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Archaeology

Abstract and Keywords

This article emphasizes that no ancient artefact can speak to people in isolation; rather, one has to consider the ‘patterns’ of occurrence, and the dialogue they establish with other forms of evidence, such as textual evidence. The artefacts people have are partly determined by the decisions of archaeologists, and so is the knowledge of the context in which they were discovered. Archaeology is a particular form of historical enquiry. However, what the word ‘archaeology’ actually entails in the field of Hellenic studies is far from clear. There are three areas of ambiguity: the range of material objects that archaeology examines; the question of whether ‘classical archaeology’ is a distinct sub-discipline, an archaeology apart; and the question of the spatial and temporal scope of archaeology within the field of ‘Hellenic studies’.

Keywords: ancient artifact, archaeologists, historical enquiry, material remains, classical archaeology, Hellenic studies

59.1. Introduction

For many, archaeology must seem both an established and relatively straightforward methodology. Is not archaeology the study of material remains? Does not archaeology require the application of well-understood techniques, such as stratigraphic excavation, field survey, and museum study? Well, yes it does, but to what ends are these techniques being applied? Techniques only really make sense if they relate to particular research questions, questions of a broadly historical or anthropological kind. Does this then not make archaeology the ‘handmaiden’ of history? Well, up to a point. Archaeology is a particular form of historical enquiry, but (as I hope to show) that by no means makes it a ‘handmaiden’ to history. And archaeological enquiry does require the systematic coordination of a variety of techniques, of methodologies. In this short chapter I shall not try to summarize the techniques of archaeology, its methodologies, for several reasons. First, there are numerous primers on archaeological method available, which explain current techniques more fully than space allows here. Secondly, there are now simply too many techniques that require explanation. And thirdly, archaeological methodology is constantly changing, and the impact of new techniques is multifaceted. The application of chemical analysis and ceramic petrology is transforming field survey as well as our understanding of trade and exchange within the ancient (p. 721) Mediterranean. The application of soil micromorphology in settlement excavations is likely to have a profound effect on our understanding of ancient households.

Rather than being a ‘handmaiden’ to history, archaeology is best seen as a distinct form of historical reasoning, a form that relies primarily on material evidence. My purpose in this chapter is to give readers a flavour of how an archaeologist's reasoning (and priorities) differs from that of a historian. I must admit, however, that this view is not universally shared. What the word ‘archaeology’ actually entails in the field of Hellenic studies is far from clear. There are three areas of ambiguity: first, the range of material objects that archaeology examines; secondly, the question of whether ‘classical archaeology’ is a distinct subdiscipline, an archaeology apart; and finally, the question of the spatial and temporal scope of archaeology within the field of ‘Hellenic studies’. Or, to put it another way, when does something distinctively ‘Hellenic’ appear that can be studied by the archaeologist? And when does the archaeology of Greece end?

59.2. The Scope of Archaeology within ‘Hellenic Studies’

Classical Altertumswissenschaft (the scientific study of antiquity) has traditionally encompassed a variety of material subdisciplines, of which ‘archaeology’ is only one. Numismatics, the study of coins, had developed a distinct disciplinary identity from as early as the eighteenth century (see Meadows in the next chapter), as has papyrology (discussed in this volume by Armstrong) from the nineteenth. The case of epigraphy is more ambiguous, since inscriptions have been studied as much by antiquarians and archaeologists as by historians. Epigraphy clearly requires specialist skills (see Rhodes in the previous chapter). But it is not immediately apparent whether inscriptions are primarily texts (which just happen to occur on objects), or primarily objects from specific contexts (which just happen to be inscribed). Insofar as epigraphic study (and publication) is moving to recontextualize inscriptions, that is, to relate them more clearly to their original setting and to the objects (pots, stelai, bronze tablets, pins, statues) with which they are associated, epigraphy and archaeology are moving closer to one other.

