Oscar Montelius

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Oscar Montelius (9 September, 18434 November, 1921) was a Swedish archaeologist who refined the concept of seriation, a relative chronological dating method. Seriation is the procedure of working out a chronology by arranging material remains of a cultural tradition in the order that produces the most consistent patterning of their cultural traits.

His impetus was at first to provide relative dates for artifacts in museum collections that often lacked rigorous records, by making comparisons with other artifacts within a comparable geographical area. Montelius’ method created a timeline specific to the location, based on material remains. Later, when combined with written historical references, objects could be provided absolute dates.

He took the three-age system (Stone age, Bronze age, Iron age), originally devised by Christian Jürgensen Thomsen to organize Danish museum collections of archaeological materials, and sub-divided it further. He divided the Neolithic in Scandinavia into four numbered periods, I-IV, and the Bronze Age into three more I-III. Further he supported Thomsens typology of gold bracteates from the migration period.

By taking calendrical dates from the recently deciphered hieroglyphics of Ancient Egypt, Montelius employed a complex system of cross-dating through typologies and associated finds to apply absolute dates to archaeological finds and features all over Europe.

His diffusionist theories were eventually displaced by more complex views of cultural interaction but following refinement his system of sub-divisions is still effectively in use. Montelius was made a member of the Swedish Academy in 1917.

Strindberg on Montelius

August Strindberg, a contemporary of Montelius, held his work in low regard and satirized archeaology and Montelius' typological work in particular, in his De lycksaliges ö (published in Svenska öden och äfventyr 1882) Montelius and his colleagues are compared to button collectors who typologize buttons in accordance to uses, number of holes etcetera, founding the science of button-ology (knappologi). The typologists then go on to demand professor chairs for themselves, considering the science highly important.

External link

sv:Oscar Montelius

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