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archaeology (ärkēŏlˈəjē) [Gr.,=study of beginnings], a branch of anthropology that seeks to document and explain continuity and change and similarities and differences among human cultures. Archaeologists work with the material remains of cultures, past and present, providing the only source of information available for past nonliterate societies and supplementing written sources for historical and contemporary groups.

History of Archaeology

The discipline had its origins in early efforts to collect artistic materials of extinct groups, an endeavor that can be traced back to the 15th cent. in Italy when growing interest in ancient Greece inspired the excavation of Greek sculpture. In the 18th cent. the progress of Greek and Roman archaeology was advanced by Johann Winckelmann and Ennio Visconti and by excavations at Herculaneum and Pompeii; in the 19th cent., by the acquisition of the Elgin Marbles. The study of ancient cultures in the Aegean region was stimulated by the excavations of Heinrich Schliemann at Troy, and of Arthur Evans at Crete. The work of Martin Nilsson, Alan Wace, and John Pendlebury was also significant in this area, and the decipherment of the Minoan script by Michael Ventris raised new speculations about the early Aegean cultures.

The foundations of Egyptology, a prolific branch of classical archaeology because of the wealth of material preserved in the dry Egyptian climate, were laid by the recovery of the Rosetta Stone (see under Rosetta) and the work of French scholars who accompanied Napoleon Bonaparte to Egypt. Investigations that have reconstructed the lives and arts of elite segments of ancient Egyptian society and rewritten Egyptian history were carried on in the 19th cent. by Karl Lepsius, Auguste Mariette, and Gaston Maspero, and in the 19th and 20th cent. by W. M. Flinders Petrie, James Breasted, and others.

Interest in the Middle East was stimulated by the work of Edward Robinson (1794–1863) on the geography of the Bible and by the decipherment of a cuneiform inscription of Darius I, which was copied (1835) by Henry Rawlinson from the Behistun rock in Iran. Archaeology in Mesopotamia was notably advanced in the 19th cent. by Jules Oppert, Paul Botta, and Austen Layard and in the 20th cent. by Charles Woolley, Henri Frankfort, and Seton Lloyd. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, beginning in 1947, aroused new interest in biblical studies (see biblical archaeology).

Interest in complex New World cultures was stimulated by the publication by John Stephens of an account of his travels (1839) in Central America, which excited the interest of archaeologists in the Maya. In the 19th cent. studies began of the Toltec and the Aztec in Mexico and of the Inca in South America. In 1926 the discovery of human cultural remains associated with extinct fauna near Folsom, N.Mex. (see Folsom culture), established the substantial depth of prehistory for the New World (see Americas, antiquity and prehistory of the).

Modern Archaeology

In contrast to the antiquarianism of classical archaeology, anthropological archaeology today is concerned with culture history (i.e., the chronology of events and cultural traditions) and the explanation of cultural processes. A variety of different dating techniques, both relative (e.g., stratigraphy) and absolute (e.g., radiocarbon, obsidian hydration, potassium-argon), are used to place events in time. Attempts at explaining evolutionary processes underlying prehistoric remains began with the conclusion advanced in 1832 by the Danish archaeologist Christian Thomsen that cultures may be divided into stages of progress based on the principal materials used for weapons and implements. His three-age theory (the Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age) was essentially based on prehistoric materials from Scandinavia and France.

Concerted investigations began in the mid-19th cent. with the stratigraphic excavation of such remains as the lake dwelling, barrow, and kitchen midden. At first the sequences of culture change uncovered in Western Europe were generalized to include all of world history, but improved techniques of field excavation and the expansion of archaeological discoveries in Africa, Asia, and the Americas challenged the universality of rigid classifications. Technological traditions ceased to be regarded as inevitable concomitants of specific cultural stages. Later interpretations of prehistoric human life emphasize cultural responses to changing demographic and environmental conditions (see ecology). Thus the Paleolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic periods are evaluated in terms of subsistence technologies, and explanations are sought for the causes underlying these transitions. Among the most important work done in the mid-20th cent. was that of Louis and Mary Leakey, who located the skeletal remains of humans in East Africa dating back 1.7 million years; since their work additional discoveries concerning the predecessors of Homo sapiens have revealed the great antiquity and diversity of human evolution. Contemporary archaeologists are also concerned with the emergence of various forms of complex social organization, including chiefdoms, class stratification, and states. In recent years, a number of archaeologists have turned from traditional concerns and have made efforts to reconstruct ideological elements of extinct cultures.

Advances in the recovery and analysis of botanical remains have allowed investigators to model changes in the prehistoric environment with increasing precision, improving the accuracy of such explanations. Paleobotany, the analysis of ancient plant remains, and ethnobotany, the study of the cultural utilization of plants, therefore play a vital role in modern archaeology. Faunal analysis, the recovery and analysis of animal remains such as bone, also plays an important part in the study of prehistoric ecology and subsistence patterns. The careful analysis of botanical and faunal material, combined with advances in the analysis of genetic material, have led to the detailed understanding of the process of the domestication of plants and animals in both the Old and New World. Genetic studies of ancient human remains, when feasible, have contributed to the understanding of patterns of human migration and the spread of associated aspects of human culture. The use of remote-imaging technologies, both on aircraft and satellites, has become an important tool for identifying some archaelogical sites, and laser scanners and 3D cameras are now used to document and create reproductions of archaeological sites, especially endangered sites.

