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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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The History of Archaeology


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    1. The History of Archaeology

    2. 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

    3. 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

    4. 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

    5. 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

    6. 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

    7. 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)

    8. 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)