Talk:Three-age system

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It doesn't seem quite correct to say that these three ages divide human pre-history, given that part of the bronze age and all of the iron age took place in historical times.

Ordinary Person (talk) 09:36, 6 March 2008 (UTC)

It's just a convention based on the difference in sources. Prehistorians as such use only archaeological and related results. As soon as any inscriptions appear, well, that is proto-history. Different method. Moreover, the same period as you say might be covered by the works of an ancient historian. There's no uniformity of usage, but I don't think that is WP's problem. As mirrors of society we reflect society's problems; indeed, we go one better and actually participate in them, bringing them to the pages of WP.

End date[edit]

I wonder, should we put an end date to the iron age in different cultures, and add things like "Industrial age" and "Information age", and possibly others? It feels weird to think that we are still living in the iron age. Although iron is obviously the most widely used metal, metalworks just isn't that important anymore. Maybe "Plastics age" would be even more descriptive. UnHoly 17:17, 28 Jan 2005 (UTC)

This article is about the archaeological three age system so adding a fourth and fifth age wouldn't make sense. It was developed as a system for putting prehistoric artefacts in chronological sequence and isn't necessary for the historical period where we already have descriptive names and matching articles on them. The end dates for the iron age in different regions are being covered in Iron Age. adamsan 21:02, 28 Jan 2005 (UTC)
That makes sense! Thanks. UnHoly 20:46, 29 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Some Dates Please[edit]

I am a casual reader, not a historian. I would like to see specific dates ranges. If they vary from culture to culture then at least give the date ranges for quite a few of the cultures: Mesopotamian, European, Mesoamerican, etc. If necessary give various ranges suggested by various authorities. 16:46, 3 December 2006 (UTC)Curious ==

more on dates please[edit]

The given URL "List of archaeological periods" is the kind of thing I have in mind--but confined to the three age system.

Agree, what's the point of talking about periods of history without clear indications of when they occurred?
—DIV ( (talk) 05:12, 6 December 2015 (UTC))

Jade Age[edit]

The discovery of thousands of carved jades in the Liangzhu region of Ancient China lends support for a "Jade Age" previous to the Bronze Age [1]).

I have problems with this for the following reasons:

  • The article linked talks only about high status items items being made from jade, suggesting it was not the "predominant tool making technology"
  • Jade is a type of stone, so are flint, chert and the other stones used during the Stone Age, so why are we making a distinction for China?
  • The three age system falls apart more and more the further away you get from Europe and I imagine Chinese archaeology has a different system of dividing up prehistory anyway.

adamsan 15:33, 4 September 2005 (UTC)

You make some valid points. I would say that since "jade age" is a term used by some, it is just as valid to include as "copper age" as an example of exceptions or variations on the 3 age system. When do we get a new age, anyhow? Is this the oil age, or the silicon age? Nuclear age perhaps? Sam Spade 22:02, 16 September 2005 (UTC)

Sure, it is used by some and gets a healthy 11,000 Google hits. I suppose I am concerned that its use is more down to journalistic exuberance than being based on sound archaeology. I still don't think it conforms to the definition of the other prehistoric ages, copper age included, as jade does not seem to have been a predominant tool-making material in China and is really just another type of polished stone. I am aware of Jadeite axes being traded in Neolithic Europe for example as just one mineral in use in the time. In response to your other question, as I responded to another user above, the three age system was about bringing order to the nascent study of prehistory, archaeologists are able to use historic terms for later periods and so it is not necessary for them to extrapolate and use the predominate tool-making material to name recent periods in this way. Uses of terms like Jet Age or Silicon Age do get Google hits but archaeologists tend to use more prosaic terms like post-medieval, industrial or the even duller "modern". adamsan 22:20, 16 September 2005 (UTC)

I don't dispute that the term is more used by the media and less by western archaeologists. If you want to say its not used often amongst western archaeologists, I wouldn't disagree, but I think the mention should stay, its on topic, verifiable, and as you point out, its rather easy to find instances of its use. Sam Spade 02:46, 17 September 2005 (UTC)

Would you accept putting it in a separate section detailing the various other Ages discussed in the media (and possibly elsewhere) but which archaeologists wouldn't include in the three age system? Eg Jet Age, Oil Age etc? adamsan 10:04, 18 September 2005 (UTC)

That sounds like a rather good idea. Sam Spade 23:30, 19 September 2005 (UTC)

Isnt the whole point to developing a three-age system to make it easier to understand human history? If so, then wouldnt the inclusion of other ages make it less transparent for casual readers, and harder to understand? The reason why people read articles here is to get a better sense of things they want to know, not to debate symantics. It stands to reason then, in all parts of science, that using the lowest common denominator as an explanation yields much more understanding than creating some vast, complicated system to compartmentalize every minute detail. As far as jade goes, it stands to reason, that since it is a stone, the stone age would already cover the manipulation of jade into tools. It serves very little purpose to argue over whether it gets its own age or not. copper doesnt really need an age in itself either, since it is a relatively soft metal that can be manipulated by crude fires, unlike iron which needs forges, bellows and coal. bronze was the first discovered, and given that bronze and copper are similar, just call it the bronze age and understand that other metals were also used. It is less about the stones, or metals themselves, but more about what level of technology was needed to fashion them into useable instruments. bryanwales 16:48, June 10 2007.

I don't think the Jade Age, or the Copper Age, are meant as alternatives to the Stone Age. I think they're subdivisions of the Stone Age. So they aren't exceptions to, or variations of, the 3 age system. And I don't think the oil age, silicon age, and nuclear age are as legitimate as the older ages. Our view of our own time period will probably be very different than the view of our time period that people will have thousands of years from now. But it doesn't matter, since the oil age, silicon age, and nuclear age don't apply to this article, since this is only about prehistory. - Shaheenjim 16:32, 11 June 2007 (UTC)

Christian_Jürgensen_Thomsen actually concieved his Three-Age System (or rather his Three-Period System) as a Four-Age System in which the fourth age was historical time. But as Shaheenjim rightly points out, this is not relevant, as this article is only concerned with prehistory. Archaeotronic 13:54, 13 June 2007 (UTC)


When were slaves first used?Sleigh 18:54, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

Why do you ask? - Shaheenjim 02:35, 8 June 2007 (UTC)

This classification ignores that we speak about different people[edit]

It should be made clear in the article that this classification does not describe the evolution of a society, but several societies, that have replace others. Paleolithic could mean neanderthals, while neolithic could mean homo-sapiens, Most of the prehistory is not our history, but the history of our 'cousins'.

  • For clarification sake, according to science as it is generally recognized, "neolithic" ONLY refers to homo-sapien sapiens... Prehistory refers to our ancestors, not our "cousins." Prehistory (which is a debunked term at this point) refers to your and my predecessor lineage... Stevenmitchell 07:15, 8 October 2007 (UTC)

That's human prehistory. Prehistory is simply before recorded history. Meaning any time before which translatable writings can attest. The time of dinosaurs, for instance. We can have evidence of those times, but without a written record which is understood fully, it belongs to prehistory. Thetrellan (talk) 18:50, 20 September 2016 (UTC)

Missing information[edit]

The more generalized "three-age system" (savagery, barbarism, civilization) developed by Lewis H. Morgan. This was very important in the history of anthropology, and is still of some (though reduced) relevance today.--Pharos 17:37, 21 February 2007 (UTC)

That sounds like it should be a separate page, and there can be a disambiguation page with links to this page and that other page. I nominate you to write the other page. - Shaheenjim 02:32, 8 June 2007 (UTC)

Which one are we in now, BTW?Tildesaur 16:38, 19 September 2007 (UTC)

  • In answer to the above question about which time period we are in now, the Three-Age system is not applicable - hence its archaic quality... It provided an understanding 150 years ago, but times have changed and much information has been accumulated that renders this usage inapplicable. Stevenmitchell 09:56, 8 October 2007 (UTC)
Well folks I have not been over this in detail yet but I can tell you right now that if you are going to argue that the three ages- stone, bronze, iron - are archaic, passe, unsuitable, what have you - you might as well go howl on the steppes with whatever wolves are available still. This system here replaced Morgan, who was never very popular to start with, and is so worked into the scholarship it would require a major dark age to get it out and all the books to be burned and all the scholars executed. I can't even imagine what you might say would replace it. That reminds me, I left Morgan hanging a while back. First of all, I have not seen anyone for a very long time attempt to find modern names for modern times that would continue this system. It is generally agreed the growth of technology is accelerating at an increasing rate so by the time you found a proper name for some of it both would be obsolete. We can pretty much figure the iron age ended with the fall of Rome unless there might be some isolated cultures in remote parts of the earth who followed the traditional development for a while. Usually that development is abrogated by intrusions, a popular topic. What are we in now? What indeed, wouldn't most of us like to know! Now, if you take a substantial look at Morgan, you will find that his understanding of the past, like that of Hegel, suffers from a deficit of all the study done on those topics from then until now. In fact I was laughing so hard reading Hegel that I just threw the book down as of no interest any longer. You might just as well read a comic book. These people are only of interest for their general approach and philosophy than pioneering. Morgan was still taken seriously by socialist anthropologists prior to WWII but subsequently got dropped totally except for such reverent lip service as yours just now. Take a look at his language - you couldn't use that racist stuff today. So if you please, no more here about Morgan. This is the appropriate topic and it is generally appropriately written although needing some clean-up.Dave (talk) 18:34, 17 April 2008 (UTC)

Notice of deletion of some information[edit]

FYI, I deleted part of this article about Thomsen, the guy who came up with the Three-age system. The part of the article I deleted said:

"Thomsen and his predecessors argued that nobody would have used stone tools if bronze ones had been available, and that similarly, no one would have wanted to use bronze tools if there had been iron ones around instead. Reasoning that the advances must therefore have come in chronological sequence, he suggested this as a workable basis for dating artefacts and sites."