Modern museums with valuable collections include the Metropolitan Museum and the American Museum of Natural History in New York City; the British Museum; the Louvre; national museums in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, rich in remains of the Iron Age; the Vatican and Capitoline museums, Rome; collections from Pompeii and Herculaneum at Naples, Italy; and museums in Athens, Cairo, and Jerusalem. Many universities have established schools and museums of archaeology. Organizations such as the National Science Foundation, the Smithsonian Institution, and the National Geographic Society in the United States promote archaeological studies.


See G. Daniel, A Hundred and Fifty Years of Archaeology (2d ed. 1975); B. G. Trigger, A History of Archaeological Thought (1989); R. J. Wenke, Patterns in Prehistory (3d ed. 1990); G. R. Willey and J. Sabloff, A History of American Archaeology (1990); I. Hodder, Reading the Past (2d ed. 1991).

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  1. the scientific or systematic analysis of the material remains, especially the artifacts, but also the physical remains of human and animal bodies, crops, etc, left by past SOCIETIES and CULTURES, where the aim is to produce an account or reconstruction of these societies or cultures. Especially important in situations where the societies and cultures in question have left no written records or where these records are few, archaeology may also be practised in any context in which the study of such remains may complement the written historical record, as recently exemplified by industrial archaeology, which studies the relatively recent past as evident in the physical remains left by industrial and extractive processes, modes of transportation, etc. When its focus is on societies and cultures that have left no written record, archaeology is coextensive with the discipline ofprehistory Traditionally distinguished by its use of the method of excavation and careful recording of remains, nowadays archaeology employs many scientific techniques, including aerial photography, computer modelling, radiocarbon dating, and even more precise forms of dating based on the climatic record left in the fossil remains of trees. Since the remains studied are physical remains, modern archaeology often smacks more of science than does sociology itself. However, since its subject matter continues to be cultural and social phenomena, the scientific character of archaeology is not necessarily a sign of its superiority, for archaeology must work hard simply to piece together sufficient data for sociological analysis to begin. Once such sociological analysis is undertaken, the concerns and the problems of archaeology are the same as those of sociology, with the extra difficulty for archaeology that it is usually denied any very direct access to the intended meaning of the social actors involved. Thus archaeology and sociology must be seen as complementary disciplines. There are affinities and continuities, for example, especially between the archaeological study of pre-urban prehistorical societies and modern anthropological study of simple societies. The same kind of division as exists in sociology between comparative and generalizing approaches on the one hand, and the historical or meaningful understanding of unique cultures on the other hand, also exists in archaeology. In fact, a comparable range of competing theoretical perspectives to those found in sociology and anthropology also occur in archaeology, including, for example, FUNCTIONALIST and EVOLUTIONARY THEORIES, and Marxian approaches.
  2. (FOUCAULT, The Order ofThings, 1966, tr. 1973, The Archaeology ofKnowledge, 1969, tr. 1974) a view of historical documents as ‘one way in which a society recognizes and develops a mass of documentation with which it is inextricably linked’ in which. Foucault particularly sought to specify the historical a priori on which certain forms of knowledge become possible. Later Foucault preferred the term GENEALOGY to describe his method, seeing positivist elements in the notion of archaeology’.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
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Ancient Khirbet Qumran ruins, which lie on the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea in Jordan, are above the caves in which the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947. Such sites are studied to lend insight into religious history and practices. AP/Wide World Photos.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Archaeology is considered by many to be the point where science and religion overlap. Religious myths or stories make up much of the background of religious studies. Archaeology is the science that literally digs into those stories, not to prove their historicity as much as to lend insight into the flesh-and-blood people who were at their core. It is an exact science, requiring academic training as well as fieldwork, with specializations having developed in extremely minute fields of study.

Religions existing in cultures without written languages, such as those of Central and South America and the prehistoric cultures of Europe, would be completely unknown without the science of archaeology.

Cutting-edge science and religion are often perceived to be at odds. But there is no question that, on purely philosophical grounds, both share a common goal. Through different disciplines, both search for truth.

The Religion Book: Places, Prophets, Saints, and Seers © 2004 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the scholarly discipline that studies mankind’s historical past from material sources. Material sources are the tools of production and the material goods created with them: structures, weapons, decorations, pottery, and works of art—everything that results from the labor of man. Material sources, unlike written sources, contain no direct narrative of historical events, and thus the conclusions based on them result from scholarly reconstruction. The marked distinctiveness of material sources has necessitated their study by archaeological specialists, who conduct excavations of archaeological remains, study and publish the findings and results of their excavations, and reconstruct on the basis of this data man’s historical past. Archaeology is particularly important in studying those eras during which no written languages existed at all and in studying the history of those peoples who had no written language even at a later historical time.

