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Reading: Rethinking Antiquarianism


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Rethinking Antiquarianism


Tim Murray

La Trobe University, AU
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This paper provides the opportunity to discuss the rationale for a new collaborative research project directed at creating a global history of antiquarianism. Conventional histories of archaeology, particularly those by Daniel (e.g. 1976) and to a certain extent Trigger (1987, 2006), stress that antiquarians were in essence amateurs and dilettantes, perfect figures of their age, exemplified by the brilliantly scatty John Aubrey, or by Walter Scott’s grotesque pastiche Jonathan Oldbuck. However, following ground-breaking work by Arnoldo Momigliano (see e.g. 1966, 1990), and later by Alain Schnapp (e.g. 1996) for some time it had become clear that this was an inaccurate rendering – one designed to stress the scientific credentials of the disciplines that grew out and away from antiquarianism: the modern cultural sciences of history, sociology, anthropology, art history, archaeology, and history of religion. For Schnapp, especially in his Discovery of the Past, the division between amateur and professional (a distinction also explored with profit by Phillipa Levine (1986)) was not the cause of the triumph of archaeology (or any one of the other disciplines) over antiquarianism, and it is ill informed to interpret antiquarianism as a wrong-turning on the pathway to archaeological enlightenment. In this view antiquarianism was, and perhaps still is a full-fledged and (more important) continuing body of thought and practice.
Keywords: antiquarianism
How to Cite: Murray, T., 2007. Rethinking Antiquarianism. Bulletin of the History of Archaeology, 17(2), pp.14–22. DOI:
Published on 07 Nov 2007.
Peer Reviewed


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