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Klejn L.S. Archaeological typology

Oxford edition of 1962 is by BAR, Slovenian edition of 1988 by Ljubljana university Russian edition of 1991 by Academy of Scinces of USSR, St. Petersburg. Publ. in Russian (2001) by Belveder, St. Petersburg

By Leo S. Klejn


This monograph is devoted to the processing of archaeological material and to related theoretical problems. It may be of interest not only to every archaeologist but also to ethnographers, sociologists, biologists and to all who have to deal with the classification of materials.


How to group archaeological material so as to enable meaningful and useful interpretations? What is the difference between the concepts ‘type’ (and correspondingly ‘typical’, ‘typology’) and ‘class’ (and correspondingly ‘classify’, ‘classification’)? Are there, in archaeological practice, rational places for these concepts and terms from the theoretical point of view? How to advance from empirical divisions to culturally conceived typologies? In this book many such questions are raised, on which there are still no generally recognized answers in the professional community, for the theoretical basis of archaeological grouping is as yet insufficiently elaborated.


Of course the classical debate is presented too: to what extent are our classifications and typological schemes objective? The author develops his own position in which the stress falls on the word "extent".

These are the main questions that the author of Archaeological Typology strives to solve in his book. However the most important question is: why, in practice, do some classifications work well while others, made seemingly on the same principles, do not? In order to answer this question the author analyses both the successful and unsuccessful works of well-known practical archaeologists (Gorodtsov, Glob, Bryusov, Kraynov, Kyzlasov a. o.). Three existing strategies of classification are considered (the canonical tree, the analytical or inductive, and the hypothetico-deductive) and all are rejected. The author argues that, in order to build a reliable system of classification, some initial knowledge is necessary concerning the material as a whole. A new strategy, called systemic, is suggested, in which the classifier proceeds from cultures to types and then to attributes (in reverse order to the usual procedure).


Practically the entire essential literature concerning the theme in the world archaeology is worked over.


In the run of this work the author distinguishes typology from classification. He connects the first with polythetic (diffuse) organization of cultural materials (swarming of attributes), and the second with strict distribution. These operations are incompatible. 


Some conclusions are made concerning laws regulating the fundamental relations in the grouping of cultural objects (four principles of impossibility are formulated). The concepts presently found in archaeology are analyzed; this analysis of concepts is the most complete, extensive and comprehensive of any to be found in contemporary archaeological literature. A full matrix of archaeological phenomena is constructed, showing relations between them (five arrays on seven levels), - empty places on this matrix are reserved for concepts that have still not entered common usage. This matrix allows for the emergence of concepts still not fully realized within the discipline. A detailed glossary is added as well as a series of exemplary practical typologies. The book is supplemented with indices of subjects and names.


The book also includes chapters written by the author's pupils (now well-known archaeologists). The aim of these chapters is to demonstrate the author’s theory and methodology via particular examples.

The length of the book is ca. 450 pages, including more than 70 figs. (mainly schemes and comparative tables). The bibliography covers 250 Russian works and 300 works in other European languages. In the extensive glossary terms are ordered by semiotic principles (plan of expression, plan of content and in addition plan of cognition).


The book was published for the first time in English in 1982 under the title "Archaeological Typology" by the Oxford publishing house B.A.R. (its distribution was limited to subscribers only). However, the translation was very poor - practically unreadable, - the translator did not know archaeological terms, and confused active with passive. Moreover, the edition was incomplete for the simple reason that some chapters were not received in England: At the time the author was persecuted by the KGB and subsequently imprisoned, and so was unable to check the translation. The publishers later issued a pamphlet of corrections, but nobody refers to it. A second edition appeared in Slovenia (Ljubljana 1988) in Slovene, this was an improvement, but was still incomplete (because the translation was made from the Russian chapters kept in Oxford). The third publication was Russian and was made in the new era (Leningrad, Academy of Sciences, 1991). It is almost twice as large as previous editions, and done in the full accordance with author's intentions. However, most of the printed copies perished in storage during the disorder that accompanied the collapse of the Soviet Union.


