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The Relationship between History and

Archaeology: Elements of the

Present Debate
Institute ofArchaeology and Ethnology, Warsaw

A EUROPEAN perspective to the current debate on the nature ojarchaeology and its relationship
with history is given. Whilst some oj the concepts are complex, it is important that medieval
archaeology recognizes its importance as afield ojresearch likely toyield valuable insights into the
nature ojarchaeological data, the ways in which inftrences about the past can be drawn, and the
similarities and differences between archaeology, anthropology and history.

Historical cogmtIOn is situated between that which is material - tangible

objects - and that which is non-material - traditions, texts. 1 The relationships
between the disciplines of archaeology, history, and both social and cultural
anthropology are therefore crucial. New elements in these relationships are now
appearing which have an influence on the manner ofunderstanding and approach to
this problem. This article is concerned with the discussion of some of these. 2


The relationship between these three disciplines is constantly undergoing

change, being a function of their historical development and changing research
aims. These formally distinct scientific disciplines, each possessing autonomous
academic status, are however characterized by a high degree ofoverlap and a mutual
dependence not often sufficiently appreciated. In reality, as Marc Bloch wrote, there
is only one 'science of man', 'of men in time'. 3 It would be more correct to discuss
here different methods of historical research within the various co-operating disciplines, all of which study the human past.
The mutual relationships between archaeology and history can be considered
on the basis of the links between each of them and anthropology. This seems to be a
realistic criterion of the distance or closeness of the cognitive perspectives of
archaeology and history.


Lewis Binford's postulate 'archaeology as anthropology'4 is only slightly

reflected in the practice of archaeology in the European tradition. Archaeology here
has not generally considered the need to make the dramatic choice between the
tradition of history as a study of events, and anthropology. Indeed, M. Godelier has
suggested that we are in the final stages of the mutual separation and opposition
between anthropology and history.s However, anthropology, perhaps more than
any other science of Man, involves the study and analysis of the processes and
mechanisms of social development and these interests are also visible in transformations now taking place in the historical disciplines.
'La nouvelle his toire', writes J acq ues Le Goff, 'having become sociological, has
tendencies to become ethnological'. 6 This statement applies not only to France, but
the French example seems particularly interesting. The history of behaviour,
attitudes and customs (which in the r8th century was known as 'l'histoire des
moeurs') seems, in the opinion of A. Burguiere, closely related to what we would
today term historical anthropology. In opposition to the history of events (that is a
history of that which is individual and unrepeatable), the history of customs is the
history of those elements (such as gestures, thoughts, ritual activities) which by their
nature are not individuaP Likewise, the history of institutions and political history
can be contrasted with standards ofcollective attitudes and behaviour. The question
arises whether this involves a broadening of the object of historical research or a
change in the approach to past reality.
As recently emphasized by A. Burguiere, we are witnessing a new stage in the
development of the historical thought. For nearly a century it has been seeking
inspiration and methods useful for its own renovation from other sciences of Man.
After geography, sociology, economy, and demography, attention has now turned to
anthropology.8 Anthropology is here considered in broad terms, both a science of
physical variability in Man, and a science ofsociety and culture. As a result, we see it
as the investigation ofa wide spectrum ofphenomena, examples ofwhich include the
relationship between biology and cultural behaviour, incorporating extra-economic
values in the sphere of economic behaviour;9 medieval consanguinity;lO or political
and cultural anthropology.ll
The influence of the anthropological approach is particularly visible in all these
cases - the objects of study become symbols, senses and meanings detectable in
various attributes of material culture. 12 This anthropological approach is not a
distinct and individual field of investigation; 13 it can be found in many disciplines,
not only archaeology but also history, anthropology, history of art.
A very significant analysis of the relationships between history and ethnology
has been made by C. Levi-Strauss:
Nous nous proposorts que la difference fondamentale entre les deux n'est ni d'object, ni
de but, ni de methode; mais qu'ayant Ie meme object, qui est la vie sociale; Ie meme but,
qui est une meilleure intelligence de l'homme; et une methode ou varie sculement
Ie dosage des procedes de recherche, elles se distinguent surtout parle choix de
perspectives complementaires: l'histoire organisant ses donnees par rapport aux
expressions conscientes, l'ethnologie par rapport aux conditions inconscientes, de la
vie sociale. 14


Even though in broadly conceived archaeology there are components of both

approaches, it is prehistoric archaeology, well described as 'Ie summum de I'ethnologie', which is especially close to social and cultural anthropology. IS Classical
archaeology, on the other hand, because of its close links with ancient history,
philology, and history of art, is closer to history. Medieval archaeology appears to
constitute an area of the mutual influence and overlap between both these
approaches. 16 While on one hand archaeological data is complemented by written
evidence, on the other we see strong links with ethnographic investigation. There
also occur together here (to a greater extent than in other branches of archaeology)
investigation of both idiographic components (usually considered as proper to
historical approach) and nomothetic ones, to which contemporary cultural
anthropology aspires. Social and cultural anthropology can constitute a practical
system of reference at various levels of the investigative process - from analysis
through interpretation to explanation and synthesis. 17 A second such system is
constituted by historiography and in particular by information derived from written

