Publication details

On interdisciplinarity in the humanities : A comment on Fanta et al. (2020) on the bias in dating obtained from historical sources



Year of publication 2021
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Journal of Archaeological Science
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Keywords Settlement history Written records Middle ages Time lag Archaeological method Bohemia Central Europe
Description Medieval settlement history in Europe is a common topic in several scientific disciplines. Recently, Fanta et al. (2020) examined colonization processes in Bohemia through the comparison of archaeological evidence and historical records. They concluded that the first mentions of settlements in historical documents are not reliable sources for settlement dating and should always be verified and preferably superseded by archaeological data, which are, in contrast, mostly unproblematic. We argue that this conclusion is controversial from several aspects. Firstly, it neglects the disciplinary constraints of archaeological evidence for medieval settlement development, as regards quality and chronology. Secondly, there are several legitimate perspectives from which to analyse the data. Our reanalysis of the original dataset showed that – in partial contrast to the conclusions of Fanta et al. (2020) – when viewed from the point of view of historical evidence, the time lag between the historical and archaeological dating increased with time and that the historical dating of most of the settlements between the 10th and 13th centuries was supported by archaeological evidence. Lastly, we demonstrated how research combining different disciplines (archaeology, history, palaeoecology, geography) and types evidence can reveal the manifold processes of human settlement dynamics. In our view each type of evidence has advantages as well as drawbacks, therefore strictly prioritising one at the expense of others hardly furthers the understanding of complex social phenomena.

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