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Craniology and the Adoption of the Three-Age System in Britain

  • Michael A. Morse (a1)
Abstract

The development of the three-age system in Scandinavia has been of great interest to historians of archaeology, but the system's spread to the British Isles has received little attention, leaving a false impression that its importance has always derived from the revolutionary methodology of C.J. Thomsen. It was not Thomsen's method of putting artefacts in a chronological series, however, that first appealed to British researchers in the mid 19th century. Instead, early British researchers, working mainly in the science of ethnology, used the system to establish a sequence of races for Britain's past based on cranial types. This initial use of the three-age system as a means of creating a racial sequence left a mark on British archaeology that outlasted even the craniological ethnology that formed its first scholarly context.

Le développement du système des trois âges en Scandinvie a suscité l'intérêt des historiens de l'archéologie, mais l'extension du système aux îles britanniques n'a reçu que peu d'attention, donnant la fausse impression que son importance était toujours venue de la méthodologie révolutionnaire de C.J.Thomsen. Ce n'est cependant pas la méthode de Thomsen de classer les objets fabriqués en une serie chronologique qui a attiré les chercheurs britanniques en premier lieu au milieu du 19ème siècle. A la place, les premiers chercheurs britanniques, qui travaillaient surtout dans le domaine de l'ethnologie, ont utilisé le système pour établir une séquence de races pour le passé de la Grande-Bretagne basée sur les types crâniens. Cette utilisation initiale du système des trois âges comme moyen d'établir une séquence raciale a laissé sa marque sur l'archéologie britannique et a même survécu à l'ethnologie des crânes qui avait constitué son premier contexte érudit.

Obwohl die Entwicklung des Drei-Perioden-Systems in Skandinavien für die Historiker der Archäologie von großem Interesse gewesen ist, hat die Verbreitung des Systems auf den Britischen Inseln wenig Aufmerksamkeit gefunden, und dabei sogar den falschen Eindruck hinterlassen, dass seine Bedeutung immer nur von der revolutionären Methodologie von C.J. Thomsen herrührt. Es war nicht die Methode Thomsens, Artefakte in eine chronologische Reihe zu bringen, die britische Forscher in der Mitte des 19. Jahrhunderts für sich einnahm. Vielmehr benutzten britische Forscher, die hauptsächlich in der Ethnologie arbeiteten, das System, um eine Abfolge von Rassen auf der Grundlage von Schädeltypen für Großbritanniens Vergangenheit zu erstellen. Dieser anfängliche Gebrauch des Drei-Perioden-Systems zur Aufstellung einer rassischen Sequenz hat tiefe Spuren in der britischen Archäologie hinterlassen, die sogar die kraniologische Ethnologie, die deren ersten wissenschaft¬lichen Kontext formte, überdauert hat.

El desarrolo del Sistema de las Tres Edades en Escandinavia ha sido de gran interés para los historiadores de la arqueología, pero la divulgación del sistema a las Islas Británicas ha recibido poca atención, creando la falsa impresión de que su importancia se deriva de la metodología revolucionaria empleada por C.J. Thomsen. Sin embargo, no fue el método de Thomsen para poner los artefactos en orden cronológico lo que atrajo inicialmente a los investigadores británicos de mitad del siglo diecinueve. Más bien, los investigadores británicos, que trabajaban principalmente en el campo de la ciencia etnológica, usaron el sistema para establecer una secuencia de razas en el pasado de Gran Bretaña basada en tipos de cráneo. El uso inicial del Sistema de las Tres Edades como un medio para crear una secuencia racial dejó una marca en la arqueología británica que sobrevivió incluso la etnología craneal que constituyó su primer contexto académico.

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Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society
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