Archaeological sources provide as a rule information about certain relations,

states and situations (historische Zustiinde) formed during the historical process:
written sources also and first of all provide information about events (historische
Vorgiinge) ,18 In this sense documents such as acts and chronicles reflect aspects of
reality essentially different from those which we re-create on the basis of excavated
evidence. 19 The first, to use the terminology of Levi-Strauss, inform us about
unconscious conditions; the second about conscious manifestations of social life.
The formation of the archaeological sources (continuous, although not at a
constant rate in time and space) is a process ofcumulative deposition of things which
man creates, transforms, accumulates, and leaves behind. The preserved part of
these material correlates of human presence and activity become, upon their
progressive discovery, a source of information about the social past.
The creation of the written record, on the other hand (discontinuous and
evidently intermittent in time and space), is a process of making permanent
information with the intention ofits transmission to contemporaries and/or descendants. Thus in this manner the written record, where it is present, partially overlaps
with the potentially enormous and continuously generated mass of archaeological
The complementarity ofboth of these types ofsources appears especially clearly
in the framework ofthe archaeology ofliterate societies. An evident example of this is
in investigations of the origin and development of medieval European towns. 20 In
certain areas, as for example in central Europe, the decisive role is played by
archaeological sources, on the basis of which we can not only 'prolong history
backwards', but also recover new qualitative data which enrich the vision of the
subsequent stages of historical development. Archaeological sources allow us to go


beyond the frontier of 'the world with history'. They allow us to 'recognise the
structure and course of the creators of history, and of those to whom history was not
given'.21 This docs not refer only to those societies where the 'world without history'
was until quite recently not just an abstract assumption of investigators, but a real
component ofreality.22 The same applies to our vision of the European medieval
period, as a past which is close to us and indeed which, to a great degree, shapes our
present. 23 Students of the Middle Ages are becoming more and more aware of the
multiple aspects ofsocial and culturallife;24 it is a period of coexistence of the 'world
with history' alongside the broad social area with 'insufficient' or even a 'lack of
history'. The only available witnesses of their existence and role are the material
remains, those sometimes apparently insignificant 'lavori senza gloria',25 without
which the imposing monuments and urban complexes of the medieval European
landscape would not have been possible. Access to the significant information
contained in this buried and excavated material is in many cases especially difficult.
~ore archaeologists are now prepared to substitute the previously dominating
substantial approach with a structural one, 26 using a semiotic description of cultural
reality. This has given the impetus to new ways of conceptualizing archaeological
evidence. 27 In historiography, the change of perspective is expressed most suggestively by M. Foucault dealing with notions of ,document' and 'monument', and the
relationship between them both. 28 The traditional understanding of the document,
as Le Goff (commenting on Foucault) underlines, contains the concept 'docere', the
deliberate making permanent of information with the purpose of transmitting it to
someone else. The document is conceived as something which informs us of that
which concerns he who made it. In reality a document is defacto always a monument.
I t is something which shapes, and not what informs with a purpose 'impressionare'. 29
The interpretation of Le Goff allows us to understand more clearly the meaning of
Foucault when he writes that history today is that which transforms 'documents'
into 'monuments' and that which uncovers (where traces left by people are being
read) an ensemble of elements which should be distinguished, divided into groups,
evaluated, linked together, joined into entities. He also states that whilst archaeology gains sense only by reproduction of historical discourse, so now history is
tending towards archaeology towards the intrinsic description of the
monument. 3D
As a result of this 'transformation of documents into monuments' the historian
more often reaches for the 'informative structure of symptomatic character' by
which a superficial source information becomes an indicator of other deeper hidden
information. 3! On the other hand, we observe attempts especially by the adherents
of the school of symbolic-structural archaeology to demonstrate the previously not
fully observed richness and complexity of 'sign information structures', the vehicle
of which can also be objects of everyday use, a theme previously examined by
semiotic studies in art history.32
In conclusion, just as the historian transforms 'documents' into 'monuments',
the archaeologist does the opposite - 'monuments' appear to him as 'documents'.
So the scholars meet halfway, crossing the demarcation which until recently in the
consciousness of many researchers sharply divided archaeological and written


sources. This makes possible a more objective confrontation, not of the types of the
sources themselves, but of the information contained in them.

The shift to structuralist theoretical positions raises the questions how this may
influence the present view of the bipartite (or tripartite) division of culture. Here we
are interested in whether it is justifiable to separate material culture from the broad
notion of culture.
Those things made by man, and the activities connected with his material
existence, are the objects ofanalysis in archaeological research. 33 It is precisely here,
however, that doubts can arise. The separation of material culture from spiritual
culture is based on an arbitrary division of products and human activities, invoking
either materialist criteria or an assumption that the evidence of both kinds of
phenomena can be 'spatially' divisible and so can be assigned to separable spheres of
human activity. Beyond the researcher's view are, however, the constant multiplicity of structural interactions and interdependences which link elements of
material culture, and may create each time a specific configuration, often individually unrepeatable. It is perhaps no accident that successful attempts to incorporate
material culture in the model of an entire society have only been successfully
achieved by those whose competence and interests go far beyond the confines of a
narrowly defined history of material culture. 34
The division of culture into 'material' and 'spiritual', is thus shown to be
debatable. Moreover, the theoretical and practical implications of such a division in
some countries can legitimize the official structure of science as a specialist enclave
with an unsatisfactorily defined investigative profile. This division has already
provoked a negative reaction in Poland, where various scholars have produced
critiques. Stefan Czarnowski writes:
the interlocking of an action, i.e. a material and mental phenomenon, is in social life
more strong than in any other domain ... [and] this separation of material from spirit is
a methodologically useful abstraction, the result of which however requires a correction. An entire concrete fact is a complete entity, it is a material-spiritual one. 35