Archaeology has expanded the space and time horizons of history to an extraordinary degree. Writing has existed for about 5,000 years, and the entire preceding period of mankind’s history (by the most recent data, nearly 2 million years) has become known only through the development of archaeology. Even the written sources from the first 2,000 years of their existence (Egyptian hieroglyphics, Greek linear scripts, Babylonian cuneiforms) were discovered for scholars by archaeologists. Archaeology is also valuable for studying ancient and medieval history, since the information drawn from the study of material sources substantially supplements the data of written sources.

The theoretical basis of historical reconstruction from archaeological data is the historical materialist principle according to which there is a naturally determined relationship between material culture and socioeconomic life at every level of society’s development. Marxist scholars made this principle the foundation of their studies. Investigators who deny the regularity of historical processes believe it impossible to reconstruct history on the basis of archaeological data, which they consider only a summary of facts that give no general picture.

Archaeology has its own special research methods. The most important is the stratigraphic method—observation of the succession of cultural levels deposited as a result of man’s prolonged habitation at a given area—and the establishment of chronological correlation of these strata. Objects obtained from archaeological excavations are classified according to the object’s purpose and its time and place of manufacture. The purpose and function of an implement are determined by studying the traces of work on it. Typology is used for chronological classification. Archaeology not only uses its own methods but borrows some from other sciences—for example, the dating of organic remains by their content of radioactive carbon 14C, the establishment of relative and absolute dates from annual rings of wood found in archaeological remains, the establishment of the absolute age of burnt clay articles by measuring their vestigial magnetization, and different geological methods of dating such as by deposits of ribbon clay.

Spectral analysis, metallography, technical petrography, and other methods are used to study ancient objects and the means of their production.

In order to establish the relationship between the social phenomena of the past and geographical factors, it is essential to learn man’s natural environment in antiquity. Pollen analysis, which helps trace the evolution of vegetation and, at the same time, the evolution of climate in a given area, is used for this purpose. Thus, archaeology is related to paleo-climatology. Archaeological study is also aided by data obtained during excavations on ancient cultivated plants (paleobotany) and fauna (paleozoology). Archaeologists extract remains of ancient people, which permits paleoan-thropologists to give an idea of the life and type of man in bygone eras and the changes he underwent under the influence of various social and natural conditions.

Since much archaeological material consists of a large number of discoveries, mathematical statistical methods are of great significance in archaeology.

Archaeology is closely linked with the natural sciences not only by the use of their methods but also because it enlists their conclusions in interpreting archaeological data and itself provides the natural sciences with valuable materials. However, archaeology is linked even more closely with the social sciences of which it is a branch: with history, ethnology, art history, sociology, and also the so-called “auxiliary historical disciplines”—epigraphy (the science of inscriptions on stone, metal, clay, and wood), numismatics (the science of coins), sphragistics (the science of seals), and heraldry (the science of coats of arms). Archaeology, being a self-contained science in its research methods, has attained a high degree of specialization. As early as the 19th century, four branches of archaeology existed as individual units: classical archaeology, which studies the written period of ancient Greek and Roman history; Eastern archaeology; medieval archaeology; and prehistoric archaeology. Individual specialists study the Paleolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic eras, the Bronze Age, and the early Iron Age. There are also other areas of specialization based on ethnic characteristics and individual countries.

History. The term “archaeology” was first used in the fourth century B.C. by Plato, to refer to the science of antiquities in the broadest sense of the word. However, for a long time afterward, and to some extent to this day, the term has had different meanings in different countries. By the 18th century, people were using the word to designate the history of ancient art. When all the remains of antiquity and not just the artistic began to attract the attention of science in the 19th century, the modern concept of archaeology gradually began to form. Nevertheless, in some bourgeois countries archaeology to this day as before studies the art of the ancient world, while art history is forced, under these circumstances, to restrict itself to the Middle Ages and modern times. Sometimes archaeology is understood to mean the study of the sources of art history, which is also erroneous.

The rudiments of archaeology were already evident in antiquity. The Babylonian king Nabonidus conducted excavations in the sixth century B.C. in the interests of historical knowledge. He was particularly seeking inscriptions of ancient rulers in the foundations of buildings and carefully noted his finds or lack of them. In ancient Rome, the conscientious study of antiquities led to a scheme of development of material culture, which was expressed by the great poet and thinker Lucretius. By the first century B.C., he already knew that the Stone Age was replaced by the Bronze Age, which gave way to the Iron Age; in this respect he was ahead of many archaeologists of the 19th century.

All archaeological investigation ceased at the start of the Middle Ages. In the 15th- 16th centuries, during the Renaissance, numerous excavations were conducted in Italy, the only purpose of which was to obtain classical sculptures. In the 18th century, as collecting developed among the nobility, antiquarians in a number of countries began to gather individual archaeological discoveries. Shortly thereafter, the first experiments were made in some countries to conduct excavations with scientific goals.

With the development of bourgeois historical science after the Great French Revolution (end of the 18th century), archaeology also began to develop rapidly. Of particular significance in its development were the excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum (near Naples). These cities were buried under volcanic ash in 79 A.D. Excavations began there in the early 18th century and acquired a scientific character toward the end of the century when Naples was occupied by the forces of the First French Republic. Leading figures of the French bourgeois revolution and Napoleonic wars were particularly interested in antiquity, and this interest, together with the striving for precise knowledge typical of this period, led to the organization of systematic Pompeiian excavations. Here scholars learned of what interest modest everyday utensils can be to historical knowledge. The Pompeiian discoveries attracted universal attention to the antiquities of everyday life, and not only from the classical era but also from other periods.

