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Subject:

Re: antiquarians and archaeologists

From:

Carol Primrose <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Wed, 23 Feb 2005 01:25:53 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (51 lines)

At 11:58 22/02/05, you wrote:

>I'm wondering about the difference between 19C antiquarians and modern
>archaeologists.
>Antiquarian today seems to refer to someone with an interest in old books
>?and artefacts?  But in the past they took a more active interest in
>excavation as a method of enquiry
>Would it be true to say that the modern equivalent of the 19C antiquarian
>is the archaeologist?

It's certainly true of some of them. James Bryce excavated (some of) the
stone circles on Arran in 1860. He was a geologist but became interested in
the prehistoric structures he found on his travels. He "was desirous to
place such an account on permanent record, lest, in process of time, they
should be swept away". PSAS, 1860-62, 500. He was also keen to demonstrate
that such monuments were "places of sepulture", so he had a theoretical
purpose.

Similarly, T.H.Bryce, an anatomist,  excavating the chambered cairns on
Arran in 1900, had his own theory to prove, that "in Arran we see the
meeting and blending of two wholly different types of custome and culture,
and these represent two peoples of quite different physical characters, and
wholly different origin" Book of Arran, 33-4. To this end he opens the
chambers and has no interest in the cairns. He finds a series of skulls
which he reckons are either long-headed or round-headed (shades of the
English Civil War). Nonetheless,
  his approach was remarkably careful for his time. He describes his method
in a footnote on pages 58 and 59 of the Book of Arran: "it may perhaps be
here noted that, in digging out these chambers, the best method of
procedure was found to be to clear first a trench-like space in the centre
of the compartments for a certain depth, then to attack the soil in the
corners and along the sides very carefully with a trowel until a uniform
level was reached, and thereafter to repeat the process. The soil should be
eased rather than dug into, and when a fragile object is met with, for
instance a skull or an urn, the soil should be removed all round it with a
brush if loose and dry, or with a pointed instrument if too firm to be
brushed, before any attempt is made to lift it from its bed".


>I know there were issues of money, ie most antiquarians had other sources
>of income - but I do not think that is just the difference and I'd quite
>like to get away from that as i feel it blurs the issue.

I think there was a general view that what we would now call archaeological
excavation was important, not just among the active practitioners.James
Bryce asked permission of the Duke of Hamilton to excavate and received not
just permission but "a wish that the operations should be conducted at his
expense" p501. Not everything has changed for the better.

Carol

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