the history of archaeology
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The History of Archaeology. Archaeology is a young Science. Product of Western Civilization Scientific explanation of past, vs. mythic past, oral histories, etc. 18th and 19th century origins

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archaeology is a young science
Archaeology is a young Science
  • Product of Western Civilization
    • Scientific explanation of past, vs. mythic past, oral histories, etc.
  • 18th and 19th century origins
    • Enlightenment Movement in Europe (use of reason and science to explain natural world; critique of previously accepted ideas handed down from antiquity)
  • No ancient precursor science
    • Different from chemistry, philosophy, astronomy, mathematics – no Classical analog
  • Has grown rapidly and is worldwide today
    • Practiced in every industrialized nation
    • National Past, used for preserving heritage
      • Also used for political reasons
four prerequisites for archaeology
Four Prerequisites for Archaeology
  • 1) Recognition that the Past exists
    • Western concept of linear time
      • Seems natural to us, but non only possibility
      • Allows for cause and effect; change over time
      • Concept of evolution/development
    • Many non-western cultures see time as cyclical
      • No beginning or end, just endless repetition of cyclical events
      • Example: Mesoamerican civilizations (Maya, Aztec)
        • Continuous cycles of creation and destruction of world
        • Dual calendars; 52 year cycle
four prerequisites for archaeology4
Four Prerequisites for Archaeology
  • 2 ) Interest in the past
    • 18th/early 19th century Antiquarianism – sparked European interest
    • Antiquarianism: interest in ancient art and architecture (exotic, beauty, rarity)
      • Pompeii and Herculaneum (Neoclassical movement)
      • Napoleon's Invasion of Egypt
      • Looting of Classical world by Europeans
        • Elgin Marbles
      • North America: Moundbuilder question
        • Thomas Jefferson
four prerequisites for archaeology10
Four Prerequisites for Archaeology
  • 3) Recognition that past was a long time
    • Contradicts Bible (4004 B.C. Genesis)
    • Extinct animals w. tools (Boucher de Perthes)
      • People had been around long enough for some animals to go extinct
    • Neanderthal skull (1856)
      • Sufficient time for some types of humans to go extinct
    • Developments in Geology: Uniformitarianism (Charles Lyell)
      • Huge amounts of time necessary for formation of geologic features through observed processes
      • Previous belief in “catastrophism”
    • Darwin/Wallace and Evolution
four prerequisites for archaeology12
Four Prerequisites for Archaeology
  • 4) Past can be investigated by excavation
    • Jens Worsaee: Stratigraphy
      • Adoption of concept from geology
      • Idea that layers of soil builds up over time; deeper you dig, the older stuff gets
    • Christian Thompson: Seriation
      • Idea that the objects used by ancient peoples changed over time
      • 3 Age System (Stone Age; Bronze Age, Iron Age)
    • Stratigraphy + Seriation = ability to form chronologies (change over time)
      • But only relative dates…no absolute dates
development of archaeology
Development of Archaeology
  • Late19th century, scientific archaeology develops in Europe and America
    • Developed differently due to local concerns
  • American Archaeology
    • Concerned initially w. Native Americans (as far back as Thomas Jefferson)
    • Bureau of American Ethnology (BAE)
    • Part of Anthropology
  • European Archaeology
    • Concerned initially w. Classical World (Greece, Rome) and literate societies (w. Writing)
    • Associated w. History, not w. Anthropology
  • Antiquarianism persists today (Antiquities Trade)
development of archaeology15
Development of Archaeology
  • How to explain change over time?
  • Early 20th Century
    • Descriptive Period (Culture Historical Approach)
      • Exploring range of variation in archaeological record, without much attention to explanation
        • Diffusionism and Migration: major explanatory mechanisms
  • Middle 20th Century
    • Evolutionary Period (Processual Approach)
      • Use of Evolutionary concepts to explain change in archaeological record
      • Changes in material culture often explained by changes in the environment
  • Late 20th Century
    • Critical Period (Post-Processual Approach)
      • Criticism of previous approaches to explanation as simplistic and incomplete
      • Use of cultural explanations for changes in material culture (culture changes for its own reasons, not because of environmental factors)
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