I'm not sure, but I think his argument was not entirely true, and is misleading, and that's why I deleted it. Some iron tools (specifically, steel ones) are superior to bronze tools. But I think most of the iron tools in the iron age were made from wrought iron, which is inferior to bronze. Most people think they switched just because iron was more common, and therefore cheaper, than bronze. See the Iron Age page, which I also recently updated, for more information. - Shaheenjim 22:41, 7 June 2007 (UTC)

But we are here to cover the history of the theory, as well as its current state (if it has indeed evolved on this point). We shouldn't omit this historical aspect just because it may be incorrect, just like we don't omit Pluto#Incorrect_prediction. By the way, if you have a definite source that goes against Thomsen's theory, that should definitely be added to the article.--Pharos 17:26, 21 September 2007 (UTC)
Well the deleted argument has no ref. Actually it is a valid argument used by the predecessors of Thomsen. It's always been implied in the development of the concept. To bring you up to date, they did not use wrought iron. Pure iron was not available to them in nature; it is only the product of careful refinement. They didn't want it anyway. The initial ore available to them for smelting lay around the surface of the Caucasus, especially in the vicinity of the Araxes River. They just gathered up the nodules. It was impure, containing levels of Carbon we term steel. There were also other impurities, especially Manganese. Believe it or not they started with stainless steel. It was not long before they learned to vary the carbon content by a method called "puddling", stirring with wood. The natural outcome of the fires in the blast furnaces is Carbon anyway. Wrought iron would have been of no value to them. Too soft. Those swords the Romans ported around were good steel swords. As far as the superiority of weapons goes, give me a break! Iron is tougher than bronze. If that were not so we would be using structural bronze not structural steel. I've heard of bamboo buildings but never bronze. Flint takes a razor-sharp edge but it is brittle. It breaks when you hit something. They only used flint points, and the smaller the better. So, it really is a progression of superior materials. Why do you want to question that? Do you think all those archaeologists have no judgement but go around stupidly using terms and systems you know with great certainty are no good, just because, in contrast to you, they don't know any better?Dave (talk) 19:46, 9 February 2011 (UTC)

Three-Age System is Archaic[edit]

Aside from the archaic nature of dating using this system originating from the early 19th century, there are also discrepancies of its meaning within Wikipedia itself. The article, List of time periods lists it as the Paleolithic, Neolithic and Bronze-Age, while this article refers to it as subdivisions of the Holocene. None of those transitions are very useful to students of linear time as it is an obsolete reference lacking cohesion. Although, this article is of historical importance and relevance to modern categorization of human chronology, there should be a reference here to it's obsolescence as I have been taught collegiately in the disciplines of both history and archeology. Stevenmitchell 07:22, 8 October 2007 (UTC)

I changed Wikipedia's article List of time periods to make it consistent with this article. Thanks for pointing out that it was inconsistent.
I'm not sure what you mean when you say that the transitions in this article lack cohesion. Shaheenjim 20:18, 17 October 2007 (UTC)
You shouldn't confuse a bad article with a bad system. The article was bad no doubt. I'm making it better. You'll see a lot of me on this topic. The system is not a fashion. It does not come into fashion and go out of fashion any more than arithmetic does. It is a perception of a social reality. The perception has been growing without serious question since ancient times. How is it that your judgement supersedes that of the best minds in Europe for at least a couple of centuries? If you want to go off on your own, write a successful book or at least an article. Otherwise, the appropriate attitude is that of a student.Dave (talk) 19:54, 9 February 2011 (UTC)

Three-Age System Has become a Four Age system[edit]

The Information Age has arrived: -

The Three-Age System is for classifying human pre-history. It doesn't apply to the historical period, and the Information Age is part of the historical period. - Shaheenjim (talk) 00:40, 3 January 2008 (UTC)

Is it true then that when a society transitions into the historical period, by inventing or adopting writing, then they exit the Three-Age System regardless of their dominant metal use culture? If so, perhaps that point should be made in the article.Dw5 (talk) 01:22, 4 January 2009 (UTC)

Agree with Shaheenjim that the three-age system does not apply to the historical period in any way shape or form. Any attempts to add 'information age' material into the article will be seen as a gross misunderstanding of the concept -- and will be vigorously reverted. At least one of the Wiki guidelines that can be applied in this case is WP:OR. (talk) 13:50, 4 January 2009 (UTC)
What the article originally purported to cover was the use of our current stone age, bronze age and iron age. The modern form was innovated by CJ Thomsen, who actually called it that. It became traditional under that name. We know that subsequently the three ages multiplied to many ages, but they were treated as subdivisions of the three-age system. Since it is a traditional concept atill in use under that name, we can't remake the playing field and call it something else. This is the three-age game. It is not an individual game. We do not make up the rules. We can either play or not. If we play we have to follow the tradition, like it or not. Now, the game is archaeological. There is no rule that says it has to be prehistoric, even though the better part of it is prehistoric. Most of classical civilization, which is documented extensively by the first historians, is the Iron Age. Them's the rules. I know people often want to improve things as did I when I was young. We want to jump right in and make it right. That is entirely the wrong approach on WP. We are reporters, not innovators. Innovation is not our domain, unless perchance it be the innovation of presentation. The thing presented has to be traditional and is not subject to our opinions or our criticism or our dissatisfaction about it. Thanks.Dave (talk) 15:54, 28 January 2011 (UTC)

Belief Systems and Archeological Evidence[edit]

I have edited out the statement "belief in the afterlife starts forming in the Upper Palaeolithic" that appeared in the table. We really don't know when belief in the afterlife began -- only that evidence for this belief first appears in this period. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Ross Fraser (talkcontribs) 02:14, 12 November 2007 (UTC)

No Sources Tag[edit]

There are some references included in the bottom of the page. Should we remove the tag or is the addition of more sources required? Warrior4321talkContribs 18:25, 30 June 2009 (UTC)

"Stone Age subdivisions" section needs work[edit]

Would someone who knows about these things please edit the section on "Stone Age subdivisions" so it makes sense? As it stands now, it's not clear what subdivisions there are and who defined them or how they were defined. (I just edited it to make it clear that Lubbock is not responsible for all the subdivisions.) Does "all the ages" mean "all the stone ages." Is the Stone Age divided into three parts or the Paleolithic Age divided into three parts? Should the sentence on the Copper Age be included in this section or a new section? (or should the section title be changed to a broader one?) Thanks. Frappyjohn (talk) 18:48, 9 October 2010 (UTC)

Revisit imminent[edit]

It appears that, in order to restore "Stone Age" to a good article. I will have to do this one. Looking back in the discussion I see was was not too impressed by it many moons ago. I'm still not. But, I seem to have to do the historical research myself. The two questions in my mind at the moment are whether the classical ages of metals are in the evolutionary descent - the ages of gold, silver, bronze, iron, whatever - and whether this 3-age system is historical only or is supposed to be in effect now. Because, I will tell you right now, terms such as bronze age and iron age certainly do overlap on the historical periods. All of classical history, for example, was Iron-age. The Iliad most likely takes lore from the Bronze Age. Much of Middle Eastern history is bronze age. But, one small step at a time. I will be starting around the edges of this article.Dave (talk) 14:47, 25 January 2011 (UTC)

Removed passage[edit]

"The system is most apt in describing the progression of European and Mediterranean societies, although it has been used to describe other histories as well. The system has been criticised for being too technologically determinist."

