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The History of Archaeology


Enlightenment Movement in Europe (use of reason and science to explain natural ... 3 Age System (Stone Age; Bronze Age, Iron Age) ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The History of Archaeology

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
  • Enlightenment Movement in Europe (use of reason
    and science to explain natural world critique of
    previously accepted ideas handed down from
  • 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
  • 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
  • Dual calendars 52 year cycle

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

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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
  • 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

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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 datesno absolute dates

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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 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
  • 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)