This is amplified by]. Szczepanski: 'there is no basic divide between the most
abstract ideas and the work of art and object of everyday use. 36 A. Kloskowska also
opts for the inseparability of material and spiritual culture, avoiding terminology
which separates the material from the abstract except where it is justified by
assumptions consciously approved by the authors. 37 The question arises whether in
the realization of the postulates formulated in historiography, to emphasize more the
material instrumentarium and conditions of social existence, the process has not
gone too far, bringing them from the sphere of methodology (where they arose) into
the ontological sphere. Has this not in some cases led to a excessive isolation of the
problems of material culture from other aspects of social life? An example is the
creation in Poland of a separate research institute and university specializations,
having the combined aims of educating archaeologists, ethnographers, and historians for investigations in the study of material culture. This idea is now being


abandoned. 38 vVe should remember here however, that until the end of the 1940S
'substantial' classifications of empirical material predominated in anthropology.
These were easier to apply to the increasing amounts of evidence. The beginnings of
change were introduced only with the works of P. Sorokin,39 who proposed a more
developed system of classification of the components of culture, introducing into it
the previously unobserved dimension of 'integral sociology'.
The basis of the traditional division ofculture into material and spiritual will no
doubt long be a subject of discussion. The framework of this debate seems to be
defined by two different cognitive perspectives, and in consequence, two diametrically opposed points of view.
The first of these, the positivist approach, assumes that reality (sometimes with
certain reservations) can be perceived, and that certain divisions of that reality are
obvious. Culture can be divided into relatively autonomous domains: materials,
spiritual and social. To each of the defined spheres of human activity it is possible to
attribute a corresponding group of evidence, materially differentiated, and spatially
divisible. Attention is concentrated on the superficial, directly observable, level of
past reality, with a tendency to 'dissect culture into elements isolable by abstraction',40 and to investigate isolated elements so that their development in time and
distribution in space can be reconstructed. Less interest is shown, however, in the
differences of meaning attributed to these elements in various cultural contexts.
There is a distaste for any integration into a wider whole incorporating different
categories of phenomena. This tendency blocks attempts at deeper functional
interpretations of the examined phenomena.
The second point of view is based on the assumption that analysis of cultural
phenomena cannot be based only on the materially segregated and separately
analysed elements. An important quality of the investigated objects depends not so
much on the attributes of the material of which they are constituted, 'but from the
manner of ordering of the elements (internal structure) and the place they occupy in
the broader entities (external structure)'.41
I t is important to pay due attention to this second perspective. The development of social sciences has frequently been retarded by a misunderstanding of the
relationship between that which is 'real' and that which is 'concrete'.42 The
development of sociological theory was only possible after the abandonment of
atomistic and narrowly conceived postivistic schemes, and the admission that social
entities constitute an organizational level different from an individual one, and it is
from this that they derive their characteristics and specific regularities. Most
representatives of the pure and humanistic sciences now agree that relationships are
just as 'real' as the things which were previously investigated for their own sake.
Every modern investigator of culture change is obliged to admit that 'forms may
persist while content changes, or that content remains relatively unaltered, but is
organised into new structures'.43
In a structuralist perspective each culture is a complex of relationships interactions, feedbacks which define the type of organization of elements ordered
according to the pattern common to a given social community and forming a certain
entity. 'Parts do not cause a whole but they comprise a whole, not necessarily in the


sense of being perfectly integrated, but in the sense of being separable only by
Several issues concerning the nature of archaeological evidence and the references to be drawn from it come out of this debate. The discovery of the material
dimensions of culture is undoubtedly related to archaeological finds. The question
arises whether these reserves of fossil evidence of human activity are a constitutive
component of culture, as is often assumed but without the necessary justification, or
rather form the material correlates ofculture without being themselves a constitutive
part of culture itself, which is above all a 'mental reality'. These correlates supply
priceless information about culture, not only concerning content but also temporal
and spatial dimensions of culture. Archaeological correlates might also be used to
suggest ethnic and language shift. 45
Modern archaeology is able to recover and, due to the development of absolute
dating methods, more precisely date material remains of the past. This allows the
broadening ofcontemporary observations ofprimitive and complex societies and the
examination of history as a process joining within itself a multiplicity of times from the rapidly changing superficial level of events, through conjunctural cycles to
long-term processes. History, wrote F. Braudel, 'becomes a science selecting the long
time as a natural framework of understanding the past'.46 But access to the really
significant information potentially contained in archaeological material is often
particularly difficult; we cannot resolve the dilemmas posed by dichotomies such as
social norms vs. individual behaviour, structure vs. process, mental reality vs.
material reality, subject vs. object. 47 This basic inability to perceive the meaningful
content of 'material culture' makes impossible the full recognition of the mutual
relations which unify human behaviour and material culture in one coherent
system. 48 The current accent on cognitive anthropology and archaeology seeks to
reconstruct the grammar of culture, patterns of thinking by members of a determined group. This would allow entry into the deeper meaning of things which
constitute the material equipment of a culture. 49
It follows that archaeological material cannot be treated as a scientific type of
fossil; the alternative to the 'palaeontological' treatment becomes the 'textual'
modepo This model treats the excavated evidence as 'meaningfully constituted',
and thus in its structure comparable in many ways to texts. This allows the use of
analyses in archaeology, as in ethnology, similar to those employed in linguistics.
Each individual artefact, everyday object or building, etc. has in all cultures an
'additional meaning'; the utilitarian and symbolic functions are indivisible. Thus
the consideration of the problem of the so-called 'functional-signs'51 must form an
integral part of all investigations of material culture if they are not to be artificially
isolated from the mainstream of development of the science of man. The investigative process in many cases already fulfils to a certain degree this postulate,52 but
there is also a need for a conscious reflection to accompany this practice.

