Archaeology and the Capitalist World System: A Study from Russian America

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Yet despite the clarity of his language, the book remains hard to grasp for outsiders, mainly because of the diffusion of discussion on what were distinct phases in the development of Soviet archaeology between different chapters on debates, personalities, and so on. This diffusion can be seen very well for the initial development of archaeology along Marxist guidelines in the late s and s.

This topic is treated directly in seven different chapters on trends, debates and key personalities. Yet for the reader not well-versed in the period it is a challenge to piece together these different fragments into a coherent whole. For example, the crucial early role of RANION in the late s and early s is not discussed in depth, or even explained, but mentioned only in passing in the biographies of key figures. In this way, the account given by Klejn remains oblique at points, owing to the diffusion of crucial episodes between a large number of chapters. A more conventional chronological account would have brought the different strands together, though at the cost of sacrificing some of the diversity highlighted by Klejn.

Yet the engagement between Marxism and archaeology in the post-revolutionary period started slowly, owing to the material realities of the civil war and its aftermath. The first of these factors is the continuous expansion of research in terms of the number and scale of expeditions and investment in field techniques and laboratory facilities, reflecting the priority given to science by the state. Second, archaeology in the USSR was defined and integrated institutionally as part of history departments.

The ultimate aim of archaeological research was to contribute to resolving the great questions of history, rather than those of the natural sciences as for many pre-revolutionary Russian archaeologists or those of anthropology as in the USA. Finally, Klejn notes the pervasive atmosphere and language of struggle in Soviet praxis, both for socialism and against the forces opposing it. This notion of struggle persisted throughout the life of the USSR, but was most pronounced, and carried the most serious consequences, during the years of Stalin, who adapted it for carrying out his Purges.

The notion of partiinost and the Stalinist persecutions should not be conflated, however, as the latter precisely involved the establishment of the power of the bureaucracy that Lenin feared. Dialectically, the struggle for a Marxist archaeology also implied a struggle against something else, this something else being the pre-revolutionary cultural-historical archaeology that was focused on using archaeological materials to trace ethnically-based cultures and their migrations. These things would not be treated on a similar scale in Western archaeology until the s. Initially the struggle for a sociological approach to archaeological remains, and, in parallel, the struggle against artefactology, was relatively clear-cut and limited to rhetorical attacks.

In their vision archaeology could move from the reconstruction of productive forces the base through the remains of tools toward relations of production, political systems, and ideology the superstructure. In their view, archaeology should concern itself solely with describing the remains it uncovers, and leave interpretation to history as an overarching discipline.

The institute in which the Moscow group was working was disbanded, and its members forced to recant their ideas in order to join the new Moscow branch of GAIMK. The Communist Party leadership of GAIMK favoured stadialism, grouping the archaeological remains together with other sources in a succession of modes of production.

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Their approach is different from the philosophical stadialism of the Enlightenment, while also adding what may be seen as a sociological approach to the technical stadialism of the Three Age system used in archaeology. These additions consisted of sophisticated causal explanations of historical change, as opposed to cultural-historical references to ethnicity, and the outline of modes of production.

Yet the stadialism of the USSR in the s is peculiar, and should be distinguished from other Marxist versions of stadialism.

This is because the initial Soviet perspective on stadialism was shaped by the linguistic theories of N. Marr, who was one of the few prominent members of the Russian Academy of Sciences to welcome the Bolshevik revolution. Klejn describes Marr as being strong in literary philology but prone to flights of fancy in linguistics, focusing on doubtful reconstructions of phonetic correspondences between otherwise highly-distinct languages. These ideas were rejected by linguists in Russia and the West alike.


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Hence the development of language can be included within a stadialist scheme of development, as noted by Klejn:. The Japhetic and Indo-European language families turned out to be not local formations, not groups of related languages languages interconnected through their descent from a common ancestor , but ubiquitous stages in the development of speech. The foundation of this development was not a segmentation of ethnic groups and languages, not a division, but on the contrary hybridization and merging: from a multitude of tribal dialects, through a number of stages, to a future common language of humanity.

