By Gavin Lucas

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A narrative that is closely dependent on chronology will be more severely limited by this constraint than other narratives. Recognizing this distinction between chronological time and real time – or, perhaps better, narrative time, is crucial. g. Shanks and Tilley 1987; Squair 1994) and, therefore, its conception of explanation is tied exclusively to this notion of time. In the next section, I want to consider the concept of narrative time more fully, and how this concept has been developed in archaeology.

While Schiffer regards the systemic context as ultimately comparable to the ethnographic one, Binford does not. Yet, I wonder if there is not some misrepresentation of the nature of the ethnographic context here by Binford. As Olivier’s example of the farmhouse shows, any observation of a living context contains multiple timescales, indeed, a walk through any landscape will encompass vast stretches of time, even beyond the Pleistocene. The problem is, Binford characterizes the ethnographic context as something existing in one-dimensional time, the present, and contrasts this with the deep timescales of the archaeological record.

Brooks suggested, alongside a threefold division of people from individual to community, a three-tier temporality for activities: events (single activities), episodes (groups of daily events) and series (groups of occupational episodes). He suggested that the more normative explanations were not simply associated with the generalized social group but also with a generalized timescale of the series. The implication is that chronological resolution will affect how specific one’s interpretation can be.

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