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Gustaf Oscar Montelius (1843-1921), Swedish archaeologists who played a role in bringing about this shift. Oriented in Thomsen’s and Worsaae’s approaches.

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Gustaf Oscar Montelius (1843-1921), Swedish archaeologists who played a role in bringing about this shift.

    • Oriented in Thomsen’s and Worsaae’s approaches.
    • In 1876 and 1879, Montelius traveled Europe studying collections. He became the first archaeologist to investigate archaeology on a continental scale.
    • Montelius’ typological method was a refinement of Thomsen’s chronological approach. Montelius worked to develop a series of regional chronologies based on closed finds.
    • After comparing 200-300 closed finds, clusters of associations could be identified and used for building subdivisions.
    • Montelius greatly refined the method of seriation.
    • From the chronological sequences based on formal criteria drawn from closed finds, he identified evolutionary trends within the sequences.

Montelius drew parallels between the evolution of material culture and biological organisms. His thinking more influenced by Scandinavian archaeologists than by Darwin. Following Enlightenment philosophers, Montelius believed humans used the power of reason to develop more effective ways of coping with nature.

  • Significantly, some of Montelius’s evolutionary patterns were not unilinear. In detailing the evolution of material culture, he incorporated idiosyncratic factors as well as logical ones.
  • Montelius believed cultural development occurred in Middle East and diffused to Europe through migrations through the Balkans and Italy. This was why he believed that during prehistory southeastern Europe was more advanced than northern and western Europe.
  • Montelius’s diffusion gave rise to the ex orientelux“light from the east” school of archaeology.
  • Montelius’s scheme required a belief in:
    • 1) diffusion over long periods of time
    • 2) cultural cores that diffuse outward.

The culture core/periphery is also a central concept in Boasian anthropology. Boas also made the age/area assumption that is more widely distributed traits were probably older than those with more restricted territories.

  • Roland B. Dixon (1928) would later attack the concept of cultural cores and the age/area assumption. Yet, in Europe these ideas were neither articulated clearly nor critiqued.
  • The critiques against Montelius were not focused on the assumption of a core area, but rather on his selection of the Middle East as the core. Many European archaeologists viewed Europe as the center of civilization.
  • Carl Schuchhardt (1859-1943) and Aldof Furtwangler (1853-1907) argued that Mycenaean and Greek civilizations were the product of Aryan invaders from the north.

A growing interest in ethnicity stimulated an increasing application of the concept of the archaeological culture.

  • Trigger (2006) suggests “The term ‘culture’ seems first to have been used in Italian and Spanish, where it originally referred to the cultivation of the human mind.”
  • What does the OED say?
oed entry for culture
OED Entry for Culture
  • Forms:lME (18– nonstandard) cultur, lME– culture; also Sc. and Irish English (north.) 19– cultur. See also culcha n.(Show Less)
  • Etymology:  < Anglo-Norman and Middle French culture(French culture ) action of cultivating land, plants, etc., husbandry (12th cent. in Anglo-Norman), (piece of) cultivated land (12th cent. in Anglo-Norman), formation, training (13th cent. in Anglo-Norman), worship or cult of someone or something (14th cent. or earlier in Anglo-Norman), cultivation, development (of language, literature, etc.) (1549), mental development through education (1691), intellectual and artistic conditions of a society or the (perceived) state of development of those conditions, also the ideas, customs, etc. of a society or group (1796, after German Kultur) and its etymon classical Latin cultūra cultivation, tillage, piece of cultivated land, care bestowed on plants, mode of growing plants, training or improvement of the faculties, observance of religious rites (2nd cent. a.d. in this sense), in post-classical Latin also rites (Vetus Latina), veneration of a person (late 2nd or early 3rd cent. in Tertullian), training of the body (5th cent.) < cult- , past participial stem of colere to cultivate, to worship (see cult n. and adj.2) + -ūra-ure suffix1. In branch III., and especially in senses 6 and 7, also influenced by German Kultur , both directly and via French. The German word is a 17th-cent. borrowing < French, but the transfer of the meaning ‘state of intellectual development’ from an individual to the whole of a society occurred in German in the mid 18th cent. Compare also Spanish cultura (15th cent.), Portuguese cultura (15th cent.), Italian cultura (15th cent.).French culture shows a learned borrowing < Latin, the regular development of the Latin word being shown by Old French, Middle French couture cultivated land (12th cent.).
  • The sense development of the word in branch III. from the 19th cent. onwards is very complex; the term is frequently distinguished < civilization n. (and to some extent also < society n.), although the precise distinctions made differ greatly. In one important tradition originating in Germany in the 18th cent., the term is used to denote the (perceived) state of development of the intellectual life of a society (compare sense 6), but this was challenged (already before the end of the 18th cent. by the German philosopher Herder) by another (countable) use with reference to the ideas, customs, etc. of a society or of a group within a society (compare sense 7); this has frequently been used in the context of rejection of normative or hierarchical conceptions of the development of society, and hence with loss of the previously transparent connection with earlier senses at branch III. Additionally, in modern use in sense 6 the term is frequently used as a general term to denote the arts and other aspects of intellectual life, without any special reference to their historical development (nor to their connection with any particular society), and hence again with less transparent connection with earlier senses of the word. For an account of this process see R. Williams Keywords (1976    ) at culture.