In the first half of the 19th century, archaeological excavations led to the discovery of the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt. But, because of the old tradition, attention in these excavations was focused for a long time on works of art and written historical sources.

As early as the start of the 19th century, prehistoric antiquities in all countries were considered to be unknowable, since their chronological separation was considered an impossible task. But this obstacle was successfully overcome when interest in antiquity grew in connection with the efforts of sociologists to study the origins of human society. The hypothesis of three ages—Stone, Bronze, and Iron—played a large role in establishing this chronology. It was expressed in the 18th and early 19th centuries by various writers, including A. N. Radishchev in Russia. The Danish archaeologist C. Thomsen put it into concrete form through archaeological material for the first time in 1836. The classification was confirmed and developed by another Danish archaeologist, J. Worsaae.

The work of the French scientist E. Lartet was of great significance in the development of prehistoric archaeology. Studying the caves of southwest France from 1837, he established the chronology of their deposits and proved that the man who made the earliest stone implements was a contemporary of the mammoth and other extinct animals. The spread of Darwinism starting in 1859, the year of publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species, brought universal recognition to Lartet’s conclusions and laid a scientific foundation for the searches for the remains of prehistoric man, which began to develop at this time. The French archaeologist G. Mortill-et, an active participant in the Revolution of 1848, was a confirmed Darwinist; between 1869 and 1883 he established the chronological classification of prehistoric artifacts on the basis of the evolutionary theory. He closely associated the study of prehistoric man with the destruction of Biblical legends and church ideology. He determined all the main eras of the ancient Stone Age and gave them the names Abbevillian (Chellean), Acheulean, Mousterian, and others, which are used in science to this day. In 1865 the English archaeologist and ethnologist J. Lubbock for the first time proposed to divide the Stone Age into two eras: the Paleolithic, or Old Stone Age, and the Neolithic, or New Stone Age. For a long time, no link could be established between the Paleolithic and Neolithic. For this reason, scholars spoke of the “inexplicable break.” At the end of the 19th century, the French archaeologist E. Piette established this link by discovering the transitional period—the Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age).

The Swedish archaeologist O. Montelius greatly influenced the development of archaeology in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He classified ancient articles according to types. (A type is the totality of objects that are similar in form; archaeologists now know tens of thousands of types.) In turn, he connected the types into typological evolutionary series, tracing by means of careful analysis of details gradual changes of forms. He checked the accuracy of the series so constructed from the discoveries. Thus, the evolution of axes, swords, vessels, and other objects were mutually checked by their common occurrence in burial sites; early axes were encountered with early swords, later axes with later swords, and so forth. The main shortcoming in his method was the study of things in their own developmental process and outside the social environment that created them. Montelius proceeded from the erroneous premise that things develop by the same laws as living organisms. He established numerous archaeological dates, primarily for the Bronze and early Iron ages. Montelius’ successor, the French archaeologist J. Dé-chelette, published a cumulative descriptive work on the archaeology of Western Europe in the early 20th century. He based the work on the archaeology of France, beginning with the Paleolithic but devoting particular attention to the early Iron Age. He recreated the life of the early Gauls on the basis of a careful study of innumerable small discoveries. In the early 20th century, the English archaeologist A. Evans filled in the gaps between prehistoric and classical antiquities. His excavations on Crete revealed an advanced Bronze Age civilization which had regular dealings with Egypt and Asia, thus making it possible to determine the period of Cretan antiquities. The Cretan articles found later in Europe served as the best basis for European archaeological chronology.

Among the concepts on which the theoretical propositions of modern archaeology are based, one must note the concept of the archaeological culture, which appeared in the first half of the 20th century. Mapping the cultural elements of human groups existing simultaneously on different territories, European archaeologists concluded that the differences revealed thereby were connected with ethnic, social, or economic communities and that frequently ancient tribes and peoples were hidden behind the archaeological cultures they created. This led to attempts to study the origins of people from archaeological data in addition to other sources.

The means by which different cultural phenomena spread is an important scientific problem. The development of archaeological cartography as a scientific method played an important role in the study of this problem. The creation of chronological schemes and the transition from data of relative chronology to absolute chronology is a complex task of archaeology.

Great archaeological discoveries were made in the 19th and 20th centuries in the Mediterranean area and in the Near East. In Greece, excavations were conducted in Athens, Sparta, and other cities, and celebrated Panhellenic sanctuaries were uncovered in Delphi and Olympia. In Italy, in addition to Herculaneum and Pompeii, large excavations were conducted in Rome and Ostia. Excavations in Pompeii particularly expanded after Italy’s reunification in 1860. At that time, they were directed by G. Fiorelli, a participant in the Italian liberation movement. He created methods of reconstructing unpreserved or partially preserved structures and objects. Under Fiorelli, the excavations of Pompeii became a school for archaeologists of all countries. In Asia Minor, the important Ionian centers of Miletus and Ephesus and the Hellenistic cities of Priene and Pergamum were excavated, and in Syria, Heliopolis, Palmyra, and many other cities were excavated.

