How was history before the advent of modern archeology in the mid-19th century?

Oct 2017
385
America ??
Greetings.

How was the nature of history before the advent of modern archeology in the mid-19th century / Victorian Era?

How does pre- modern archeology / pre- Victorian era / pre- mid 19th century history compare with history before that as a discipline & overall understanding of the past?

Clearly archeology as a scientific discipline as well as other sciences has added tremendously to humanity’s understanding of the past.

Modern archeology appears to have arisen about the same time that other sciences like evolutionary science, natural history, neuroscience & psychology did, so much so that the 19th century was a century of great scientific advances & that archeology was one among them.

Our knowledge & understanding of natural history, as well as the origins of history itself, including writing, civilization & agriculture / settled living, as well as numerous other historical details, wouldn’t have been possible without modern archeology.

I’ve heard that prior to modern archeology, history was largely based on written records & was largely concerned with main facts or points about characters & events rather than specific tactical details, whose interest with seems to be taken more seriously only after the advent of modern archeology, & that prior to the mid 19th century archeology was largely just centered around discovered antique collections.

What I’m wondering is how far back could history be traced & how much knowledge & understanding was there with history & how seriously was history even taken prior to the advent of archeology as a discipline in the mid 19th century? What were the earliest known facts about the past before the mid 19th century, & what were common conceptions of the past before earliest known records prior to the mid 19th century, it seems to be divine creationism in various forms in an unknown past for the most part, but what else apart from that, did people just admit that they had no idea?

It appears that like the rest of humanity overall, the understanding of history wasn’t unified before the 20th century & each region & culture of the world had their own independent understandings of the past, some more advanced than others, probably the West & Middle East could be said to have had the most advanced, & that it was during the previous century that each region & culture’s understanding of the past finally became unified largely thanks to European colonialism connecting the world, & combined with the relatively new discipline of archeology, to form our modern discipline of history. Did I get that right?

Kind Regards.
 
Last edited:
Oct 2018
2,087
Sydney
The Greeks and Romans took the writing of history seriously. Certainly, their historiographical standards weren't as high as they are now. Rhetorical tropes, for instance, often influenced what they wrote. But historians like Thucydides, Polybius, Tacitus and Ammianus did try to write history with accuracy. Polybius, for instance, is vehement in his criticisms of historians like Fabius Pictor, Philinus and Timaeus, historians whom he argued were too given to bias. He also interviewed people like Scipio Aemilianus and Masinissa, and he checked out old documents like the various Roman-Carthaginian treaties. So, in other words, Polybius engaged in critical reasoning, evidence and the issue of bias. These ancient historians were pioneers. The reason the research of history reached new levels of rigor in the 19th and 20th centuries is not only because of improved archaeological practices, but also (in the case of ancient history) an increased usage of inscriptions, coins, papyri, art and iconography as evidence, and the arising of new historiographical ideas and debates surrounding the use (and criticism) of sources and what constitutes good historical research, thus the different schools of historiography: empiricism, social history, relativism, cliometrics, postmodernism, etc.
 

MG1962a

Ad Honorem
Mar 2019
2,376
Kansas
Greetings.

How was the nature of history before the advent of modern archeology in the mid-19th century / Victorian Era?

How does pre- modern archeology / pre- Victorian era / pre- mid 19th century history compare with history before that as a discipline & overall understanding of the past?
In England before the Victorian era such people were known as Antiquarians

There is a pretty good list of early antiquarians listed here to get you started

 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
6,506
Portugal
It appears that like the rest of humanity overall, the understanding of history wasn’t unified before the 20th century & each region & culture of the world had their own independent understandings of the past, some more advanced than others, probably the West & Middle East could be said to have had the most advanced, & that it was during the previous century that each region & culture’s understanding of the past finally became unified largely thanks to European colonialism connecting the world, & combined with the relatively new discipline of archeology, to form our modern discipline of history. Did I get that right?
Since the 15th/16th centuries the Portuguese and the Castilian wrote about the history of other peoples. Previously Arab writers also wrote about the history of others. Examples of the Classic Antiquity were already mentioned here. So saying "history wasn’t unified before the 20th century & each region & culture of the world had their own independent understandings of the past" would not be totally correct.
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
6,102
Well, the original feature of 19th c. archaeology is that it seriously started to collect information and create synthetic narratives about prehistory. And it tended to be nations with not very deep recorded histories that took the lead in that work. And it was modeled on the prior historization of natural history in the decades around 1800, spawning the new science of paleontology.
 
