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To separate a centaur: on the relationship of archaeology and history in Soviet tradition.

'A combination, my lady, often cancels the best of its elements.'

... 'That would be true, brother, if your head and shoulders were those of a horse, and the rest human.'

JOHN UPDIKE The Centaur chapter 1

The argument on the subject matter of archaeology

It is already some decades since serious argument began in Soviet scholarship about the subject matter of archaeology, or, more simply, of the field of archaeology: what does archaeology study? (Grigoryev 1973; Predmet 1975; Gening 1975; 1976; 1983; Borjaz 1976; Zakharuk 1978; Rogacev 1978). There is nothing like that in any other country (only in formerly socialist Poland does something similar seem to be occurring). Outside the former Soviet Union archaeologists naturally are busy with the question of the subject matter of their discipline -- they ironically point out its seeming simplicity in definitions like 'Archaeology is what archaeologists do' (Koepp 1939: 11); 'There is no archaeology, there are only archaeologists' (Braidwood 1960: 1). They compare this problem with the difficulty of defining some other well-known and generally recognized disciplines -- such as mathematics, geography, history, sociology, philosophy -- and then they stop. In reality nobody cares much: people know what these disciplines, including archaeology, mean in practice -- what they study. And that will do.

It is quite the reverse in my country. The sharpness of the issue here may evidently be explained by the specific relations of archaeology to history in the Marxist system of knowledge, though some aspects of these relations appear in the West as well, and in non-Marxist scholarship.

One side of the debate insists that archaeology is a servant of history, and that the two disciplines have different subject matters, different fields. So the subject matter of archaeology is the material record of the past, of course, as the source of information on extinct cultures and on historical events and processes, i.e. on the subject matter of history.

The other side says that archaeology and history have one and the same subject matter, one field -- past events, past social processes. So archaeology (according to this point of view) is parallel with history, it has the same rights, is able to solve the same problems: in brief, it is simply 'history armed with the spade', as Arcikhovskij once said (1941: 3). So we have two parallel histories -- one with the spade, the other without it, or armed instead with a pen (or more specifically, with written sources).

In a series of articles and a book I have criticized the second view, analysing its dangers (Klejn 1977; 1978; 1986; 1991). In no case was (and is) this a scholastic debate. The consequences of these both formulas ('servant of history' and 'history armed with the spade') are multiple, tangible and very important. In our country the second conception conquered long ago. Archaeology as a full-rights history (or rather as a slice of history) appears nevertheless not to be genuine history -- it lacks many kinds of information and necessary operations, it draws a one-sided picture. More than that, from the premise that archaeology is nothing other than another kind of history, people conclude that in its interpretation it can only manage with the set of methods which are used in history. By that in our country they mean methods of sociological interpretation based in historical materialism: that is, methods of imposing sociological philosophy on archaeological material. And it had a consequence that the publishing houses wanted to publish only the ready-made historical conclusions -- the reconstructed history of tribes and peoples, not the boring descriptions and typologies and chronologies of artefacts and assemblages.

It is not that I am in the middle between the arguing sides (frankly I take one of the sides, and the other is fighting with ardour disputing my views: Zakharuk 1983; 1989; Gening 1989); but this time, here, I am trying to find a balanced position in order to avoid unnecessary aspects of the debate.

So I may state that one of the two disciplines, namely history, many-sidedly studies the historical process itself, in full: it studies the events of the past themselves -- whereas the other discipline, archaeology, is aimed at achieving such knowledge only in distant prospect, while indirectly it studies something else. Some other disciplines (palaeography, epigraphy, textology or diplomatic) all study something else -- one kind of record each. Archaeology studies the archaeological record. Like the other disciplines mentioned, archaeology studies its own kind of source. It studies them in order to extract from them information on the past and to translate it into the language of history, adding on that account some information from other kinds of sources. But all this will be done at a later stage. Should it still be done within the bounds of archaeology?