There ar a few wrong major concepts in this passage. The aptitude of the system is completely a matter of opinion. There is no reference on it. In any case it does not describe only Europe and the Med. What about Africa, Central Asia, and the Far East? It is accepted by social scientists in those areas as apt for them as well; in fact, new discoveries are beginning to come at a relatively rapid rate from China. The author's main concern seems to focus on Korea. Dingies, I defer that for the moment. For the determinism, I never heard of that. There is nothing to suggest it in the writings of the founders of the concept. The Puritans were certainly determinists but that was long before the 19th century. There was a cogent criticism by Lewis Henry Morgan but he lost for various reasons, such as the ethnic slur of his names used to characterize the ways of life of different living people. No one wants to be a savage or a barbarian. In his day of manifest destiny, slavery and post-slavery, such names were acceptable, but not today. His criticism is worth mentioning and is covered in WP so I think I will replace the above with it.Dave (talk) 13:14, 27 January 2011 (UTC)


This article should be based on recent Rowly-Conwy's book about the Three-age system.·Maunus·ƛ· 13:21, 27 January 2011 (UTC)

Since I am currently bringing the level up I will look for that book. As to whether the article should be based on it, that depends on what you mean. If you mean mainly or exclusively, no way. Would you be plugging this book? If so I will oppose you. If you mean, as a good source among others, well, that depends on how good it is found to be. WP is or ought to be interested in information, not in books, except as there are articles on them. This is not an article on a book, as some are. If you want one of those, write an article. You will of course take your chances among those interested in the article. I'm moving slowly on this but I plan to stick with it until it is up to speed.Dave (talk) 14:20, 28 January 2011 (UTC)
Update. Until I looked it up I did not realize the book is in my list of books to be seriously considered. You are quite right. This is a history of our three-age system. As a matter of fact I plan to use him in expanding the section on CJ Thomsen. He will appear at some point. But, you know, there are certain gaps in his study. He does not go much into detail on the ancient concepts that influenced Thomsen and others. He does have some extraordinary detail on topics he does cover. I will try to use it if I can access it. You have to remember, this is a one- to two-page article so we aren't going to get much of his entire book into it. He is an authority no doubt so what he says when he says it will go. It is good however to remember he is not THE authority and to use other good sources also. Later.Dave (talk) 17:05, 28 January 2011 (UTC)
There aren't really any other books that i know of that are specifically about the three age system. Bo Graslund's study is also good to include if you have access to it. Robert Heizer's article is unfortunately mostly incorrect in its description of the Scandinavian connection as Rowly-Conwy shows.·Maunus·ƛ· 17:35, 28 January 2011 (UTC)

Scope of article[edit]

With regard to the tag at the top, this article as originally written does NOT cover all three-age systems, only the one used in prehistory. There is a lot of material on various three-age systems. It appears as though a disambig page is in order, which I will undertake if no one else does. Moreover, the historical precedents of this 3-age system are not necessarily three-age. So, I've taken the liberty of narrowing the topic in the topic sentence to the anthropological one, which, it is probably safe to say, is a scientific hypothesis. If any others turn up in this area certainly I for one will mention them. At some point the tag is coming off, but the article has a way to go as of this moment.Dave (talk) 14:29, 28 January 2011 (UTC)


I am hesitant to edit, as this article seems to be in the midst of a major update. However, I think it goes against wiki policy to have the lede so dominated by "criticism" of the concept. The idea itself should be explained in more detail before getting into what major critics have to say....Peregrine981 (talk) 08:28, 31 January 2011 (UTC)

I agree. The lede should cover the history and description of the term in short form, and criticism in the lede, if it is deemed relevant, considering the length of the current article should only extend to a sentence.
It also seems that the added text to the lede section is in dire need of sources, as it does read somewhat like synthesis (especially the "accidental"-claim as well as the entire last paragraph.). --Saddhiyama (talk) 10:11, 31 January 2011 (UTC)
I have moved the section to a "Criticism" section in the main text and added a formal lede of the history of the concept. The objections mentioned by me above still stands though. We need citations for the claims posed, and probably a more indepth discussion of whether there is undue weight on the criticism of L.H. Morgan as compared to his actual influence on the further development of the system. --Saddhiyama (talk) 10:26, 31 January 2011 (UTC)
You're right, it is in the middle of a major update. The "criticism" you mention is actually an adjunct to a major revision of the concept. Morgan weighed pretty heavily on the minds of the earlier anthropologists, like it or not. However I cannot really say whether your changes are for the best until I get more referenced material in there. I will keep working then we can see what we have. Nothing is sacrosanct. I apologize for my slowness. I doubt that will change; I have too much to do. Also you are right about the refs; I have not yet done much with them. It is all coming down the pike, however. Just be patient. Oh by the way, a word of caution. The article before the update was not in very good shape, so right now it is a mixed article. Most of the material past where I've been working is probably coming out or will be seriously revised. As I change the material I may have to make changes to what you do to fit the newer revisions. It's all part of the development game. If you don't mind playing that way, I don't.Dave (talk) 10:47, 31 January 2011 (UTC)

Morgan discussion[edit]

This is the place for the Morgan discussion. Go ahead, discuss. I need to confirm some ideas before I get much into the discussion. The confirmation is the exact origin of the food production revolution, whether it was Morgan or he took it from someone else. We need some words of the famous archaeologists. I can't contribute much else without checking into this. Leave it or cut it out, just as you like. We do have an article on Ancient Society and I know Morgan was quite influential. I don't mind proving it if it can be proved, all in good time. The question is I believe whether Morgan was a significant contributor to the 3-age system. If you prefer, cut Morgan out for now. When and if I have the words ready I can put him back. I might decide, in terms of this article he is eclipsed by more important figures. As I said, we only have a few pages. How do we want to use them? It's a fluid situation.Dave (talk) 22:19, 31 January 2011 (UTC)

CJ Thomsen discussion[edit]

While we are thinking about discussing Morgan, it seems to me CJ Thomsen needs discussion also. First of all, he did not originate the 3-age system. He may have originated the name and he may be the one to whom many look back as a founding father. It is like Columbus. Columbus was not the first to discover America, not by a long shot. Similarly the ages of stone, bronze and iron were in use long before Thomsen. How then can we say that he invented the concept and the usage? I've been looking at a growing number of books and they all say the same thing. Whoever they are talking about at the moment is credited with being the first to use the concept. Excuse the pun but something is rotten in Denmark. They can't all have been the first to originate the idea. Exactly what, then, was CJ Thomsen's original contribution? I'm trying to focus in on this, but you know, I knew something was wrong when I first looked at this article because I knew the three ages were earlier than him. Within the framework of the article I am trying to trace exactly what. This is slow going. I think it is more important than the Morgan thing. I will probably not look at Morgan until some of the other original definitions are clearer. I can tell from the Internet this is somewhat of an issue in the field. I'll just keep plugging along, let's see what turns up either in research or in discussion. We aren't putting our hat in the ring for original research but we need to consider competing ideas, especially on who said what when. The question is, how significant a contributor was CJ Thomsen to the 3-age system.Dave (talk) 22:44, 31 January 2011 (UTC)

As Gräslund and Rowly-Conwy show Thomsen was the first to give the three-age system a solid empirical basis. He did this by comparing which kinds of artefacts cooccurred in different periods.
So did his predecessors. They worked from their collections; he worked from his collection. As none of them considered all collections the way they do today I would not consider any of them solid. They may be sufficient. But, I do not see this as a distinguishing contribution.
Thomsen didn't just work from the collection - he worked based on the find circumstance, not just by typologizing items of no known provenance.
His three age system wasn't just based on the notion that in this age they used stone and in that bronze - he realized that they used all of the materials in all of the ages
Not exactly. The stone age did not use metals. The bronze age did not use Iron.
There I was obviously referring to the fact that this made him able to classify also artefacts of other materials such as pottery, bone, glass, wood which occurred in all ages.
and that the correct way to separate the periods was to see which kinds of artefacts cooccured in closed finds.
That's not very comprehensible. What's a closed find as opposed to an open one? I can guess but if you put that in and the author did use the term you need to elucidate that slightly.
A "closed find" as a concept is Thomsen's invention - it is a group of artefacts found together in the same deposit and which can therefore be assumed to be of the same age.
In this way he was able to show that certain kinds of tools and ornaments belonged to certain periods and this made him able to date also objects not made of stone, bronze or iron to the various three ages.
It seems to me that is another topic. Here we are talking about the three ages.
That is silly - they also made artefacts of bone, pottery and glass in the stoneage - Thomasen was able to date also deposits that didn't contain any stone to the stone age according to the combination of other materials it contained.
What made Thomsen's formulation the most important, and the one that spread was that he turned it from being a simple evolutionary scheme into an actual chronological system.
If we are going to defend Thomsen, as I see we probably are, I would say this is most likely to be the main difference. As to the arguments being in the book, I have not yet read your expansion - you shouldn't copy from your other article, you should rewrite - but it seems to me you should reference the locations of those arguments, maybe do some minimal quoting. For myself I'm still working on the previous antiquarians and if I jump out of order to handle Morgan and your material on Thomsen I will have trouble keeping the thread. But I will get to it.
These arguments are all found in the article and book by Rowly-Conwy and in the book by Gräslund.·Maunus·ƛ· 00:23, 1 February 2011 (UTC)
Interesting. I see we have this going again. I will be glad to work on it with you. I have not yet read your section expansion. I want to add a little more of the preceding. For your discussion, I cannot say that I agree with everything you say I don't know yet how that would affect the article. I'm putting in a few comments on the discussion. I don't know if those are significant. Time will tell.Dave (talk) 04:35, 2 February 2011 (UTC)
I can't say I agree with everything I say, but I can say that the foremost historians of Thomsen and of the three-age model do. I am not here defending Thomsen because I am a Dane, I am here summarising the sources I have read when I did a graduate archaeology course.·Maunus·ƛ· 12:53, 2 February 2011 (UTC)

The refs, the refs[edit]

WP loves templates. It prescribes a series of standard templates for books, articles and web sites. I always try to use those. They are not that hard. I'm doing a few so you can see how it works. Really, they are just as easy as typing it all out yourself. See Template:Cite book and Template:harvnb for a starter.Dave (talk) 05:09, 2 February 2011 (UTC)