More difficult to define is the relationship between archaeology and the study of visual culture and art. Traditionally, classical archaeology concentrated its efforts on the study of three categories of object: architecture (especially public and sacred architecture), sculpture, and painting. In this the subject was following the bias of ancient, particularly Roman, authors such as Vitruvius and the elder Pliny, who had particularly valued the works of famous artists such as Pheidias, Praxiteles, (p. 722) and Polygnotus. Two developments changed this bias in the late nineteenth century. First, major excavations at sites such as Olympia uncovered large numbers of objects in bronze, lead, and ivory which were clearly not ‘art’ in Pliny's sense. German archaeologists re-labelled such objects Kleinkunst, ‘small art’ (Whitley 2001: 17–36). Gradually too, other media (such as mosaics) came to be studied. A further problem arose with painting, since most of the wall and panel paintings by ancient masters such as Polygnotus and Apelles had been lost. Numerous painted pots had survived, however, and the study of ancient painting became, by default, largely the study of ‘vase painting’. Two approaches were emphasized: iconography and attribution. Both approaches were refined and practised with consummate skill in the early twentieth century by J. D. Beazley, who managed to attribute archaic and classical black-and red-figure painted pots from Attica to a number of painters on the basis of style (that is, tricks of draughtsmanship in the drawing of eyes, noses, ears, etc.). Other scholars later extended Beazley's approach to the classification and interpretation of painted Corinthian, Laconian, and East Greek pottery (Whitley 2001: 12–16 and 37–41).

By 1970 (the time of Beazley's death) classical archaeology, and in particular the archaeology of Greece, had begun to look a little strange from the point of view of archaeologists working on different periods and places. While a difference in approach between European or American prehistory and the archaeology of a historical period (such as classical Greece) might be thought to be natural, Greek archaeology's differences in approach from the archaeology of medieval western Europe, or from the archaeology of colonial North America, or even from the archaeology of Roman Britain, were more difficult to account for. Why was there so much emphasis on the classification, and in particular the attribution, of such a restricted range of objects? Should not archaeology address broadly historical questions, or deal with long-term historical processes? This disquiet prompted two very different responses. First, from about the mid-1970s onwards, some scholars consciously set out to borrow ideas, theories, and techniques from other archaeologies, and to extend the range of topics and questions that classical archaeology sought to address. In this, the objects themselves became secondary to the questions being asked and the methods being employed (Whitley 2001: 47–59). The second response was one of retrenchment. If some archaeologists were concentrating their efforts on measuring artefact densities in field survey, where did that leave classical art? Surely this subject required its own specialists? In this way classical art history was born, the traditional objects of classical archaeology receiving a light dusting of post-modernism in the process.

I myself have three difficulties with the notion of classical art history. For one thing, what counts as ‘art’ seems arbitrary. The objects singled out for special regard by the ancient authors do not correspond very much with those selected for ‘artistic’ study by modern scholars. No ancient author considered pottery (however well decorated) to be ‘art’, and some of the most celebrated and contested objects (p. 723) of contemporary ‘classical art history’, such as the Parthenon frieze itself, were never mentioned by ancient authors. Secondly, the term itself is, in the field of Hellenic studies, problematic. There is no ancient Greek word for ‘art’—tekhnē in ancient (not modern) Greek means ‘craft’ or ‘skill’, usually retaining overtones of cunning or trickery. The nearest we have to ‘art’ in ancient Greek is agalma, usually translated as ‘adornment’, and applied almost exclusively to votive objects. Art is a Roman term, and to use it is to look at Greek culture through the distorting lens of a Roman aristocratic collector. Thirdly, there is the implication of exclusivity that ‘art’ connotes. By definition, all art is material culture, but not all material culture is art. Why, then, separate the two?

Whatever one's view on this, archaeologists and art historians working in different periods have clearly responded differently to the question of where their real disciplinary affionities lie. In the process, ‘Greek archaeology’ has become fragmented. These different responses relate directly to the question of the temporal and spatial scope of both Greek and classical archaeology. The most extreme of these responses has been in Aegean prehistory, a field which perhaps best illustrates the problem of defining the place of archaeology within Hellenic studies.