History and source studies

A banal truth is that history studies the past on the basis of a record, or, as we usually say in Russia, on the basis of 'sources'. However the sources are not dinner-plates and the information does not lie sprawled on them like fried chicken ('chicken-tabaka') -- please cut any piece you like and enjoy it. The record is rather similar to a closed basket where the meat, unknown to us, is hidden. It is to be identified, washed, drawn, cut up and cooked with spices. What menu must be composed, how to feed people with this dish -- let the dietician and the waiter think about it. But to prepare the dish you need a cook.

In our age of developed specialization and differentiation of knowledge it is impossible to manage without specialization in searching and processing the record -- without the textologist, palaeographer, seal-specialist, numismatist, archaeologist and so on. In brief -- without specialists in source-studies. There is no sense in discussing whether to isolate source-studying as a separate branch of knowledge or not. It is an accomplished fact. And whether to call these disciplines auxiliary or basic, is a matter of taste (and of ambitions).

Both complexes of disciplines, history and its source-studies, are divided into separate disciplines. From long ago different branches of historical source-studies have been specialized: palaeography, epigraphy, textology, diplomatic, heraldry, numismatics, sphragistics, etc. Just like the training for cooking -- beside cooks there are specialists for single kinds of food: baker, confectioner, wine-maker, brewer and so on. They work very differently, because different kinds of food-products demand different processing, different methods.

Archaeology as a source-studying discipline

Archaeology enters quite naturally into this source-studying group of disciplines. Coins are separated from written sources in the realm of source-studying; why should artefacts not be, too? What are coins, as a matter of fact? Artefacts with inscriptions on them designating their monetary function. Thus, artefacts plus inscriptions. If artefacts with inscriptions are alien to written sources, so alien as to build a separate discipline, then artefacts without inscriptions must be all the more alien.

The questions have been raised as to whether it is reasonable to isolate, say, the study of graves or the study of arrowheads as special disciplines (taphonomy and velography); in other words, whether archaeology is united into a single whole, an entity. It is permissible to discuss these questions. But it is evident at first glance that all these branches are not to be joined to the study of the written record, except within a general framework of semiotics, which would embrace a great number of disciplines including even biology.

Let us return to sources.

Thus, each discipline has its own specificity, its own peculiarity, and their methods of processing are cardinally different. The Soviet historian Pushkarev noted that the specificity of each kind of record, that is of sources, is determined by the coding of information in them, by the mode of the coding (Puskarev 1975: 248). Archaeological records are material antiquities, realia, things, and not notions fixed by language. The historian deals with his discipline in the sphere of thinking and of language. So does archaeology. However written records exist in the same sphere of thought while archaeological sources do not; they are in another sphere, and it is precisely the archaeologist whose task is to transfer them (particularly, their information) from one sphere into the other, into the sphere of thinking and language.

When we say that archaeologists must understand the language of things (Klejn 1981), the language of artefacts, this is merely a metaphorical expression. Understanding consists precisely in translating from the language of things into the real, usual, natural language -- the language of words and notions, of thoughts and connections. The additional difficulty of this translation arises out of the fact that, unlike ethnographic things (which can be explained to the student by living aborigines), archaeological artefacts are antiquities, the users of which died long ago, and the tradition of understanding is cut away. (This topic is considered at greater length in Klejn 1978).

Two kinds of synthesis and the border

Each kind of record in isolation is unable to give a full and complete notion of the society, of the events of the past. Antique statues, for instance, almost never depict slaves. Skeletons and ancient ornaments give no hints of the language. In this sense each kind of source is defective. It cannot suffice for the building of history. And in the case of the remote past, there is also damage, loss, gaps and fragmentation in each kind of source. It is possible to fill these gaps, to correct the damage, only with the help of other kinds of sources -- they compensate for the incompleteness of each other.

However this incompleteness and deficiency are all-embracing and all-penetrating rather than local. Therefore a simple additive process is not sufficient. We need a very complicated synthesis, with the building and testing of models, on the basis of special theories. So history is the branch of knowledge characterized by synthesis. And each of its parts is built on the basis of a synthesis of different kinds of sources, on the basis of integration of source-studying disciplines.

