A Site in History: Archaeology at Dolni Vestonice/Unterwisternitz

By Tomaskova, Silvia | Antiquity, June 1995 | Go to article overview

A Site in History: Archaeology at Dolni Vestonice/Unterwisternitz


Tomaskova, Silvia, Antiquity


Introduction

Whatever the journalist's definition of eastern Europe might be, let us state, as introduction to this Special Section, that Czechoslovakia is a country in Central, not Eastern, Europe. It is somewhat controversial to speak about its 'return to Europe', as some politicians would have it, as it has been there all the time.

VENCLOVA 1991: 306

Despite archaeology's focus on space and time, it often ignores the exact location in space and time of its own research. This essay seeks to examine varying grounds on which archaeological knowledge-claims have been made over time in relation to the well known Palaeolithic site, Dolni Vestonice, in the former Czechoslovakia. While it is necessary to consider the physical context of the artefacts that validate a particular hypothesis, at the same time it is also essential to unravel the social, historical, political and personal contexts within which the site, the materials and the investigators themselves are submerged.(1)

Palaeolithic archaeology, rooted in geology and positioned directly on the fault line demarcating the furthest edge of the humanities, combines the methodological aspects of natural sciences and the interpretive aims of social sciences. Its heavy reliance on stone tools, soil samples and geological profiles gives Palaeolithic archaeology the image of 'hard', or by extension 'objective', science. The appearance of agriculture, architecture, and cities in subsequent time periods substantially increases the distance between natural sciences and archaeology, flaming other archaeologies with a more humanistic mind-set. Thus Palaeolithic archaeology offers a pivotal case-study on the border between the historical development of a natural science, and a humanistic pursuit of interpretation of factual evidence.

Contexts

Archaeological research operates within two contexts: one archaeological - the physical circumstances of the finds - and one culture-historical - the socio-political climate of the country in which the site is located, together with that of the researcher's country. These two contexts are inseparably bound. Giving meticulous attention to the archaeological context is itself no guarantee of a value-free interpretation, for all interpretations claiming to be factually based, and scientifically tested, are constructed in relation to both material evidence and social reality (Gero et al. 1983; Pinsky & Wylie 1989; for a different approach to similar questions, see Patrick 1985).

What constitutes a location worthy of a survey, a site in a need of excavation, materials worth collecting, identifying and analysing varies over time: it is culturally determined, constructed and reconstructed. The 1853 drought in Switzerland exposed the 'Lake Dwellings', resulting - histories of archaeology tell us - in a large-scale excavation and the discovery of the Bronze Age settlements (Trigger 1989: 83). Without doubting that the drought in question occurred, and helped to reveal the wealth of finds, one still has to question why the Swiss scientists were searching for ancient settlements in such a meticulous way, in that particular geographical location, at that point in time.(2)

Archaeological excavations and research, it is often written, should be problem-oriented, addressing specific questions formulated to deal with issues pertaining to the past (Renfrew & Bahn 1991; Thomas 1989). Yet one has to pause and consider the meaning of such a bold, basic statement in introductory text-books. What constitutes, at a specific point in history, in a specific geographic location, a question that needs to be dealt with? Presumably, a question is posed so as to obtain an answer, and an answer that is seen as vital and interesting. The question itself is a lead toward an answer, that acquires interest and meaning in a particular context. The specific historical and social context gives meaning to that social construction called the past, be it local, regional, national, or universally human in scope. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Site in History: Archaeology at Dolni Vestonice/Unterwisternitz
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.