With the past under your feet: On the development of time concepts in archaeology

Cristian Simonetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The understanding of the past in archaeology is much influenced by how time is spatialized within the discipline. Based on ethnographic fieldwork among archaeologists, this article examines the use of time expressions and the relationship between speech and gestures. It shows that concepts important for the discipline refer to the experience of facing a past deep underneath the ground and a temporal verticality that runs from bottom to top. The analysis provides insights into the relationship between corporeal movement and conceptualization that contrast with those of cognitive linguistics by showing that concepts are not abstract entities but are co-emergent and continuous with the ways archaeologists appropriate their gravitational environments through practice. This proves to have serious implications for understanding how knowledge is constituted in sciences that excavate the past, which seriously challenges some widespread understandings of disciplinary knowledge as self-contained entities that are detached from an ecological encounter with the world of things.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-313
Number of pages31
JournalAnuário Antropológico
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2014


  • archaeology
  • time
  • concepts
  • chronologies
  • gesture


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