In the heyday of ‘Homeric Archaeology’ the study of the prehistoric Aegean lay firmly within the boundaries of classical studies. In the earlier years of the twentieth century the question of the ‘origins’, both of the Greeks and of the ‘Greek miracle’, was paramount. For when does Hellenic studies begin? Certainly, archaeologists agreed, before 776 bce (the traditional date for the first Olympiad). The archaeological record in Greece begins with some Lower Palaeolithic hand-axes found in the Grevena area. The earliest hominids in the Palaeolithic, and the first farmers in the Neolithic, periods in prehistory have never generally been considered ‘Hellenic’. The Bronze Age of the third and second millennia bce, however, faced two ways. Traditionally, before the 1950s, the Bronze Age has been considered both ‘pre-Hellenic’ but also firmly part of Classical studies. The terms ‘Helladic’, ‘Cycladic’, and ‘Minoan’ have been used for the Aegean in the Bronze Age. These terms refer to the archaeological cultures of three regions: ‘Helladic’ to the southern mainland (Thessaly and further south); ‘Cycladic’ to the Cyclades; and ‘Minoan’ to Crete. All are divided in a further tripartite manner into ‘Early’, ‘Middle’, and ‘Late’. The Bronze Age ended shortly after the destruction of the major palaces c.1200 bce, Greeks being thought to have arrived in the Early Iron Age (referred to as ‘Early Hellenic’). But when the script of the Linear B tablets found in the Late Bronze Age palaces of Knossos and Pylos (and datable to between 1300 and 1200 bce) was deciphered by Michael Ventris in 1953 and found to be in an early form of Greek, a reassessment was in order. The search was on for breaks in the archaeological record which would signal the ‘coming of the Greeks’, first in the mainland and then in the islands, ‘the Greeks’ being thought of as an Indo-European people who arrived from the north. The destruction of Lerna at the end of Early Helladic II (c.2200 bce) and the appearance of ‘warrior graves’ in Knossos at the beginning of (p. 724) Late Minoan II (c.1450 bce) have both been seen as marking successive stages in the advance of Greek speakers across the Aegean.

After Ventris, one might have thought that ‘Hellenic’ archaeology would be redefined and allowed to begin sometime in the Bronze Age. Separating the Late Bronze Age out from the rest, and combining it with the study of the Iron Age and later periods, would have made most sense from the perspective of Hellenic studies. That is not, however, what has happened in recent years. Instead, ‘Aegean prehistory’, defined as beginning in the Neolithic period, and ending just after the destruction of the palaces (c.1100 bce), has, through its extensive borrowing of theories and methods from other archaeologies, and through its own pioneering work in the fields of bio-archaeology, field survey, and the scientific analysis of ceramics, effectively been forming itself into a separate, and tightly defined, field of study (Cullen 2001). Practitioners of Aegean prehistory increasingly know more and more about scientific techniques, anthropological theory, and the archaeology of Mesopotamia, Mesoamerica, or Melanesia, and less and less about Classical studies. Aegean prehistorians and the experts on Athenian white-ground lekythoi have had little to say to each other of late. This leaves the study of the Early Iron Age in a kind of disciplinary no-man's land, half in ‘classical archaeology’ as traditionally understood, and half in Aegean prehistory.

In later periods it is the spatial scope of Greek archaeology that varies. At the end of the Iron Age the Greek world expands. The archaeology of archaic and classical Greek ‘colonies’ (the term is contested: cf. De Angleis in this volume) in the western Mediterranean, Libya, and the Black Sea, and the archaeology of Hellenistic cities and sanctuaries in Macedonia, Anatolia, Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and even Afghanistan, have also been considered both Greek and classical. With the Roman conquest, the archaeology of the provinces of Achaia, Crete, Macedonia, Epirus Vetus, and Asia becomes part of Roman archaeology in general and, until recently, in the area of the modern Greek state, this archaeology has suffered from a comparative neglect. Byzantine archaeology is also clearly ‘Greek’, if no longer classical, but the subject is not so well developed as other fields. Investigation of the archaeology of Frankish, Venetian, and Ottoman Greece has at least begun, but has a long way to go.

59.3. What Archaeology Can Do For You: Three Case-Studies

In all this, it is difficult to view ‘archaeology’ as only a methodology, a tool which can be applied to address historical questions through material means. This is (p. 725) not simply because relating the sequence of historical events to the archaeological sequence is rarely straightforward. Archaeological practice varies according to the ‘Hellenic’ status of the period and place being investigated. The more classical, and the more Hellenic, the period, the greater resistance to extraneous ‘theory’, and the more archaeological practice will distinguish itself from that undertaken in other parts of the world. This is not a good thing. Hellenic studies is failing to feel the full benefits that archaeology might open up to it, not only through borrowing from other archaeologies, but also from exploiting the full range of new techniques that have been developed in Aegean prehistory.

In what follows I intend to show what archaeology can do, using three case-studies. The case-studies are taken from periods, the archaic and classical, which are unambiguously Hellenic. The first, from Crete, illustrates what archaeology can do to address historical questions when the full range of new techniques is applied. This is a case of new questions creating new objects of study. The second, from Macedon, illustrates how the historical questions we ask are affected by new discoveries—not so much singly as in aggregate. Archaeology throws up many strange cases, which it is as much the historian's as the archaeologist's task to solve. The third illustrates how new ideas, particularly theories derived from anthropology, can be used to shed new light on some very familiar objects.