Any analogy is poor (in Russian we say: is lame): this is well-known. The culinary analogy applied by me is also lame, of course. A historian could only be equated to a dietician if the latter not merely composed the menu and regulated the meals but also gathered and mixed all the food-products and digested them anew with the addition of gastric juice. With food, this is done by the consumer, with information, by the historian. Synthesis is not an exclusive privilege of history. Archaeology provides synthesis, too -- an interdisciplinary synthesis. It glues together pots out of fragments, combines similar fibulae into a type, forms a culture out of interconnected types or out of similar assemblages. Forming its cultures, it unites different kinds of cultural objects -- ceramics, flint implements, graves, dwellings, motifs, etc. In brief, its business is 'piecing together the past', as Childe coined the phrase (1956). That is synthesis.

Nevertheless it cannot piece all the past together. Its synthesis has limits, beyond which it must hand its results to the other disciplines -- to history or to sociology. This moment does not come earlier than the completion of its main source-studying function: that is, when it transfers the information of the archaeological record from the 'thing' form into the 'sign' form, into the form of usual language (spoken or written) in which historical thinking is realized and historical research is carried out.

But having determined the limit 'not earlier', is it reasonable to show the opposite limit -- 'not later'? Can the right to invade history (or sociology) be granted to an archaeologist himself -- to invade as deep as he likes? No, it cannot. There is also an upper limit to the involvement of the archaeologist, which must also be respected. It precludes a whole part of the research route, where further work is impossible without adducing records of some other kind, essentially alien to the archaeological ones, but in any case, other kinds of sources. Where, consequently, integration of disciplines should come into full force. The synthesis which takes place in history is an interdisciplinary one.

True, information from the neighbouring source-studying disciplines is still needed in the initial stages of archaeological research: at the stage of classification and typology -- from ethnography (on functions of artefacts for their division by 'categories'), at the stage of dating -- from geology and palaeontology, etc. These are, however, particular interactions. Those questions raised by history and sociology are all-embracing. These disciplines discover cause-effect connections and laws of socio-historic process. These demand that all the sides of social life should be included, and consequently all the information from the source-studying disciplines together. A historian, and to a certain extent a sociologist, should possess a knowledge of the results of all the source-studying disciplines, and should master the methods of interdisciplinary synthesis.

And what about the archaeologist? He must possess abilities of another kind. Does this mean that he need not and must not raise historical questions, that he must not solve them? Yes, it does. If the archaeologist was trained only in the limits of his profession (and thank God if this is achieved well), he should not go out of these borders. One should submit to the rules of professional specialization. One should not get into the neighbouring source-studying disciplines, however tempting it is, but should rely on the achievements of neighbouring specialists. One should not undertake the solution of the problems of history and sociology. Instead of this, one should wait until a specialist in historical synthesizing comes along. If you cannot stand it any longer, then you are welcome to extend your activity; but will you be so kind as to master professionally the new (for you) discipline, as your second profession. And let us hope this will be within your powers.

Of course, an archaeologist takes into account those laws under which history and sociology operate -- the laws of social order and historic process: these laws are of use to him in order to build models for reconstruction. But much more he is supported by other laws -- those which allow him to extract information out of the archaeological record. These are the laws under which the archaeological record, the artefact and assemblage, is formed. On the whole they are the laws which concern:

1 the materialization, the incarnation of ideas and events;

2 their dropping out of use and subsequent deposition;

3 'archaeologization', (or, as Sir Thomas Browne put it, 'antiquitation'): -- that is age damage and destruction of things.

These principles were considered by David Clarke, Lewis Binford and others.

Matching and substitution

In the development of archaeology and historical studies, not only were branches of source-studies separated from each other, but also the historical study of different epochs: history of primordial society (prehistory and protohistory), medieval history, modern history etc. -- and in different spheres of social life: civil history, social history, ethnohistory, history of culture etc. Some of these disciplines were considered very near to archaeology -- in different branches at different times. Long ago it was geography (archaeology then was perceived as a survey of ancient sites and monuments), then ethnography etc. In recent times the orientation was changed. From the first series of historical disciplines (specialization by epochs) prehistory especially came nearer to archaeology; from the second series (specialization by spheres of life) history of material culture approached it. They drew so near to each other that in the eyes of many archaeologists (and not only of archaeologists) they coincided, matched. One began to confuse them.

