The time-space discontinuum: Scale in the geography and chronology of negev archaeology

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Although the culture history of the Negev most notably can be characterized as one of repeated discontinuities, to a great extent these result from misperceptions of scale, resolution, and precision in the examination of the archaeological record. In particular, the following phenomena can be noted: 1. In the medium and long term, especially evident among mobile societies like so many in the history of the Negev, the fluidity of adaptation and adjustments to changing geo-political and ecological circumstances may result in apparent gaps. These gaps are real at a small scale, but they result from shifting patterns of exploitation over areas greater than those surveyed or synthesized archaeologically. The expansion and contraction of culture regions can result in apparent cultural truncation on the periphery, or on the seams between culture areas. Paradoxically, the greater our chronological resolution, the more likely such patterns may be evident given the basic fluctuations in settlement patterns and limited archaeological spatial coverage. Such processes may not be self-evident without recognition of larger scale regions and processes. 2. Given shifting geographic patterns of exploitation and adaptation, at one level one should expect non-correlation between cultural areas in terms of patterns ofcultural florescence versus decline. This in turn constitutes a strong argument against simplistic notions of environmental determinism where climatic amelioration is associated with cultural florescence and deterioration with cultural decline. 3. Given the scales of these phenomena, medium and long term chronologically, and supra-regional geographically, processes evident ethnographically can provide only hints of larger scale archaeological dynamics. Historical records are also ambiguous, especially in regions like the Negev where they are limited. The essence here is that cultural systems, in this case in the Negev, are actually open systems; however, due to limitations imposed by archaeological practice, we too often impose closure. Furthermore, unlike biological systems, from which we often adopt our models, cumulative effects which are slow (by human standards) in (genetic) biological systems are rapid in cultural systems. Thus, between perceptions of closed systems and the potential rapidity of culture change, cultural evolutionary trends may be hidden by apparent cultural rupture.

Original languageEnglish GB
Title of host publication‘Isaac went out to the field’
Subtitle of host publicationStudies in Archaeology and Ancient Cultures in Honor of Isaac Gilead
EditorsM. Gruber, P. Fabian, H. Goldfus, S. Yona
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherArchaeopress Publishing Ltd
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781784918309
ISBN (Print)9781784918293
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (all)
  • Arts and Humanities (all)


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