FINLEY archaelogy and history

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<p>Archaeology and History Author(s): M. I. Finley Source: Daedalus, Vol. 100, No. 1, Historical Studies Today (Winter, 1971), pp. 168-186 Published by: The MIT Press on behalf of American Academy of Arts &amp; Sciences Stable URL: Accessed: 09/08/2009 22:44Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1995 to build trusted digital archives for scholarship. We work with the scholarly community to preserve their work and the materials they rely upon, and to build a common research platform that promotes the discovery and use of these resources. For more information about JSTOR, please contact</p> <p>The MIT Press and American Academy of Arts &amp; Sciences are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Daedalus.</p> <p></p> <p>M.</p> <p>I. FINLEY</p> <p>Archaeology</p> <p>and History</p> <p>Momigliano recalling ( and my Economic Allexternal</p> <p>his elegant obituary the "unforgettable impression" ) generation by the publication History of the Roman Empire: and indeed was,was unusual. We were</p> <p>began</p> <p>made</p> <p>of Mikhail on</p> <p>by of his in 1926 of the Social and students</p> <p>Rostovtzeff</p> <p>seemed,appearance</p> <p>extraordinary</p> <p>in the book. Evento books on</p> <p>thean</p> <p>accustomed</p> <p>cient history where the archaeological evidence, if used at all, was never a lavish series of plates intro presented and explained to the reader. Here duced us directly to the archaeological evidence; and the caption of each us understand what one could learn from apparently plate really made items . . . Rostovtzeff delighted and surprised us by what insignificant seemed to us his uncanny gift of calling ancient things to life. He guided us through the streets of Rome, Pompeii, N?mes and Tr?ves and showedhow the ancients had lived.1</p> <p>in some later the situation has radically altered there are still too many books written about respects. Although in which receives no ancient history the archaeological evidence more in the presentation than lip service, not merely but also in the historian's own study, it is also true that classical and Near East ern historians, as a whole, are much more conscious of, and knowl than they were when Ros evidence about, archaeological edgeable Half tovtzefFs possesses book If it is hard to think of anyone since who appeared.2 his gift of the illuminating caption, that is sad but not very is serious is that the demands made What by historians of</p> <p>a century</p> <p>and the methods of and archaeology, employing in ancient history, have not ad evidence presenting archaeological for Rostovtzeff, and often vanced much beyond what was possible behind. Yet in the same half-century itself, at its archaeology lag to have and historians best, has advanced immeasurably, ought advanced with it. 168</p> <p>significant. upon antiquity</p> <p>Archaeology and Historyit is not my intention in this essay to produce a catalogue soon become it would boring and along these lines; to the future, there are two central ques unilluminating. Looking current trends in archaeol tions, inmy judgment. The first iswhether are so far from the kinds of ogy questions historians have departing However, of grievances that the gap between the two put to archaeologists traditionally soon be widened rather than narrowed. That will be my con will cern in the first section; to my mind, at least, there is a close kinship with the problems created by the trend toward "serial history" name it is called ) dealt with elsewhere in the present (by whatever volume. Then I shall go to my second question, limited to classical to alone: What is it that the classical historian archaeology ought and how successfully be asking of archaeological evidence today, are the from their side, adjusting their own older archaeologists, to these new demands? in this discus aims and techniques Implicit even of an sion is the assumption that contemporary historians, new kinds of are is who Anyone tiquity, asking questions. happy or with to life" (I ancient with kings and battles "calling things resort to a caricature) will find the discussion wholly deliberatelyirrelevant.</p> <p>I</p> <p>in the humanities In common with other and social disciplines the appearance of being in a crisis. That studies, archaeology gives is attested by the spate of books and articles with such titles as in Archaeology.3 New Perspectives is a At the simplest level, there reaction within the discipline the familiar excursions strong against or art into prehistoric that are economics, appreciation religion, nor controlled or neither grounded in, adequate knowl by, theory is a new mood of austerity, even of pessimism. It may There edge. seem "hard doctrine to some writes Stuart Piggott, but people," seem to me in almost every "the observational data of prehistory and more capable of varied interpreta way to be more ambiguous, to historians. What than the normal run of material available tions, sur we have at our as is the accidentally prehistorians, disposal, durable remnants of material which we interpret as culture, viving best we may, and inevitably the peculiar quality of this evidence dictates the sort of information we can obtain from it. Furthermore, we in terms of our own intellectual make-up, interpret the evidence as it is conditioned the period and culture within which we were by 169</p> <p>DAEDALUS our social and cultural our current assump brought up, background, tions and presuppositions, and our age and status."4 One example the urgent necessity for such "hard demonstrating doctrine" merits examination?the remarkable fable of the Great For Jacquetta Hawkes Mother Goddess. that goddess was so omni in Bronze and omnipotent Crete that the (Minoan) present Age civilization itself is labeled a "predominantly feminine force." The case rests on a group of small Neolithic less figurines, averaging as follows: than two inches in height, which she describes "The of the religious life of these Stone Age farmers statuettes of formalized of women (carved or very largely in their homes or sometimes which modelled) provided they kept with sacred houses of their own. In making these images they called to the reproductive them huge breasts attention function, giving material consist evidences and often the mountainous and buttocks, bellies of advanced preg set them in a Moreover nancy. they usually squatting position, which at that time may have been the accepted for childbirth."5 position about feminine and mas from Miss Hawkes's private fancy Apart her interpretation is a of the figurines culine forces in civilizations, restatement in had become of what received doctrine virtually It has now been shattered beyond hope of rescue by archaeology.6 of Peter Ucko's book on the figurines.7 the publication of Neolithic Cretan anthropomorphic figurines 103. Of these, only 28 are certainly female, 5 cannot be classified, and 28 sexless; the remainder male, primarily state. They of their fragmentary and because sit, stand, kneel, as well as squat. "The majority of female figures have close crouch