Archaeology and Ancient History: Breaking Down the Boundaries

Archaeology and Ancient History: Breaking Down the Boundaries

Archaeology and Ancient History: Breaking Down the Boundaries

Archaeology and Ancient History: Breaking Down the Boundaries

Synopsis

Challenging both traditional and fashionable theories, this collection of pieces from an international range of contributors explores the separation of the human past into history, archaeology and their related sub-disciplines.Each case study challenges the validity of this separation and asks how we can move to a more holistic approach in the study of the relationship between history and archaeology.While the focus is on the ancient world, particularly Greece and Rome, rhe lessons learnded in this book make it an essential addition to all studies of history and archaeology.

Excerpt

The Olympias project, which began some twenty-three years ago in 1981, involved the investigation of the design of the most important warship type of the ancient world, the trireme or trieres, the building of a ship to that reconstructed design, and the sea trials of the reconstructed ship, which was named Olympias (Figure 3.1). What distinguished this from almost all other ship reconstruction projects was that no trireme wrecks have been discovered to date. This state of affairs is likely to continue, since ancient warships were almost certainly unballasted (the rowing crew acted as ballast), and therefore, being built of wood, had an inherent positive buoyancy (Landels 2000:148-9; Morrison et al. 2000:127-8). Several literary texts indicate that when warships are spoken of as sunk, this really means only that they were holed and swamped, and could, as recorded, be collected together and towed away after a battle (e.g. Thuc. 1.50.1; 2.90.6; 7.34.6; Xen. Hell. 1.7.32). Unless we have an extraordinary stroke of luck, no triremes are ever likely to be found on the seabed.

Consequently, the reconstruction had to be based instead on a very wide range of ancient evidence - iconographical, archaeological, literary and epigraphic - combined with the basic principles of physics, naval architecture and rowing. Both the design and the experimentation on the ship have involved the skills of historians and archaeologists, naval architects and ship-builders, rowers and sailors, and physicists and physiologists. the Olympias reconstruction thus offers an extreme example of a multidisciplinary project, which involved the breaking down of very many and disparate disciplinary and indeed mental barriers. the experience gained in breaking down those barriers may, therefore, be of value in identifying the potential problems of an interdisciplinary approach, by throwing them into high relief.

The design of Olympias relied on the use, by a trained and highly experienced naval architect, of a variety of key data from the ancient (fifth/fourth

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