Applied first in statistics and then in the empirical studies of concrete social
phenomena, the concept of indicators rapidly seems to be finding adherents among


representatives of the historical sciences. In history, the concept of indicators seems

to have a primary importance, particularly in justifying historical hypotheses. 53
In archaeology it was also realized that the problem which sociologists and
anthropologists face are in certain aspects similar to those appearing in historical
and archaeological studies, despite all the differences in research situations. This
applies especially to the so-called 'non-addressed sources', sources which are not
meant to provide (address) information. The search for the 'indicative power' of
non-addressed sources has eventually become one of the principal tendencies of
contemporary historical science, and this has been of particular interest to archaeologists in Poland and Italy.
The indicator is each event (phenomenon, object, property, feature, behaviour)
which is empirical and which has a regular relationship with other events. Taking
this relationship, on the basis of the occurence ofan indicative event 'A', an inference
is made about the occurence of the indicated event 'B', which is usually called an
indicatum. s4 Although there are complex problems affecting the selection of indicators, discussion will here be confined to assessment of the criteria used to divide
indicators into groups.
Indicators are usually divided into two basic categories. To the first belong
indicators which by definition are linked with the indicatum by a relationship of
conceptual identity - the indicator is itself the phenomenon we want to examine,
and its characteristic features are what the corresponding concept consists of. Such
indicators only define our concepts better, or set them to a greater degree in an
observable reality, and are inferential indicators. 55 To the second category belong
indicators which are related to the phenomenon (or property) they show not by
means of terminological convention, but in actuality. Such a relationship may be
directly or indirectly verified, and are termed empirical indicators.
Arcaeological records may assume either of the two functions: inferential or
empirical indicators. With the latter both the indicator and the indicatum are
observable and the relationship between them is empirically varifiable. For example
the number of (contemporary) hearths in a settlement may be an indicator of the
number of households, or the qualitative and quantitative differences between
assemblages of bone waste found in a castle compared with that in its suburb may
reflect the differences of meat consumption of social groups making up the population of the examined medieval town.
In contrast inferential indicators are defined on the basis of identified, perceived, attributes alone, while the indicatum belongs to the class of inferred
'intangibles', illata, and cannot be confirmed by direct observation. So, for example,
the number of differentiated artefact types in a culture system can be conceptualized
as a rough indicator of its regulatory or insulatory capacity in relation to changes in
the environment - in other words its capacity to preserve equilibrium. 56
A more complex situation arises when the indicator is an element of a certain
behavioural-psychological syndrome composed of both observable phenomena
(like, for example, our indicator) and hidden phenomena and/or features. An
empirical situation described by K. Modzelewski can be used as an example. 57 The
indicator concerned is the rich grave goods associated with the Lombard elite in


early medieval Italy. Following a naIve interpretation, the 'natural economy'

prevailing in Italy at that time was understood as a moneyless economy. The reason
for this state was to be the lack or shortage of bullion, in this case gold. Many
historians, however, did not see how one could speak about the prevalence of a
'natural economy' among the Longobards when so much gold was put into their
A response to this objection might be that what the grave goods really reveal is
the influence of extra-economic values upon the economic preferences of the Early
Medieval elite. This resulted in a particular attitude towards valuable metals,
especially towards gold, which in the social consciousness became a symbol of
ostentatious luxury and a 'magical' (as it were) symbol of the social status and
prestige of the individual.
Thus the gold coins in graves have a threefold significance. They indicate by
definition the whole syndrome of the described phenomenon; they are an empirical
indicator of corresponding behaviour; and they are an inferential indicator of
corresponding attitudes and accepted hierarchies of values. 58 The methodological
suggestions of Carlo Ginzburg and the debate which followed are of interest in this
context. 59 Two problems are ofparticular interest to archaeologists: the relationship
between the 'context of justification' and the 'context of discovery'; and the role
played by conjectural abduction or reasoning, culminating in a probable hypothesis
in historical and archaeological inference. The 'context of discovery' seems to
constitute an integral part of the 'context' of justification'. 60 But the logic of
discovery seems to be, in the historical (as in other) sciences, 'still a grossly
underdeveloped domain', and the emphasis upon verification rather than discovery
still constitutes 'a distortion of the actual emphasis in the practice of science'. 61 It
seems that the publications of Ginzburg and the debates following them contribute
to a better cognition of the problem-solving process in the historical sciences.
The second question concerns the framework of an intelligible model within
which we can draw inferences about phenomena in disciplines where construction of
formal systems cannot be done through experimentation. 62 It is true, for example,
that historical and archaeological research procedures usually are post-gnostic; the
point is to find the causes of certain facts or phenomena which we believe to be the
effects of these causes. The problem is that the unobservable phenomena of the past
cannot be experimentally reproduced. Thus we can only infer the causes from the
observable effects. Therefore the cognitive process is necessarily based on inverse
reasonings in which the order of reasoning, running from premises to conclusion, is
opposite to the 'cause and effect' order. According to Charles Peirce this type of
reasoning may be called 'retroduction' or 'abduction' and characterizes the 'context
of discovery'. 63 This third type of reasoning (after deduction and induction) is basic
for medical diagnosis, criminal investigation and historical inference. It has recently
constituted the subject of many methodological studies and will be of great interest
to archaeologists in the future.
Stressing the importance of post-gnostic cognitive procedures does not mean
that we want to neglect the others. In the historical sciences and archaeology
prognostic procedures are also important in as much as they are used to discover



causal regularities. In order to explain a fact, i.e. to indicate its cause or causes, we
have to refer to a prognostic statement: cause and effect appear always as an ordered
pair. 64
This is one more reason to undertake a more profound analysis of the range
relationships between indicator and indicatum. We need to determine whether an
indicator is reliable (and in what sense it is so) or whether we have to ascribe it some
lower degree of validity. 65

