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Kevin S.





Joined: 25 Aug 2009

Posts: 54

PostPosted: Thu 31 May, 2012 5:49 pm    Post subject: Your Opinions On Archaeology         Reply with quote

Archaeology is a bit of a clumsy tool when it comes proving historical facts. I believe that we can all agree with that.

However, there are some people who are even more extremist in their views and want Archaeology to be of a much lower status.

I am curious if you guys agree with the 2 quotes below? These 2 quotes did NOT come from me.

1. "Archaeology is only a supplement to History."

2. "Archaeology is not only clumsy, it cannot be used to disprove historical textual evidence."


Last edited by Kevin S. on Thu 31 May, 2012 8:47 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Glen A Cleeton




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PostPosted: Thu 31 May, 2012 6:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Without better context of a given time period, the quotes are somewhat senseless.

What are the sources for the quotes and what are the authors of those words discussing?

Cheers

GC
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J. Hargis




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PostPosted: Thu 31 May, 2012 7:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It certainly can be clumsy in that it can be very political. Like any other academic pursuit, those involved must attempt to be dispassionate in their research and resultant findings. Something humans find very difficult to be.

All studies must be subject to revision if new findings consistently challenge existing opinions. That is part of the academic process.

I can't imagine who would dismiss archaeology out of hand like that.

Jon

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D. Phillip Caron




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PostPosted: Thu 31 May, 2012 7:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think we need a "C"; "None of the above".
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R. Kolick





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PostPosted: Thu 31 May, 2012 7:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

we can all agree that it is clumsy anything that requirse you to go through any govt. is but i dont think you can say it cant disprove textual evidance because any writings about politics and the economy of the time was even more controled by those in power than it is today because there was no such thing as freedom of speech so everything you wrote had to match up with eather the religion of the region or the king/emperors ideas and views or you risk lossing your head so textual evidence is also a form of propaganda so it cant be looked at as every single peice of text is true so with out any archeological evidence we are taking the word of some one who was under the treat of death if they didnt write the write things that the ruler of his country wanted him to. an example of this is that ramesses II said that he won the battle of kadesh and we now know that he didnt realy capture kadesh or even win the battle outside its gates he merly fought to a draw
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Kevin S.





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PostPosted: Thu 31 May, 2012 8:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Glen A Cleeton wrote:

What are the sources for the quotes and what are the authors of those words discussing?

Cheers

GC


The person who wrote the quotes was a guy from another forum. He is a "respected" member there, but I suspected that he was BSing, which is why I wanted to make sure with you guys.

Based on your answer, I guess he really was BSing.


Last edited by Kevin S. on Thu 31 May, 2012 8:51 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Kevin S.





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PostPosted: Thu 31 May, 2012 8:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

R. Kolick wrote:
we can all agree that it is clumsy anything that requirse you to go through any govt. is but i dont think you can say it cant disprove textual evidance because any writings about politics and the economy of the time was even more controled by those in power than it is today because there was no such thing as freedom of speech so everything you wrote had to match up with eather the religion of the region or the king/emperors ideas and views or you risk lossing your head so textual evidence is also a form of propaganda so it cant be looked at as every single peice of text is true so with out any archeological evidence we are taking the word of some one who was under the treat of death if they didnt write the write things that the ruler of his country wanted him to. an example of this is that ramesses II said that he won the battle of kadesh and we now know that he didnt realy capture kadesh or even win the battle outside its gates he merly fought to a draw


ME? ME?!!

Just to be perfectly clear here, I am NOT the person who wrote the 2 quotes. The person who wrote them was a "respected" guy from another forum. I don't believe his words, but - just to make sure - I am asking for your opinions.
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Arne Focke
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PostPosted: Thu 31 May, 2012 10:36 pm    Post subject: Re: Your Opinions On Archaeology         Reply with quote

Kevin Sanguanlosit wrote:
Archaeology is a bit of a clumsy tool when it comes proving historical facts. I believe that we can all agree with that.


As an archaeologist I strongly disagree with those quotes.

A single archaeological find would certainly be a "clumsy" proof for anything, but a whole group of finds can "draw" a detailed picture of every day life in long forgotten times that written evidence usually doesn't provide.

