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Archaeology as a Science

  • David Randall–MacIver

Archaeology, like anthropology, is a very young science, and like anthropology it has grown at a most astonishing rate. In the true sense it is scarcely a hundred years old, for its birth may be placed about the middle of the last century, unless we are willing to give a rather artificial value to that false dawn which came with the occupation of Egypt by Napoleon. I should rather prefer to say that it begins just about 1850. Layard was excavating at Nineveh in 1845. Boucher de Perthes published his first work on stone implements in 1841; and the entire theory was made known in England in 1858, in the same year that Darwin and Wallace read ‘On the Origin of Species’. Keller's work on lake-dwellings appeared in 1854. Lartet and Christy were doing their chief work in 1861,a nd Pigorini from 1862 onwards. Schliemann's excavations of Troy began in 1870.

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[Dr Randall-MacIver's presidential address on ‘The Place of Archaeology as a Science’, read to Section H of the British Association at York in 1931, is so important and of such general interest that we sought his permission to print an abstract. The Address, which presents in a very acceptable way the scientific aspects of Archaeology, deserves to be widely read and it is hoped that through our pages it will reach many who would not otherwise see it, even though it has, owing to the length of the complete text, to be given in an abbreviated form. The full address is published in ‘The Progress of Science’ and also in the Report of the British Association for 1932, pp. 147–68. In NATURE, 24 September, 1932, is a fuller version of the ‘Canons of Archaeological Theory’ than we have been able to print here, and in its issue for 10 September, is a discussion by a noted authority on some aspects of public policy put forward by Dr Randall-MacIver.—Editor.]

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  • ISSN: 0003-598X
  • EISSN: 1745-1744
  • URL: /core/journals/antiquity
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