Classical Archaeology of Greece: Experiences of the Discipline

Classical Archaeology of Greece: Experiences of the Discipline

Classical Archaeology of Greece: Experiences of the Discipline

Classical Archaeology of Greece: Experiences of the Discipline


Archaeologists do not discover the past but take the fragmentary remains which they recover and make something of them. Archaeology is a process of detection and supposition; this is what makes it so fascinating. However, the interpretations of archaeologists differ and change over time. They depend upon the amount of evidence available, the ideas and preconceptions of the archaeologist and their interests and aims.Michael Shanks's enlivening work is a guide to the discipline of classical archaeology and its objects. It assesses archaeology as a means of reconstructing ancient Greek society using the latest approaches of social archaeology. In addition, The Classical Archaeology of Greece outlines the history of the discipline and discusses why Classical Greece continues to fascinate us and why it has had such an impact on European civilization and identity.


Here will be outlined the purpose, scope and viewpoint of this book. It is meant as a guide to a discipline and its objects. Considered will be the themes found in Classical archaeology and the questions most usually asked. A genealogy of where they come from will be provided: an inquiry into the historical and conceptual origins of the themes and questions. A rudimentary ethnography of the discipline will be attempted, describing the institutions and people and their practices. Some elements towards a social archaeology of Classical Greece will be dealt with. There is also an analysis of the discourse of Classical archaeology: an account of the writings to be found and the conditions of their production.

There are those introductory guides to Classical archaeology which narrate the Classical past of Greece in the fifth and fourth centuries BC as in a history book, describe its spectacular finds, or provide a guide to ruins and museums. This is not one of them. Much reference will be made to the historical context of the middle of the first millennium BC in the Greek world of the Mediterranean, as would be expected, but the purpose is not to provide a coherent narrative or typology of materials that archaeologists find. That can easily be found elsewhere. The focal point is the interests and energies which lead to people working upon, thinking about and making so much of the remains of times now long gone.

So this book might be profitably considered alongside historical accounts of the life and times of Classical Greece: it will work in counterpoint, and give some insight into why the discipline which deals with ancient Greece has come to look the way it does. It is also intended as an accompaniment to a book of mine (Art and the Early Greek City State, forthcoming) which deals with the art and archaeology of an early city state, Korinth. Both form an encounter with the discipline, with the separate work on Korinth being an attempt to work with archaeological materials in constructing an account of the past which joins others in breaking the disciplinary mould a little.

Given this, Korinth and its archaeology will be used as an illustrative focus throughout this book, exemplifying many of the general points. In this way there will hopefully be an interplay of detailed treatment of issues, which is

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