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Stratum plus. 1999. № 6

L. S. Klejn (St.-Petersburg, Russia)

The Depth of Archaeological Fact and the Problem of Reconversion

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Pages: 337-361

From the viewpoint of philosophical-methodological analysis, archaeological fact is confronted here with historical fact and with scientific fact in general. Among all the three, archaeological fact is the most elaborated concept. This is not only because for archaeologist this elaboration is not pure philosophising but has output into archaeological practice. The other cause is that archaeological fact is by itself more complicated than others. The normative scheme of the archaeological research design is called by David Clarke a «model of archaeological procedure» and presented as one of the three parts of general theory of archaeology. As V. S. Bochkarev notes, ideally «procedure has rigid structure not allowing levels to be lost or mixed». Usually authors of theoretical considerations in this theme substantiate neither suggested normative shemes of this structure nor imperative demand of rigid structure. The substantiating demands to work out notions on epistemological multistep nature of archaeological fact, on its division in depth. On the basis of these notions lies the idea of conversion of archaeological information on its way from the sources of sociocultural phenomena up to the reflection in scholarly literature. Information passes as if through the floodgates in which it is filtrated and suffers changes. Correspondingly reconversion is needed for reconstruction of the past. In modern elaborations of the procedure usually steps 3 to 7 in conversion are listed (and corresponding steps of reconversion). However, there are many more of them. Especially remarcable in theoretical elaborations of some Western scholars is the gap associated with idealistic views. The present study accounts 14 steps of conversion/reconversion of information. Floodgates through which information must go are placed in a strict order. It is predestined by the essence of complex but integral process of forming, disappearing and cognition of material culture. In each floodgate a part of information is lost, other can  be distorted. These changes are regular, stereotyped, for each floodgate their own. Knowing these regularities and judging by the state of information after such act plus by attracting external indirect data, we can judge on the pattern of information before its entering this floodgate. In the case of omission of some floodgate those changes which were produced in this floodgate will not be cought and recognised. Consequently the peculiarities of information emerged here will be ascribed to earlier causes. The initial state of information will be wrongly reconstructed. In the initial stage factors will be supposed, which were not present in reality. This is why so necessary is to reveal all the floodgates as well as trace the full course of conversion and a strict succession in reconversion on the way back through all the floodgates. The naive notions of dillettantes and early Positivists, who did not suspect the multilevel nature of archaeological fact and did not know that one shouldn’t directly leap from archaeological remains to events and social phenomena of the historical past, were discredited long ago.

Information about author:

Leo Klejn (St.-Petersburg, Russia). Professor. European University at Saint-Petersburg.
Е-mail: [email protected]


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