are flat and small and which set breasts which project very little and anyway the assessment "is almost always largely from the body," come two from houses have any Only figurines subjective." can be identified in Crete, none from any structure which where as as a shrine. the find site can be described only Usually "general debris." And there are also numerous animal figurines. habitation The received view is thus an extreme case of the type that D. L. The known total number was by 1969 Clarke, a leading Young Turk in the field, criticized when he wrote, that we are logically "The degree of confidence justified in placing is often undermined in many by archaeological generalizations of observed failure to specify the proportion cases, the variety of or the existence of circumstances examples."8 The wonder conflicting to examine is that no one before Ucko had bothered systematically all the 103 Cretan 170 figurines.9 Now "archaeologists and students of</p> <p>Archaeology and Historyto "overhaul present theories very but it is not mere Besser doubt they must, critically."10 Beyond as as well to point out that some of us?archaeologists wisserei and anthropologists?have historians been challenging the Mother Goddess for years. Even without Ucko's breakdown, other methodo prehistoric religion" logical objections Goddess devotees that the Mother instance, to explain the complete disap in the Minoan of these figurines and offered no pearance period, for their vast superstructure foundation other than the vaguest about the "meaning" of big breasts and heavy subjective verbiage It should be recorded that Ucko had published buttocks. his Cretan as 1962 in the authoritative as official organ of the analysis early little visible Institute,11 with Royal Anthropological impact. do we interpret such remains as the anthropomorphic How, then, effort figurines? The had been no made raised?for are asked</p> <p>kind of Young Turks reject Piggott's archaeological "The argument," writes L. R. Binford, "that archaeolo pessimism. to features of material limit their knowledge culture is gists must and second, the dichotomy between ma open to serious question; terial and nonmaterial aspects of culture itself and the relevance of this dichotomy for a proposed hierarchy of reliability have also been ... to the subject of critical discussion It is virtually impossible in a socio-cultural that any given cultural item functioned imagine of the operation of 'non-material' variables. system independent item has its history within a socio-cultural Every system?its phases of procurement of raw material, manufacture, use, and final discard . . .There is every reason to expect that the empirical properties ing in the of artifacts and their arrangement record will archaeological can inform on different exhibit attributes which of the arti phases fact's life history" ( my italics ) .12 Of course no one imagines that cultural items function inde least of all the pessimists is attacking. whom Binford pendently, The issue lies in the final sentence I have quoted. Is there any reason to can offer and significantly expect what Binford expects, as an rather than as a proposition for which there expectation only is available evidence? On the contrary, there is sufficient evidence that identical artifacts and arrangements of artifacts can result from different socioeconomic of procurement, manufacture, arrangements or distribution. For example, we know from the chance preservation of accounts inscribed on stone, that the most delicate stone carving on the was known as the Erechtheum temple in Athens produced men and slaves side by side at the end of the fifth by free working 171</p> <p>D</p> <p>DALUS</p> <p>b.c. in the material remains (the carving itself) century Nothing could have told us that. On the other hand, the surviving accounts of the temple of Apollo at Epidaurus, built thirty or forty years later, are of such a nature that the labor force is not specified. How does or not slaves to discover whether Binford imagine it will be possible on that at the employed, highest skill level, temple?13 most radical, elaborate, and sometimes brilliant argumenta The men tion will be found in Clarke's Analytical already Archaeology ex is most obviously the crisis in archaeology tioned. For Clarke to the attempt "imitation history books."14 His produce posed by in its own is to establish archaeology "as a discipline objective right, it clusters in concerned with archaeological data which archaeologi certain archaeological and studied cal entities displaying processes . . . The in terms of archaeological and procedures aims, concepts of archaeology and concepts aims, procedures entities, processes, to the have a validity of their own in reference frame archaeological their generation correlation with?for and despite by?and partial mer social and historic entities."15 The "fundamental" archaeological entities are "the attribute, artefact, the artefact-type, the assemblage, the culture and the culture group."16 The major aims of the dis are (1) "the definition of the fundamental entities"; (2) cipline in form, function, "the search for repeated similarities or regularitiesassociation, or developmental sequence amongst the particular enti</p> <p>were</p> <p>ties from every area, period and environment"; (3) "the develop or ment of higher that synthesize category knowledge principles a at hand whilst possessing and correlate the material high predic tive value. The development of increasingly and comprehensive of the social polemic scientist against history has been carried back into prehistory, though I am unable to discover in his more than six hundred pages what he means as Clarke rests by "a general archaeological theory." Insofar on a culture is not a racial group, nor archaeological tautology?"an a historic tribe, nor a linguistic unit, it is simply an archaeological exten statistical procedures, culture"18?his sophisticated requiring sive use of computers, will no doubt enhance and refine archaeologi cal inquiry considerably. it is apparent that he does not However, wish to be taken too literally. That is revealed by the way the word "function" creeps into the second of the "aims," and the conven by tional admission of social anthropology into the exclusive club.19 When he speaks of "religious data" and and artefacts," "religious 172 and hypotheses."17 informative general models We know where we are now; the familiar</p> <p>Archaeology and Historywrites that includes such a short Crete about Minoan paragraph of the re as "embalmed within the conservative memory phrases idealized bull cult," "a religious "the later Minoan ligious subsystem," or a cultural 'dream' of such a former trajectory,"20 one is memory' to protest not only that he has abandoned entitled "archaeological to the excesses of the Mother but that he has descended procedures" fable.21 Goddess when Clarke leaves prehistory for periods for which Furthermore, other than archaeological, he is sur there is some documentation, seems to if his archaeological analysis occasionally prisingly happy I say "seems to" be evidence. coincide with...</p>