Recorded vs. Reconstructed & Discovered History?

Peter Graham

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
2,671
Westmorland
That sounds very sketchy though.

I assume the more analogies there are, the more can be reconstructed, & the vice versa.
Of course it's sketchy - the reconstruction is only as good as the evidence available to support it. As such, the more analogies the better.

The concept of language trees also helps. If we know that dead language A was closely related to living language B and we have infomation about how living language B has evolved, linguists can draw respectable conclusions about dead language A too.
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,386
Italy, Lago Maggiore
Of course it's sketchy - the reconstruction is only as good as the evidence available to support it. As such, the more analogies the better.

The concept of language trees also helps. If we know that dead language A was closely related to living language B and we have infomation about how living language B has evolved, linguists can draw respectable conclusions about dead language A too.
This reminds me the efforts to obtain a decent reconstruction of how Ancient Egyptian words sounded looking for help in late Greek transliterations and in recent Coptic language. Let's say that being Coptic the "grandson" of Ancient Egyptian Egyptologists can cultivate some hopes ...
 
Oct 2017
381
America ??
Well ... we love history, in the far past they loved overall chronicles to make kings and gods great and greater than great ...

Or they wrote chronicles with religious purposes [think to Gildas ... someone calls him a "historian" just exercising a remarkable optimism].

Regarding historiography before of archaeology, it was based on written records and keep in mind that it was considered at least unkind to challenge the work of a previous illustrious author: if Livius said that A did B no one should dare to suggest that Livius was wrong!

How does modern historiography deal with this? Declaring uncertainty. Archaeology actually is helping a lot about ancient sources [confirming or dismissing them], but it cannot cover all the gaps. So that today we have to manage uncertainty.
Archeology as a non-scientific study (if that is a fair definition, which it might well not be) goes back much earlier. Antiquarians, as they were known, liked hunting for old treasures. In other cases, artefacts might be found by chance (often during building works).

But, at least insofar as history as studied by those of us who live in the west are concerned, you are right to say that until relatively recently, history was largely based on written records. The key word, however, is 'based'. In much the same way that we are told that a TV drama is 'based on a true story', so our histories were based in often fragmentary documentary sources, but padded out with myth, legend, story, ideology or whatever else a commentator felt was relevant.
In both your claims that history prior to modern archeology was largely based on written records, could you tell me how far history could be traced back prior to modern archeology? Surely each part of the world had their own & there probably wasn’t a concept of world history was there? Not to mention deep time.
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,386
Italy, Lago Maggiore
In both your claims that history prior to modern archeology was largely based on written records, could you tell me how far history could be traced back prior to modern archeology? Surely each part of the world had their own & there probably wasn’t a concept of world history was there? Not to mention deep time.
It's a field of research that I really love: manuscripts.

Modern archaeology can shed light also on historical periods [even on recent WWI battle fields!]. But ... when you know that Boccaccio handled a manuscript of a work by Tacitus and he gave it to a religious organization ... what are you going to think? Boccaccio was anticlerical ...

In other words, the most interesting aspect is to focus the attention on WHO had occasion to handle this or that manuscript.
 
Oct 2017
381
America ??
It's a field of research that I really love: manuscripts.

Modern archaeology can shed light also on historical periods [even on recent WWI battle fields!]. But ... when you know that Boccaccio handled a manuscript of a work by Tacitus and he gave it to a religious organization ... what are you going to think? Boccaccio was anticlerical ...

In other words, the most interesting aspect is to focus the attention on WHO had occasion to handle this or that manuscript.
Well said. But you still haven’t exactly answered my question about how far back history could be traced back & how knowledgeable it was before the advent of modern archeology in the Victorian era.