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Stratigraphy (Archeology)

History Of Stratigraphy

The basic principles of stratigraphy were developed primarily by geologists in the nineteenth century. Many of the fundamental ideas drew on the observations of Jens Jacob Asmussen Worsaae in Denmark, and Thomas Jefferson in Virginia.

Among the first archeologists to understand the stratigraphy of tells (artificial mounds) were William Matthew Flinders Petrie at Tell-el-Hesi in 1890, Heinrich Schliemann at Troy between 1871 and 1890, and R. Pumpelly and Hubert Schmidt at Anau in 1904. Another major force behind the acceptance of archeological stratigraphy was General Pitt-Rivers (1827–1900), who considered that material culture could be explained in terms of a typological sequence—objects that had evolved over time. In his excavations, he practiced the total excavation of sites, emphasizing the principles of stratigraphy. Giuseppe Fiorelli, who assumed responsibility for the excavation of Pompeii in 1860, also pioneered the use of stratigraphic methods in archeology.

Some early advocates of the principles of stratigraphy found opposition from many of the same traditionalists who opposed the theory of evolution. The French scientist Georges Cuvier (1769–1832), for example, was convinced that the history of Earth had been characterized by a series of catastrophic events, the last being the biblical flood of Genesis. Charles Lyell (1797–1875), a contemporary of Couvier, argued that geologic change throughout Earth's history had taken place gradually. Although many of Lyell's ideas were not new, they had tremendous influence because he presented them more clearly than had any of his predecessors. As the biblical accounts of the Flood became less convincing to many scientists in light of new scientific discoveries, the historical record of stratified rocks began to replace the story of Genesis as a basis or understanding the past.


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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Stomium to SwiftsStratigraphy (Archeology) - History Of Stratigraphy, How Stratigraphy Is Used, Problems With Stratigraphy