Between the vertical and the horizontal: Time and space in archaeology

Cristian Simonetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Archaeology, like most sciences that rely on stratigraphic excavation for studying the past, tends to conceptualize this past as lying deep underneath the ground. Accordingly, chronologies tend to be depicted as a movement from bottom to top, which contrast with sciences that illustrate the passage of time horizontally. By paying attention to the development of the visual language of disciplines that follow stratigraphy, I show how chronologies get entangled with other temporalities, particularly those of writing. Relying on recent ethnographic work with archaeologists, the analysis reveals that excavation emerges as a double vertical movement of downward destruction and upward reconstruction that coincides with a systematic dissociation of time and space that has important effects for the understanding of the formation of sites. I conclude by looking at some of the implications of this dissociation for contemporary theoretical discussions, particularly those that emerged after the phenomenological push to horizontalize the discipline. Challenging this dissociation, I argue that the conceptualization of time in science should be understood as a process that depends on the body and unfolds in movement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)90-110
Number of pages21
JournalHistory of the Human Sciences
Issue number1
Early online date13 Feb 2013
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013


  • archaeology
  • chronologies
  • landscape
  • space
  • time


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