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Translating Objects into Words and Images: Methodological Observations on the Blending of Excavation and Textual Data (2014-2015)

Field of study: Archaeology

This article focuses on issues of knowledge migration across disciplinary borders, and represents an extended case study in “mode 2” knowledge production (Gibbons et al. 1994), which presupposes multi-disciplinary teams working to solve a specific research problem. Within this theoretical framework I am analyzing the metamorphoses of archaeological knowledge when incorporated into historical narratives and blended with historical knowledge, and when used, together with the latter, to produce so-called “realistic” visual models of ancient monuments. I attempt to redefine archaeological epistemology from two different, but converging perspectives, with similar underpinning issues of knowledge transfer and compatibility. The aim is to produce a theoretical device that may help to bridge the conceptual gap between different categories of data, between e.g. marble tesserae found in the trench, the talk of luxury in literary sources, and reconstructions of baths with opus sectile decoration. The urgency of the topic also comes from archaeology’s new approach to outreach, as well as from the heated debate around the impact of
interdisciplinarity on archaeology today. Importantly, the two paradigms, textual and artefactual, must be analyzed in terms of commensurability. It is often assumed that they are directly comparable, where in fact they speak different languages. A middle-range theory is needed to overcome the issue of the perceived incommensurability between them. The main case study used is that of the ancient site of Troy.

Keywords: archaeology, methodology, Troy

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