Of particularly great scientific value was the discovery of a Bronze Age culture in the Aegean world during the second millennium B.C. and the excavations of Cnossus by A. Evans on the island of Crete and of Troy in Asia Minor. The Hittite culture was discovered in Asia Minor and their capital excavated in Boghaz Köi near Ankara by H. Winckler. Explorations in Phoenicia, Syria, and Egypt uncovered the thousand-year cultures of these countries, which went as far back as the Neolithic. Excavations in Susa and Persepolis yielded abundant material on the culture of ancient Iran, and excavations in Mesopotamia uncovered the Assyrian cities of Dur-Sharrukin, Nineveh, and others. Babylon and Ashur were excavated. The Sumerian civilization, the most ancient in the world, and its centers of Ur and Lagash were discovered. Explorations in the East gradually covered vast territories, and the ancient cultures of China and India were studied. In the western hemisphere, archaeologists concentrated their attention on the study of the remains of pre-Columbian America: the Aztecs in Mexico, the Mayans in Central America, the Incas in Peru, and other civilizations.

Science made great strides in the study of the early Iron Age, the late classical era, and the Middle Ages in Europe. The discovery of the Hallstatt culture, the La Tene culture, and later the Luzhitsa culture introduced scientists to the life of the tribes and peoples of the Iron Age. The study of European Roman provinces led to the discovery of remnants of the culture of the barbaric tribes. Medieval cities and their architectural monuments and works of art were investigated. Slavic archaeology achieved great successes. In the 20th century the Czech archaeologist L. Niederle published a gigantic collection of Slavic antiquities proving, by numerous arguments, the unity of ancient Slavic culture. The most prominent archaeologist of the 20th century was the English scholar G. Childe. He compiled the first complete classification of ancient European and Asian cultures and studied the socioeconomic structure of primitive society. In this respect, he was under the direct influence of Soviet archaeology.

Archaeology in prerevolutionary Russia and the USSR. Peter I demonstrated great interest in excavated antiquities in Russia. In two ukases of 1718, he ordered that “old signatures ... old ... weaponry, pottery, and everything else that is very old and unusual . . . found on land, or in water” be collected. “Where these are found,” he wrote, “all are to make drawings as soon as they are found.” The well-known historian V. N. Tatishchev engaged in archaeology and, in 1739, published one of the world’s first books of instructions for archaeological excavations. Interest in classical antiquities grew in Russia particularly in the second half of the 18th century, when the Southern Black Sea coast, rich in discoveries of classical artifacts, became part of the Russian state. The first large scientific excavations of a Scythian barrow were conducted in 1763 by General A. P. Mel’gunov, and exploration of ancient Greek cities in the Crimea was begun at the end of the 18th century by P. I. Sumarokov.

The study of classical antiquities soon achieved brilliant successes. I. A. Stempkovskii began a systematic archaeological exploration of ancient Greek cities on the territory of the ancient Bosporus state in the region of Kerch. Under his direction, the Scythian barrow of Kul’-Oba was uncovered in 1830 near Kerch, and science first became acquainted with the masterpieces of classical jewelry art.

Slavic-Russian archaeology began to develop almost simultaneously with classical archaeology. The national enthusiasm that followed the Patriotic War of 1812 brought increased interest in national history and encouraged the active search for new sources on the history of Ancient Rus’. At first, the objective was written sources, but it was K. F. Kalaidovich, the discoverer of many ancient manuscripts, who introduced excavated Russian antiquities into science. He published and quite accurately commented on the treasure of gold objects found in Staraia Riazan’ in 1822. He also gave the first scientific characterization of Russian sites of ancient fortified towns (gorodishcha). The extraordinary wealth of ancient fortified townsites and barrows in Russia was first noted and evaluated by Z. Ia. Khodakovskii in the 1820’s. The first excavations of Slavic barrows in the Moscow region were methodically and correctly conducted in 1838 by A. D. Chertkov. A state body, the Archaeological Commission, was established in 1859 to direct archaeology. Public organizations—archaeological societies and provincial archival commissions—played a large role in the development of archaeology. The most important were the Russian Archaeological Society and the Moscow Archaeological Society. The latter initiated the organization of periodic all-Russian archaeological conferences. In the early 19th century, a number of archaeological museums were established; they included collections of antiquities and subsequently carried out excavations. One of the most important centers of archaeological activity in Russia was the State Historical Museum in Moscow, which was created in 1883. Large collections of archaeological materials are housed in the State Hermitage (Leningrad), the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts (Moscow), and other museums. I. E. Zabelin was the leading 19th-century figure in Slavic and Russian archaeology. He used the fine collections of the Armory (Moscow) to establish the history of everyday life in Ancient Rus’. Zabelin also did much for classical archaeology and developed scientific methods of excavating large barrows, demonstrating how many important conclusions can be made from observations of the strata of mounds. In 1863 he excavated the richest of the Scythian barrows, Chertomlyk, on the lower Dnieper River; in 1864 he excavated the richest barrows of the classical era—Bliznitsa Bol’shaia at Taman’. A comprehensive chronological classification of the antiquities of Southern Russian barrows was compiled by D. Ia. Samokvasov, who in 1873 excavated the richest of the Slavic-Russian barrows—Chernaia Mogila in Chernigov.

