Thursday, September 26, 2019

on archaeology and evolutionary narratives

This article was too long to keep my full attention throughout. (Given the Jerusalem angle, it may be a bigger deal to some of you.) But I did want to pass along a quotable nugget.

I've always been fascinated by the scientific part of archaeology and the usual humility in the field-- in frequent contrast to similar pursuits with comprehensive evolutionary narratives.

"Even now the discipline sits uneasily between the sciences and the humanities; it has highly technical aspects but ultimately relies on human beings interpreting what they think they see in the dirt...Archaeologists reconstruct the past based on whatever material has happened to linger in the ground for thousands of years—­a tiny percentage of what existed at the time. Turning that partial record into a narrative about people and events takes a deep knowledge of history and some degree of imagination. Because archaeology ties identity to territory, the questions asked of it are often animated by contemporary geopolitical concerns. Armed with potsherds and inscriptions, ethnic groups or states can tell stories about the past that enable them to make claims about who they are and where they belong in the present."


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