Archaeology used to be a "clumsy" tool, but don't forget it is a relatively new science. The results get more detailed every year.

Kevin Sanguanlosit wrote:

1. "Archaeology is only a supplement to History."


I'd say both sciences support each other. There is just too many things that were never written down.
I've often worked with historians and it was always a very productive cooperation.

People usually didn't write things down that were common place. Archaeology is a strong tool to close the caps.
Imagine writing a text with a horse in it. Would you describe the horse in great detail? No, why should you, everyone knows what a horse is, right? Now imagine someone reading that text who doesn't know what a horse is.

Plus, don't forget, there wasn't very much written evidence before the Romans.
(I leave the Egyptians out on purpose to annoy my wife, who is an Egyptologist. Wink )

Kevin Sanguanlosit wrote:

2. "Archaeology is not only clumsy, it cannot be used to disprove historical textual evidence."


Sure it can.
Or does anybody really think that everything somebody wrote down at some time is true?

So schön und inhaltsreich der Beruf eines Archäologen ist, so hart ist auch seine Arbeit, die keinen Achtstundentag kennt! (Wolfgang Kimmig in: Die Heuneburg an der oberen Donau, Stuttgart 1983)
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Glen A Cleeton




Location: Nipmuc USA
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PostPosted: Thu 31 May, 2012 11:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kevin Sanguanlosit wrote:
R. Kolick wrote:
we can all agree that it is clumsy anything that requirse you to go through any govt. is but i dont think you can say it cant disprove textual evidance because any writings about politics and the economy of the time was even more controled by those in power than it is today because there was no such thing as freedom of speech so everything you wrote had to match up with eather the religion of the region or the king/emperors ideas and views or you risk lossing your head so textual evidence is also a form of propaganda so it cant be looked at as every single peice of text is true so with out any archeological evidence we are taking the word of some one who was under the treat of death if they didnt write the write things that the ruler of his country wanted him to. an example of this is that ramesses II said that he won the battle of kadesh and we now know that he didnt realy capture kadesh or even win the battle outside its gates he merly fought to a draw


ME? ME?!!

Just to be perfectly clear here, I am NOT the person who wrote the 2 quotes. The person who wrote them was a "respected" guy from another forum. I don't believe his words, but - just to make sure - I am asking for your opinions.


Yet, you are posting them here without clear provenance. In a sense, you are inciting support for your own views on a different board. Why are you importing snippets from half of a dialog without the entire dialog. Bold caps from you seem to indicate you have already taken it fairly personal. What can some (like me) do rather than laugh? For all I know (from what you have shared), you are wrong in your assumptions. PM me a link to the dialog if you care to.

Cheers

GC
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Jeffrey Hedgecock
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PostPosted: Fri 01 Jun, 2012 1:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Archaeology, like all other historical evidence, be it visual, written source (primary, secondary, etc), or any other, offers an incomplete but very important part of the overall picture.

No one single source provides us with enough information to make reasonable and sound hypotheses about history, material culture, practice, etc. ALL sources and information TAKEN TOGETHER and weighed against each other, interpreted and viewed with experience and knowledge is what begins to approach an accurate view of history, and even then, we don't have all the information. So much has been lost, never to be recovered.

To be honest, even with all the evidence combined, we still don't have a completely clear picture of history, however archaeological evidence provides -essential- solid evidence, even in its incompleteness.

That said, new information is found all the time, and a good chunk of it is archaeological evidence. Think of the hoardes that have been found in England very recently. New stuff is dug up all the time, just like new documents are being found and translated all the time.

Cheers,

Jeffrey Hedgecock
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E. Storesund





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PostPosted: Fri 01 Jun, 2012 8:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have more of an ambiguous relationship to the field of History, than I have to archaeology or, say, philology. When i meet people doing ancient history on an academic level that neither know the language of their sources, nor have any archaeological competence a lot of bells start going off in my head.

My field is philology, but I think cross-discipline work is important, so I have had courses in archaeology to back myself up to avoid the most embarassing errors. As far as I have seen, there is usually a very positive tendency towards interdisciplinary work, even though this isn't always actually put into practice. The cliché is among Norse philologists that archaeologists will put sport into discrediting written sources, but defy this without any source criticism if they find some translation of a saga that supports an assumption. While I don't think this is as prevalent as I some would like it to be, I have stumbled across hair-raising examples once or twice.