The eminent geographer, anthropologist, ethnologist, and archaeologist D. N. Anuchin exerted a fruitful influence on the development of Russian archaeology. In his works of the late 19th century on bows and arrows and accessories of the burial ritual, he became the first scientist in Europe to successfully demonstrate, on the basis of archaeological materials, the uniformity of cultural development of various peoples.

V. A. Gorodtsov was one of the founders of prehistoric archaeology in Russia. He accomplished much work on the study of the Bronze Age and its chronological sequence and was the first to prove its existence in Eastern Europe.

B. V. Farmakovskii raised the study of cities of the classical era to a higher level; in the early 20th century he conducted extensive excavations of the Greek city of Olbia. His original and complex methodology of excavation made it possible to ascertain the city’s appearance and borders over the course of many eras.

Middle Asia with its ancient cities became part of the Russian Empire between the 1860’s and 1880’s. In remote antiquity these cities were centers of civilization and in the Middle Ages, the most cultured in the world. Excavations here are complex and difficult. N.I. Veselovskii conducted successful archaeological surveys in Middle Asia in 1885, discovering cities of Eastern Hellenistic kingdoms. He also managed to resolve the dispute, which had lasted more than a century, on the dating of the kamennye baby (stone human figures); he proved that these statues, which were widespread in Eastern Europe and Siberia, belonged to Turkic nomads. The archaeology of Samarkand, one of the most important ancient cultural centers in the world, was established in the early 20th century by the long-term work of V. L. Viatkin. He excavated the dwelling strata of medieval times and studied their chronology; he also studied strata from the classical era. In 1908 he excavated the 15th-century astronomical observatory of Ulug Beg near Samarkand. N. Ia. Marr conducted archaeological work in the Trans-caucasus, excavating the city of Ani—the capital of medieval Armenia—in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The investigation of Slavic-Russian barrows was particularly intense at the end of the 19th century. L. K. Ivanovskii conducted excavations of 5,877 barrows of the Novgorod lands. He was the first to successfully combine large-scale excavations with a methodological approach, and for this reason his materials subsequently became the basis for the Russian chronology of barrows. The extremely valuable tenth-century barrows of the Russian warriors-bodyguards (druzhinniki), who formed the basis of the feudal class of Ancient Rus’, are situated near Smolensk at the village of Gnezdovo. The main researcher of these barrows was V. I. Sizov, who uncovered a rich central princely barrow with Slavic implements in 1885; through his findings, he refuted the conjectures of Russian and foreign advocates of the Norsemen theory of the origin of Ancient Rus’ (Nor-manists). Sizov also succeeded in determining the earliest Slavic barrows—the so-called “long” barrows. He was the first Russian archaeologist to show the chronological significance of the evolution of types of ancient artifacts (for example, the women’s hair rings with seven blades from the barrows of the Viatichi). He linked the study of the drawings of ancient Russian manuscripts to archaeology. A. A. Spi-tsyn traced the settlement of ancient Russian tribes from materials obtained from barrows; his conclusions coincided with and in many respects supplemented the information given in chronicles. Spitsyn occupies a special place in Russian science. He published and classified the greatest number of antiquities, both primitive and medieval. The archaeological study of Ancient Rus’ showed, for the first time in the world, what valuable results could be obtained from excavations of medieval antiquities.

The prominent representatives of prerevolutionary Russian archaeology belonged, for the most part, to the progressive representatives of bourgeois science. However, they were not and did not consider themselves to be historians; they considered archaeology as either a natural science or a so-called artistic science.

In the USSR, archaeology has developed on the firm basis of Marxism-Leninism. Marx wrote as follows on the significance of archaeology as a historical science: “The remains of instruments of labor have the same importance for the study of vanished socioeconomic formations as the structure of skeletal remains has for the study of the organization of vanished animal species. . . . The means of labor are not only a measure of the development of human working power, but also an index of the social relations under which labor is carried out” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 23, p. 191). The methodology of historical materialism is the theoretical basis of Soviet archaeology. The productive forces of ancient societies are studied by means of excavated implements of labor and other remains of material culture. Soviet archaeologists attempt, for any given era under study in any area, to trace social relations and ascertain the concrete variants of the development of primitive communal, slave-holding, and feudal systems. Thus, Soviet archaeology studies the basic laws of social development.

Studying socioeconomic development, Soviet archaeologists ascertained through a great number of concrete examples for all eras and many areas the true causes of great and small changes in material culture. During this study, it was established that the phenomena of culture, including material culture, develop in different areas according to general laws and, as a consequence, acquire features of formal similarity. Bourgeois scientists explain such similarity by means of migration or borrowings; however, the similarity is socially conditioned. Soviet archaeology, while denying neither migration nor borrowings, believes that these processes are socially conditioned and are not the motivating force of the historical process nor its basic content.

