Thursday, September 30, 2021

Why this blog is not archaeology

I would say that my blog is definitely not an archaeology blog.  An archaeologist would speak and write in ways I do not. An archaeologist is someone who can pick up a bit of bone or a pot shard and tell you things about it. I can't do that.  I would say that I am not an amateur archaeologist at all. That phrase implies a person who engages in archaeology with some regularity, and I do not do that.  I don't read much about archaeology.  I  occasionally look at archaeology videos.  I certainly do not make remarks about bits of bone or pottery.  I don't discuss strata.  I am not sure I could define "dig".  

I would deny the proposition that we are all scientists some of the time.  Many are drawn to a philosophy of science with that implication.  I would say any philosophy of science with that implication has been discredited by reductio ad absurdam, which enforces the principle that propositions with absurd implications are absurd. 

This blog was accused on Daily Kos of engaging in pseudo-archaeology.  The rest of this entry is a rebuttal of that irresponsible charge. 

This blog exists because on 12/4 of last year I spotted some irregularities in the plain of Troy. Spotting those irregularities in a picture online cannot be archeology.  And if it is, it certainly is not pseudo-archeology.  

I am aware of the term Space Archaeology and used it in the article at Daily Kos.  However, I would deny that I was engaging in archaeology in any sense of the word on the night of 12/4/20.  

Suppose a child looking out a window sees an animal unexpectedly and calls out what is seen, saying "there's a squirrel". Is the child doing biology? Zoology? Ecology?  No. Why not?  Well, I would say that the child is not engaged in the scientific method in any meaningful sense. Mere observation is not science even if observation is some sort of step in some uses of, say, the hypothetico-dedctive method.  Suppose you tell me that your shoe weighs exactly 1 kilogram.  Have you taught me some physics?  

Now when a 59 year old goes to google satellite view to look at the area around Kalifat after having looked at an old map of the area, and unexpectedly finds mounds and declivities, and calls out the mounds and declivities, this too is not science.  It is more complicated than identifying a squirrel, but not by all that much.  It requires no specialized knowledge.  

Understanding that the mounds and declivities might be important requires some knowledge (not much) about tells and the history of finding tells.  But spotting them does not.  

Since spotting the tell and its supporting structures I have speculated on this blog about what it all might mean.  I suggested that the mounds south of the city might be flood control works. I speculated about a city in the plain and the possibility that it was destroyed by floods instead of Greeks.  I don't think those are precisely archeological speculations.  

I have two arguments for the thesis that there is probably a city buried in the plain of Troy. They are based on two different premises.  One is that humans do not build anything as big as the mound in front of Hisarlik (a mile wide) except cities.  That premise is factual and the fact it names is not from the provenance of archeology.  It is just a general fact about human history.  The second premise is that the mounds SW of Kalifat could be flood control works. Flood control works argue for something being protected from floods, and that something would be a city.  This second premise is also outside the provenance of archeology. It belongs to hydrology or geography or city planning or history as much as it belongs to archeology.  

It requires no specialized knowledge to understand that a flood plain has lots of floods and that a city in a flood plain will be subject to flooding.  It also requires no specialized knowledge to understand that flood control is about safety, namely, the safety of humans.  Flooding and flood plains are not the provenance of archeology, but of hydrology or geography.     

So, I don't think I have made a fully scientific observation, nor an archaeological argument on this blog.  At least not when it comes to the plain of Troy.  

I did make two entries about two possible settlement mounds in the Troad after spotting them.  I also have an entry about the structure in the marsh SW of Troy.  I think those are all covered by the child-sees-squirrel argument above, although I am only saying they might be settlement mounds, not that they are nor even that they probably are.  

I have also written about Atlantis and the Trojan War, the history of the search for Troy, the placement of Kalifat on old maps, and medieval and ancient sources on the city of Troy. That stuff belongs to history, literature, cartography and geography. 

Archaeology is not hydrology.  Archaeology is not history.  Archaeology is not geography.  It might use any of these at any time, but it is independent of them.  It is also independent of literature, of course, though again, it might call on literature now and then.  

Now suppose some theorist wants to deny the starting point of these reflections.  Doing so would require our theorist to maintain the thesis that a child looking out a window and calling out a squirrel is in fact doing biology. He or she will soon discover what an absurd point of view this is.  For suppose that after exclaiming about the squirrel, the child then exclaims "there's a house!"  What science are they now engaged in?  Archaeology?  Ecology?  Real Estate Studies?  And "there's a car!" means the child has taken up cultural studies or mechanical engineering or economics or all of the above or what?  By this reasoning, the 59 year-old looking at a picture on google satellite view is doing archeology as long as he calls out an unnatural looking mound in the ground, but not if he calls out a tree.  I think that is an absurd epistemology, but my point has yet to be made.  If that is all it takes to do archaeology, then, that is what it takes to do actual archaeology, not pseudo-archaeology.  After all, those who insist on this ridiculous epistemology will agree that the child pointing out a squirrel is not doing pseudo-biology.  He or she is doing the real thing.   

So, this blog is not archaeology given a sane epistemological outlook.  But even on the basis of the absurdly generous epistemology which grants that everyone is doing science daily, and all of us are rational agents, etc., I say, even on that morally corrupted epistemology, this blog would have to be based on actual archaeology, not pseudo-archaeology.  If there is a worthwhile argument ending in the conclusion that this blog has engaged in pseudo-archaeology, its premises do not include granting full scientific status to trifling observations.  

So, what about the thesis that there is a city buried in the plain of Troy?  If that is not a thesis in archaeology, then what is it a thesis in? 

Well, first, let's admit that the thesis that there was a greater city in the plain at Troy is historical.  Eberhard Zangger has been arguing for that thesis for a couple of decades.  His premises are mostly historical and textual.  None of his premises include the visual evidence my case is based on.  

The main thing that makes 'there is a city buried in the plain of Troy' sound archaeological is the word 'buried'.  But the difference between buried and not-buried is learned in childhood and is not specialized knowledge.  So, adding that word to the historical thesis does not make archaeology.  

The historical thesis that there was a city in the plain according to legend, and my thesis that there is a city buried in the plain also differ in their tenses.  One is past tense, one is present tense.  Could being stated in the present tense turn an historical thesis into an archaeological one?   Note well that if the historical thesis is true, then you would expect my thesis to be true.  That is, if there was a city in the plain, then one would expect that there is (what remains of) one there still.  So, the 'was' to 'is' transition is justifiable historically, but that just means my thesis is defendable on historical grounds, and does not need archaeological support to get off the ground.  It would be better defended with some support aside from legends.  Zangger appeals to a stratigraphy study done in the 1970s which found artifacts in the plain.  I appeal to all of Zangger's premises and to the photographic evidence on this blog. It is not just that there was a city in the plain, there still is one there to be excavated.  

The thesis that the mound in front of Hisarlik probably contains a buried city is a very strong one, but it is not really a thesis in archaeology any more than it is a thesis in history or geography.  

My critic resorts to categorical deductions: "Anyone who points and says there is a city buried there is making an archaeological claim.  You have done and said that, therefore, you really are making an archaeological claim."  I assume there is a city there on the basis of observation and inference, yes. It is up to archeologists and other scientists to determine precisely what is in the large mound.  If you will read what I said above, you will see that you seem to be wrong with your categorical remark about spotting tells.  It's not really science.  If it is, then you need to give a reason why it is.  So, I merely deny the first premise of this criticism, and confidently doubt that anyone can ever give a cogent reason for it. 

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