Putting the Picture Together
• Diderot and D’Alembert:
2 philosophers of the French Enlightenment
Wanted to write an encyclopedia that would collect all human knowledge
into a series of massive tomes.
Their plan failed.
• Archaeological theory:
Consists of the ideas archaeologists have developed about the past and
about the ways we come to know it.
2.1 Origins ofArchaeology
• Earliest evidence of ancient objects comes from early Mesopotamia, Egypt, and
• The first clear evidence for the use of excavation to recover and explore the past
was in Renaissance Europe.
• In the 19 century, antiquarians had problems distinguishing between human
manufactured objects and objects made by natural processes.
For example: ground stone axes were believed to be “thunderstones.”
o Thunderstones – objects that formed in spots where lightning
struck the Earth.
Arrowheads were identified as fossilized serpent tongues.
• There was still now method of determining the age of artifacts.
2.2 The Emergence of Archaeology
• 19 century was when archaeology emerged as a clearly defined discipline.
• Two major achievements of 19 century archaeologists:
1. the Three-Age system
2. the determination of the depth of human antiquity
• The Three-Age system:
Helped figure out the age of the objects and how to group them.
Developed by Christian Jurgensen Thomsen (Trigger).
He was given the job of cataloguing collections.
His solution was to divide the collections into the relics of three periods –
the StoneAge (earliest), the BronzeAge, and the IronAge (latest) – based
on the material of the manufacture. Also recognized that some stone and bronze artifacts continued to be
manufactured in later periods.
The Establishment of Human Antiquity
• Now the early 1800s and scientists are starting to talk about the evolution of life
• Jean Baptiste Lamarck:
Developed an evolutionary framework for the history of life on earth
based on the inheritance of acquired characteristics
• Bishop James Ussher:
Believed creation = 4004 BC.
• Theologians disagreed with the idea that “man descended from the apes.”
• Beginning in the late 1850s, everything began to change.
• Evidence for the existence of human remains together with the remains of extinct
animals was irrefutable.
• In 1857, a Neanderthal skull was discovered near Germany
• In 1859, the publication of Charles Darwin’s “On The Origin of Species”
solidified the theory of evolution
• The turning point in the recognition of the depth of human antiquity came from
the interaction between two very different scientists – Jacques Boucher de Perthes
and Charles Lyell
• Jacques Boucher de Perthes:
Wrote a series of books describing his discovery of tools of human
manufacture together with bones of extinct mammoths and rhinoceros in
the deep gravel deposits of the Somme Valley.
• Charles Lyell:
Concluded that human existence dates far back in geological time.
• The StoneAge is divided into two periods:
Neolithic (New StoneAge) – the period in which there are polished stone
Paleolithic (Old StoneAge) – the period in which humans lived with now-
• Treasure hunters
• Giovanni Belzoni:
Acircus strongman turned Egyptian explorer
The purpose of his researches was to rob the Egyptians of their papyri.
• Heinrich Schliemann:
Obsessed with finding Troy 2.3 Developing Method and Theory
• Basic tools of archaeology began to develop during the early 20 century
Stratigraphic Method and Culture History
• In Egypt and Palestine, Sir Flinders Petrie pioneered the methods of stratigraphic
excavation and Seriation
• Methods included the Pecos Classification and the Midwestern Taxonomic
V. Gordon Childe
• Was an active Marxist
• Said to have a near-photographic memory
Allowed him to make comparisons and recognize patterning in the
archaeological collections across Europe
Archaeology showed him that societies have undergone 2 revolutions:
Neolithic Revolution: led to the emergence of settled villages
Urban Revolution: led to the appearance of cities and complex
forms of gov’t.
• We can compare Childe’s ideas with Thomsen’s Three-Age system:
Thomsen focused on the classification of objects and thus created major
periods – the StoneAge, BronzeAge, and IronAge.
Similarly, Lubbock split the StoneAge into Paleolithic and Neolithic.
Childe shifted the focus from artifacts to societies of people living in a
network of social and economic relations.
Childe believed that the great changes we see in archaeological record are
evidence of chances in society, because the material aspects of culture are
intimately connected to social and economic relations.
Thus, for Childe, the presence of bronze artifacts presupposes a society
that was able to gain access to tin and copper
2.4 Archaeology as Science
Developing Scientific Methods • Graham Clar excavated areas at Star Carr to get insight into the subsistence
practices of late prehistoric hunters.
o Refers to the activities involved in procuring and processing food.
• There are methods for recovering botanical remains from sites
• There are statistical methods for archaeology
A.C. Spaulding argued that archaeologists should not impose categories
on material culture, but rather should discover clustering through
statistical analysis of attributes.
The New Archaeology
• New Archaeology (or processual archaeology):
An approach to archaeology based firmly on scientific method and
supported by a concerted effort aimed at the development of theory.
The catalyst in this movement was Lewis Binford
o He believes that archaeology should be a science or nothing at all
o Did not view the work of archaeologists as science
o For archaeology to be a science, he believed, it must work by
deduction from general laws ad models
Deduction: drawing particular inferences from general
laws and models.
The New Archaeologists were the first to argue that the central problem of
the field was not the need for more data or even better methods; rather,
they questioned the way archaeologists could know the past.
Archaeologists tend to work by induction:
o Drawing inferences on the basis of available empirical data.
• Alison Wylie showed through careful analysis that all archaeologists have to use
induction at some point in their research.
• Binford had a question about how we can know about processes that took place in
the past. He emphasized the following:
o Allows us to make secure statements about past dynamics on the
basis of observations made on archaeological material.
o The key to middle-range research is to look at processes that we
can observe in the present and analyze the material patterning left
by those processes.
o We can then develop hypotheses about the past that can be tested
by references to our observations in the present.
• Cultural Resource Management (CRM):