The Archaeology of Measurement: Comprehending Heaven, Earth and Time in Ancient Societies

Overview

The construction of formal measurement systems underlies the development of science and technology, economy, and new ways of understanding and explaining the world. Human societies have developed such systems in different ways in different places and at different times, and recent archaeological investigations highlight the importance of these activities for fundamental aspects of human life. The construction of measurement systems constituted new means for recognising and engaging with the material world, and ...

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Overview

The construction of formal measurement systems underlies the development of science and technology, economy, and new ways of understanding and explaining the world. Human societies have developed such systems in different ways in different places and at different times, and recent archaeological investigations highlight the importance of these activities for fundamental aspects of human life. The construction of measurement systems constituted new means for recognising and engaging with the material world, and their implications, and the motivations behind them, also extend beyond the material world. Developments such as the precise reckoning of the passage of time highlighted patterns and causal relationships in nature. Measurement systems have provided the structure for addressing key concerns of cosmological belief systems, as well as the means for articulating relationships between the human form, human action, and the world - and new understandings of relationships between events in the terrestrial world and beyond. The Archaeology of Measurement explores the archaeological evidence for the development of measuring activities in numerous ancient societies, as well as the implications of these discoveries for an understanding of their worlds and beliefs. Featuring contributions from a cast of internationally renowned scholars, it analyzes the relationships between measurement, economy, architecture, symbolism, time, cosmology, ritual, and religion among prehistoric and early historic societies throughout the world.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"In summary, scholars and students of archaeology alike will welcome the comprehensive and balanced approach to such an ambitious topic of measurement."
—Kiara Beaulieu, Journal Canadien D'Archeologie 36
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521119900
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 4/26/2010
  • Pages: 284
  • Product dimensions: 8.70 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Iain Morley is a Fellow of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research and Research Fellow of Darwin College at Cambridge University. A scholar of Palaeolithic archaeology and the evolution of human cognition, he is also co-editor, with Colin Renfrew, of Becoming Human: Innovation in Prehistoric Material and Spiritual Culture and Image and Imagination: A Global Prehistory of Figurative Representation.

Colin Renfrew (Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn) is Emeritus Disney Professor of Archaeology at Cambridge University, where he is a Senior Fellow of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research. He is author of many influential books on archaeology and prehistory, including, with Paul Bahn, Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice, which is one of the standard textbooks on the subject.

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Table of Contents

Introduction Colin Renfrew and Iain Morley; Part I. Number: Counting, Mathematics, and Measure: 1. Conceptualising quantification before settlement: activities and issues underlying the conception and use of measurement Iain Morley; 2. Measurement in navigation: conceiving distance and time in the Neolithic Helen Farr; 3. The token system of the ancient Near East: its role in counting, writing, the economy and cognition Denise Schmandt-Besserat; 4. Grasping the concept of number: how did the sapient mind move beyond approximation? Lambros Malafouris; 5. Numerical cognition and the development of 'zero' in Mesoamerica John Justeson; 6. Recording measure(ment)s in the Inka Khipu Gary Urton; Part II. Materialising the Economy: 7. Measuring by weight in the late Bronze Age Aegean: the people behind the measuring tools Anna Michailidou; 8. The concept of weighing during the Bronze Age in the Aegean, the Near East and Europe Lorenz Rahmstorf; 9. Measuring the Harappan world: insights into the Indus order and cosmology J. Mark Kenoyer; Part III. Dimensions and Belief: 10. Architectural measurements in the Indus cities: the case study of Mohenjo-Daro Michael Jansen; 11. Teothuacan City layout as a cosmogram: preliminary results of the 2007 measurement unit study Saburu Sugiyama; 12. Aztec dimensions of holiness John Clark; 13. Establishing direction in early Egyptian burials and monumental architecture: measurement and the spatial link with the 'other' Kate Spence; Part IV. Calendar and Cosmology: 14. The measurement of time and distance in the heavens above Mesopotamia, with brief reference made to other ancient astral sciences David Brown; 15. Evolution of the calendar in Shang China Mark Lewis; 16. The measure of time in Meso-America: from Teotihuacan to the Maya Anthony Aveni; 17. Measuring time, sacred space, and social place in the Inca Empire Charles Stanish; 18. Measuring time in the European Neolithic? The function and meaning of Central European circular enclosures Peter Biehl; Part V. The Spirituality of Measure: 19. The roots of spirituality and the limits of human mensuration F. LeRon Shults; 20. Worldview, measurement and 'the roots of spirituality' Jeremy Begbie.

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