November 20, 2011

examining boundaries with example of archeological culture

Do exist cultural boundaries? Do cultures bound itself or just scientists draw it?

Social scientists are so much focused on the concept of boundaries, that there is no question it exists. It's long time it's proved people always have some concept of 'us' and of 'them' in their mind, it means socially they make distinctions. And so social scientists are interested in social phenomenas emerging due to such differentiation. There is a whole study of boundaries done. But the boundary concept is not full - it's just social boundary concept, concept mostly defined by self identification which might define or identify ethnos, but not whole ethnical culture and NEITHER archaeological culture. Archeologists define archeological cultures, which may be ethincal cultures, cultures identifying themselves as one, but it is never a rule. All if far from geographical boundaries as well as the culture and it's spread is understood differentially. Geographers try to unite all possible aspects, drawing and presenting the boundaries of cultural regions.

Let's look at some archaeological boundary of Lithuanian archaeological culture drawn.

The dots in the map are the place of inhabited areas, castles, villages.
Just look, a clear boundary. Some parts like along rivers or bounding rivers are reasonable although are never crisp. Some can look just very questionable...
Well, it's true that there is no physical boundary and you can't dig it out during the archaeological field work, but we tend to see it - the boundary.

Boundary is necessary for pattern recognition in general. I guess in our heads we see every object with a clear boundary due to the scale we are able to observe, where we observe objects. Comparatively just very recently our mind got to know still big, but smaller scale. But probably the visual cognition hasn't changed so fast yet, and while recognizing some different pattern, we naturally draw boundaries in our head as it helps to distinguish one from another. Although at the same time we know there is no clear boundary...

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