I know how the templates work, I just didn't have time or will to enter the refs into templates yesterday.·Maunus·ƛ· 12:43, 2 February 2011 (UTC)

the English[edit]

I see this article is a favorite of persons from Denmark of impressive qualifications and fine personal sites. I'm impressed. You appear to be polyglot and to be very good at whatever it is you do (whatever that might be). But, one wee imperfection, just a mite, one small peccatillo, easily fixed. The English is ungrammatical and awkward in places, which gives the appearance of being slipshod. I think I will fix that in the course of editing if you do not mind. Harvard University advises German speakers not to lose their charming accent, which brings instant forgiveness for any errors they might make. The same might be said of Danish, but this is not spoken English, it is written, which is a totally different story. Ciao.Dave (talk) 11:39, 2 February 2011 (UTC)

Go a head and fix anything you feel need fixing. And for the record next time you want to correct my writing you don't need to make a speech anbout it first. Be bold.·Maunus·ƛ· 12:42, 2 February 2011 (UTC)
I think you'll find I'm pretty bold. Sometimes I'm outnumbered so I find it best to withdraw. I see you have been looking back in my discussions. Why would you do that? Nothing mysterious about me. You, on the other hand, are a pretty mysterious person. You study all these native languages. What are you going to do with that stuff and where and working for whom? Well, you're the one who opened the door. If you don't want to let any guests in you don't open the door, you pretend naivity. Now, as for whether you mean what you say and say what you mean, I don't believe you will accept my revising your English, based on experience with WP editors. When I look at it I see lots of places where I would have said it differently. That condition is endemic to the writing game. If I rewrite it my way you will say, you just want to rewrite it your way. But you've already written it your way. Unless something is grammatically wrong I am not going to change it and that means a light edit. You predecessor wrote ungrammatically but he did not write much. I will fix that. Otherwise you are probably stuck with what you wrote. I want to get on to the bad sections. I spent enough time on this for now. Later.Dave (talk) 03:23, 3 February 2011 (UTC)
I don't know what you mean by suggesting that I have been investigating you - I haven't. I am not interested in you as a person but as a collaborator in editing this article - I would prefer if we could do that without commenting on eachother's persons. As for revision of my English I am very accustomed to having my English revised - that is what happens when you work with professional editors. I do not take offense by someone showing me that what I wrote could be written better - I even appreciate that. If I do disagree with any particular change I am fully capable of discussing it in a civilized manner - I am not going to argue about issues of taste though and if there are things you wish to change to suit your writing tastes - I invite you to do so freely. ·Maunus·ƛ· 12:28, 3 February 2011 (UTC)

Criticism section[edit]

The critique of Thomsen is unsourced and mostly incorrect. While Thomsen worked primarily from the collection he was the first to train archaeologists to go into the field and get more finds to use for comparison - this lead to Stenstrups and Worsaee's excavations which became the basis of the three-age system - his influence as an early archaeologist is more important than his influence in developi ng the three- age system. His students and collaborators such as Worssae, but also the swedish Sven Nilsson not only speculated about society but incorporated models of ancient society directly into the three-age model. Worsaee was the first to subdivide the Danish stone-age (I am unsure as to whether this was befor eor after Lubbock - but they were working on it simultaneously) and I am very sure that it was Worsaaes (possibly combined with Lubbocks) subdivisions of the stoneage into a hunter-stone age and a farmer stone age that evolved into the paleolithic and neolithic respectivly. I don't know of any avidence that Morgan's system should have impacted European archaeology substantially at this time. This is because Morgan's system was only an evolutionary scheme while the Scandinavian/British system was a chronological system. I.e. in Morgan's system the notion of Barbary designated a social stage that could occur at any point in time (Morgan even acknowledged that some people could sleep from an upper stage back into a lower one) whereas Worsaae's and Lubbock's systems designated distinct historical periods in chronological sequence - like the terms paleolithic and neolithic did since their first usage.·Maunus·ƛ· 14:20, 2 February 2011 (UTC)

"One of the main critics of the system, writing approximately contemporaneously with its modern presentation by C. J. Thomsen (a Danish archaeologist), was Lewis Henry Morgan, the American businessman and anthropologist. His complaint was that the use of materials was not an adequate characterization of ancient society. In his own magnum opus on the topic, Ancient Society, he presents three "ethnical periods:" Savagery, Barbarism and Civilization. The difference between Savagery and Barbarism was the innovation of food production.
Neither system extinguished the other. Thomsen's system does not characterize society. He only utilizes an accident of technological advancement as a symbol of a time period. The use of an accident, often trivial, to name a complex of nature is common in science. He did speculate concerning the society of those periods, but the concept was developed only through the study and classification of artifacts in the Danish National Museum.
Internationally the two systems were soon combined by such archaeologists as Vere Gordon Childe and Robert John Braidwood, who applied Thomsen's terms to Morgen's ethnical periods. Morgan's names were not acceptable in the 20th century anyway. Barbarism became the Neolithic, divided from the previous Palaeolithic and the transitional period, the Mesolithic, both of which were Savagery, by food production, which was entirely Morgan's critique. The characterizing of ancient society continues, still with Thomsen's names."
As it is this section is more trouble than it is worth. It was taken out of the place where I had it and something else was made of it. Now I have to figure out what to do with it. I don't think Maunus' critique is relevant to my intent in including it. Frankly Maunus, your abstract and circuitous argument reminds me of the CIA when they are determined to say nothing while seeming to say something. But, I don't know what to do with it either and stopping to figure it out is distracting me from the thread of the article. So, I am putting it here for now. Does it have a place in the article? That depends on what we end up covering. Morgan's criticism of the system is a pretty cogent one. Whether he was justified or whether it was already taken care of by Thomsen is another matter. Frankly I do not like deliberatley excluding an important anthropologist with something relevant to say because he does not fit the anti-Marxist ideology plugged by the western powers during the cold war. I have never seen a more pointless conflict and one more wasteful of human resources than that confrontation. In this country, based on the model of the witch-hunts, it reached the proportions of a counter-revolutionary terror. WP is not anti-Marxist. There are plenty of Marxist articles in here. I'm not currently a Marxist, although I feel Marx had some pretty compelling things to say. What I don't like is hypocrisy. We are not going to be secretly against Morgan just because he was Morgan and the Marxists favored him. They bestowed their dubious favors on a lot of people who did not deserve it. I envisioned Morgan coming in when the 3-age system reached the point of accounting for food production. V. Gordon Childe and some others originally used his terms. However, I have not got to that point and the article beyond what we have done is not very helpful. I don't know what we are going to say. If Morgan seems relevant I will put him back in for the area to which he seems relevant and we can argue about it then. However, we only have a few pages, he may not seem relevant. Well I am being long-winded here. I am long-winded. I suggest you get used to it.Dave (talk) 03:04, 3 February 2011 (UTC)
I am not saying wer should exclude Morgan - I am sayin that I doubt that he is the main background for the terms paleolithic and neolithic - I am not saying that I know for a fact that he isn't - but I am suggesting that it would require a good source to convince me. I don't know why you seem to take everything here very personally and go directly to speculations and comments about me personally. I have been editing collaboratively here for the past six years - am able to tolerate both being conbtradicted and having my edits reverted or my text changed. I think it is relevant to include a critique of the three-age system or at least a discussion of the limits of its apooplicability. I think Morgan's criticism may be a little marginal to that criticism because it is so dated - I think that it would make better sense to include his criticism in a section that is dedicated particularly to Morgan.·Maunus·ƛ· 12:24, 3 February 2011 (UTC)
How are you buddy. OK. I left a reply for you on my discussion page. Summary: you are not on my bad side. I feel I ought to edit your material, as it needs some attention to accuracy. As for Morgan - well, he can wait until I get around to him. I'm sure he won't mind. I got to do something else with my day now, such as shoveling out from under a new glacial system here in eastern Massachusetts. When I have time I will be looking at your referenced material, references and all. Oh by the way, I just recently checked and WP does not like chains of footnotes. Maybe you could manage to unchain them?Dave (talk) 13:25, 3 February 2011 (UTC)
I don't know what you mean by chains of footnotes? Is it several notes following eachother? I don't think there is any problem with that in the Manual of Style - most articles have those.·Maunus·ƛ· 13:37, 3 February 2011 (UTC)
I do mean that. There is a problem with it in the manual of style. They advise against it. Most articles don't follow the manual of style. The best articles do. It is a process of improvement - they are not going to refuse you for not being cognizant of the extensive detail in the manual, but sooner or later these formatting issues come up. I'm bringing it up, as I am aiming at excellence.Dave (talk) 00:55, 4 February 2011 (UTC)

Removed statement[edit]

"Thomsen's independent means and his experience as a collector of coins were his primary qualifications.-ref-harvnb|Trigger|2006|p=127-/ref"

This is editor opinion. The editor wants to say what he thinks were Thomsen's qualifications. The source given does not mention it or imply it at all. However that page in Trigger leads us to more information, which I found more fully in another source. This is on the appointment and the foundation of the museum. So, I am going to put that in instead of Trigger. We keep Trigger in the biblio of course.Dave (talk) 01:02, 4 February 2011 (UTC)

