By Peter R. Schmidt, Stephen A. Mrozowski

Because the eighteenth century, the concept that of prehistory was once exported through colonialism to a long way components of the globe and utilized to populations missing written files. Prehistory in those settings got here to symbolize primitive humans nonetheless dwelling in a country with out civilization and its most desirable index, literacy. but, many societies outdoors the Western international had built complicated tools of background making and documentation, together with epic poetry and using actual and psychological mnemonic units. then again, the deeply engrained inspiration of prehistory--deeply entrenched in eu minds as much as the start of the twenty-first century--continues to disclaim background and historic determine to peoples during the world.

The fourteen essays, via outstanding archaeologists of the Americas, Africa, Europe, and Asia, offer authoritative examples of the way the idea that of prehistory has lowered histories of alternative cultures outdoors the West and the way archaeologists can reclaim extra inclusive histories set in the idiom of deep histories--accepting historical pre-literate histories as an essential component of the circulation of human historical past.

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Wilson and Chambers struggled to be heard by the British Association for the Advancement of Science (Kehoe 1998: 61). Wilson said: [They had a] theory, set forth before the end of [1851] in one of the sections of the British Association as an ‘Inquiry into the evidence of the existence of Primitive Races in Scotland prior to the Celtae’. It is amusing now [in 1878] to recall the undisguised incredulity with which a theory was then received which has since met with universal acceptance. (Wilson 1878: 140) In one generation, the concept of a prehistory discovered by scientific archaeology had enormously enriched British history.

Yet, beyond studies of change there is another equally important domain that compels attention in the practice of history writing in historical archaeology: essentialized histories, the historical representations arising out of colonial and early postcolonial settings that configure historiographies we draw from in our practice of historical archaeology (Schmidt 2006). One form of entanglement arises from the power that ancient material culture has to challenge and overturn representations tendered by historians and historical archaeologists.

This occurs when Africanists or Americanists, for example, commonly confront flawed historiographies of technology, cultures, regions, or even entire continents. Often these historiographies have been created with little documentary evidence and with methods ill-suited and plainly inadequate for understanding African or American history. One example is the historiography of iron technology in Africa, which traces its genesis to missionary accounts and colonial officials’ observations (Schmidt 1996, 1997)—random titbits that were then woven together to create a corpus of historical interpretation representing iron technology in Africa as backward, primitive, a survival of prehistoric times, and as a snapshot into what ancient technologies in Europe were once like.

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