Not only an identical pattern of thought, but allied to it a unified grammatical structure for languages at one and the same stage, was determined by economic and social similarity. From this position of power, he employed the language of partiinost to establish his linguistic theories as the paramount ones in Soviet scholarship. The critics of his ideas were said to belong to the enemy camps of the West and of those stuck in pre-revolutionary mentalities, while Soviet science supposedly made breakthroughs in linguistics not limited by the old dogmas. From the early s archaeologists had been arrested for various reasons, especially in the Ukraine, but in with the coming of the Great Purge the GAIMK itself was liquidated and its Party leadership and their associates were executed.

Archaeology was put back into the more conventional setting of the universities and the Academy. The war then led to the loss of many more archaeologists. The result of all this was that after its initial promising start, Soviet archaeology was severely hampered in its engagement with Marxism by the impact of ideological struggles for and against. Slices of the archaeological record are treated as exemplars of certain modes of production, such as the slave-holding states of the Greco-Roman northern Black Sea coast, [24] but no coherent thread emerges to connect the different parts.

Here stadialism is upheld theoretically, but fails to persuade in practice. This was the result not just of ideology, for the materials of Soviet archaeology proved insufficient for a synthesis by the very sympathetic Marxist archaeologist Gordon Childe, as noted by Klejn. One interested outsider has noted that the key problem of Soviet archaeology was the inability to properly allow data to modify and rework its theories, owing to the constraining political factors. What matters, rather, are the specifics of the political programme being pursued. For archaeology this meant the co-existence of multiple trends.

Their work essentially retraced the methods of cultural history and its association with nationalism, albeit in the different context of Soviet power and its policy on nationalities. As discussed by Klejn, [30] new research trends emerged that improved methodology in the description of archaeological remains, the study of the technologies behind these remains, and in studying their ecological context. Marxism was not neglected either, its emphasis on a materialist account of history coexisting with the cultural-historical focus on ethnicity.

Apart from a short-lived attempt under Khrushchev to try to reinstate Marr and his ideas, the main current through which Soviet archaeology engaged with Marxism was through a form of sociology, which had been banned by Stalin. The result is that his book sometimes seems quite abstract, rather than being rooted in what the trowel and the brush brought to light.

It is here that the book by Andrianov on the irrigation systems of the Aral Sea area can be useful for providing a good example of Soviet archaeology getting to work on its materials.

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In antiquity and medieval times Khorezm was home to an urban civilisation with a distinct state and intellectual tradition, forming part of a broader Iranian cultural sphere through linguistic affinity. The task of the KhAEE was to study the historical trajectory of this area from prehistory to the present, using a combination of large-scale excavation, aerial and field surveys, as well as ethnographic and environmental studies.

To contrast this region with a nearby one, research was also carried out in the delta of the Syr-Darya Jaxartes river.

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The scale of research and the combination of different field methods were then without parallel in world archaeology, as noted by U. Although initiated and led in its first decades by S. Tolstov, the KhAEE outlived him and work in the field continued until Its collective ethos of purpose, honed in the often-difficult conditions of fieldwork, allowed other individuals to develop their own research skills and interests within the signposts of the overall project.

Of course, the need to fund large-scale projects also raised their societal relevance. The prominent role for the study of irrigation by the KhAEE is connected by Andrianov to the drive to revitalise the lands of Central Asia after the revolution, based on a directive by Lenin. The key advantage of a project such as KhAEE is that it can allow for the development of a causal framework relating the natural environment to the development of the forces and relations of modes of production, as well as the political and ideological patterns of social formations. Key influences on Andrianov in this regard were the pre-revolutionary Russian geographers D.

Anuchin and L. Mechnikov, the work on plant domestication by N. Furthermore, this dialectical understanding of the relation between humans and nature is not something applied to the evidence after it has been gathered, but is intrinsic to the combined use of the methods of the natural and the social sciences. The cultural landscape is a complex natural-historical formation, in which the effects of influences of different historical periods are gradually accumulated. In every historical period the influence of society on the environment has been limited by the degree of knowledge of natural laws and the level of technological development, which in turn was determined by the laws of social development.

Landscapes have their own history.