    • Mid -15 C. “tilling of the land” Middle French culture and Latin cultura “a cultivating agriculture” and colere “tend, guard, cultivate, till”
    • ca. 1500 “cultivation through education”
    • By 17th C., referred to a distinctive way of live.
    • Herder asserted that each people (Volk) had their own culture (Kultur).
  • In French, the term was “civilisation”.
  • In Germany, Kultur came to refer to slowly changing tribal or peasant groups while rapidly changing cosmopolitan dwellers of urban centers had “Zivilisation”.
  • Cultural
    • From 1875, in reference to cultivation of the mind.
  • Corpus JurisCivilis 6thC. document by Byzantine Emperor Justinian regarding the consolidation of Roman civil law.
  • Document recovered in 11th C. at University of Bologna, the first University of Western Europe.
  • The recovered document began to have widespread influence. By 1388, civil appeared in English “of or related to citizens”.
  • 1704, civilization meant “a law which makes a criminal process into a civil case”.
  • Not until mid-1700s was civilization used to mean “the opposite of barbarism”.
  • First written occurrence in English of the term civilization in its modern sense found in Adam Ferguson (1767) “An Essay on the History of Civil Society”
  • The word is used at least 8 times in the text.
  • The first instance, that appears on the second page, reads:
    • “This progrefs in the cafe of man is continued to a greater extent than in that of any other animal. Not only the individual acvances from infancy to manhood, but the fpeciesitfelf from rudemefs to civilization. Hence the fuppofed departure of mankind from the fate of their nature…”
  • 1775, civilization defined as “the state of being civilized; the act of civilizing”. Adam Smith used the term repeatedly in “…Wealth of Nations” (1776).
  • In late 1700-early 1800s, during the French and English revolutions, “civilization” was used in the singular—not in the plural. Civilization referred to the progress of humankind as a whole.
  • More recently, “civilizations” are used in a similar way as “cultures”.
  • Civilization not always seen as improvement. Eg. Rousseau, Emile, civilization was not in accordance with human nature “human wholeness is achievable only through the recovery of or approximation to an original prediscursive or prerational natural unity”.
  • This idea stimulated Johann Herder (and later Kierkegaard and Nietzsche” to argue that cultures were not defined by “conscious, rational, deliberative acts” but instead a pre-rational “folk spirit”
  • After WWII, Leo Strauss would argue that this approach to civilization was at the root of the Nazi movement, Gemanmilitarisim, and German nihilism.
  • Leo Strauss’s lecture can be found on the Internet Archive

There is no generally accepted definition of civil society. The London School of Economics Centre for Civil Society's working definition is one illustrative example:

    • Civil society refers to the arena of uncoerced collective action around shared interests, purposes and values. In theory, its institutional forms are distinct from those of the state, and market, though in practice, the boundaries between state, civil society, and market are often complex, blurred and negotiated. Civil society commonly embraces a diversity of spaces, actors and institutional forms, varying in their degree of formality, autonomy and power. Civil societies are often populated by organizations such as registered charities, development of non-governmental organizations, community groups, women's organizations, faith-based organizations, professional associations, trade unions, self-help groups, social movements, business associations, coalitions and advocacy groups.
  • Definitions run into difficulty when applied across cultures. World Alliance for Citizen Participation, has adopted the following definition as means of dealing with this issue
    • "the arena, outside of the family, the state, and the market where people associate to advance common interests."

After 1780, Kulturgeschichte (culture history) proliferated.

  • In 1843, Gustav Klemm published General Culture History of Humanity and General Ethnology.
  • FreidrichRatzel grounded his antievolutionary theory on the concept of culture to “denote distinctive ways of life transmitted by specific peoples from one generation to another as well as on the concept of diffusion”.
  • As early as 1865, Edward B. Tylor (1832-1917) was aware of Klemm’s use of culture.
  • In 1871, in the book Primitive Culture Tylor provided the now classic definition of culture as “that complex whole which includes knowledge belief, art, morals, law, custom, and other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society”.

19th C. evolutionists used the term culture in the singular. It referred to knowledge and belief of humanity as transmitted by teaching and imitation, it was believed to grow more complex over time.

  • This contrasted with the German use of the word culture, often in plural, to designate distinct life ways of various peoples.
  • Childe (1935) suggested that the concept of an archaeological culture was “forced” on Scandinavian archaeologists because of the wealth of variability during the Neolithic.
  • The oldest known use of the term culture in an archaeological case is Thomsen’s contribution to the Lederaad (1836).
  • In this work, Thomsen refers to the diffusion of technological knowledge from one culture to another.
  • Worsaae, in DanmarksOldtid (1843) uses the term culture to designate archaeological entities like “higher cultures” and “later cultures”
  • Thomsen and Worssae were aware that different cultures co-existed.