59.3.1. First Case-Study

One of the ways in which the ancient Greeks differed from ourselves lies in the manner of their eating and drinking. By this I do not mean that they ate different things—if we discount the impact of New World crops, the range of things they ate and drank is not that different, either from us or from their neighbours in the Near East. It is rather that the social context, and the occasions, in which they consumed meat, wine, legumes, and so forth differed radically. The occasions are related to institutions—they are socially and, to a degree, politically embedded. For classical Athens, we know from both literary sources and inscriptions about two of these institutions: the symposium and the religious festival. For it was at public religious festivals that large animals (such as bulls or sheep) were sacrificed, and their meat eaten by participants of both sexes in the festival. We know quite a lot, both from literature and iconography, about what a symposium must have been like; our sources are rich in hints as to the delicacies (chiefly fish) that were consumed. Archaeology (at least the presence of so-called andrēnes) indicates that symposia were primarily domestic, and so private, at least by the late classical period (and cf. Hobden in this volume). But for the Greek world outside of Athens we have to rely on archaeology. Can we assume that Athens represents some kind of ‘norm’?

(p. 726) The answer here must be ‘no’, especially as regards the symposium. The archaeological record indicates that symposium sets first developed in Corinth, some time in the seventh century bce, and were then reproduced in Athens, Laconia, and East Greece. But symposium assemblages conspicuously failed to develop elsewhere in the Aegean, particularly in Crete (Whitley 2001: 243–52; 2004). The decorated krater, the centrepiece for any symposium, almost disappears in the sixth century on the island, and the principal drinking vessel, the one-handled cup, is conspicuous by its plainness. Later literary sources suggest that a distinctly different occasion for male commensality, the andreion, developed on the island.

Recent excavations at the site of Azoria in Crete have shed light on this question (Haggis et al. 2004). Here large-scale excavations have revealed numerous houses and public buildings of a substantial settlement, which (judging from the pottery) was comprehensively destroyed around 500–475 bce. Though we know neither the name nor the status of this settlement, the existence of public buildings indicates that it had a degree of political autonomy. The excavators have taken particular care to record both seeds and animal bones, and to relate this bio-archaeological record to the ceramic assemblages they have uncovered. This allows for an integrated approach to Cretan commensality. Marked differences from mainland practices have been revealed. First, the houses, though substantially built and with high (3 m) ceilings, are relatively simple structures, with two, three, or four rooms, but no andrōn (the space reserved for the symposium in mainland houses). Storage roomswith large pithoi are to be found in most houses, next to the main hall. Unlike earlier Geometric houses on the nearby Kastro, kitchens are separate, and burnt deposits from the hearths indicate that some meat was consumed domestically. Preliminary analysis of the seeds and bones indicate that the kinds of food being prepared in houses were quite distinct from those being prepared in these civic buildings. Elaborate storage areas are associated with public buildings. Excavation of one of them has revealed an assemblage of Cretan late archaic plain one-handled cups, coarse-ware krater stands, and kraters (together with a few Attic imports, some decorated with figure scenes): see figs. 59.1 and 59.2. This fact, together with the discovery of some fragments of bronze armour, has led the excavators to interpret this building as an andreion.

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Fig. 59.1. Late archaic/early classical drinking assemblage from the so-called andreion complex at Azoria (courtesy of Professors D. C. Haggis and M. S. Mook, the Azoria excavations, and the American School of Classical Studies at Athens).

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Fig. 59.2. Second late archaic/early classical drinking assemblage from the Azoria andreion (courtesy of Professors D. C. Haggis and M. S. Mook, the Azoria excavations, and the American School of Classical Studies at Athens).

For the ancient historian, and for many archaeologists, the natural question to ask would be ‘Is this building an andreion?’ or ‘Does this assemblage represent a Cretan symposium?’ Such questions, however, framed in terms familiar from the literary record, substantially miss the point. Rather than argue about terminology, what the Azoria excavators have revealed are distinctive Cretan patterns that require explanation. First, one of the axioms of our understanding of mainland classical households is that they were autonomous economic and social units. Such an interpretation has been made forcefully in the case of two courtyard houses from Halieis (Ault 1999). But at Azoria the fact that storage areas are found both in civic and private buildings makes any interpretation that stresses the autonomy (p. 727) of the Cretan household hard to sustain, especially when different forms of food preparation seem to be being practised in domestic and civic spaces. Secondly, whatever we call either the building or the assemblage, it is clear that krater-centred (male?) drinking practices took place in a quasi-public rather than a private setting in Crete. The decoration on the vessels themselves provides little stimulation for conversational prowess, of a kind glimpsed in Plato's Symposium. (p. 728)