Archaeological work in the USSR is organized on a state scale and carried out in a planned manner in the interests of historical science. As early as 1919, a decree signed by V. I. Lenin created the Academy of the History of Material Culture—the leading archaeological research institution. In 1937 the academy was transformed into the Institute of the History of Material Culture of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, which in 1959 was renamed the Institute of Archaeology of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. The academies of sciences of the Union republics have archaeological institutes or sectors. More than 500 museums in all oblasts and republics have archaeological divisions. Museum workers conduct archaeological studies, the materials of which are used for political-instructive work. In accordance with the resolution of Oct. 14, 1948, of the Council of Ministers of the USSR, archaeological excavations are only conducted on the basis of full authorization documents (otkrytyi list) by the Academy of Sciences of the USSR and the academies of sciences of the Union republics. Arbitrary excavations are prohibited, since they inflict irreparable damage to science. The structures and objects obtained by unqualified excavators essentially perish as far as science is concerned. Much exploration in Soviet archaeology is involved with large new construction projects. In the USSR construction organizations supply special means for excavating ancient settlements and burials, which are subject to destruction or flooding during the process of construction. The state is the owner of all discovered antiquities and transfers them to scholarly institutions and museums.

Soviet archaeologists are trained at archaeological divisions or subdepartments of historical departments of many universities, including the Universities of Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev, Tashkent, Ashkhabad, Tbilisi, Baku, Yerevan, Kazan, Saratov, Perm’, Sverdlovsk, Odessa, Kharkov, Samarkand, and Tartu.

The scope and quantity of archaeological expeditions conducted every year has grown immeasurably. They are organized not only by institutes of archaeology, but also by museums. The plans of these expeditions are closely bound up with the tasks set forth by Soviet historical science.

Soviet archaeologists have traced the ancient history of the USSR from the first appearance of man on its territory. The Paleolithic era is represented by a large number of remains uncovered during the Soviet period, including some in places where the Paleolithic was not previously known, such as in Byelorussia, the Urals, Yakutia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenia, and Armenia. The most ancient campsites in the USSR have been found in Armenia. For the first time, Paleolithic dwellings have been discovered and investigated; the fact that the population was already a settled one in the rather remote Mousterian era has been established. The discovery of Paleolithic figurines, of which there are more in the USSR than in all the other countries of Europe, drawings, and ornaments revealed ancient art to science. The discovery of Paleolithic paintings in the Kapovaia cave in the Urals showed that this art existed not only in southern France and northern Spain, as was previously believed. The study of implements of labor made it possible to trace the evolution of technology and to reconstruct the labor processes of primitive man. The works of S. A. Semenov on prehistoric technology are valuable in this area. The most important discoveries and studies of Paleolithic remains have been made by P. I. Boriskovskii, S. N. Zamiatnin, K. M. Polikarpovich, A. P. Okladnikov, and G. K. Nioradze. The first generalizing Marxist work by P. P. Efimenko, Prehistoric Society (3rd ed., published in 1953), is of great importance for the development of the Soviet science of the Paleolithic.

Remains of the Mesolithic, the transitional era to the Neolithic, have been barely studied because of the specific conditions under which they were deposited in many countries. In the Soviet Union much work has been done on the Mesolithic, especially by M. V. Voevodskii and A. A. For-mozov.

The history of the Neolithic tribes of the European USSR has been studied by A. Ia. Briusov, M. E. Foss, and N. N. Gurina. The most important discoveries in the prehistoric archaeology of Siberia, the Far East, and Middle Asia have been made by A. P. Okladnikov. In Middle Asia, investigation of the settlements of the earliest agriculturalists, which is also important for the proper understanding of the civilization of the ancient East, were carried out by V. M. Masson. In the southeastern European part of the USSR, the culture of the earliest agricultural tribes, the Tripol’e culture, has been studied with extraordinary care and fullness by T. S. Passek through his comprehensive excavations of settlements.

The results of the study of the Bronze Age in Southern Siberia have been reported in the works of S. V. Kiselev. B. A. Kuftin and E. I. Krupnov have reported the results of studies of the Bronze Age in the Northern Caucasus and Transcaucasus. The works of A. A. lessen have been devoted to the earliest metallurgy of copper and bronze in the Caucasus.

The study of antiquity by Soviet archaeologists has provided valuable material for the characterization of the economy and culture of a slave-owning society. The academician S. A. Zhebelev, a prominent investigator of classical archaeology, has left a number of major research works on the history of states of the classical era in the southern USSR. V. D. Blavatskii has studied the ancient cities of the Black Sea coast and has written a number of important generalizing works on classical culture and art. Such specialists in Scythian-Sarmatian archaeology as B. N. Grakov, P. N. Shul’ts, and K. F. Smirnov have achieved important successes in the study of the ancient tribes of southern Eurasia. The remarkable Pazyryk barrows in the southern Altai Mountains were investigated by S. I. Rudenko. Soviet archaeologists, in contrast to prerevolutionary archaeologists, devote much attention not only to the applied arts of antiquity but to all forms of material production. V. F. Gaidukevich has done much work on the study of the Bosporus state. The methods of underwater archaeology are also used in the study of the classical remains of the northern Black Sea coast.

