A Critical Archaeology of Time

This course explores problems in the intersection of measured time in archaeology and the practice and reckoning of time in mostly non-Western cultures. This is a topic long ignored by archaeologists, who work on the taken-for-granted assumption that measured time is an appropriate and unproblematic issue. We will take a critical view, inquiring into philosophical thought on time in anthropology—ranging from such thinkers as Durkheim and Levi-Struass to more recent approaches articulated by Gell and Fabian. We will also examine the implications of different time reckoning systems on the practice of archaeology, with a particular concern for: 1) the contradictions that arise between linear progressive time and cyclical rhythmed or ritual time; and, 2) the key question of how archaeologists may possibly recognize and represent the time systems of other cultures. This is an issue of significant import in archaeology, for until such time as archaeologists develop methodologies to account for different ways of measuring and reckoning time, the practice of archaeology runs the risk of erasing time markers of other cultures.