59.3.2. Second Case-Study

Macedon, like Crete, occupied an ambiguous position within the Greek world of archaic and classical times. Major excavations by important Greek archaeologists at Vergina, Dion, Pella, Sindos, Derveni, Archontiko, and elsewhere are designed to resolve this ambiguity to the satisfaction of modern Greeks, and so rescue the region from Demosthenes' immense disdain. And certainly, such excavations have uncovered many spectacular finds which are, stylistically and iconographically, as Hellenic as anything found further to the south. The tomb paintings from Vergina, (p. 729) for example, are thoroughly ‘Greek’ as regards subject, technique, and iconography, and have filled a large gap in our understanding of Greek painting (Andronikos 1994). Less attention has been paid to the fact that such paintings were only preserved because they were in a tomb. It is precisely because Greeks further to the south did not expend so much energy constructing and decorating tombs for an elite group that we have this lacuna in the visual records. Or, conversely, it is precisely because Polygnotus set up his paintings in the Stoa Poikile in Athens, or decorated the walls, not of a tomb, but a symposiastic leskhē at Delphi—that is, in the public space of the sanctuary and the polis—that they have not survived.

For it is when we turn our gaze away from style, technique, and iconography, and look more closely at material and depositional practices, that the differences between Macedon and the regions further to the south become clearer. There seem to have been no major sanctuary sites within the territory of ancient Macedon in late archaic and early classical times—none, at least, that have left the enormous votive deposits we expect from a major Greek sanctuary (Morris 1998: 43–7; Whitley 2001: 252–5 and 406–12). Objects which, further south, we would normally expect to find ending up as dedications, in Macedon are deposited in graves. Like the tombs of Etruscan Italy, the late archaic and early classical cemeteries of Sindos and Archontiko are full of ‘Hellenic’ imports such as black-figure skyphoi and red-figure kraters. But the quantity of jewellery, weapons, and armour that turn up would just not be found in any contemporary grave in any cemetery associated with a major Greek polis. Before the late fourth century bce no southern parallels can be found for the quantity of weapons and armour deposited in a number of rich warrior graves (particularly graves 131, 279, and 280) from Archontiko (Chrysostomou and Chrysostomou 2001, 2003). In Macedon, before the establishment of the sanctuary of Zeus at Dion, surplus wealth was given to the dead, not to the gods.

All this is to suggest that Demosthenes might have had a point—and the point is not the ancient (and modern) controversy of the Hellenic character of Macedon. At a fundamental level, Macedonian society, politics, and culture was distinct from that of the polis communities further south, and Macedonian material practices were the expression of this difference.

59.3.3. Third Case-Study

In central and southern Greece major deposits of armour have turned up, not in graves, but in sanctuaries, primarily in the Panhellenic sites of Olympia and Isth-mia. Figure 59.3 shows a detail from a late archaic Corinthian helm from Olympia. It formed part of a large trophy of captured shields, greaves, and helmets, all inscribed, in broadly late archaic script:

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Fig. 59.3. Detail of bronze helm of Corinthian type, Olympia B 4411, showing inscription (DAI Athens neg. nr. Olympia 4703, photo courtesy Deutsches archäologisches Institut, Athens; photographed by Eva-Maria Czakó).

(p. 730)

The Argives set this up/dedicated this to Zeus from [i.e. having taken it from] the Corinthians.

This trophy has always posed a problem for the historians. First, there is the date of the hoplite battle at which the Argives defeated the Corinthians. Though the letter-forms indicate a date sometime in the late sixth or early fifth century bce, the battle itself seems to have escaped the notice of Herodotus. Alastar Jackson 2000 has recently argued strongly (on both historical and archaeological grounds) for a date between 504 and 494 bce for this trophy, and it is at this point that the priorities of the historian and archaeologist diverge.

For the historian, the find helps to fill in a gap in the political narrative of late archaic Greece. The Argive victory over Sparta's principal ally, Corinth, in the years in the run-up to the Persian wars may well be a factor in Cleomenes' subsequent harrying of Argos (Herodotus 6.76–83).

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Fig. 59.4. The Nike of Paionios of Mende (DAI Athens neg. nr. Olympia 289, photo courtesy Deutsches archäologisches Institut, Athens).