Representatives of Soviet Eastern archaeology have virtually studied anew a series of important ancient and medieval civilizations of the Caucasus, Middle Asia, and the Volga region. B. B. Piotrovskii has conducted research on ancient Transcaucasian fortresses. Since 1939 he has been excavating the city of Teishebaini in Armenia, where the most abundant materials on the agriculture, crafts, military affairs, and art of the ancient Eastern kingdom of Urartu have been discovered. Piotrovskii wrote the history of Urartu using the archaeological data.

Armenian archaeologists have been successfully excavating another Urartic fortress, Arin-berd (K. L. Oganesian), since 1950. B. N. Arakelian is conducting excavations of the fortress of Garni; this provides rich material on the development of local Armenian culture and on its ties with classical civilizations. The excavations by I. A. Dzha-vakhishvili, S. N. Dzhanashia, and other Georgian archaeologists near Mtskheta have provided extremely important material for the recreation of Georgian history. In Azerbaijan, vast archaeological materials have been obtained from excavations of burial grounds and sites of fortified towns near Mingechaur (S. M. Kaznev). The results of excavations of medieval Transcaucasian cities have been interesting: Dvin in Armenia, Dmanisi in Georgia, and Gandzha and Bailakan in Azerbaijan.

In Middle Asia and in the lower reaches of the Amu Darya, S. P. Tolstov discovered the civilization of ancient Khwarizm, a civilization completely new to science. Extensive excavations have been carried out in this area since 1938, and settlements of all periods from the Neolithic to the Middle Ages have been discovered. The first extensive application in the USSR of aerial surveying and airborne prospecting have contributed to the success of expeditions. In southern Turkmenistan, an expedition under the leadership of M. E. Masson is studying the archaeological monuments of the Parthian Kingdom. In Uzbekistan, the ancient site of the fortified town of Varakhsha is being studied, and the excavation of Afrasiab, a fortified town of ancient Samarkand, is being conducted. In Tadzhikistan, ancient Pendzhikent is being excavated. At all these sites, in addition to other discoveries, there have been remarkable discoveries of numerous fragments of paintings in houses and temples. A. N. Bernshtam has done extensive work on the study of Middle Asian nomadic societies. A. Iu. Iakubovskii ascertained the social topography of the most important Middle Asian medieval cities and established a close connection between the archaeology of Middle Asia and that of the Volga region. He proved that the Volga centers of the Golden Horde did not develop from a Mongolian cultural basis but rather from a Middle Asian culture. A. P. Smirnov systematically studied the northernmost Moslem state of the Middle Ages, Bulgaria on the Volga. He excavated the rival Bulgarian capitals of Bolgar and Suvar and traced, from archaeological materials, the state’s history. Smirnov elucidated the process of the development of a class society and characterized many crafts in detail.

The excavations of the Khazar fortress of Sarkel by M. I. Artamanov yielded interesting materials on the history of Khazar culture. Much research was done on Finno-Ugric tribes on the Volga and in the Urals and on the archaeology of the peoples of the Baltic by Kh. A. Moor. The works of Soviet archaeologists, which made it possible to write the socioeconomic history of a number of civilizations of the Caucasus, Middle Asia, and the Volga region for the first time, showed the true historical importance and high cultural level of these civilizations. The works of P. N. Tret’iakov, 1.1. Liapushkin, V. V. Sedov, and others are devoted to the extremely interesting and important subject of the origin and early culture of the eastern Slavs. Ancient Russian handicrafts are specially studied by a large group of scholars; major works have been written by B. A. Rybakov and B. A. Kolchin. B. A. Rybakov detailed the technical methods of ancient Russian artisans and the social organization of handicrafts and proved their high level of development. Archaeologists have conducted vast excavations of such ancient Russian cities as Novgorod (A. V. Artsikhovskii), Kiev (M. K. Karger), Vladimir (N. N. Voronin), Smolensk (D. A. Avdusin), Staraia Riazan’ (A. L. Mongait), Liubech (B. A. Rybakov), Bogoliubov (N. N. Voronin), Iziaslavl’ (M. K. Karger), and Moscow (M. G. Rabinovich and A. F. Duby-nin). Artisan workshops have been discovered everywhere, and it has been proven that Russian medieval cities, contrary to the opinion of previous historians, were not specifically commercial or administrative in nature but rather were, like the medieval cities of other countries of Europe and Asia, first and foremost artisan centers. Excavations in Novgorod were marked by the discovery of the remarkable Beresto deeds—an altogether new source for the history of the language and culture of Ancient Rus’. Discoveries have also been made in the area of ancient Russian monumental architecture: numerous remains of temples, defense structures, and other such remains have been excavated. A number of important studies by such archaeologists as K. Karger, A. D. Varganov, B. A. Rybakov, A. L. Mongait, and P. A. Rappoport have been devoted to these finds.

The establishment of the high level of development of the ancient Russian civilization, long underestimated by historians, must be considered the primary result of Soviet works on Slavic-Russian archaeology, which have yielded much new material for the characterization of the feudal economy. Up to the Mongol invasion, Rus’ was one of the advanced countries of Europe, and material historical sources prove this convincingly.

Soviet historians rely extensively on archaeological materials in their works. The synthesis of various kinds of historical sources has become a characteristic feature of Soviet historical science.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


, archeology
the study of man's past by scientific analysis of the material remains of his cultures
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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