Last edited by E. Storesund on Fri 01 Jun, 2012 8:45 am; edited 1 time in total
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Till J. Lodemann





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PostPosted: Fri 01 Jun, 2012 8:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Also, Archeology is sometimes very exact at giving dates. Give me any piece of pine or oak here in euorpe and I can tell you exactly how old it is, to the very year it was felled. From this year back to the year 12600 b.c. I would not call that clumsy, would you? : Cool

Methods have greatly developed, our typology is very fine for most of the last 3000 years in europe now and the cooperation with other scientific disciplines is intense. In fact, for most of the methods we use in our field of study, it is more a science itself the a part of humanities. As a student of archeology, I would think that we would have a easier time looking down on history then vice versa if we wanted to Wink

Also for comparing archeology with history, it is important to understand what both really are. History is about the study of documents and written monuments while archeology only looks at the artifacts and edifical remains that have survived in the ground. The collecting of data is methodologically very similar to modern Forensics. While interpretation as much in common with Geography.

Also, there are many different fields of archeology. Aegyptology, Koptology, Biblical Archeology, Prehistoric Archeology, Classical Archeology, Precolumbian Archeology, Archeology of the Near East, Indian Archeology, Medieval Archeology and even Modern Archeology and many, many more :-)
Each are a bit different in their methodic and their goals.

But both, Archeology and History use their methods and their sources to find out more about or past. No method is all-encompassing, like Jeffrey wrote, but the often supplement each other (although, for much of the scope of interest of Archeology, there simply was no written history...)
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Kevin S.





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PostPosted: Fri 01 Jun, 2012 10:15 am    Post subject: Re: Your Opinions On Archaeology         Reply with quote

Arne Focke wrote:
Kevin Sanguanlosit wrote:
Archaeology is a bit of a clumsy tool when it comes proving historical facts. I believe that we can all agree with that.


As an archaeologist I strongly disagree with those quotes.

A single archaeological find would certainly be a "clumsy" proof for anything, but a whole group of finds can "draw" a detailed picture of every day life in long forgotten times that written evidence usually doesn't provide.

Archaeology used to be a "clumsy" tool, but don't forget it is a relatively new science. The results get more detailed every year.

Kevin Sanguanlosit wrote:

1. "Archaeology is only a supplement to History."


I'd say both sciences support each other. There is just too many things that were never written down.
I've often worked with historians and it was always a very productive cooperation.

People usually didn't write things down that were common place. Archaeology is a strong tool to close the caps.
Imagine writing a text with a horse in it. Would you describe the horse in great detail? No, why should you, everyone knows what a horse is, right? Now imagine someone reading that text who doesn't know what a horse is.

Plus, don't forget, there wasn't very much written evidence before the Romans.
(I leave the Egyptians out on purpose to annoy my wife, who is an Egyptologist. Wink )

Kevin Sanguanlosit wrote:

2. "Archaeology is not only clumsy, it cannot be used to disprove historical textual evidence."


Sure it can.
Or does anybody really think that everything somebody wrote down at some time is true?

Jeffrey Hedgecock wrote:
Archaeology, like all other historical evidence, be it visual, written source (primary, secondary, etc), or any other, offers an incomplete but very important part of the overall picture.

No one single source provides us with enough information to make reasonable and sound hypotheses about history, material culture, practice, etc. ALL sources and information TAKEN TOGETHER and weighed against each other, interpreted and viewed with experience and knowledge is what begins to approach an accurate view of history, and even then, we don't have all the information. So much has been lost, never to be recovered.

To be honest, even with all the evidence combined, we still don't have a completely clear picture of history, however archaeological evidence provides -essential- solid evidence, even in its incompleteness.

That said, new information is found all the time, and a good chunk of it is archaeological evidence. Think of the hoardes that have been found in England very recently. New stuff is dug up all the time, just like new documents are being found and translated all the time.

E. Storesund wrote:
I have more of an ambiguous relationship to the field of History, than I have to archaeology or, say, philology. When i meet people doing ancient history on an academic level that neither know the language of their sources, nor have any archaeological competence a lot of bells start going off in my head.

