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Subject:

Re: Save the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity!

From:

burcu urundul <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

British archaeology discussion list <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 21 Jun 2012 11:18:50 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (85 lines)

Michael,

I can assure you that my archaeological teaching teaches me to think
critically and for myself. I can't speak for anyone else as that would be
unfair.

Archaeology can do many things, provided it has the income and resources
but whether it can predict the future, I'm not convinced. If you are
looking for something as specific as the case study you described. You
could go and look for evidence of it on the ground. However, even if you
were to find what you were looking for and 100% convinced it was exactly
associated with the story you described, your finds could not 100% for
certain be exactly from that story.  it's very hard to prove certainties
and absences in the archaeological record. But you can make your own mind
up if you feel 100% certain. And everyone else is free to make their mind
up.

Best

On 21 Jun 2012 08:11, "Michael Haseler" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Burcu,

there is so much archaeology can tell us about the past from the reasons
for the fall of the Roman Empire (which is likely to give us a very good
clue about if and when the modern era will collapse) to the true extent of
climate change. Archaeology can throw a light on the mechanisms of
technology change and innovation (which are largely outside academia) and
help us ensure we succeed in the future and grow a vibrant economy (blah
blah).

But not if people are just making up stories about the past.

The past is difficult enough to understand, if you adopt a rigorous
"impartial observer" mentality and avoid colouring the past with your own
prejudices  ... but as far as I can see archaeology now appears to actively
encourage students to colour the past with their own prejudices ... which
makes archaeology about as useless as a party political broadcast for
telling the state of the economy.

Perhaps I should give an example. In the 1690s there are accounts that up
to a quarter of Scotland's population died. From 1750 to 1850, the census
shows a growing highland population (although there was a movement from
smaller->larger settlement). Scotland is full of "highland clearance"
villages ... but the "clearances" were during a period of growing
population. There are almost no settlements that were deserted in the 1690s.

Now what I can say for sure is that the story of the "highland clearances"
is quite at odds with the evidence of growing population. I can also say
that the accounts of up to a quarter of Scotland's population dying in the
1690s is quite at odds with the lack of deserted settlements in this time
period. But in the fog of made-up history and archaeology it's not possible
to know what is true and what is not.

But this uncertainty has quite profound implications for today. The 1690s
was in a period of low solar activity. We are now seeing signs of another
similar drop in solar activity. It would be useful to know how and why
people died in the 1690s (or even if they did ... perhaps the figures are
wrong). Knowing what happened last time there was a drop in solar activity
would be a very good indicator of may happen if we enter another one.
Perhaps the world economy will collapse ... perhaps it will be hardly
noticeable!

My assumption is that either colder or wetter conditions led to a failure
of harvests. But perhaps it was an epidemic. At one end ... perhaps it was
just a coincidental epidemic of an illness we have already eliminated ....
or perhaps there is evidence for world-wide disruption in agriculture,
which if it happened again would destabilise world politics leading to
WWIII. These are huge uncertainties ... one's which are impossible to
narrow down due to the rubbish that litters Scottish history.

In other words, like so much archaeology, we will never know what happened
in the 1690s, because certain historians, archaeologists & politicians
prefer to hear the story of the "highland clearances" rather than look at
the real facts of famine in the 1690s.

Mike



On 19/06/2012 12:54, burcu urundul wrote:
>
> Hi Mike,
>
> I find your comments about archaeology ...

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