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Neo-Prehistory—Exist. Regenerate. Repeat?

  • Christopher Chippindale (a1)

Extract

As archaeologists we try hard to communicate our insights to a wider public, whether through lucid writing, as exemplified by Brian Fagan's many books, or increasingly through technology such as a 60-second YouTube video. But our subject runs away from us, and our audience, as it gets ever more technical. A century ago, discussion of the chronology of Stonehenge relied on everyday language to describe the order in which the stones were put up; now it depends on Bayesian statistics applied to calibrated radiocarbon dates (Parker Pearson et al. 2007). How many practising archaeologists understand that well enough to explain it lucidly in 60 seconds? Or really understand it at all?

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Parker Pearson, M., Cleal, R., Marshall, P., Needham, S., Pollard, J., Richards, C., Ruggles, C., Sheridan, A., Thomas, J., Tilley, C., Welham, K., Chamberlain, A., Chenery, C., Evans, J., Knüsel, K., Linford, N., Martin, L., Montgomery, J., Payne, A. & Richards, M.. 2007. The age of Stonehenge. Antiquity 81: 617–39. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0003598X00095624
MacGregor, N. 2010. A history of the world in 100 objects. London: Allen Lane.

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