My field is philology, but I think cross-discipline work is important, so I have had courses in archaeology to back myself up to avoid the most embarassing errors. As far as I have seen, there is usually a very positive tendency towards interdisciplinary work, even though this isn't always actually put into practice. The cliché is among Norse philologists that archaeologists will put sport into discrediting written sources, but defy this without any source criticism if they find some translation of a saga that supports an assumption. While I don't think this is as prevalent as I some would like it to be, I have stumbled across hair-raising examples once or twice.

Till J. Lodemann wrote:
Also, Archeology is sometimes very exact at giving dates. Give me any piece of pine or oak here in euorpe and I can tell you exactly how old it is, to the very year it was felled. From this year back to the year 12600 b.c. I would not call that clumsy, would you? : Cool

Methods have greatly developed, our typology is very fine for most of the last 3000 years in europe now and the cooperation with other scientific disciplines is intense. In fact, for most of the methods we use in our field of study, it is more a science itself the a part of humanities. As a student of archeology, I would think that we would have a easier time looking down on history then vice versa if we wanted to Wink

Also for comparing archeology with history, it is important to understand what both really are. History is about the study of documents and written monuments while archeology only looks at the artifacts and edifical remains that have survived in the ground. The collecting of data is methodologically very similar to modern Forensics. While interpretation as much in common with Geography.

Also, there are many different fields of archeology. Aegyptology, Koptology, Biblical Archeology, Prehistoric Archeology, Classical Archeology, Precolumbian Archeology, Archeology of the Near East, Indian Archeology, Medieval Archeology and even Modern Archeology and many, many more :-)
Each are a bit different in their methodic and their goals.


Thanks for actually answering the questions and providing your opinions, guys.
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Andrew W




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PostPosted: Fri 01 Jun, 2012 11:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I disagree with the quotations as well.

Many many academics, both historians and archaeologists, have said that archaeology is the 'handmaiden to history,' the helper that can only find stuff to back up the more informative historical narrative. One very influential archaeological theorist of the 50s, Hawkes, argued that archaeology is good for understanding technologies and economies of the past, but that it wasn't very good at helping us to understand politics and belief systems. For those (he argued), written sources were necessary - and for most academics, questions of politics and ideas have tended to be more interesting. So archaeology has often been pushed to the side by 'serious' historians (except, sometimes, for social historians).

Hawkes got a lot wrong, of course - archaeology can tell us much, much more than what people ate, what tools they used, or what the economy was like. But few historians keep up to date on recent trends in archaeological method and theory, and still think of archaeology as being nothing more than the boring lists of brooch typologies that were so important in the early 20th century for providing dates for cemeteries in order to support the narratives found in the written sources (archaeology as 'handmaiden'). Archaeology today offers much, much more.

The disconnect of historians from archaeology is partly a question of how academic departments are organized, especially in the States. Historians here are trained to use texts, and archaeology is lumped awkwardly in with anthropology (where it's often looked down on by cultural anthropologists for being too interested in people's 'crap'). Archaeology has become increasingly important in medieval history in the last few years, but it's still easy to make it through many top-tier US graduate programs without receiving any training in archaeology, which means that most historians in the States don't know how to read archaeological sources critically and often forget about them entirely. This perpetuates the idea that archaeology doesn't have anything to offer to the study of 'real' history. And when historians do use archaeological evidence, it's usually just to back up what they read in their written sources, because they don't know how to read the archaeology; they're trained in texts.

Archaeology was also much slower than history to institutionalize in the 19th century, and still has something of a stigma as being less serious or well established than history to overcome. Archaeologists go out and dig in the dirt, and this does give some the (false) impression that they're not as studious as historians who spend their summers in library archives. Some archaeologists cultivate this image, and are proud of being 'technicians.'

This is something of a tragedy - archaeology is incredibly important for understanding the past, and can reveal all sorts of things that don't make it into the written record. It often contradicts the written sources, or tells a completely different story that deserves to be read on its own. And for the first half of the middle ages, when written sources are very scarce, archaeological evidence is often the *only* thing we have to go on.