Problems of explanation - as in any historical and social science - belong

among the most difficult. Only explanation allows us to put together in one whole the
apparently independent fragments of our knowledge, and to indicate their common
pattern. 66 Omitted here are two kinds ofhistorical explanation: humanistic interpretation and functional-genetic explanation, which have repeatedly been the subject of
discussion, especially in Poland. 67 Another model is, however, worth considering
here: that of explanation based on the understanding of motivation structures, and
the possibilities of observing of human activities (and their products) from inside.
In other words to penetrate thought processes, reasoning, and motivation structures, the external vehicle ofwhich is the activity itselfand results ofthat activity. We
should remember that analysis of the 'emic' type, attempting to re-create the
motivating structures present 'dans la tete de l'indgene'68 generally appeared until
recently simply a postulate which was not very realistic. On the basis ofexperience in
linguistics it was accepted that a certain kind of 'catalysis' of 'etic' features into
'emic' ones was possible; they could be arranged on a continuum which would depict
progressive passage from the one to the other. This seemed possible however only for
those domains of archaeology in which the archaeological materials could be
confronted with sources of another type. Hodder, who represents most fully the
symbolic-structural approach, goes further, postulating the treatment of the view of
'the inside of things' as a permanent component of archaeological interpretation. 69
There is a second aspect of rethinking or re-enacting of the thought patterns of
the people responsible for creating and discarding archaeological materials as
postulated by R. G. Collingwood. The inference very often assumes here, as in
certain other historical disciplines, a retroductive form (see above). We seek the
(unknown) reason for the (known) result. From this follows the continuing debate on
the 'conjectural paradigm' and value of circumstantial evidence in the investigation
of the past. 70 This creates particularly unfavourable conditions for the effective
application of the procedure postulated by Hodder. Furthermore, there is a subsequent debatable point, the discovery of the real cause of human activity beyond the
consciousness of the studied individuals and beyond the studied epoch. Here both
the intentional and unintentional results of individual or group activity should be
taken into account. 71 An awareness of this becomes particularly important in the
research of complex societies, with polysemantic cultures. 72 Here, with regard to the
different behaviour standards of members of groups of different social status, the
reliable reconstruction of the causative reason (causa quod) and the intentional reason



(causa ut) of the investigated individual activity is especially difficult. Also, the
mutual interdependence of our recognition, understanding and interpreting of the
past phenomena on the one hand, and our culturally determined categories of
thinking (our preconceptions) on the other, also becomes clearer.
This circular interdependence which characterizes the investigative processes
of all domains of the science of Man can be related to contemporary hermeneutics.
Shanks and Tilley have drawn attention to the particular involvement of archaeologcial interpretation in the fatalism of the 'hermeneutic circle'. 73 The solutions
proposed in connection with Collingwood's ideas are not fully convincing; but the
difficulties constitute a challenge, making archaeology potentially exciting intellectually, and promising cognitively. Indeed, it is a lack of reasonable alternative which
affirms the cognitive status of archaeological investigation and its role in the process
of understanding the human past. The access to meaningful information potentially
contained in the archaeological sources is, however, especially difficult. As a result,
the solution of many of the problems is not possible within the framework of
archaeology alone. However, archaeological material could be treated as independent empirical evidence potentially falsifying interpretative hypotheses formulated
mainly beyond the discipline. That alone is very important; many philosophers even
maintain that 'scientific knowledge is defined in part by the possibility of its
empirical refutation'. 74 There is, moreover, something more than this; the material
correlates of culture defined in time and space allow the dynamics of change to be
followed. However, the critical moment of passage from our conceptual categories,
i.e. the 'etic' approach, to their conceptual categories, i.e. the 'emic' approach, is still
highly problematic. 7s
Two particularly promising fields of advance in this direction are ethnoarchaeology and historical archaeology, medieval archaeology having an especially
important role. This is, however, dependent on the dialogue between historians and
archaeologists ceasing to be, as experience too often has shown can be the case, a
'dialogue of the deaf'. 76

This paper was originally written for theJohn Hurst festschrift, on the initiative ofHugo
Blake and Stephen Nroorhouse. I would also like to thank Paul Barford for his kind help with
the translation, and Dorota Cyngot for technical assistance.
1 J. Topolski, Methodology ofHistory (Warszawa Dordrecht Boston, D. Reidel Publishing Company, 1976),53-56;
Idem, Teoria wiedzy histo~ycznej (Theory ofHistorical Knowledge) (Poznan, 1983).
2 The aims of the paper are not to demonstrate the value and importance of archaeology, but rather to point out
some aspects of the not always satisfactory relationship bctween history and archacology This situation may
anyway fluctuate considerably from one country or period to another. It depends often on many factors, such as
scientific traditions, real situations of research, personal preferences and sensibilities. Nevertheless, thesc situational
and idiosyncratic factors should not obscure the main relationships of both these disciplincs. It seems that a reliable
measure ofthc practical links between history and archaeology is defined by the relations of each of them to cultural
and social anthropology.
3 ;"1. Bloch, The Historian's Cra)1 (;"1anchester, 1954), 27
4 1. R. Binford, 'Archaeology as Anthropology', American Antiquity, 28 (1962), 217-25.
5 y1, Godelicr, 'L'antropologia economica', in Antropologia culturale, AA.VV. (Florence, 1973), 165-221; Idem, Un
domaine contesti, l'anthropologie iconomique (Paris, 1974)