It is not my opinion Trigger mentions this specifically. It is not important to the article and I won't argue for it to be included. ·Maunus·ƛ· 02:29, 4 February 2011 (UTC)
No, you don't understand. It needs a reference as it is someone's opinion. If you got one and still think it is important, work it back in. If Trigger actually did say that and you want to put it in I'm sure it could be worked in. I never heard, however, of being financially independent being a qualification for a museum post or most other things. We do have a contemporary evaluation, which I put in. I got some bad news on most of the rest of the section. I can't understand it at all. But, I don't want to rush into anything. I'll take my time, make sure I got it right. By the way, you have to put a full reference in, you can't just say someone's book and leave it to the reader to figure out what book and what page. Gee, WP can be tough sometimes! You couldn't publish a book with references without page numbers, however. Your editor would not let you. I hope this explanation is a little more palatable than my just throwing a "page needed" template on.Dave (talk) 20:58, 4 February 2011 (UTC)
PS. I found it, Rowley-Conwy, page 32. But, here is what I mean about accuracy. RC does not talk about qualifications for the job or the only qualifications for the job; that was your idea. He only conjectures that Thomsen could accept it because he was independent and besides had an interest in antiquities. That is quite a different matter from applying for a job because you have the qualifications. You implied the wrong thing. In English one can get into a whole lot of trouble real fast doing that, especially in more violent quarters. More subtly still, you can get someone else in trouble by putting an implication on what they say. It is one of the fine points of the language and one of the vices of the people. You have to be worried all the time about what you may imply and how that may affect your standing. I could tell you stories but what is the point. That is why I suggest you keep your accent if you have one because no one takes a European with an accent seriously. If we did you might not like being taken seriously. Anyway I left those two facts in: he was of independent means and the job was unpaid. I think in general that is why I do not like what you wrote: the implications. Is there a stone age or what? Not only that but you don't mention that he coached other archaeologists as to method and that their excavations confirmed his system. Apparently he was the first to tie the system into stratigraphy, may even have been the pioneer of stratigraphy. I continue to look into this. When I'm ready I will move and not before.Dave (talk) 02:19, 5 February 2011 (UTC)

Typology, stratigraphy[edit]

I think the modern concepts we seem to be trying to get at here are those of stratigraphy and typology, those indispensible tools of dating. Thomsen appears to have been the first one of those technical fellows who says, "hmm, this pot is of type xyz and therefore must come from layer pq," or "well, this fine fibula is associated with pot xyz and therefore must be of age ry, as is demonstrated by its occurrence at Tomb blue in nowhereland." I suggest we quit horsing around with periphrastic explanations that fail and start using the proper terms. I need to look into this a bit more.

Difficulties in application[edit]

I had to remove this section. Bottom line: it has no refs. In overall assessment, this section is outstandingly unprofessional. It represents mainly conjectures of an evident non-savant (whoever that might be). I will just go through here and reply to this. While I applaud the boldness and initiative of the editor in jumping into the subject I really have to say it was beyond him - but that is no disgrace and it certainly can be corrected by additional study, which I encourage. What good is WP if not for educational practice? I judge no one, but it needs to be right.

The three-age system has been difficult to apply fully outside Europe and the Mediterranean for which it was devised.

This is an assertion for which you need references and examples. I don;t agree with it.

Some societies skipped some of the stages or never developed them when their societies did not need them.

This is nothing unusual at all, the intent of the system was never to portray a deterministic system in which one stage MUST follow the other. Not at all, and all the innovators caution the reader against that view. They are only saying, in the course of time among societies left to evolve ceteris paribus, this is the development they followed without exception.

Some Amazonian tribes in South America remain to date in the Neolithic for example, and there was no Bronze Age in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa which progressed directly from stone to iron working, with no intermediate Bronze Age.

So what? For one thing these examples are over-simple, but let us allow that SOME tribes might have followed the course you say. That you can find tribes in the various stages is not great secret; in fact, the contributors depend to a large degree on that fact. No one says we all have to be in the Iron Age. I don't know what you mean by "progress." You would need an example for that, but the peoples of Africa have never been left alone in isolation to my knowledge. Before the white Europeans went meddling around there were Berbers, Arabs, Egyptians, etc.

It also soon became apparent that the switches from one age to another did not happen quickly or decisively. Flint tools remained in use in a limited fashion into the Iron Age in Europe and early metal items often appear in what should technically be the Neolithic.

No one has claimed that stone stopped being used in the Bronze Age or Bronze stopped being used in the Iron Age. For example, Etruscan civilization was mainly in the Iron Age, but they were bronze-mongers and got rich on it so what you mainly find is bronze-making and bronze. The fact that they used also some iron artefacts marks them as being in the Iron Age. In the Bronze Age, no iron would have been available to them at all. That is the point. Some of the finest stone points are not from the Stone Age. What is this quick and decisive business? The system is evolutionary - if these societies are left alone, here is what the stages are.

Using the three-age system to measure the advancement of societies is often quite inaccurate, as some developments have appeared in different societies at vastly differing stages of their development.

The system was designed flexible enough to handle that. The development of hard tools and weapons is not intrinsically associated with any other cultural feature not required for production. Overall each age has some characterizing features but this is not a deterministic scheme - some may be earlier, some later, some not at all - this does faze the archaeologists any; the chronology is at root only a chronology. The blueprint of social evolution typically follows the pattern but sometimes not.

For example, Classic Period Maya society had advanced mathematics and astronomy, but was still technically a stone age culture.

So what? Is there some difficulty here? You just say, the Mayans in the Stone Age were mathematically inclined. I don't know what you may mean by "advanced mathematics" which in our society starts after you have had calculus. Maybe you need to read other literature on the Mayans than book advertisements.

Some pre-Inca cultures had metalworking starting in 1500 BC.


Pottery existed in the Japanese archipelago as early as 10,000 BC but bronze working or rice farming did not appear there until c. 500 BC.

Well I question those dates, but this is held to be a good example of the use of pottery before the Neolithic, in the Mesolithic. This is a modification of the original association of pottery with food production and therefore the Neolithic. It seems some cultures gathered their berries and other wild plants as well as ported water in pottery and not just in baskets and skin bags. You handle it just like that, an exception to the general rule that Mesolithics did not yet have pottery.

In short I do not see the difficulty and I doubt many others do either. References, please.Dave (talk) 18:12, 9 February 2011 (UTC)

Difficult example: prehistory of the Korean peninsula[edit]

You aren't going to like this at all. I feel this whole section ought to be removed. I looked at your first source and at what you are saying and the two seem unrelated. The source is talking about the difficulty in applying the traditional system to Korea. It talks about government interference and control for ideological reasons and lack of data and presuppositions and interference for colonial reasons. Such questions as the ownership of museums come up. It asserts that the sum total of all the difficulties presenting themselves to the Korean prehistorian prevents Korea from reconstructing a credible view of its origin and identity. YOU on the other hand are saying something quite different. You're claiming the problem is not all these other impediments to proper technique that the author is talking about but the intrinsic unsuitability, the failure in universality, of the three-age system. Your only two references do not fit that approach at all. Instead you offer the same sort of unsubstantiated and uninitiated argument that I removed yesterday. Bottom line: your arguments attack only some difficulties in application not the universality of the system. I'm going through here now and placing some comments as pointers.

"The difficulty of applying this system outside of Europe"

But, outside of Europe is a pretty big place where a lot of people are happy with it from Africa to southeast Asia.

"is illustrated by the case of Korean prehistory. The three age system was applied during the post-Japanese colonisation period (1945– ) as a way to counter the erroneous claims of Japanese colonial archaeologists who insisted that, unlike Japan, Korea had no 'Bronze Age'.[1]"

I can't see how this makes any sense. If they were using terms such as the Bronze Age they were already applying the system, just not doing it correctly, according to you. But, you've given us no page number.

"Instead, Japanese archaeologists such as Fujita Ryosaku incorrectly hypothesized that the Korean peninsula changed abruptly from a 'stone age' culture to a Chalcolithic or Eneolithic culture."

I don't understand, the Chalcolithic IS the Bronze Age, and furthermore the Eneolithic IS the Chalcolithic.In any case the full Bronze Age is not a transition between the Stone Age and the Chalcolithic.

"The three-age system was used widely in Korea by scholars and the general public from the 1950s until the 1990s despite the fact that it does not fit with the unique intricacies of prehistoric Korea. For example, until recently the periodisation scheme used by Korean archaeologists proposed that the 'Neolithic' began in Korea in 8000 BC and lasted until 1500 BC. This is despite the fact that palaeoethnobotanical studies clearly indicate that the first bona fide cultivation in the korean peninsula did not begin until c. 3500 BC.[2]"

This is an argument that the Neolithic began closer to 3500 BC rather than at the earlier date. This kind of discrepancy comes up all the time, even in Europe. Establishing those dates is an ongoing concern. It is not an argument that the system does not fit. And furthermore, my impression is that the intricacies you mention are largely unknown because of the difficulties in acquiring data and treating it objectively.
Well, I'm not really trying to get your goat. My impression is that you are trying to slip in your own hypotheses in without substantiation. The main place I've seen the idea that the system only fits Europe is right here on WP and without references. I've always been told - and I would have been much better off if I had heeded the advice - that before you can be critical of a system or concept you have to learn it. What good does it do to explode a system you know little or nothing about? Using WHAT for explosives?Dave (talk) 19:17, 12 February 2011 (UTC)

"Furthermore, archaeologists used to claim that the 'Bronze Age' began in 1500 or 1000 BC and lasted until 300 BC. This idea has been repudiated, however, because although bronze may have been exchanged into Korea before 700 BC, bronze technology was not adopted in the southern Korean Peninsula until c. 700 BC. The archaeological record clearly indicates that bronze objects were not consumed in relatively large numbers until after 400 BC."

