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Klejn L.S. Time in archaeology  (Prospect-Abstract)

By Leo S. Klejn


The book is devoted to problems that are fundamental in archaeology. The point is that time is the pivot of both history and prehistory, yet there is no time sui generis in the archaeological material. It is given us in the space but beyond time. By establishing the connection of archaeological material to history and prehistory, i. e. by interpreting, we introduce time into the archaeological material. Thus, the perception of time in archaeology comes about as the result of a researcher's activity. It is this activity that comprises a considerable part of an archaeologist's work. Strange as it may seem, there is as yet no book devoted to this theme in the entirety of archaeological literature (there are only books in natural scientific methods and the technique of dating). However, The problem was lately discussed among archaeological theorists, when, in the late XX century, in the international congress of archaeologists (Delhi, India, December 1994) a special section was organized for this theme.


This book consists of three parts. In the first one, philosophical concepts are considered – the concepts by which people of various epochs have conceived time. Archaeology has to do with early epochs, but an archaeologist lives in the present, so he is not immediately aware of previous concepts of time. Since however the collective conscience possesses a historical memory, many old concepts of time have survived, and it is interesting how these different temporal strata of conceiving the time are manifested in archaeology. Ideas of primordial presentism, cyclical time, denominative time as well as absolute, vector etc. are considered.


The second part of the book is devoted to periodization problems. Periodization is akin to classification, but unfolded in time. The whole systematics of archaeology is built upon a scale of periodization. Initially it was the Three Ages system (Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages), but this has been much developed, and now has many subdivisions. Currently both in the West and in Russia many its details are being called into question, as well as its criteria and even its relevance. It has been suggested that this technological model should be replaced by a historic-sociological model. In the book the argument against this exchange is made.


The third part of the book is devoted to concepts and methods of chronology – stratigraphic, typological, combinatorial etc. Here the opposition of absolute and relative time is considered. It has hitherto not been made explicit that the distinction between absolute and relative chronology that is accepted in archaeology does not coincide the original relation of these concepts in philosophy and physics and is itself in need of correction. Contrary to wide-spread belief, archaeology does not possess its own means for establishing an absolute chronology (allowing for unproblematic dating to this or that century B.C.). All its methods can establish, immediately, only relative time – permitting the inference that an event (or monument) is earlier or later than another. However, its business is also to convert relative dates into absolute dates. If to discover what ideas lie in the basis of archaeology's methods (mostly not archaeological by the origins), what is their structure, and to group them anew on the basis of these ideas, the clear prospect of working out new methods of dating will appear.


In the book determinations of many basic concepts of archaeology (of its chronological aspect) are given. Its length is ca. 400 pages including indices. The book is aimed at archaeologists and at all who are interested in the problems of time in geology, palaeontology, history and philosophy.

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Part one. Ideas of time and archaeology

Chapter I. The setting of the problem

1.       Archaeology and time

2.       Absolute and relative dating

3.       Research schemes

Chapter II. Development of notions of time

1.       The cyclical notion of time

2.       The genealogical notion of time

3.       The denominative perception of time (identifiable time)

4.       The linear idea of time (measured time)

5.       The dynamic idea of time (the notion of the a stream of time)

6.       The idea of universal time

7.       Vector time

8.       Acceleration of time

9.       Relativist idea of time

10.   Static time

11.   The annihilation of time

Chapter III. Time for an archaeologist

1.       Archaeological time

2.       Instant and duration

3.       Three colors of time

4.       Intensity of time

Part two. Archaeological periodization: approaches and criteria

Chapter I. The basis of periodization

1.       Periodization in archaeology

2.       The Three Age System

3.       The evolution of Thomsen’s scheme

4.       Chronology and periodization

Chapter II. Problems of periodization

1.       The problem of independence

2.       Difficulties with the technical criterion

3.       Worldwide or local?

4.       Cultural or narrowly technical?

5.       The crisis of the system

6.       Relative scheme or the comprehension of reality?

Chapter III. The choice of criterion

1.       The roots of discord

2.       The meaning of “technological” periodization

Part three. Archaeologiocal chronology: concepts and methods

Chapter 1. The Basis of archaeological chronology

1.       Content of terms

2.       The absolutization of absolute chronology and the crisis of the idea

3.       Basis of chronology and the research design of chronologization

Chapter 2. Methods of diachronization

1.       Stratigraphic methods

2.       Gradation-typological method

3.       Combinatorial method

4.       Upgrading of the gradation-typological method

5.       Seriation

6.       Correlation fields

7.       Cumulative graphs

8.       Critical testing of theoretical basis of the method

Chapter III. Methods of synchronization

1.       Problem of analogies

2.       Domino method of and the cross-dating

Chapter IV. Building the systems

1.       Illusions of systems

2.       The Radiocarbon Revolution and the crisis of chronology

3.       Naturalistic methods and the perspectives of chronology





 Subject index
Name index

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