UCL logo

UCL Discovery

UCL home » Library Services » Electronic resources » UCL Discovery

Proceedings paper #25529

Rieckhoff, S; Sommer, U; (2007) UNSPECIFIED In: (Proceedings) Auf der Suche nach Identitäten: Volk - Stamm - Kultur - Ethnos (Looking for identities). Internationale Tagung der Universität Leipzig vom 8. - 9. Dez. 2000. Archaeopress: Oxford.

Full text not available from this repository.


The relationship between archaeological classifications and prehistoric reality is a fundamental one. The four terms used in the title have been used and misused – under changing political and ideological conditions – in prominent use and misuse to designate prehistoric groups (unfortunately, but rather tellingly, their ideological significance in German research does not wholly survive the translation into English). Two others terms, language and race, have been deliberately excluded. The concepts of tribe ("Stamm") and people ("Volk") were already ideologically charged in 19th century Nationalism. But it was because of their importance in fascist archaeology that both words have been, up to now, by and large, studiously avoided in German archaeological discourse. The discipline tended either to “postpone” the question of prehistoric realities “behind” archaeological assemblages or to switch to seemingly more neutral (often only more imprecise) terms like “ethnos” or culture. But in cultural anthropology, even the hitherto seemingly neutral term “culture” has been seen as being ideological. And, as the slogans of the New Right show, “culture” can be used in political propaganda just as well as “people” or “tribe”. We think that a discussion of a terminology basic to archaeology should no longer be avoided. We wanted to look into the implicit meanings, the context of use and the consequences of this usage for all terms connected with both emic and etic description of groups. The international conference “Middle and East European prehistory from 1933-1945” (Humboldt-University Berlin, 19. -23.Nov. 1998) opened up the way for a systematic discussion of the history of prehistoric research. In the Colloquium “A pre-eminently national science: German prehistorians between 1900 and 1995” of the research project “Identities and alterities”, University of Freiburg (2. -3. June 1999) this topic was put into a wider historical context. Here, the focus was less on methodology than on the vocabulary, the use of language. The project “Ethnogenesis and the construction of tradition; archaeological sources and their interpre-tation in the historiography of the 19th and 20th century”, which is part of the research project “Regional processes of identification: the case of Saxony” (SFB 417) at the University of Leipzig, examined the use of archaeological research in the constitution of regional vs. national identities. On the basis of this research, we wanted to continue the discussion begun in Berlin and Freiburg by providing a critical and systematic perspective on the development of archaeological terminology. We wanted to examine the history and current use of ethnic designation of groups, their interpretation and their potential dangers. The problem of ethnic ascription, defined here as the ascription of assemblages of material culture to either populations mentioned in historical sources or to archaeological “cultures” whose members are believed to have formed a self-defined group with a certain amount of solidarity, is, in our view a good starting point. When Gustav Kossinna first presented his “settlement archaeological method”, he believed to have supplemented Montelius’ chronological method by providing a tool for the interpretation of geographical distributions. “Sharply circumscribed archaeological culture provinces always coincide with definite peoples or tribes” (Kossinna 1911). V. G Childe, ostensibly more neutral, restricted himself to talking about cultures, “...certain types of remains - pots, implements, ornaments, burial rites, house forms - constantly recurring together” (Childe 1929). David Clarke attacked this monothetic concept of culture in 1968, but without abandoning the concept as such. This is what both cultural anthropologists and archaeologists especially in the Anglo-Saxon world are advocating now. They talk about situationally defined ethnicity and polymorphic identity (“Patchwork identities”) instead. This highly abstract discussion of a new terminology has quite practical roots. Increasingly refined chronologies have shown that archaeological cultures are not the monolithic units they have been thought to be as in the “drawers-model” of the post-war area. This makes the question of the kinds of prehistoric emic groups which form the basis of these archaeological constructs – if any – all the more opportune. But it can only be tackled after talking about an appropriate terminology. This discussion is all the more necessary in consideration of the reviving nationalist and racist attempts to extend the roots of modern political communities into the distant past by means of fictitious genealogies. We want to counteract this teleological view of history by consistently historicing all ethnical terms and by concrete archaeological studies that show the uneven course collective identitification-processes can take.

Type: Proceedings paper
Event: Auf der Suche nach Identitäten: Volk - Stamm - Kultur - Ethnos (Looking for identities). Internationale Tagung der Universität Leipzig vom 8. - 9. Dez. 2000
Dates: 02 June 1999 - 03 June 1999
ISBN-13: 978-1-4073-0149-5
Keywords: Ethnicity, tribes, culture-historical model
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/25529
Downloads since deposit
Download activity - last month
Download activity - last 12 months
Downloads by country - last 12 months

Archive Staff Only

View Item View Item