This is an argument about the beginning of the Bronze Age, not about the asserted unsuitability of its application.

"Despite the obviously poor fit with Korean prehistory, some historians who are experts in early Korean history (c. 300 B.C.–AD 668) continue to use the unsuitable Neolithic-Bronze-Iron monikers."

Now you are going judge them as well as the Europeans, hey? Maybe you should run for president of the world.

"On the other hand, most prehistoric archaeologists recognize the problems with the three-age system and have adopted a periodisation scheme based on changes in pottery design and technology, i.e. the Jeulmun (c. 8000–1500 BC) and Mumun Pottery Periods (1500–300 BC)."

This is an interesting idea I would like to see developed. Pottery is a basis for obtaining a more precisely defined chronology in the west also. It does not replace, it refines, the three-age system. There you go with the "most" again. How can it be "most" if they continue to use the unsuitable?
In summary, whatever you are trying to say here, you aren't saying it. It seems to me the topic is a lot bigger than one paragraph. Maybe you should develop it off WP and if you still feel you have a serious point give it to us in several substantiated articles. Good luck with it.Dave (talk) 19:17, 12 February 2011 (UTC)


What are you doing over here, Parkwells? Clearly, you're sniffing out my plan. Well. You want to correct my English. I think we have been around on this topic before. I don't mind being corrected and improved. I do mind being made worse. Now I will have to check what you are doing. Obviously I plan to get back to this as part of a set on archaeology. I wanted to clarify Morgan's part in this. I see Morgan visited Lubbock AFTER the publication of Lubbock's book. That means Morgan undoubtedly took his savagery and barbarism terminology from Lubbock, and not vice versa. We can probably find some cross-influences. That is why it is so important for you not denude these articles of essential detail. We need to know that Morgan went to see the famous Sir John in person. I know you worked on some of these articles, but you did not really get very far into the topics. They have to be handled as a set. We need to see the whole movement. So, instead of trying to vindictively prove my whole approach to archaeology is just my interpretation, why don't you get further into these topics and try to improve them? If it is any help to your emotions about these things, I was trained in archaeology, you know. I'm not interested in interpretation, I'm interested in what the public wants and whether historicity allows them to have it. Thank, Parkwells (tenatatively). Ciao,Dave (talk) 19:20, 11 May 2011 (UTC)

PS. All right. I looked at what you did so far and it seems all right. Don't get carried away. These are minor stylistic changes. I think they fall within the umbrella of collaboration so far. If something else sounds better to you, I don't care if you alter what I had, as long as you do not go sticking your own interpretations in there. I think we've already been over the topics of "opinions and devices of presentation" and "interpretations versus summary" before. Later.Dave (talk) 19:36, 11 May 2011 (UTC)

The "Resumptive Table" and Criticism Section[edit]

The table at the end of the article associates tools with economy, dwellings, political organization, and religion. Now, this might apply to some European contexts but there are huge problems. In reality, these areas are almost completely unrelated. There were tribal cultures in Africa that worked iron, while Mesoamerican civilization developed cities with paved roads and aqueducts thousands of years before they invented bronze. Technological developments in different fields don't occur at the same rate, nor do they directly correlate with social developments. This table really only covers the general trend of history/prehistory in Europe and West Asia.

Furthermore, I don't know a single archaeologist in the united states who uses the three age system as a means of classification beyond casual, broad-stroke comments. Even then it's only really used in Europe and West Asia. It's especially fallen out of use given the development of post-processual theory has seen a wholesale rejection of classification systems like the "band, tribe, chiefdom, state" divisions (see anything by Ian Hodder for more info). This article obviously needs to be expanded, but I would say that any future expansion needs to talk about the system in relation to modern, more nuanced understandings of cultural change. Snickeringshadow (talk) 10:52, 16 May 2011 (UTC)

