Early History of Archaeology January 26, 2015 “Everything which has come down to us from heathendom is wrapped in a thick fog; it belongs to a space of time which we cannot measure. We know that it is older than Christendom, but whether by a couple of years or a couple of centuries, or even by more than a millennium, we can do no more than guess” -Rasmus Nyerup (1759-1829) History of archaeology… Is commonly seen as the history of great discoveries But its not! • It is the history of ideas, of theory and ways of looking at the past and investigating those questions • Then it is the history of discoveries *Every view of the past is a product of its time* Humans have been interested in history since the antiquity…. Teotihuacan History had to fit into the biblical time frame • Up until 150 years ago or so most people in the western world believed that the earth was created in the year 4004BC • No thought of a “prehistory” • Took all historical knowledge from ancient Greek, Egypt and Near Eastern historians Antiquarianism • During Renaissance (14th-17th centuries) a new interest in the past is awakened • Well to-do’s star to collect “artifacts” and relics and display them • Roman and Greek history is studied Antiquarianism • Not interest in understanding the past just in collecting the past • Romantic ideas of past civilizations • Early archaeologists viewed the success (and worth) of ancient cultures based on their artistic and technological achievements. • Fast excavations to find the most treasures! Question! • Which cultures do you think antiquarians were most interested in? • Which were they least interested in? Early “Excavations” • William Stukeley- systematic studies of stone monuments in England and decided that they were not built by giants Early “Excavations” • Thomas Jefferson • Some consider “first scientific archaeological dig” • Dug a trench-section across a burial mound on his property in 1784 • Concluded that they could have been built by Native Americans-not by a lost white race Early “Excavations” • Napoleon lead a military expedition into Egypt between 1798-1800 • A solider tripped over the Rosetta stone • Jean-Francois Champollion broke the code of Egyptian Hieroglyphics in 1822 after 14 years of work Early “excavations” • John Lloyd Stephens traveled to Yucatan, Mexico • Published illustrated books in the 1840’s with Frederick Catherwood • For the first time the west saw the amazing ruins of the ancient Mayan • Believed (rightly so) that the monuments were a “creation of the same races who inhabited the country at the time of the Spanish conquest” • Notice similar hieroglyphs which led him to argue for cultural unity (they would not be deciphered until the 1960’s however) Early “Excavations” • Pompeii and Herculaneum • All but forgotten from 72 AD until the 1700’s • Prince Elboeuf in 1709 investigated what turned out to be Herculaneum and took art for his collection • King and Queen of Naples took ancient pieces to embellish palaces • Johann Winckelmann published findings in 1757 • 1860 Giuseppe Fiorelli started well-recorded excavations What is wrong with Antiquarianism • What ‘s wrong with this approach? • What do you think Antiquarians were missing by focusing only on the treasures? • Is this form of approach ethical? People start to think that maybe everything doesn't’t have to fit within a biblical time frame… • Jacques Boucher de Perthes published in 1841 evidence for the association of human artifacts with the bones of extinct animals • Argued that this was evidence for human existence before the biblical flood • John Evans and Joseph Prestwich validated his findings • The need for knowledge of the distance past was established Three Age System • 1808-Colt Hoare recognized stone, “brass (or bronze) and iron artifacts • The three ages: Stone, Bronze, Iron • First studied by C.J. Thomsen in 1830’s • Conceptually important-things could be ordered chronologically by classification • Archaeology was moving towards becoming a scientific study Evolution! • Charles Darwin publishes The Origin of Species in 1859….everything changes! • Darwin has essential explained the development of the human species • Helped to Created Cultural Evolution theory Ethnography • At the same archaeologist realize that studying modern living communities can inform their knowledge of past communities • For example archaeologists used contact with modern Native American societies to better understand early British inhabitants that used the same types of tools. Cultural Evolution • The idea that cultural “evolves” over time to create a more “civilized” species • Anthropologist Lewis Henry Morgan and Edward Taylor publish works explaining how societies evolve from savagery through barbarism to civilization in the 1870’s (hunting/gathering->simple farming-> highest form of society) How would this effect archaeological thinking of the time? What would this type of theory mean for the wider population outside of academia? What had to happen to create a scientific archaeological approach ? • The acknowledgement of a distance past needed to be established • A mechanism for establishing chronology (if not exact time) had to be created • A theory of the way that animals and humans evolve needed to be put forth Archaeology no longer means treasure hunting • Looking back on the discoveries discussed this class how do you think the interpretation of them changed after the establishment of cultural evolution theory? • What do you think the next theoretical frame work in archaeology would be?