6J. Le Goll; 'Histoire et ethnologic: l'historien et "l'homme quotidien"', in lvfe!anges F. Braude!, 11 (Toulouse,
19i3), 233 If The author emphasizes the role of the researches on history of material culture. This problem will be
discussed below.
7 A. BurguiiTe, 'Anthropologie historique', inJ. Le Goff, R. Chartier andJ. Revel (cds.), La nouvelle histoire, (Paris,
I 9i8), 3i-6 I; Idem, 'L'anthrop!ogie historique', in A. Burguiere (cd.), Dictiollnaire des sciences historiques (Paris, 1986),
5 2 - 60 .
8 Ibid., 52.
9 Amongst many others, seeJ. Le Goff, Pour un autre Moyen Age (Paris, 19n); K. Modzelewski, 'Spoleczenstwo i
gospodarka (Society and Economy)' in E. Tabaezynska (cd.), Kultura Europy Wc;cesnofredniowiec;cnej (The Culture of
Earv Medieval Europe), 10 (Wroclaw, 1980), 14g--2i4.
10 P. Toubert, Les structures du Latium medieval, lX-XlI'siecle, 2 vols. (Rome, 19i3); for the archaeological aspects sec
also R. Francovich (ed.), Archeologia e storia de! Medioevo italiano, Studi NlS Archeologia, 3 (Roma, 198i); also A. M.
Bietti Sestieri, A. G. Pontrandolfo, and N. Parise (cds.), Archeologia e antropologia. Contributi di preistoria e archeologia
classica (Roma, I 98i).
11 For example see C. Ginzburg, Lefromage et les vers (Paris, 1983); also the structural analysis of the mermaid myth
presented by J. Le GofTand E. Le Roy Ladurie, 'Melusine maternelle et defricheuse', Annales ESC (19i I), 58i-622.
12 For example see G. Duby, Les trois ordres ou l'imaginaire dufeudalisme (Paris, 19i8).
13 For archaeological aspects, see R. Hodges, 'Rewriting History: the Use of two Anthropological Models', in
R. Francovich and D. Manacorda (eds.), Lo Scavo Archeologico: dalla Diagnosi all'Edi;cione (Florence, 1990),421-38; for
more general problems see D. B. Whitehouse, 'Archaeologia medievale', and S. Tabaczyriski, 'Archeologia medie,ale e discipline storiche', in Enciclopedia deWArte Medievale, vol. II (Rome, 199 I), 268-i6, with bibliography.
14 C. Levi-Strauss, Anthropologie Structurale (Paris, 1958),24-25.
15 C. Renfrew and P. Bahn, Archaeology. Theories, Methods and Practice (London, 1991),9.
16 D. B. Whitehouse and S. Tabaczynski, op. cit. in note 13.
17 R. Bucaille, 'Archeologie et anthropologie generale: au sujet de la "new-archaeology"', Bulletin de Travail i
(I 9i 5), 21-24;J :VI. Poisson, 'Problemi, tendenze 0 prospettive dell' archeologia medievale in I talia', Societa e storia 4
18 G. :V1aetzke, 'Archaeological sources as a projection of the socio-cultural process', in G. Donato, W. Hensel,
S. Tabaczynski (eds.), Teoria e pratica della ricerca archeologica (Turin, 1986),261-321 (in Italian).
19 G. P. Fehring, Einfuhrung in die Archiiologie des Mitte!alters (Darmstadt, 198i), 15; also Ph. Bruneau, 'Sources
textuelles et vestiges materiel: reflexions sur !'interpretation archeologique', in AA. Vv. Milanges Helleniques offerts a
G. Daux (Paris, 19i4), 33-42.
201. Leciejewics, Slowianie ;cachodni. Z d;ciej6w twor;cenia si~ fredniowiec;cnej Europy (Western Slavs. From the History ofthe
Formation of Medieval Europe) (Wroclaw , 1989).
21 E. R. Wolf, Europe and the People without History (Berkeley, 1982).
22 J. Topolski, Swiat be;c historii (World without History) (Warsaw, 19i6), 160.
23 O. Capitani, Medioevo passato prossimo. Appunti storiografici: tra due guerre e molti crisi (Bologna, 19i9).
24 C. Eco, 'Dieci modi di sognare il Medioevo', Quaderni medievali, Bari, 2 I, 18i-200.
2S A. Carandini, Archeologia e cultura materiale. Dai 'lavori sen;ca gloria' nell'antichita a una politica dei beni culturali (Bari,
26 G. Gibbon, Anthropological Archaeology (New York, 1984),45 ff.
271. Hodder (ed.), Symbolic and Structural Archaeology (Cambridge, 1982); 1. E. Patrick, 'Is There an Archaeological
Record)', in Y1. B. Schiffer (ed.), Advances in Archaeological Method and Theory, 8 (New York, 1985), 2i-62.
28 ;\1. Foucault, L'archiologie du savoir (Paris, Ign), 31 ff.
29 J. Le Goff, lntervista sulla storia di Francesco Mqiello (Roma, 1982), 102.
30 :V1. Foucault, op. cit. in note 28.
31 J Topolski, Teoria, op. cit. in note I, 265.
32 C. Maltese, Semiologia del messagio oggettuale (Milan, 19io), 18i ff.
33 T. Wasowicz, 'L'histoire de la culture materielle en Pologne', Annales ESC, 1962, i5 ff.; R. Bucaille and J.-M.
Pesez, 'Cultura materia!e', in Enciclopedia Einaudi, vol. IV (Turin, 19i8), 2il-305; alsoJ.-M. Pesez, 'Histoire de la
culture mattrielle', in J. Le Goff, R. Chartier and J. Revel (eds.), La nouvelle histoire (Paris, 19i8), 98-130, and
A. Carandini, op. cit. in note 25; also D. Moreno and :V1. Quaini, 'Per una storia della cultura materiale', Quaderni
Storici 31 (19i6), 5-3i.
34 See bibliography given by J.-M. Pesez, ibid., 98-13.
35 St Czarnowski, D;ciela (Collected Writings), vol. II (Warsaw, 1956),230.
36 J. Szczepanski, Elementarne pojefia socjologii (Elementary Notions ofSociology) (Warsaw, 19io), i6.
37 A. Kloskowska, Kultura masowa. Krytvka i obrona (l'>fass Culture. Criticism and Defence) (Warsaw, 1964), i3.
38 See bibliography given by W. Hensel and S. Tabaczyriski in 'The Institute of the History of Material Culture of
the Polish Academy of Sciences. Achievements of the Last Thirty Years', Acta Academiae Scientiarum Polonae, 3-4
(lg83), 12g--59
39 P. A. Sorokin, Socie~v, Culture and Personalitv: Their Structure and Dynamics (New York, 194i), chaps. Ii and 18.
40 C. Levi-Strauss, Anthropologie structurale (Paris, 1958), 6.
41 P Sztompka, 'Struktura spoleczna jako podstawowa kategoria analizy teoretycznej w marksizmie (Social
Structure as a Principal Category of Theoretical Analysis in Marxism)', Elementy socjologii dialektyc;cnej, Po;cnanskie
Studla;c Filo;cofii Nauki, 6 (1981),123.
42 A. L. Kroeber and C. Kluckhohn, 'Culture. A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions', Papers ofthe Peabody
J1useum ofAmerican Archaeol. and Ethnol., Harvard University, 4i. I (1952), 62 (Cambridge, Massachusetts).