Having read some of the above comments I've discovered that some people here seem to object to this idea. In fact, somebody here apparently deleted a section specifically outlining the criticisms I've made. Unfortunately, I didn't keep my introduction to archaeology textbook from undergraduate freshman year, which outlines this perfectly. When I have the time (maybe this weekend), I'll see if I can add a new section criticizing the universality of the three age system. Most archaeologists I know see the application of a metallurgy-based chronology as problematic outside Europe and parts of Asia. I'm sure with a bit of research I'll be able to find a few academic papers that take this position. When I add this section, I'll be sure to include references that directly address the theory, so if the section is deleted because somebody disagrees with the ideas, I'll challenge it for neutrality. Snickeringshadow (talk) 12:16, 16 May 2011 (UTC)
I've added a brief criticism section and referenced it the introduction, following my statements above. The section is well referenced, uses no original research or opinions, and directly quotes experts in the field. Regardless of whether or not somebody agrees with these critiques, they are commonly used against the theory, and in the interest of neutrality, they belong in this article. I personally do not think the criticism section would be necessary if the rest of the article were written in a more balanced manner. If, at some point in the future, the article is rewritten to take a more neutral tone, the section may be deleted. As written, the article reads like its written by a proponent of the theory and ignores the controversy. I may also decide to add more regarding the critiques of cross-cultural classification systems by post-processual archaeology at a later date. If anybody else seeks to expand this section or add more sources, feel free. Snickeringshadow (talk) 07:06, 17 May 2011 (UTC)
Well, snickeringshadow, your getting back on this coincides with my getting back on it. I am picking up where I left off. That means I will not be in a position to evaluate your criticism section for a while. As I recall your previous criticism section was totally unreferenced and contained only your personal opinions. The problem is, you were wrong. Your "criticisms" were faced and answered long ago. They are minor problems in the system. You didn't understand the three-age system. But that was then and has nothing to do with now. A general word on your approach. This is the three-age system article. It presents the three-age system. If you have another system to present, do it in another article. Now, we present, we do not attempt to destroy. Your somewhat negative approach presented while destroying and therefore was quite slanted. We don't present as wrong, we present. That is what was wrong with the article when I started on it. Now, your own criticisms were a total disaster. You just don't understand the system at all, or did not. Your assertion of its rejection in America and Africa is pure wishful thinking. I think you misremember your course. That often happens to me. That is why we must do research and come up with proper references and not just wing it on presumed memory. There have been some criticisms of the system of course. Lewis Henry Morgan made some. My initial efforts to include him were deleted. I don't mind. The topic needs to be properly developed and referenced. It perhaps did not belong in the introduction. I was happy with what my collaborator wrote then. I didn't even see Morgan in your stuff. When I get to the criticism section if he is not in there I believe I will put him in. I do not think that should be a long section. Moreover I am against using the negative approach you used before. Also, I deny you are free to put your own criticisms in. I want references please that someone of note has made that criticism. Now, people who make criticisms generally have solutions in mind. You didn't offer any solutions. We can use blue links all we want here. You can put in references to other articles presenting the alternatives. Bottom line: your previous effort was not too professional. The more professional you can make it the less I will have to do on it. Oh yes, I remember some of it now. You were claiming Otzi overthrew the 3-age system. You mistook the criticism. It was only of the date of the Chalcolithic. That was easily solved by moving back the chalcolithic. Oh yes, I would appreciate if you would quit referring to this system as European. It has not been that for some time now. It should make you happy that I am now going to include some American archaeologists who use the term with equal facility as the Europeans. Oh yes, one minor point. If you are going to put tags on, please use the right date. This is 2011 not 2010. If you could master the art of a reference also that would assist in communication. Remember, positive presentation, referenced assertions, links to alternative theories, no slanting. I'm not pulling any punches with you because you do not appear willing to collaborate, only to contend. This is NOT your personal article and we shall NOT reserve it for your personal opinions. Oh, my stuff ends in the section before the blank section. I am setting about to remedy that now. If you or anyone have tagged the subsequent I shall of course address that when I get to it. Au revoir,Dave (talk) 03:35, 18 May 2011 (UTC)
Addendum. Well, I broke my rule and read it out of turn. Actually, I did not see anything I can't live with there in terms of ideas. There are always these minority points of views. What I do find to be original opinion is the general presentation in such a way that we are to think the three-age system is passe, outmoded, unsatisfactory and already discarded when in fact it is mainstream and not in any danger of being discarded. One of your critics "toned down" your wording. I'm probably going to go a lot further in that direction when I get to it unless you correct that misconception. If I have to I will look up every one of your references and counter it with another reference. If the criticism is worth presenting then a little more detail and discussion is worth presenting also. If there are other articles elaborating on these ideas then we can defer the discussion to them. A minor point on formatting, the help advises against chains of footnote numbers. If you could spread those around a little I would appreciate that. I suppose I should warn you in advance that I may be making expansional changes to your section, if they seem warranted. I move somewhat slowly, however. Sorry. I will get to it. Plenty of time for you to think about it.Dave (talk) 04:12, 18 May 2011 (UTC)
First, I did not write the original criticism section. I did not even read the original criticism section. It was deleted before I even got here. I was basing my argument on your response to it on the talk page. If you are telling the truth and that the argument in the original criticism section was poorly written and not cited, I agree that you were within your rights to delete it. Second, I edited the section to tone down my own wording because in retrospect, I realized that it could be interpreted as partisan. It appears as two separate users because I forgot to log in on one of the edits (I was using a public computer). Third, I do indeed have a degree in archaeology and my courses specifically dedicated time to explaining why this theory is no longer in common use. However, my own personal experience is irrelevant. I was able to provide specific sources in professional publications that outlined this stance. Many of these sources specifically used the term "eurocentric"; I did not come up with that on my own. If you prefer, I would be happy to provide additional sources that support this critique. They are numerous. What I have a hard time with here is that the theory is presented as undisputed fact. If I am able to provide specific, reliable, peer-reviewed citations to the contrary then the subject material must be presented as a disputed theory, with due weight given to each side in the debate. It is not my intention to be needlessly combative here, and I apologize if I come across like this. My second edit to tone down the language actually makes my wording less confrontational than the sourced articles. Here's a direct quote from the Graham article:
"As for the rest of the world, attempts by Eurocentric archaeologists to apply the model to African archaeology have produced little more than confusion, whereas in the Americas or Australasia it has been irrelevent. Even in parts of the world where the model is still in common use, it needs to be accepted that, for example, there never actually was such a thing as 'the Bronze Age'."
To put the above quote in context, what he's saying is that the application has been irrelevant in the Americas because metallurgy is not a useful chronological indicator. The social changes in Europe associated with the early bronze age (development of complex societies, rising hereditary nobility, development of city-states) occurred in Mesoamerica during the Late Formative Period, well over one thousand years before bronze arrived in the region. If you label such a culture "stone age" you automatically assume that their social development was on par with Europe in the stone age which makes them appear less complex than they actually are. It also fails to adequately describe the major social and technological shifts over time, since there was not a major change in their preferred material for tool production. When you say "stone age" in Mesoamerica, you could be referring to a 9,000 year period from the first arrival of humans in the region to the 11th century AD introduction of bronze working. You cover a temporal period that includes hunter-gatherers, forager-farmers, city-states, and conquest empires. Because of this, it is not a useful category of classification and hence it is ignored by archaeologists working in the region. When the quoted author further says that there was never actually a thing such as the "Bronze Age", he's referring to reification, the idea that an arbitrary concept or category is believed to be concrete.
Anthropological archaeology, as the authors I've quoted have argued, has moved away from arbitrary categories and evolutionist schemes. This includes both Lewis Henry Morgan's unilinear evolution, Thomsen's three-age system, and Gordon Childe's recreated version of it. I am willing to give you the benefit of a doubt that other schools of archaeology may still consider this a valid theory, but if I can provide reliable sources arguing the contrary then both perspectives have to be presented. If you think the wording is too strong in the section I have wrote, please feel free to rewrite it to use a more neutral tone. The information, however, is drawn directly from the source material and should not be removed. Snickeringshadow (talk) 06:58, 18 May 2011 (UTC)
Edit: If you wish to offer a rebuttal, I'll even help you. Gordon Childe was a 20th century archaeologist who attempted to update this theory to modern standards. I'm sure you can find some of his articles on Google Scholar. He's quite controversial given that the processual and subsequent post-processual theories have moved away from his model of cultural evolution. Nevertheless, he does support the position you seem to be advocating. If we were to take his arguments along with those of other modern proponents we could work them in with the criticisms and replace the criticism section with a new section outlining the various modern perspectives. This is my proposed solution to our dispute. Snickeringshadow (talk) 10:48, 18 May 2011 (UTC)
Let's leave your supposed qualifications out of it. I didn't ask for them and if I had and if I had received your assertions as an answer I would have difficulty reconciling it with the quality of your writing so far. Frankly I would have taken it for eighth-grade work. I did not ask, am not going ask, am not interested in the answer and am going to pretend you did not make any such assertions. I am NOT saying it is eighth grade work. In that way I can avoid assessing your professionalism. So let's just concentrate on the section, shall we? Yup, yup, I've heard these criticisms. I'm not questioning that they should be in there. My current objections before checking your sources is that first of all this is an alligator fight. One alligator alleges x and the other alligator alleges non-x. Whose is right? Without witnesses and evidence the court would just throw the whole thing out. We don't know because all we have are allegations. You didn't offer any quotes, you didn't summarize any arguments, you didn't give us any of the detail required to understand these allegations. Basically all you have done is assert "so-and-so disagrees." Why did they do that? You or I are going to have to develop that section a little, possibly adding subsections for each argument. There is a basis here for collaboration. I can collaborate with anyone if in fact it is collaboration. Of course development of this theme will require more space. When I started on this article I knew it was a large topic and was going to take a lot of space. I have not even started on the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. Perhaps as time goes on we can assess whether any material can be offloaded and to where. I am sure you appreciate my offer to help develop this material. Unfortunately I have more to do on the ages so you will have to be on it alone for a while. I know you are disappointed. My suggestion is subsections, one for each argument. Shouldn't take up THAT much more space. And, a few minor corrections. These arguments did not begin in the 20th century. You present it as if modern scholarship has overthrown the three-age system. These arguments are just as old as the system. They've been known all along and have been answered all along. I would like to see some scholarly development here. If you can't provide it I will. So the second criticism is, the writing is slanted and does not present the true status of the 3-age system, which is that it is mainstream. Again, if you can't present the correct slant on it I will. Now, I may not check this discussion for a while; I'm too busy. You got your own domain. Let's see what you can do. By the way as you develop this theme could you break up the chains of footnote numbers? The policy advises against such chains. Thanks. And by the way, nice of you to advise me to do what I was already doing, setting up to get V Gordon Childe in there. I was having trouble today accessing the system. Some stuff on V. Gordon Childe was in there but is not in there now without anyone apparently removing it. You wouldn't know anything about that would you? It must have been visible for about an hour.Dave (talk) 04:13, 22 May 2011 (UTC)
I was providing my credentials in response to your ad hominem attacks, which you continue to make. I'll agree to leave them out of it if you do. The section, as I have written it, is a stub. It was a quick response to provide some background, and I gave only the bare facts with little elaboration. I agree with you that it clearly needs to be expanded with subsections and more detailed explanations, summaries, etc. When I have time, I'll work on it off and on. By all means, feel free to jump in as well. However, I wrote this criticism section specifically because the rest of the article presents the model as mainstream. It may be so in parts of Europe. I doubt it, but I do not work in Europe so I do not know. However, I can tell you with certainty that it is not accepted in American archaeology. The major theoretical debates in America, and in England for that matter, revolve around processual and post-processual theory. The three age system, if referenced at all, is generally used as a loose chronological indicator, not as a means of describing sociocultural evolution. Processual archaeologists favor a more organic view of culture as extra-somatic adaptation to internal and external stimuli. The categories they use revolve around social complexity rather than technological developments. Post-processual archaeologists shy away from cross-cultural categories in general and argue for context-specific interpretations. Amongst modern archaeologists (at least in England and America), the three age system isn't even included in the debate. Modern textbooks praise its historical contribution to the field while recognizing that many of its flaws have been identified in hindsight, and the discipline has moved on. That, IMHO, is the way this article should read. Now if you argue that the three age system is mainstream, and I argue that it is not, it will be very difficult for either of us to prove this point to the satisfaction of the other party. Because of this, I'm going to associate this page with WikiProject Archaeology. There are numerous writers there with a background in the field that will be able to provide third-party perspectives. Snickeringshadow (talk) 12:02, 22 May 2011 (UTC)
I have not made any ad hominem attacks. I did tell you what was wrong with what you have so far, in my opinion. That is not an ad hominem attack. It is an ad scripta attack I admit. The Committee on archaeology? Wonderful. In my opinion, best recommendation you have made. As far as what your viewpoint seems to be from what you have just said, you see yourself as trying to represent a school of thought on American archaeology. I've been encountering it elsewhere on WP. Unfortunately those places were not referenced or elucidated either. Are you responsible for those? What do you mean? Who started it? On what authority do you speak for the whole field? What are some of the points? You don't give us anything but chains of numbers and a few generalizations. They don't do anything but condemn a whole system. "I think this. No, I think that. No, I think this. No, I think that." and so on ad infinitum. I'm only asking you to present it. I got no doubt some presentation can be made. You have to earn the right to pronounce that the whole system is obsolete, you just can't make the pronouncement and let it go at that. You tell me that the system is Eurocentric. I see evidence extending from Europe to the Far East and beginning in the Middle East. How is that Europe? You tell me the system is no longer generally accepted. Why do I keep finding it in the latest books and journals? I will certainly look at your numbers. Whether I will find there what you say is there I cannot guarantee. If I do then it ought to be put forward as that author's opinion not your conviction. Frankly no one on WP cares at all what YOU think, only what the authors think. I would expect to see words such as "x sees the three-age system as eurocentric and not really suitable for the American evidence" rather than "the three-age system is obsolete today." We need some quotes I would think, some definitions of the limits of the criticisms. Sorry to make you do some work, but WP is not and should not be for the opinions of the editors. It should present information and so far you have not presented anything beyond the general assertion that the system is no good any more.Dave (talk) 12:47, 22 May 2011 (UTC)