Grasping the history of the landscapes of Khorezm and the Syr-Darya delta was made possible by the combined methods of aerial and field survey, environmental and ethnographic studies, and large-scale excavations. Assuming a reasonable correspondence between the archaeological remains and the reconstructions of the KhAEE, [38] the criterion hinges on the coherence of the interpretation of the long-term historical development of the Khorezm and Syr-Darya delta areas.

In this regard the book is a great success. This evidence entails not just Khorezm, but also similar cases from Eurasia, Africa and the Americas. For the development of irrigation in general, Andrianov argues that it was coeval with the emergence of agriculture itself. Based on the archaeological research, Andrianov is able to recognise a succession of different irrigation techniques, each successively more complex. The evidence for the prehistoric period is limited, though some irrigation systems have been dated to the later second millennium BC and the first centuries of the first millennium BC.

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These were relatively small-scale systems adapted to natural features. Based on estimates of the length, width, and depth of the canals, Andrianov is able to estimate the amount of labour that would have been required to both construct them and to keep them from silting up. These estimates are based on the evidence from Sumerian texts that a working man with a metal shovel can move three cubic metres per day, lowered by Andrianov to two cubic metres per day for pre-metal periods.

The amount of labour estimated for the best-known prehistoric irrigation system is estimated at around one hundred workers, congruent with the size of the excavated village next to it. In general, Andrianov applies commendable caution when adequate sources are not available, noting the diverse possibilities offered by the limited evidence.

The next major period is that of antiquity in Russian: antichnost , [46] which covers the sixth century BC through the fourth century AD. This period marks the emergence of cities, advanced craft-work, Zoroastrianism and sciences associated with it, and of course the state and class-society. Although at times forming part of the Achaemenid and Sassanid Persian empires, the Khorezmian state was mostly independent, and notably its capital Toprak-kala was excavated by KhAEE. The water that these plants required was supplied by new kinds of irrigation works that could draw water directly from the river, and which extended for tens or even hundreds of kilometres.

The labour that went into constructing and maintaining different irrigation works was estimated by Andrianov at thousands of workers, in some areas more than the estimated population. Not only were the labour requirements outstripping the demographic base of localities, the initial returns of labour were also meagre as inefficient systems limited the amount of land that could receive water from irrigation works.

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After the collapse of antique society between the fourth and sixth centuries AD, the later medieval period saw the reconstruction of the Khorezmian state along feudal lines. The irrigation works were rebuilt too, now so efficient that the labour demands could be met by the higher population densities enabled by the higher agricultural productivity. Its founder S. One of the central characteristics is that anthropology tends to provide a comparatively more holistic account of phenomena and tends to be highly empirical.

In the s and s, calls for clarification of what constitutes a culture, of how an observer knows where his or her own culture ends and another begins, and other crucial topics in writing anthropology were heard. These dynamic relationships, between what can be observed on the ground, as opposed to what can be observed by compiling many local observations remain fundamental in any kind of anthropology, whether cultural, biological, linguistic or archaeological. Biological anthropologists are interested in both human variation [99] [] and in the possibility of human universals behaviors, ideas or concepts shared by virtually all human cultures.

Along with dividing up their project by theoretical emphasis, anthropologists typically divide the world up into relevant time periods and geographic regions.

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Human time on Earth is divided up into relevant cultural traditions based on material, such as the Paleolithic and the Neolithic , of particular use in archaeology. By making comparisons across cultural traditions time-based and cultural regions space-based , anthropologists have developed various kinds of comparative method , a central part of their science. Because anthropology developed from so many different enterprises see History of anthropology , including but not limited to fossil-hunting , exploring , documentary film-making, paleontology , primatology , antiquity dealings and curatorship, philology , etymology , genetics , regional analysis, ethnology , history, philosophy , and religious studies , [] [] it is difficult to characterize the entire field in a brief article, although attempts to write histories of the entire field have been made.

Now there exist many works focusing on peoples and topics very close to the author's "home". Since the s it has become common for social and cultural anthropologists to set ethnographic research in the North Atlantic region, frequently examining the connections between locations rather than limiting research to a single locale. There has also been a related shift toward broadening the focus beyond the daily life of ordinary people; increasingly, research is set in settings such as scientific laboratories, social movements, governmental and nongovernmental organizations and businesses.