At the request of Vienna University in 1996 a German translation was made under the auspices of the well-known Austrian archaeologist Falko Daim (now the Director of Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum in Mainz). For this translation the author wrote an additional chapter in which he critically appraised the main typological books issued since the first edition. Yet this new edition, although fully prepared, was not printed, for in Austria a law was at that time in force that forbade the universities from spending money on the publication of foreign authors. Nevertheless this text is now the basis for further editions and translations. As it now stands the book differs radically from the first edition (it is twice as big), and the author has given it another title: Archaeological Typology: Theory and Practice.


In 1994 the author defended this book as a Hist. Doctor degree dissertation in IIMK RAN and received his title unanimously although he did not have the necessary Candidate degree (equivalent to European Ph. D.) that in Russia precedes Doctor degree – he had been stripped of this degree during the political persecutions.


In Russian speaking countries this book was very influential. It formed the basis for the glossary of terms of classification produced by the collective of authors under the leadership of V. S. Bochkarev (“Klassifikatsiya v arkheologii”. 1991). From Klejn’s book E. M. Kolpakov (both he and Bochkarev were Klejn’s pupils) proceeded to build another variety of classification (“Teoriya arkheologicheskoy klassifikatsii”, SPb, 1991). Dr. Shpak, a mathematician with archaeological interests, has called Archaeological Typology “a great book” (Stratum plus 1999, 5: 209). In Russia and neighbor countries, it is thought of as indispensable for dealing with the classification of artifacts. It is discussed, and criticized, and people consult it for answers to questions that are prompted by practice. Yet it would be a mistake to say that the ideas of this book are realized. As yet they await their realization.

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1.       Why “archaeological typology”?

2.       Why archaeological typology?

3.       The way to a theory

4.       The way to publication

Part one. From terms to concepts

Chapter I. Problem situation

1.       Task or problem?

2.       The concept of type in archaeology

3.       Intuitive typology of Tashtyk ceramics (by A. V. Vinogradov)

4.       Formalized typology of Early Slavic ceramics

5.       “Working” typology

6.       The paradox of battle axes

7.       The character of the situation

Chapter II. How types became types

1.       The word “type”

2.       Types in biology

3.       Types in anthropology

4.       Virchow’s archaeological types

5.       Monntelius’ types

6.       Gorodtsov’s types

7.       Types at Pecos

8.       Ideal types

Chapter III. Types of types

1.    Aim purpose

2.    Completeness of a criterion

3.    Size and quality coverage

4.    Borders of a type

5.    A step in taxonomy

6.    Cuvier or Goethe?

7.    Concepts and terms

Part two. Concepts and reality

Chapter IV. Crisis of typology

1.       Cognition through type

2.       Two directions of criticism

3.       Type and context

4.       Discoveries or constructions?

5.       Break

6.       Typology without types

Chapter V. Problem of problems

1.       The essence of the controversy

2.       Taylor against Brew

3.       Spaulding against Forde

4.       Escape to Gamma island

5.       In defense of relative types (Malmer’s types)

6.       Words and things

Chapter VI. Toward proper types

1.       The mirage of the best typology

2.       The mirage of obedient typology

3.       Deductive classification

4.       Whallon’s trees

5.       What to prefer: one bill or ten coins?

6.       The quality of a type

7.       Types in context

8.       The quality of a context

Part three. From types to cultures

Chapter VII. What is archaeological culture? (The problem of definition)

1.       The significance of the concept and the vagueness of the significance

2.       The place of the concept

3.       The setting of the task

4.       Formal typological definition

The chronological or periodization version

The territorial or cartographic version

The stylistic version

The covariation version

The correlation-typological version

The type-complex version

5.       Ethnizating definitions

The ethno-territorial (ethno-cartographic) version

The ethno-complex version

Chapter VIII. What is archaeological culture? (Problems of structure)