Dramatic and impressive for Soviet scholarship was the brief episode of the abolition of Marxist archaeology. Archaeology was replaced by the history of material culture (Ravdonikas 1930; Bykovskij 1932a; 1932b; Arcikhovskij et al. 1932). Though the episode was brief, it left a long-standing trace -- the title of the Academy (later Institute) for the History of Material Culture -- as the main archaeological institution of the country was named. It bore this name from 1918 till 1960, and in Poland the analogous institution has borne a similar name up to now (the name has now seemingly changed). In Russia the tradition has not died: in 1991 the St Petersburg institute of archaeology, separated from Moscow, was called by this name -- this time as a sign of independence from Moscow. Nobody in Petersburg, however, is going to cease studying mental culture on the basis of archaeological data -- the meaning of mourning rites, content of petroglyphs and so on. Nor will they extend their techniques of study to material culture -- such as everyday household implements -- down to the present day, though such a proposition was made by a Leningrad philosopher officially seconded to archaeology (Borjaz 1976), and by the recently deceased Director of Institute of Archaeology of the Academy of Sciences of USSR (Alekseev 1992). Nevertheless this episode appeared to be local (it does not go out of the borders of the Socialist camp) and transient.

Much more serious was the matching of archaeology with that other branch of knowledge -- with the history of primordial culture, i.e. with prehistory. If you walk along the corridor of the historical faculty of St Petersburg University, you may sink into the past gradually by reading the plates on the doors: 'Department of Modern and Contemporary History', 'Department of Medieval History', 'Department of the History of Ancient World', that is classical history. The next is expected to be the Department of Primordial History, i.e. prehistory; but it is absent. The two doors opposite to each other and adjacent to the Department of Ancient World are: the Departments of Archaeology and Ethnography.

Both these departments together substitute for the Department of Prehistory. In one of these two, prehistory is determined on the basis of archaeological sources; in the other, on the basis of ethnographic ones. How to synthesize prehistory, including all the necessary data -- from physical anthropology, linguistics, behavioural primatology etc. -- is not taught anywhere. A similar picture can be observed in the other universities of Russia. Prehistory was everywhere replaced by archaeology and ethnography.

Another picture can be seen in Germany, but a substitution is evident there as well. However it is quite the opposite one. As everywhere in the West, archaeology is there sharply split into two: institutes, seminars, chairs, departments -- all being doubled. On the one side, classical archaeology: on the other, indigenous, 'native' archaeology (Prehistoric and Medieval). Institutions of Classical Archaeology retain the term 'archaeology', though the specification 'classical' is considered necessary. So it is admitted that other archaeology exists too. But it is absent in the names of other institutions. Those dealing with the primordial times of the native country, and with its medieval antiquities, are called Institutes or Seminars of Pre- and Protohistory (Vor- und Fruhgeschichte or Ur- und Fruhgeschichte). Meanwhile purely historical tasks have very little place here: there is no civil history, nor general problems of cultural history -- these are being solved in other branches. And the professionals working here are busy mainly with typology, chronology, stratigraphy, cartography and of course with excavations. These are also the things which the students are being taught and trained in.

Is it bad? Evidently archaeological sources are necessary for the study of primordial times, and one needs to obtain and process them, and to study the techniques used in these procedures. As soon as archaeology was placed here in the proper position (and bearing in mind that it requires specialization and demands that the workers should wholly surrender themselves) it practically ousted prehistory, and supplanted it. It did not supplant medieval history -- that had its own separate institutions, so the tendency of the teams with the tag 'Fruhgeschichte' to do only archaeology is not dangerous for that subject. On the other hand it is a disaster for prehistory: this has not got any other institutions besides those labelled 'Vor-' or 'Urgeschichte'.

There are many causes for such substitution. Among them there are perhaps influential empirical trends in scholarship, the lack of advanced methods of synthesis, the traditional connection of the term 'archaeology' with the study of classical times. But most of all it depends on the fact that the two kinds of sources are differently distributed on the scale of time -- at its opposite ends. And these correspond to the most important kinds of sources -- the written and the archaeological ones. In the recent stages of history, the written sources are so manifold, full and all-embracing that they overshadow all the others, push them into the background, force them out. There is almost no need for anything else. It gives a false impression that this is in the nature of history -- that history can be built in general on the basis of just one kind of sources.