Ibid., and P. Sztompka, op. cit. in note 41, 125.
Kroeber and Kluckhohn, op. cit. in note 42, 134See S. Ossowski, 'Wir;z spoleczna i dziedzictwo krwi (Social links and blood inheritance)', in Dzieta (Collected
Works), vol. II (Krakow, 1966), 64fT. We also should remember that among 168 definitions of culture analysed by
C. Kluckhohn and A. L. Kroeber are those in which artefacts are seen as an integral part of culture and form an
important feature in the definition of the concept of culture. The dominant tendency is however the treatment of
artefacts as important evidence (data) of culture, and nol as a constituting component (p. 290 fT.). See also I. Rouse,
Prehistory in Haiti, Yale Publications in Anthropology 21, (1939), 16fT., where the accent is on the cultural aspect of
that relationship. I use the term 'correlate' in a similar sense to that given by, for example, Ch. Ehret, 'Language
Change and the Material Correlates of Language and Ethnic Shift', Antiquity 62 (1988),564-74, in the framework of
the discussion ofC. Renfrew, Language and Archaeology: the Puzzle ofIndo-European Origins (London, 1987).
46 F. Braudel, Historia i trwanie (History and Duration) (Warsaw 197 I), 14 and 52. French ed. Ecrits sur l'histoire (Paris,
19 6 9)'
47 I. Hodder, Reading the Past. Approaches to Interpretation in Archaeology (Cambridge, 1986).
48 Ibid., chap. I.
49 S. Tyler (cd.), Cognitive Anthropology (New York, 1969), Renfrew and Bahn, op. cit. in note 15,431 fT.; I. Hodder
(ed.), The Meanings ofThings. Material Culture and Symbolic Expression (London, 1989), particularly 79 fT., 122 fT., 137 fT.
See also for the y1iddle Ages, A. Skobeltzin, L'artjiodal et son enjeu social (Paris, 1973), in particular 182 fT.
50 Hodder, op. cit. in note 47; Patrik, op. cit. in note 27; also S. Tabaczynski, Archaeologia fredniowieczna (Medieval
Archaeology) (Warsaw, 1987), 163 fT.
51 R. Barthes, Le degri ziro de I'Jeriture (Paris, 1964), passim; C. Maltese, op. cit. in note 32, 186 fT.; A. Kloskowska,
Socjologia kultury (Sociology of Culture) (Warsaw, 19 8 3), 149
52 A. Klonder, 'Geschichte der materiallen Kultur des Mittelalters und der Fruhneuzeit. Theorie MethodenForschungsbilanz', in Mensch und Objekt im Mitte/alter und in der fruhen Neuzeit. Leben - Alltag - Kultur, Internationaler
Kongress, Krems an der Donau 27. bis 30. September 1988, VeriifTentlichungen des Instituts ftir Realienkunde des
Mittelalters und der fruhen :'-leuzeit, 13 (Vienna, 1990),23-35; see also in the same volumeJ.-M. Pesez, 'Culture
materielle et archeologie medievale', 37-5 I, and A. L. Jastrebickaja, 'Alltiiglichkeit, Volkskultur und materielle
Kultur in der sowjetischen Mediiivistik', 12 7-55.
53 T. Buksinski, Metodologiczne problemy uzasadniania wiedq historycznej (Methodological Problems in the Justification of
Historical Knowledge) (Warsaw, 1982), 24 fT.; J. M. Fritz, 'Archaeological Systems for Indirect Observation of the
Past', in M. P. Leone (ed.), Contemporary Archaeology (Carbondale, 197 2 ), 135-57
54 S. Nowak, Metodologia badan spolecznych (Methodology of Social Research) (Warsaw, 1985), 124-96; G. Gibbon,
Anthropological Archaeology (New York, 1984).
55 Nowack, op. cit. in note 54.
56 D. L. Clarke, Analytical Archaeology (London, 1968), 126-27.
57 K. Modzelewski, op cit. in note 9
58 G. Maetzke, 'Fonte archeologica e processo socio-culturale', in G. Donato, W. Hensel and S. Tabaczynski (eds.),
Teoria e pratica della ricerca archeologica, vol. I, Premesse metodologiche (Turin, 1986),261-321.
59 A. Carandini, 'Quando l'indizio va contro il metodo', Quaderni di Storia 6. II (1980),3-11; G.Giorello,