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Oct 2017
385
America ??
Well, the original feature of 19th c. archaeology is that it seriously started to collect information and create synthetic narratives about prehistory. And it tended to be nations with not very deep recorded histories that took the lead in that work. And it was modeled on the prior historization of natural history in the decades around 1800, spawning the new science of paleontology.
Please elaborate what you mean by saying it was modeled on the prior historization of natural history in the decades around 1800, & by that so you mean the 19th century as a whole or the turn of the 18th & 19th centuries?

Please elaborate why did it tend to be nations with not very deep recorded histories that too the lead in that work?

Can you answer the big question here as to how far back did pre- archaeological, which I guess means pre- Victorian, history trace back? In general for the world/humanity. In general, how detailed was pre- archaeological history & how seriously was it even take? One impression I get though is that what are usually claimed as the earliest written records in the Middle East dating over 5,000 years ago is actually part of archeological & post- Victorian history, & that earliest undiscovered written records date much more recently than that arising independently around the world.
 
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Oct 2017
385
America ??
What are the earliest known sources for recorded history that isn’t archeological or other science based??
 
Oct 2018
2,087
Sydney
If you're including historical annals inscribed into the walls of say, Pharaonic temples, as archaeological recorded history, than the earliest still-extant non-archaeological written history is probably that of Herodotus.
 
Oct 2017
385
America ??
If you're including historical annals inscribed into the walls of say, Pharaonic temples, as archaeological recorded history, than the earliest still-extant non-archaeological written history is probably that of Herodotus.
Thanks for that Diocletian. That’s a good question as to whether discovered inscriptions, & they’ve been discovered all over the world, should count as archeological or direct recorded history, as many documents & manuscripts are likewise discovered similarly. Herodotus’ history eh? How were they passed down along time, I can only assume by being hand-copies by scholars like monks.
So you seem to consider Mesopotamian records, traditionally claimed as the earliest written records, as still being part of archeological rather than non-archeological written history?
But are you actually sure Herodotus counts as the earliest non-archeological written records? He lived in the 5th century bc, the khan article below says that;

“Written records have another serious limitation. They only reach back a few thousand years. When H.G. Wells, just after World War I, tried to write a history of the entire Universe, he complained that “chronology only begins to be precise enough to specify the exact year of any event after the establishment of the eras of the First Olympiad [776 BCE] and the building of Rome [753 BCE].”



Now to the main question here. Herodotus’ history probably counts for the Western World’s earliest non-archeological written records, & if it’s not actually him it’ll still certainly be someone else Ancient Greek. Now would you be able to tell me what the earliest still extant non-archeological written history are for each respective region of the world??
 
Oct 2018
2,087
Sydney
So you seem to consider Mesopotamian records, traditionally claimed as the earliest written records, as still being part of archeological rather than non-archeological written history?
I don't think that there is an inherent distinction between archaeological and 'recorded' history, since 'recorded' isn't the opposite of 'archaeological'. Inscriptions record facts, as do coins, but one often finds these objects through archaeology.
But are you actually sure Herodotus counts as the earliest non-archeological written records?
I'm not sure, no. We do have fragments of earlier Greek historians, in the sense that later Greek historians refer to what they said (which is what 'fragment' means in that particular usage). I don't remember their names, but if I recall correctly, these earlier historians wrote history as poetry, whereas Herodotus and those Greek historians that followed wrote prose. Herodotus, incidentally, didn't just write about events in the 5th century BC. He also wrote about earlier events in Mediterranean history, presumably using the poetic historians as sources.
Now to the main question here. Herodotus’ history probably counts for the Western World’s earliest non-archeological written records, & if it’s not actually him it’ll still certainly be someone else Ancient Greek. Now would you be able to tell me what the earliest still extant non-archeological written history are for each respective region of the world??
Unfortunately I can't.
 
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