At the opposite end of the time scale, in the early time-periods, material antiquities play the same role. True, they are unable completely to overshadow the other sources. Even for the earliest Palaeolithic epoch -- try to study it without ethnography, palaeoanthropology, primatology, palaeontology, geology, etc.! However, the illusion also works here -- that is, the illusion of a single complete and all-embracing kind of sources. This leading, dominating, main record follows the trend to become, in essence, the only one, upon which everything is built. Archaeology is equated with 'palaeohistory', it stands in a row with the various branches of history, sliced up by epochs, and appears at the very beginning of the sequence.

Exemplifying of the substitution

Two schools, two 'hearths' among archaeologists produced conceptual frameworks within which this coincidence of archaeology and palaeohistory was worked out in practice, where it was attempted to show that archaeology was allowed (and even obliged) to take on functions of history, and that archaeology itself should solve with its own means all the historical problems. One such hearth was formed in the second half of the '20s in Moscow, the other one in the early '60s in USA. These were very different hearths.

Moscow archaeologists of the first Marxist generation believed in unconditioned and absolute determination of all social life by the mode of production, in the first instance by means of production, by implements. When Marx exhibited his learning he referred to the example of the types of mill and said that knowing this type you can reconstruct the entire socio-economic structure of the society -- just as on the basis of a single tooth Cuvier could reconstruct the whole of an extinct organism of the extinct beast. Having directly and unilineally perceived Marx, the neophytes of Marxism Arcikhovskij, Bryusov, Kiselev, Smirnov (later well-known archaeologists), concluded that since archaeological artefacts are in the main precisely these means of production, archaeologists who possess them and possess the Marxist scheme, do not need the rest of the record, do not need other kinds of sources and are able to reconstruct the whole historical process without the help of such disciplines as ethnography and linguistics. Archaeology became for them a kind of history (Arcikhovskij 1927; 1929; Trudy 1929). Being strongly criticized, these archaeologists recanted their ultra-deterministic extremes very soon, but the thesis that archaeology is 'history armed with the spade' remained the main principle of the Arcikhovskij-Rybakov school, dominating Soviet archaeology. Moreover, the old tradition in its unaltered form is also still alive -- it is continued by Gening in Kiev (Gening 1982).

The American New Archaeology of the early 1960s till the middle of the '70s was also sociologically oriented and carried away by pan-determinism. In a heated struggle against indeterminism it took the opposite extreme. Indeterminist archaeologists denied the possibility of reconstructing, without help of ethnography, the ancient meaning of assemblages and the functions of artefacts. The leader of the New Archaeology, Lewis Binford, opposed to this the notion that in culture each element is connected with each other and dependent on them as they on it. This is reminiscent of a volleyball net, where you may pull any cell and all the others change their form at once. In culture, according to Binford, this proceeds indirectly -- through subcultures. Consequently, stated Binford, from material components of culture one can infer non-material and therefore not preserved components without resorting to the help of ethnography. One need only establish regular correspondence between them (Binford 1972: 23, 94-5, 222-9).

All this is very logical and would be fully true, if culture were really like that; if all its elements and their position would be in fact equal by values and influence. But this is not the case.

The effect of the substitution

Thus many archaeologists, both Soviet and Western, did not want to (and at present cannot) admit that prehistoric archaeology and prehistory are two different disciplines. But they really are different. Each one has its own functions and methods. What happens when one discipline has been invaded by people with the methods and habits of another? Nothing good. The discipline is then drawn into dilettantism.

An archaeologist begins, with his own means, to build a history of a people or tribes. The history turns out to be strange, one-sided, as if a shadow of a real history. No reigns, no revolutions, no glorious names, no great men of letters. Only detailed descriptions of dugout dwellings, graves, and of course ceramics -- just a lot of pots. As if people in the past were busy only with shaping, burning and breaking pots. The archaeologist as historian investigates how cultures are produced by cultures, how they interact with each other and how they force each other from a given area. At best some guesses are hazarded about their social structure and its changes. Sometimes the archaeologist realizes that he cannot do without sources of other kinds and he undertakes raids into the other source-studying disciplines. In these cases he usually feels at full liberty and, not being tied and limited by strong rules, he plunders there as he can, shatters methodologies and violates facts (see Klejn 1991 - a critique of the studies of Akademician Rybakov). And after dragging his booty away he does not know how to integrate this information with his own. For he is not taught synthesis.