OlofRygh, 1866, Norwegian archaeologist was interpreting specific styles of projectile points as representing a particular “culture and people”. BY 1871, he discussed the existence of two “Stone Age cultures” and “Stone Age peoples” from Norway.

  • Beginning in 1884, Eduard Meyer (1855-1930) in a multivolume History of Ancient Times, regularly referred to Egyptian, Greek, and Trojan “cultures”
  • The interest in nationalism, race, and ethnicity was at the foundation of the growing use of culture.
culture historical archaeology
Culture-historical archaeology
  • Adolf Bastian (1826-1905) advocate of the study of all cultures, including those that had not produced “great” art or literature.
    • Played a major role in the professionalization of anthropology.
    • Proponent of the psychic unity of mankind. All people are endowed with species-specific “elementary ideas” (Elementargedanken) .
    • Because of elementary ideas, the minds of people, regardless of race or culture, operate in the same way.
    • Geographic location and historical background created local elaborations of the “elementary ideas” that he called “folk ideas” (Volkergedanken).
  • Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902) advocated a comprehensive prehistoric anthropology that included ethnology, and physical anthropology.
    • Several German scholars followed this program and worked to trace out the history of specific cultures. None of these challenged Mortillet’s evolutionary scheme.

GustafKossinna (1858-1931), German patriot and argued that archaeology was the most national of all sciences.

    • 1895 traced historically recorded German tribes back to the Neolithic.
    • Later wrote Origin and Expansion of the Germans.
    • Kossinnaargued that similarities and differences in material culture correlated with ethnicity.
    • Cultural provinces correlated with major ethnic groups; cultural continuity indicated ethnic continuity.
    • Mapped distribution of diagnostic artifacts based on historical homelands. Material culture associated with these localities, were used to trace out territories based on archaeological artifacts with similar form.
    • He named the procedure Settlement Archaeology (Siedlungsarchaologie). This was not the study of habitation sites, but rather an effort to delimit the ancient boundaries of ethnic groups.
    • Kossinnatraced the origins of the Germans back to Schlewig and Holstein, areas Germany had recently annexed from Denmark.


    • Believed that the original Indo-Europeans were of the longheaded Nordic Aryan race. Asserted that racial characteristics determined human behavior. Kossinna also accepted Klemm’s distinction between culturally creative and passive peoples.
    • Kossinnaacknowledged diffusion, but because of his race based approach, he emphasized migration as the key force of change. Creative races migrated out and created change. Interbreeding with passive races impaired creative power.
    • Germans who had remained in their homeland were the most racially pure and thus the most creative of all Indo-European people. These Germans were responsible for creating civilization and imposing it on inferior people.
    • Archaeology established historical right to territory. Wherever German artifacts were found, this was rightfully German territory.
    • Kossinnaborrowed from Montelius, the idea the continuity of material culture indicated ethnic continuity.
  • Virchow, and others, were was skeptical of Kossinna’s interpretations.
  • Still, Kossinna’s work marked the end of an evolutionary view of archaeology and the replacement of it with a culture-historical approach.
  • Kossinna, late in life, was attracted to the Nazi party. His interpretation of German prehistory was incorporated into Nazi curriculum.

Miles Burkitt (1921) and Cyril Fox (1923) employ the use of the term culture.

  • Burkitt defined industries, cultures, and civilizations as nested units of increasing generality. Yet, he referred to Mousterian and Solutrean as both cultures and civilizations.
  • O.G.S. Crawford (1921) described geographical methods for determining the origin and extents of cultures.
  • Still, in the English language, it was not until V. Gordon Childe (1893-1957) that archaeological culture was used systematically. Specifically, this was accomplished in The Dawn of European Civilization (1925). After this point, the archaeological culture became a fundamental point of departure for European archaeologists.

In “The Dawn…”, Childe borrowed from Kossinna the basic concept of archaeological culture and the identification of these cultures through remains of prehistoric people. Childe did not incorporate the racist underpinnings of Kossinna’s work.

  • It is possible that Childe was exposed to Kossinna’s approach through Polilsh archaeologist Leon Kozlowski.
  • Childe combined Kossinna’s notion of archaeological culture with Montelius’s chronology and models of technological diffusion from the Middle East.
  • Trigger suggests that this is “one of the earliest examples of an archaeologist’s combining the different approaches and results of more than one previous researcher to create a new way of interpreting archaeological evidence.”
  • Childe’s archaeological cultures were based on a small number of diagnostic artifacts, but these were based on his functionalist view of material culture.
  • Artifacts had to be understood in terms of the role they played in ancient cultures.
  • Ornaments and burial rites that reflected local tastes were likely resistant to change.
  • Utilitarian items, like tools and weapons, diffused more rapidly through intergroup contact that resulted in either trade or copying. These items were more valuable for chronology building than personal ornaments and burial assemblages.