A good, short but well-written text about the poor relationship of archaeology to medieval history, and the necessity of recognizing the importance of archaeology to the future study of the middle ages, is John Moreland, Archaeology and Text (Duckworth, 2001). It's worth tracking down in a library, and if you're really interested in this question it's definitely worth the $7 someone is asking for a used copy on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Archaeology-Text-Duckwo...0715629980
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Quinn W.




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PostPosted: Sat 02 Jun, 2012 2:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This is fascinating to me. I wasn't even aware that this was a debate at all. Perhaps it's because I only just graduated college (with a history degree) so I grew up recognizing archaeology as a legitimate science. I had no idea there was anyone who felt otherwise, or that one was somehow lesser than or merely supplementary to the other.
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José-Manuel Benito




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PostPosted: Sat 02 Jun, 2012 3:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I agree with the intervention of Andrew W.
Apart, the title of this thread asks an opinion, I give my "simple" opinion: this a depressive issue.

I am also an archaeologist, but my specialty is not the Middle Ages, neither the Antiquity. Also, I am a historian to, and I've never mix the two occupations. I have studied in depth the methodological problems of archeology and history and the evolution of its scientific paradigms in recent decades. My conclusion is that the way of archeology is completely different from that history. Both are very different matters, indeed.

Archaeology may be married with makers and manufacturers, ethnographers, physicians, physicists, economists, not necessarily with history.

Archaeology is very complicated and overly broad. It has numerous meetings with dozens of specialists who have dedicated their lives to its epistemology and its technology. In Archeology there are several lines of thought and ways of dealing with many problems.

I think remember (but I'm not sure) that David L. Clarke once said, paraphrasing Gertrude Stein, who paraphrased Shakespeare: Archaeology is Archaeology is Archaeology is Archaeology ...

I do not want to offend anyone (I not speak very well in English and I may be rude, sorry), but ... why not also ask for an opinion on medicine, or engineering, or mechanical? We can't cover everything ... Law forums are for trained personnel in laws, robotics forums ... , and so on. I see here some intends to settle the status of a very complex matter in a reductionist way, and, I repeat, it is depressive.

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Ryan S.





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PostPosted: Sat 02 Jun, 2012 6:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What do you think is really being said? That archeological finds are not good evidence, or the science of archeology is not very good? I know there certainly has been some bad archeology in the past, and that may be what the person quoted is referring too. The idea that archeology supplements history is confusing. Archeology informs history, and therefore to a historian it may be considered a supplement to it, but really you can't fully separate them, can you?
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José-Manuel Benito




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PostPosted: Sat 02 Jun, 2012 8:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes, I can do it, of course.

Example: Mary Leakey never was historian.


Last edited by José-Manuel Benito on Sun 03 Jun, 2012 4:56 am; edited 1 time in total
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David Hohl




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PostPosted: Sat 02 Jun, 2012 9:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If we're talking principally about archaeology of periods which did have some written history, which would make sense given the focus of this forum, then I'd say that written records and physical evidence, from history and archaeology respectively, are invaluable to one another. One of the weaknesses of archaeology, which I think the original quotes were getting at, is that it usually cannot definitively determine behavior. Because a site is a certain way, with artifacts distributed in a particular pattern, doesn't mean we know exactly how they were used or why they were distributed that way. In that sense archaeology can't say what behavior might have been, but with a number of similar sites, and thoughtful analysis, it can go a long way toward providing some good possibilities, and ruling out other possibilities. Archaeology will never be an exact science (in fact no science is) until every artifact is preserved perfectly, but that certainly doesn't mean it's without value.
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José-Manuel Benito




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PostPosted: Sat 02 Jun, 2012 10:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

David Hohl wrote:
Archaeology will never be an exact science (in fact no science is)

In Spanish: ¡Vaya por Dios!
We never will be scientists…? Perhaps… Who knows the future? But, as Paul Bahn says, we have already achieved be many things… Laughing Out Loud
Paul Bahn wrote:
It takes very special qualities to devote one's life to problems with no attainable solutions and to poking around in dead people's garbage: Words like 'masochistic', 'nosy,' and 'completely batty' spring to mind.

So why do not, in a few years, we will be scientists to? Razz


Last edited by José-Manuel Benito on Sun 03 Jun, 2012 4:57 am; edited 1 time in total
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