1.       Synthesis and stratification

2.       Artifact and archeme

3.       Assemblage and context

4.       Elements

5.       Type and style

6.       Paradigm of structures

7.       Archaeological culture

Chapter IX. What is archaeological culture? (The problem of status)

1.       Implements or facts?

2.       In defense of cultures

3.       Grigor’ev’s reflection

4.       The paradox of archaeological culture?

5.       Issuing from concepts

6.       Materials and demands

Chapter X. What is archaeological culture? (The problem of content and size)

1.       Issuing from real interrelations

2.       Province – culture – variety

3.       To unite or to split up?

4.       Content of the concept

5.       The “revival” of types and cultures

6.       A reappraisal of the place of cultures

Part four. Types in culture

Chapter XI. The alternative

1.       Types in the system of concepts

2.       Traditional strategies

3.       Decipherment of culture

4.       The new strategy

5.       “Typological revolutions”

6.       Bans and permissions

7.       Laws of preservation

8.       The idea of degression

Chapter XII. Operationalization

1.       Relation to practice

2.       A priori cultures

3.       Types in cultures

4.       Types in a diffuse material

5.       The proof of the pudding

Chapter XIII. Essays on vessels

A.   An essay on Tashtyk ware (by A. V. Vinogradov)

1.       The task

2.       Methodological premises

3.       Context and function

4.       Treatment of results

5.       To the desired separateness

6.       Inferences

B.   An essay on Scythean bronze cauldrons of Northern Pontic area (by N. A. Bokovenko)

1.       Materials

2.        Contexts: I. Evidence of written sources

3.       Contexts: II. Archaeological record

4.       Typology

5.       Characteristics of types

6.       Results

Chapter XIV. Essays on swords and “daggers”

A.   An essay on “daggers” (by A. M. Bianki)

1.    The problem

2.    “Daggers” and their cultural context

3.    “Daggers” as artifacts

4.    The role of contour in the perception of a thing

5.    The meronomy of the “dagger”

6.    The historic-cultural sense of the received grouping

7.    Methodical inferences

B.      An essay on akinaks (by A. Yu. Alekseev)

1.    Material and the task

2.    The division to elements

3.    Correlation

4.    Inclusion into culture

5.    Semantics and evolution of the garde

C.   An essay on Viking swords (by G. S. Lebedev)

1.    The problem

2.    Petersen’s single-storey typology

3.    Maure’s formalized typology

4.    Cultural-historical typology: the approach

5.    Concretization

6.    Functions of the sword in the culture of Vikings

7.    The “ideal” sword and individualization

8.    Archaeological attributes

9.    Results (typology and interpretation

10.  Discussion of results

11.  Proving of the typology

12.  Generalization

Chapter XV. An essay on ornaments (by Yu. M. Lesman)

1.       History of the question

2.       Setting of the task

3.       Procedure of chronological typologization

4.       System of dating types

Chapter XVI. An essay on hoards (by F. R. Balonov)

1.       History of the problem

2.       The task

3.       Material

4.       Methods

5.       Results of classification of properties and relations

6.       The analysis of results

7.       Methodical suggestions

8.       An additional result and its analysis

9.       Conclusions from the analysis

10.   Possibilities and perspectives


1.       Overall results

2.       In the system of general theory

3.       Vingt ans après


1.       Semiotic concepts of metaarchaeology

2.       Some of the fundamental concepts of archaeology

3.       Designations of objects. General concepts

4.       Terminology of the plan of content

5.       Terminology of the plan of expression

6.       Some terms belonging to the class of conjunction of means of expression with the components of content

7.       Plan of cognition. General concepts (general scientific and metascientific terminology. In particular meta-archaeological)

A.      Terminology relating to the organization of material

B.      Terminology for the designation of operations of structuring the material

8.      Designations of objects. Terminology for various levels and plans (from the plan of cognition to the plan of expression to the plan of content)


List of abbreviations


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