldenEye. The style of symbol introduced with The Living Daylights continued to be used on later Corgi models, as the picture of the BMW Z8 from GoldenEye shows.

Even negative evidence – in this case the absence of a gun symbol – provides a useful indication for a date. The packaging on this UK board game, made by Spears Games in 1966, lacks the gun symbol, and this is consistent with the period from 1962 to 1969 when the symbol was used largely in US marketing only, and had yet to be established as an essential part of Bond iconography in British posters and products.

Finally, when future archaeologists excavate Bond-related objects from dumps and other waste deposits, they should be aware that there is a good chance that the objects were not deposited when the objects were made. Many are likely to have been curated by their owners – that is, retained and treasured for years after manufacture. For collectable material, there will inevitably be a significant time gap between manufacture and discard.

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