The opposite substitution -- when a historian undertakes archaeology himself -- is still worse. Or, what is effectively the same, when an archaeologist undertakes his business after having been trained only as a historian, i.e. with the thinking and knowledge of a historian, without professional archaeological education -- that occurs quite often. Well, if an archaeologist is the same as a historian, but with a spade, he does not need any special methods of interpretation. In his possession he has sound reasoning as well as common logic, the means of historical combination, etc., doesn't he? And for a general orientation -- there is historical materialism, the universal methodology for all social sciences and humanities.

As a result of this logic we do not teach in our historical faculties such a profession as archaeology -- only additional archaeological specialization for a historian, i.e. a full historical programme of education plus some additional lectures, seminars and field practice. In the departments of archaeology, the methodological disciplines of this profession are reduced to a minimal amount, mainly to field and laboratory methods. Theory, typology, the rules of scholarly research are not systematically taught at all now. Persons without a professional archaeological education often get archaeological jobs in research institutes and museums -- general historical education is sufficient. It is supposed that with this general education they can quite simply interpret finds. This leads to the common debasing of the level of professionalism in archaeology, to weakening of the reliability of conclusions, to a perceptible touch of dilettantism covering all archaeology. In each discipline there are always weak works, produced by dullards, mediocrities and smatterers. But in archaeology this falling-off, this deterioration, can be observed in works even by the best.

Let us take as example osteological statistics (not their palaeontological but their social interpretation -- that in which they completely coincide with material antiquities as the product of human action). How to determine the relative contributions of different kinds of domestic animals in the economy of an excavated settlement? Surely, on the basis of percentage representation of the bones. But how do we count them in reality?

I remember the Volga--Don expedition of my teacher Professor Artamonov, the former Director of the Hermitage in the 1950s. He was a well-known authority, a very skilled scholar. The expedition was large and the project lasted for several years. There were palaeontologists in its staff too, so we were able to identify bones while still in the field. They were identified and carefully registered, and then thrown out -- we were simply unable to bring them with us to Leningrad because we had no place to store them. But what was identified and counted in the field? Fragments. A comparison from such a count gives very little information since one bone may evidently be shattered into very different quantities of fragments. And it is impossible to count them anew: the material is thrown out. Of course one should determine the quantity of individuals in each species by the minimal number of individuals, i.e. number at which the most frequent bone of this kind of animal in a given population is represented. Many contemporary expeditions do just this. But when archaeologists immediately judge from this what was the dominant exploited species, they are premature. The structure of the dead totality deposited in the site does not coincide with the structure of the once-living herd at any single moment of its existence. The dead totality is collected during a long time period, and the proportional relations are shifted radically.

How to reconstruct them? Even such experienced archaeologists as Professor Masson and Dr Kuz'mina suppose that one must do corrections taking into account the different fertility of the kinds of ungulates. Masson thinks that because the birth interval of sheep is shorter than that for cattle, we must conclude that in the living herd they were represented by a higher percentage than they are in the dead totality. Kuz'mina say that by the same token they must be, quite the reverse, not so frequent in the living herd as in the dead totality. So one scholar proposes to multiply the number of skeletons by some factor, the other proposes to divide it (Masson 1976: 34; Kuz'mina 1986: 33).

Both are mistaken. In reality only the living herd is changed with the increase of fertility. The changes of the dead totality in comparison with the living herd depend on something else -- on the different average lifespan in different kinds of ungulates: during the life of one cow, two or three sheep generations would have passed. Correspondingly a 1:1 ratio in the living herd can produce a 1:2 or 1:3 ratio within the dead totality. Thus, not multiply, but divide and by a different factor! However, this is not the end of the chain. The comparable importance of the kinds of stock for the supply of meat to the population depends not only upon the quantity of the individual animals but on their average slaughter weight. One bull can give five times more meat than one pig or sheep (Paaver 1958). Again, there's counting. Finally one must also take into consideration the other produce from these kinds of stock -- milk, leather, wool, bristle -- and must add also intangible advantages from use of the given kind of cattle (for example as draught animals or in the hunt). For all these tasks one should determine (by the slaughter age and other attributes) the type of stock-breeding in this society -- a meat one, a meat-and-milk one, etc.

