Posted by: Johan Normark | March 29, 2009

Time and archaeology 1

In some entries I will discuss the metaphysics of time and its relevance to archaeology. What can such a journey into the metaphysics of time tell us as archaeologists?

First of all, the temporal units archaeologists use (moments, years, periods) can be seen as part of duration or as instants of various scales. What we can dismiss is the  momentary and isolated instant proposed by Gaston Bachelard. Instants cannot be separated from duration and they certainly do not create duration. Depending on the scale of our studies, we can see a geological event as instantaneous whereas it would have been long-term duration for a human agent depending on the relaxation time.

We can also dismiss the idealist perspectives of Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger and John McTaggart since they have little interest in the world beyond our representations or how the human being acts in the world. Artifacts are not humans and we must employ less subjectively based views of materialities.

Time is definitely real in the sense that it exist beyond our representations. Bergson, Whitehead and Deleuze take us in a completely different direction, a direction that suits archaeologists wanting to go beyond phenomenology, social constructionism and the linguistic turn in social studies. It is time for archaeology to change materialities from static substances to durational processes.

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