To let mute stones speak – on the becoming of archaeology

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This article presents some thoughts on the emergence of the archaeological science in the 18th century. My starting point is the debate that occurred in the wake of the discovery of rock art in the famous Bronze Age cairn Bredarör on Kivik in Scania, southern Sweden. Here we find one of the first documented attempts to formulate an archaeological method based on the study of prehistory without explicit support from historical sources – a brave attempt ‘to let mute stones speak’. The authors of this attempt, Anders Forssenius and Sven Lagerbring, introduced an innovative comparative dating method and a novel use of distribution maps. Either way, this bold attempt to formulate a free-standing archaeological method for the study of prehistory did not attain any direct followers, and it was several decades before these methods were revisited again.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGiving the past a future
Subtitle of host publicationEssays in archaeology and rock art studies in honour of Dr. fil. h.c. Gerhard Milstreu
EditorsJames Dodd, Ellen Meije
Place of PublicationOxford, UK
Number of pages31
ISBN (Electronic)9781784919719
ISBN (Print)9781784919702
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


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