As a result, the inference of a methodologically skilled professional archaeologist, well versed in the theory and methods of archaeology, will be very different both from the hasty conclusions of an empirical archaeologist who believes that facts speak for themselves, and from the superficial ideas of an interpreter with a wide general historical education and with the belief that it provides the master-key to all riddles of the past.

Empiricism and historicism

It is interesting, how very different methodological biases lead to a similar decrease in the scope of the discipline.

In Germany the positions of empiricism are traditionally strong -- from the times of Ranke with his appeal to historians to tell 'properly how it all happened' ('wie es eigentlich gewesen'). Therefore it was not difficult for the German scholars to admit an equation according to which a serious 'fact-based' archaeology is all that is necessary for the existence of prehistory. Two disciplines disappeared by being united, but the amalgamation took place on the basis of archaeology. This is why the damage to it was not as great as in my country.

We have another tradition. In our country Marxism has canonized the cult of history, moreover, as a very theoreticized and sociologized form, with the tendency to philosophize. Workers of all disciplines concerned with society and culture had to swear to the principle of historicism. Initially 'historicism' was understood in the sense of a methodological demand to consider all things in terms of development and interconnection. But unwittingly its meaning was changed into something different: bringing up all these disciplines to history and, as much as possible, including them into it. Everywhere a quotation from Marx and Engels was cited: 'there is only one science, the science of history' (Marx & Engels 1955: 16), although this was quoted from very early work of Marx and Engels, and even then this passage was cut out by them from the text (it is cited from a draft). The young Marx and Engels, naive though they seem to be, were nevertheless more clever than their recent epigones.

Archaeology, ethnography, art-history were established in historical faculties and in the historical branch of the Academy of Sciences.The historicism of archaeology began to be considered as its literal incorporation into history (Istorizm 1976; Rybakov 1978). Reduction occurred here too.

Sobering -- the price of pride

Sobering began only recently. Gradually we began realizing what gigantic damage this thoughtless 'historization' had brought to Soviet archaeology -- source-study has been forgotten, reliable relative chronology hastily substituted by an unsafe absolute one, interpretive labels have come to replace classificatory concepts etc. (Klejn et al. 1970; Formozov 1977; Bulkin et al. 1982: 286-90; Smirnov & Tendrjakova 1990: 72-3). In archaeology we are behind the leading countries of the West. Our archaeology, which was full of missionary pride, now has a deeply provincial look. And not only because of poor economy and technical lag. This is the price of pride.

History itself received nothing good from its victorious expansion. Primordial history remains practically unformed, the methods of prehistoric synthesis are not worked out, while in concrete methodological problems (as, for example, interrelations of ethnos and archaeological culture) we are marking time.

History and archaeology are different disciplines and their fusion is harmful for both. We stubbornly created a centaur from a horse and a rider. Assuming the two disciplines to be one, we confused the demands on them, mixed their results, did not differentiate methods. At each step we tried to put horse-shoes on the rider and galoshes on the horse. And we wonder why the centaur does not run faster! And now we are afraid to take the centaur apart -- this operation could destroy it. However, Siamese twins are usually separated despite being born in fusion, whereas our centaur is made artificially. Properly, it is myth. The united 'archaeologico-history' is one of many myths of our ideologized society. Since the 1960s this myth has been widely disseminated in the West, also, under the title of 'archaeology as a social science' (coined by Childe, adopted and propagated by Binford). Only the working contacts of archaeology with history are realistic.

In this pair archaeology plays the part of the horse, not the rider. If some archaeologists see this as humiliating and degrading for their subject, this may be because they have identified archaeology with themselves. But remaining a trunk and legs to history's head and shoulders is no way for archaeology to gain it self-respect.


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Date:Jun 1, 1993
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