|"Irish Bill-hooks"from Pitt-Rivers' publication of excavations at Mount Caburn, 1881|
Tuesday 19 April. The Typological Method: Mimesis and Prophecy from Stockholm to Wiltshire. Departmental seminar, Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Uppsala University
Wednesday 20 April. The Typological Method: Mimesis and Prophecy from Stockholm to Wiltshire. Departmental seminar, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies, Stockholm University
The Typological Method: Mimesis and Prophecy from Stockholm to Wiltshire (Dan Hicks)
This paper puts 19th-century archaeological thinking about time and change into conversation with current questions about how we think about time in historical and contemporary archaeology. It begins with considering Pitt-Rivers' contention, in his classic statement on "the evolution of culture", that "there is nothing but unbroken continuity to be seen in the present and in the past" (Lane Fox 1875). Re-visiting Pitt-Rivers' 1891 lecture "Typological Museums", the paper aims to trace an unexplored and unexpected dimension of the Begriffsgeschichte of the development of the idea of "typology" in archaeology, and its significance today.
The conventional account is well known, running from Hildebrand (1873) and Montelius (1903) forwards, via Flinders Petrie to the linear historiographies of typological seriation that were relied upon first as data by the culture-historical archaeology, and then as theory by the social evolutionary archaeology. Taking a different path, this paper moves sideways and backwards from Pitt-Rivers' vision of the educational museum "in which the visitors may instruct themselves", in contrast with "a museum of reference", "of research", for "savants", of which the British Museum, little more than a "large store of antiquities", was his preferred example. In this other kind of museum, where "casts, reproductions, and models are preferable", and where sequences are displayed sometimes where "there is actual evidence of the dates" but mostly by series created from type, Pitt-Rivers vision of archaeological typology can be retraced as a distinctive form of mimetic practice, of temporal thinking and of archaeological interpretation and exegesis.
Travelling from numismatics, to Evangelical figuralism, to the idea of ethnographic analogy, to the idea of morphological type in comparative philology and the anthropology of race, unexpected parallels emerge: between the Oxford Movement and Oxford's Museums, Pre-Raphaelitism and Lubbock's Pre-Historic Times, between geological time-consciousness and Victorian self-consciousness, between Kitto’s Pictorial Bible and Shelley's Hellas, and even between "object lessons" and biblical prophecy,
In Stockholm, we may possibly be right to suggest that in 19th-century archaeology ‘typology was the archaeological equivalent of evolution’ (Lucas 2001: 80). But in Wiltshire things were more involved. In Pitt-Rivers' practical commitment (following Max Müller) to relocating the study of human culture and "the arts of life" within the field of science (alongside "the works of God") rather than history (which studies only "the works of man"), a distinctive theory of archaeological time emerged. The paper argues that there was another dimension to the typological method within "the evolution of culture" - one concerned with mimesis, with prophecy, and with "Object Lessons".
Building on a line of argument developed by Laurent Olivier (2011), the fragments of this alternative past of the idea of typology represent today fragments with which we might reconstitute aspects of a Victorian theory of the archaeological present. This theory was concerned with survival, with reflection, with secular knowledge of the non-biblical past, and it imagined archaeology to be a prefigurative technique, grounded in the conceit of "unbroken continuity" through which "The coming age is shadowed on the Past / As on a glass".
The paper concludes by considering what all this might mean for how we think about Contemporary Archaeology - and how we do it.
Hildebrand, H. 1873. Den vetenskapliga fornforskningen, hennes uppgift, behof och rätt. Stockholm.
Lane Fox, A.H. 1875. The Evolution of Culture. Journal of the Royal Institution 7: 357-389.
Lucas, G. 2001. Critical Approaches to Fieldwork. London: Routledge.
Montelius, O. 1903. Die typologische Methode. Stockholm : Im Selbstverlag des Verfassers.
Olivier, L. 2011. The Dark Abyss of Time (trans. A. Greenspan). Lanham: Altamira.
Pitt-Rivers, A.H.L.F. Typological Museums, as exemplified by the Pitt Rivers Museum at Oxford, and his provincial museum at Farnham, Dorset. Journal of the Society of Arts 40: 115-122.