|• interest in landscapes and travel promoted the recognition and recording of ancient sites. Visits to sites, together with the habit of collecting ancient artefacts and works of art, eventually led to deeper investigations (with the help of excavation) of early civilisations.|
|• the study of human origins stimulated profound thinking about concepts of time and forged lasting links between archaeology and the natural sciences, notably biology and geology. It also underlined the importance of being able to identify and interpret artefacts made by early humans.|
|• the word prehistory was invented in the nineteenth century to describe the long period of human existence—undocumented in historical sources—revealed by newly developed archaeological methods. Later these methods were applied to the study of other fundamental phenomena such as the transition from hunting to farming and the origins of urbanism.|
|• key references: Bahn, The Cambridge illustrated history of archaeology 1996; Trigger, A history of archaeological thought 1989; Schnapp, The discovery of the past 1996|
It is important that the benefit of hindsight does not make us forget the constraints of the social and intellectual context in which antiquaries lived and worked. For example, in the early nineteenth century the Danish scholars who first organised prehistoric objects into three successive Ages (Stone, Bronze and Iron) assigned them to a very short time span. In mid-seventeenth-century Britain, Bishop Ussher had used the Bible to calculate that the Creation of the Earth took place in 4004 BC, and other estimates were not much greater (Stiebing 1993:32). Pressure from developments in geology and biology to adopt a much longer timescale did not finally displace the biblical scheme until the 1860s. The dating of prehistory then underwent major revisions after the radiocarbon dating technique was introduced and accepted in the 1950s (chapter 4).
We may learn a great deal by examining how early antiquaries and archaeologists (the difference between the two will emerge later in this chapter) tackled the formidable problem of
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Publication information: Book title: Archaeology:An Introduction. Edition: 4th. Contributors: Kevin Greene - Author. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 2002. Page number: 1.
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