Archaeological Stratigraphy and the Bifurcation of Time: Solido intra solidum

Theory, Culture and Society 39 (2):95-109 (2022)
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Abstract

The goal of this paper is to explore the ways solidity and fluidity have been articulated in relation to understandings of time and the archaeological record. It reflects on the paradox that led the 17th-century Danish scholar Nicholas Steno to write one of the first discourses on stratigraphy: how can solid objects (such as fossils) occur within other solid objects (rock)? His dissertation ( De solido intra solidum naturalitur contento, 1669) offered the simple solution: the containing solid was once a fluid. However, such a solution came at a cost which still haunts contemporary understanding of the archaeological record: a bifurcation of time into past and present expressed through the ideas of archaeological statics and dynamics. In addressing the way ‘solid fluids’ are entangled with time and archaeological stratigraphy, this paper attempts to draw novel perspectives on all three.

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