The archaeologist's interest is, however, quite different. For this trophy represents the high point of elaborate ‘raw’ dedications at major Panhellenic sanctuaries. ‘Raw’ dedications are those whose original function was not as a gift to a god, but as a useful object with a clear purpose (in this case, armour). ‘Converted’ dedications, on the other hand, are objects which could serve no purpose other than as a votive offering and which have no previous ‘biography’, such as the korai from the Athenian Acropolis. (For the distinction see Snodgrass 2006: 258–68; Whitley 2001: 311–13.) In general (and with many individual exceptions), the quantities of ‘raw’ dedications decline and the number of ‘converted’ offerings increase during the course of the fifth century bce. Bronze pins and armour are seen more rarely, while (p. 731) purpose-made statues and votive terracottas increase. It is this general process that interests the archaeologist, a process most clearly seen at Olympia itself.

The end of this process saw a new kind of monument, the winged victory sculpted from a single block of marble. The Nike of Paionios of Mende (Fig. 59.4) has long been considered an important fixture in the history of Greek sculpture, and viewed primarily as a work of art. The setting of this monument (on a nine-metre high plinth with a triangular base directly outside the east entrance to the temple of Zeus) and its inscription—which reads:

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The Messenians and Naupaktians set [this/me] up to Olympian Zeus as a tithe from the enemy

(p. 732) —proclaim this sculpture as primarily a monument to victory. Pausanias (5.26.1) confirms that this was set up after the Messenian/Athenian victory over the Spartan hoplites at Sphakteria (Thucydides 4.40.1). In brief, the Nike's function is almost identical to that of the Argive trophy. It is a political sculpture (Hölscher 1974): both a thank-offering to Zeus for victory, and a painful reminder to the enemy (Corinthians or Spartans) of their defeat, in a setting which visitors to the sanctuary could hardly fail to notice. In both social and anthropological terms, both the trophy and the Nike act as a ‘visible knot which ties together an invisible skein of relations, fanning out into social space and social time’ (Gell 1998: 62).

Anthropological theory of this kind emphasizes the social role that objects play, their agency within a particular social and historical framework. Such an approach invites archaeologists to redefine their questions. In our case, what has to be explained is the late fifth-century preference for sculpted victory monuments. For in one sense, ‘converted’ objects of this kind were at a distinct disadvantage. A captured shield or helm, with its past biography of associations, is a more concrete insult, and reminder, of what the defeated side has lost than any sculpture, however striking or well executed. It is for this reason that the Athenians maintained on public view some of the hoplite shields that the Spartans had surrendered at Sphakteria. Representational sculpture is indirect; the Nike is an allegorical (not ‘symbolic’) reference to the Messenians' victory. Such indirectness may have been preferred by the Eleans, who were both responsible for the sanctuary and allies of Sparta. Another, more positive, factor may be simply longevity. Bronze armour decays if exposed to the elements. Unless maintained in a treasury or stoa (which the Messenians did not have), captured armour would not have lasted more than fifty years. The Nike lasted throughout classical antiquity, and this may have been the decisive factor in the Messenians' choice of monument and sculptor.

59.4. Conclusions

Many classicists find the intrusion of anthropological theory into the pure, aesthetic realm of classical art unsettling. Traditional classical archaeology has concerned itself primarily with the history of the genres of architecture, sculpture, and painting, and not with the historical and social processes that underlie them. But it is surely the archaeologist's task to describe, interpret, and explain the material record as a whole. That is, to attend to the patterns that the material record makes, and the processes that generate those patterns.

Archaeology is surrounded by misconceptions. One is that archaeology exists to confirm or deny the narratives of historians; another, that the material record exists (p. 733) to fill in ‘gaps’ in the literary. My argument here is that the archaeological record has first to be explained in its own terms before it can be used for any purpose related to narrative history. One of the most frequently stated, and misleading, metaphors for archaeological endeavour is that the past is ‘a puzzle’ where we need to find ‘all the pieces’ and ‘fit them together’. But it was never a puzzle—the picture was never complete. The pieces have been randomly selected for us by a combination of natural processes and human agency. Instead of pieces we have traces, which we have to interrogate as best we may. Such interrogation continues to stretch our reasoning, our technical capacities, and our ingenuity, and this is what makes archaeology so exciting.

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                            Notes:

                            * I would like to thank Professor Donald Haggis of Chapel Hill for his useful comments on the Azoria section. Thanks too to Donald Haggis, Professor Margaret Mook, and the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Athens, for permission to reproduce images.