Theoretical Archaeology

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In the case of architecture, external criticism comprises the careful study of contemporary, inhabited, living architecture. Representations in Archaeology, , p. Gould is quite appropriate. As with internal criticism, the study is conducted in two parts. First, the ethnological literature that describes this architecture is consulted. In the case of the Near East, this literature is rich with accounts from geographers, architects, and ancient travelers, whose testimony must be taken into account. It quickly becomes apparent that the ethnological literature is not fully appropriate and cannot solve all archaeological problems.


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To remedy these defects, some archaeologists have undertaken their own ethnographic research, and a new discipline, ethnoarchaeology, has arisen from such work. In such research, a particular importance should be granted, for instance, to the process of demolition: the creation of archaeological deposits. It also is important to follow the contemporary course of construction of a building, especially, for the case at hand, one that uses the same materials and techniques as those used in the ancient Near East.

The aim is to constitute a kind of catalog of hypotheses which, for any given society, could be made more encompassing and more robust by testing and refining them through interviews with those who constructed and who actually inhabited the buildings. The advantage of ethnoarchaeology is that it does not rely solely on an observation of traces, but it also elicits their meaning from those who made and use them. Thus ethnoarchaeology produces a double reading: from the meaning to the traces, and from the traces to the meaning.

Only this process will permit one to go from the archaeological object to its interpretation, because for the archaeologist the way of reading, on the contrary, is always one way cf. Step Three: Back to Archaeology.


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Indeed, in practice there is a constant movement between archaeological traces and ethnographic observations. Experience shows that the initial archaeological observations, objective though they may be,. As Molino points out this volume , the goal is to establish a dialectical relationship among archaeological and ethnographic traces.

First, one must focus on the techniques of building, assuming that with identical materials and comparable technologies, architectural variations cannot be numerous. The bounds set by techniques are probably more important in a field such as architecture than elsewhere. To this end, one can note, for example, that in both the Neolithic and the present of the Near East, metrical constraints on the size of rooms are imposed by the properties of the wood that is available.

Second, from these technological similarities, one could imagine the way the occupants of these buildings used the inhabitable space of individual buildings houses as well as the collective space of the community village. The example that follows employs such an approach. Before presenting the example, a few words must be written about the form in which it is presented: here again rhetoric intrudes. The span of time chosen includes, at its beginning, cultures without permanent architecture, and ends with the first urban societies, for which another kind of document texts gives a complementary approach.

Our architectural inquiry is of the same kind. Although it builds directly on his work, and it uses much of the same data, it also takes into account discoveries that have taken place since Flannery wrote his article. The archaeological details and a full bibliography are given in two recent studies Aurenche a, and will not be repeated here. Broadly speaking, three main steps can be distinguished in the development of permanent architecture in the Near East.

Histories, Identities, Theories

Moreover, at the present time, it seems as though such buildings first appeared in this part of the world. These three stages can be defined as follows: 1 the birth of architecture and the original circular house, 2 the development of architecture and the universal rectangular house, 3 the florescence of architecture and the complex rectangular plan.

Two factors characterized this earliest architecture: its circular plan and its method of construction: together they produced semisubterranean pit houses. The similarities among these buildings are important: diameter from 2 to 10 m , depth from 0. That method of construction prevailed even in the peripheral regions Mesopotamia and the Zagros , where it does not seem to have been the direct result of influences from the Levant.

Given the current state of knowledge, it seems that the first attempts to build permanent shelter from durable materials adopted similar solutions. Moreover, as any field archaeologist knows, it is easier to dig a pit that is elliptical or close to round rather than one that is rectilinear and has perpendicular walls. The evidence at hand confirms that these semisubterranean pit houses are the earliest form of durable construction in the region. At those sites where the evolution from earlier to later forms can be traced Mureybet, Jericho the later rectangular forms are superimposed and stratigraphically above the circular forms.

His second major proposition, that such construction is associated with nomadic or seminomadic tribes, is not fully confirmed. As currently understood, Near Eastern history indicates that the populations which adopted the original round house were sedentary the Natufian and the PPNA Neolithic. This architectural form persisted through several millennia, and certainly was present among groups who became sedentary and established large villages, such as the populations of the PPNA who established settlements some two to three hectares in extent.

It was at such settlements that the next step in the evolution of architecture took place. The advantages of a rectangular building, however, depended on mastery of several building techniques, especially joining a pair of perpendicular walls at right angles. In this case there was a direct correlation between the development of building techniques and the invention of a new type of building.

Basic Archaeological Theory

The earliest evidence for this rectangular plan occurs in the Euphrates Valley, at Mureybet, and seems to have spread from that general area throughout the Near East. For the first time, a type or architecture can be associated with contemporary populations spread over a quite large territory. In the main, this first Neolithic architecture is associated with farming communities that seem not to have had domesticated animals.

Yet this proposition must be explored in greater detail, because the domestication of plants and the domestication of animals seems not to have appeared in these communities in any set sequence. In such cases, we can examine more precisely the cultural significance of these architectural facts. Architecture can be viewed as a fossil with a slower rate of evolution; it can be seen to respond to cultural This observation takes on its real importance when we note that at circa BP. Two examples are meaningful: the Cypriote Neolithic and the Halaf culture in northern Mesopotamia.

Thus far, the Neolithic represents the first human occupation discovered on the island of Cyprus.

Theory, method, and technique in archaeology -- Archaeology Studio 003

The case of Halafian culture is completely different. These populations can be recognized easily because they produced a pottery that is distinctive in both its aesthetic and its technical features. Halafian populations built rectangular buildings as well as a large number of circular buildings. This combination of forms contrasts markedly with the architectural complexes of neighboring groups who built only rectangular buildings. It is hard to explain such a phenomenon. However, I believe that it is important to be able to associate, unambiguously, specific types of architecture with particular human groups that also can be defined in terms of other archaeological criteria.

The cultural significance of the architectural fact takes on its importance at this point and in these terms.

The next step in the discussion allows one to go further with this idea. It is a new kind of construction, not merely a minor modification of what went before. The houses include, at the time of the initial plan, fifteen to twenty rooms, and need a system of inner passageways, which also are included as a part of the planning process.

Three cultures, which existed at about the same time and in the same general region, solved the problems of architectural organization in different but homogeneous ways. Simpson F. Richmond I. Welfare, H. Archaeologia Aeliana, ser 5, 33, Wilmott, T.

Basic Archaeological Theory

Wood, Eric S. Woolliscroft, D. On Line. Julius Caesar, Gallic War. Etext version by Mads Brevik Polybius, Histories. A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities. John Murray, London. Hodgson N.

Theoretical Archaeology Group (TAG)

Auxiliary Barracks in a New Light: Recent. Discoveries on Hadrian's Wall. Britannia Vol. Posted by Geoff Carter at 4 comments. Hopefully, some of the technical aspects have improved over part 1. A brief summary of part 1 is accompanied by mildly banging music, despite the risks inherent risks in raising expectations on raising peoples expectations.

It may even be possible to create a final summary video that runs for a modest length of time - with the mistakes taken out, and a more even quality. The intended audience of the original talks, the passing trade at The Twice Brewed Inn, could not be assumed to have any detailed background in the archaeology of the period, so it was important the establish the geographical, social and historical background.

Posted by Geoff Carter at 0 comments.

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