'Paradigma indiziario e conoscenza storica', Quaderni di Storia, 6. I 2( I 980), 18-2 I; U. Eco, 'Paradigma indiziario e
conoscenza storica', Quaderni di Storia, 6. 12 (1980),40; C. Ginzburg, 'Spie. Radici di un paradigma indiziario', in
U. Eco and T. A. Sebeok (eds.), II Segno dei Tre (Milan, 1983),97-136, reprinted from A. Gargani (ed.), Crisi della
ragione (Turin, 1979)
60 J. Kmita, 'Kontekst odkrycia kontekst uzasadniania (Context of Discovery - Context ofJ ustification', Studia
Metodologiczne, 12 (1974), 29-47
61 H. A. Simon, 'Models of Discovery and other Topics in the Methods of Science', Boston Studies in the Philosophy of
Science 54 (1977), xvi.
62 D. E. Willer, Scientific Sociology: Theory and Method (Englewood ClifTs, 1967),27; D. E. Willer and M. Webster,
'Theoretical Concepts and Observables', American Sociological Rev. 35 (1970), 748-56.
63 Ch.S. Peirce, Collected Papers, vol. vii, 1932 (Ch. Hartshorne and P. Weiss, eds.) (Cambridge, U.S.A.) idem, 'La
logica dell'abduzione', in Saitti difilosofia (Bologna, 1978),289-305; D. E. Willer, op. cit. in note 62,28.
64 J. Topolski, Methodology of History (Warsaw, Dordrecht, 1976), 32 I; also idem, 'L'epistemologia: il dibattito
attuale', in Gli strumenti della ricerca, 2, Questioni di metodo (Florence, 1983),830--49.
65 S. Tabaczynski, 'The Indicators and the Indicata: Once More about Problems oflnference in Archaeology', in
Proceedings of XII. Congress of UISPP, Bratislava 1991 (I Section), in press.
66 S. Amsterdamski, Nauka a porz!{dek fwiata (Science and the Order of the World) (Warsaw, 1983), ro8.
67 A. Palubicka and S. Tabaczynski, 'Societa e cultura come oggetto delle ricerche archeologiche', in Donato et. al.
(cds.), op. cit. in note 58, 63-194; A. Gallay, 'Logicism: a French View of Archaeological Theory Founded in
Computational Perspective', Antiquity 63 (19 8 9), 27-39
68 G. L. Cowgill, 'The Trouble with Significance Tests and What We Can Do about It', American Antiquity 42 (1977),
350 fT.
69 J.-C. Gardin, Une arcMologie tMorique (Paris, 1979), 61; I. Hodder, op. cit. in note 27
70 "i. R. Hanson, Patterns ofDiscovery. An Inquiry into the Conceptual Foundation ofScience (Cambridge, 1958).
71 T. Buksinski, 'R. G. Collingwood a model wyjasniania motywacyjnego (R. G. Collingwood's Model of Explanalion by Motivation)', in J. Litwin (ed:), Profile filozofii dziej6w (Profiles of the Philosophy of History) (Wroclawand
Warsaw, 1982),82, a propos R. G. Colhngwood, The Idea ofHistory (Oxford, 1946). See also Hodder, op. cit. in note
47,77 fT.; idem, op. cit. in note 49


72 S. Piekarczyk, 'Z problematyki polisemantyzacji kultury. Pr6ba konstrukcji modelu (Problems of Polysemantisation of Culture. An Attempt to construct a Model)', Studia Zrodloznawcze. Commentationes /6 (/97/), /-24.
73 M. Shanks and C. Tilley, Re-Constructing Archaeology. Theory and Practice (Cambridge, /987), 103-/5; idem,
'Archaeology into the /99os', Norwegian Archaeol. Rev. 22. (/989), I-54.
74 G. Gibbon, op. cit. in note 26, 5', with references to K. Popper's works.
75 Z. Kobylinski, 'Ethno-archaeological Cognition and Cognitive Ethno-archaeology', and, in particular, E. M.
Melas, 'Etics, Emics and Empathy in Archaeological Theory', in Hodder (ed.), op. cit. in note 49, 122-29 and
137-55 respectively.
76 C. Renfrew, 'Dialogues of the Deaf', in B. Burnham and]. Kingsbury (eds), Space, Hierarchy and Society, British
Archaeol. Reps. Int. Ser" 59 (Oxford, '979), 253-59; see also]. Moreland, 'Method and Theory in Medieval
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