Insertions into the intro[edit]

You changed the game by making insertions into the previously negotiated intro. These insertions pronounce that the system is outdated and eurocentric. That's not acceptable, as it is not. What you have here are the minority opinions of a few critics. The vast majority of thousands of scholars still think the system is viable and do their archaeological work according to it. Sorry, but it seems to me you are trying to push a minority view. So, I'm going to have to get involved now. The intro should summarize material included later. I presume we are going to develop the criticism section. So, we don't want to say much here. In fact, we don't want these chains of references. They duplicate what you have in the criticism section. The intro is the preview. Perhaps something should be said. An opinion should be identified as the opinion of the author not the general state of the field. So, let me take a look at it and see if we cannot objectify it a little. I will try to go on with the presentation of the system at the same time. It appears to me you do not realize the far-reaching implications of pushing these minority criticisms. Everything done on the Neolithic and the Bronze Age, you are saying, is no good and has to be redone and rethought. As far as WP is concerned, all those articles done on the cultures of this system are now no good and have to be rewritten. All right. This is where the line is drawn, right here, right in this article, right now. This is not collaboration, it is propaganda.Dave (talk) 12:14, 22 May 2011 (UTC)

This is getting ridiculous. I included that line in the intro in the original edit. You only now noticed it. I specifically worded the section to present these critiques as the viewpoints of their authors, not me. I've provided specific sources that describe the theory as eurocentric and outdated and cited them directly. If you want to present this as a mainstream theory, provide sources describing it as such, not simply outlining its historical developments. Right now, I refuse to turn this a personal battle with you. We need outside mediation. I've requested outside assistance from the members of WikiProject Archaeology and I'm going to do the same for WikiProject Anthropology. Snickeringshadow (talk) 13:01, 22 May 2011 (UTC)
Glad to accept any mediation. I'm sorry it turned into this. In my view you began by being confrontational and uncollaborative. I'm going on. I will make sure your material gets incorporated as best I can. I will respond to discussion of the material. Otherwise communication seems de facto to have have ceased.Dave (talk) 14:07, 22 May 2011 (UTC)

Page numbers and overkill[edit]

I note some of the refs have no page numbers. Those are required. Fortunately the work cited is available to some degree for preview. I will tidy those up if I can; otherwise, place tags. Also the policy describes overkill of references. If one solid ref makes the point, there is no need for chains of them unless you are going to mention the critics by name and possibly some of their arguments. I did look at Graham. This stuff is off the wall; Graham is way out of mainstream. Whether he is cutting edge or oddball only time can tell. Since he has been put in there by the editor I am leaving him but in proper context.Dave (talk) 14:07, 22 May 2011 (UTC)

The intro sentence[edit]

I picked the first ref, Graham, as the one to cite here. As I have not yet dealt with the others I moved that sentence below. What we say in the intro should only be limited. No refs are necessary as those would be given below. However we are giving a few refs there. I could not deal adequately with all the refs there because that would have put the material in the intro rather than the section. We don't want to repeat everything. Now, the editor is under the impression that Graham's views are valid just because he published them. They aren't. We are not justified in promulgating this minority view as true. The article presents the three-age system. If the editor wishes then some unslanted mention should be made of the criticism. To present this criticism as valid and generally accepted is wrong. The three-age is in fact mainstream. It will take a lot more than Graham and a WP article to change anything at all, but we don't get involved in that. We present what there is, and that is a mainstream 3-age system with criticisms past and present. One more thing. Stop calling me ridiculous. I have not seen any collaboration yet. I should reassert, nobody owns any WP articles. I'm not reverting any of your assertions, only placing them in context and fixing some of the format. I got this far in it through collaboration. That is what I suggest you do. If you think you are going to just push past me, well, go ahead, try. If there is anything to resolve here I am sure the committee or whatever will resolve it. So far all I have seen is your insisting to put it in exactly the way you have it without regard to anything I have said. What's the issue here? Are you trying get WP archaeologists to say the three-age system is no good anymore? What is your point? I welcome your collaboration.Dave (talk) 15:16, 22 May 2011 (UTC)


I came here from WP Archaeology. I'm not an expert on the subject, and the only relevant source I've came up with is already in the article (Rowley-Conwy), but maybe just a fresh pair of eyes will help. First off, I have to say: Dave, you are being awfully defensive. Snickeringshadow hasn't added any unsourced material or speculation; their contributions are clearly in good faith and not "propaganda". Let's try and focus on the actual content dispute, which is, as far as I can tell, confined to the criticism and "resumptive table" sections. The rest of the article hasn't got past the 1930s yet, so in principle it shouldn't imply anything about current usage, one way or the other.

I think the current criticism section should stay. I wouldn't know myself, but Snickeringshadow has the claim that the three age system isn't used in America well sourced, and the other criticisms are all also sourced and in my experience fairly widely held today. Still, it is a little sweeping. That the system is Eurocentric is a criticism against its use as a global scheme, not its application to Europe, which after all is where the data it was based on came from. That it's simplistic and more or less arbitrary doesn't mean its not still used a shorthand to refer to broad, accepted periods in (European?) prehistory. My impression is that European archaeologists (English and non-English speaking) use the three age system extensively when talking about European and western Asian prehistory. That's not a particularly difficult claim to source: there are plenty of recent books and scholarly articles with one of the ages in the title (e.g. [2][3][4][5][6][7]), its used to structure many introductory textbooks (e.g. Cunliffe 1994 and Scarre 2005, the two I have in arm's reach) and encyclopaedias also use it to structure their coverage too (e.g. [8], [9] [10][11]). Bogucki (an American, in fact) sums the situation up in one of the articles I just linked:

Although modern archaeologists realize that this tripartite division of prehistoric society is far too simple to reflect the complexity of change and continuity, terms like ‘Bronze Age’ are still used as a very general way of focusing attention on particular times and places and thus facilitating archaeological discussion.

— [12]

Also, it's my understanding that the most widely used systems of broad-scale periodisation both in Africa and east Asia are variants/descendants of the European three age system.

My recommendations would be:

  • The criticism section should be toned down slightly, and should mention that the scheme remains in use, if only as "shorthand", in European and Near Eastern prehistory, and related systems in Africa and east Asia.
  • Dave is also correct that generally criticism should be attributed in text to a specific author or party (e.g. "post-processualist archaeologists", "mainstream American archaeologists"), per WP:WEASEL
  • As the rest of the article is expanded to include recent current usage it should distinguish between usage in different regions
  • Current usage, and contemporary criticism, should also be more prominent in the lead than the history of the concept
  • The "resumptive" table (by the way, what exactly does resumptive mean in this context?) should be better introduced. IMO its a decent summary of European prehistory and could be kept, but it's unsourced and doesn't say whether it's supposed to represent Europe or the world, present or historical understanding, etc.

I think at the end of the day you're not actually disagreeing on much.  jroe tkcb  16:29, 22 May 2011 (UTC)

Dave's reply to mediation[edit]

Thanks, my friend. It seems like a reasonable mediation. I accept that I'm too defensive. By the way my name is Dave. It does not matter, though, does it? Call me Doug if you like. I don't think we are all that different either. The difference is that the editor wants to present the criticisms as mainstream; in other words, the whole article is a historical survey of an idea now out of its time. I believe you settled that. The criticisms are the opinions of authors. The mainstream remains the 3-ages. Once we get past that, well, the opinions should be in there. Now I'm getting to the second point. If you look at the refs you will see that it really is basically unreferenced. No page numbers or contexts are given. This is a distinct hinderance to setting up an expansion. However, this is a question mainly of technique and formatting, which I am sure the other editor can learn if he decides to do it. We have to see what the authors said and meant before any of the criticism can make any sense. I got a start on this. What can I say. Thanks for your participation. If you got any other recommendations be sure and let us know. Once the other editor starts talking to me again perhaps we can work things out.Dave (talk) 18:03, 22 May 2011 (UTC)

Glyn Daniel as critic[edit]

Glyn was a pretty good critic. He appeared frequently in the journals. His critiques run the gamut from good general assessments to calling the archaeologists a pack of idiots. The problem is, he said everthing EXCEPT a rejection if the three-age system. The one thing I could find online in toto, the Idea of Prehistory, which is on Internet Archive, introduces a hopeful note when he talks about Graham Clarke. Maybe now, he thinks, we will get some real economic history. His main objection throughout the book is non-historicity of archaeology and its getting bogged down in the details of implements. However, he admits there are no other sources of data. He does not propose any alternatives except to handle the data better. We got a ref here to Daniel. There are no page numbers; moreover, Google only gives us the first several pages of the book referenced. Everything else is non-previewable. Now, I would like to give the editor a chance to develop this theme. If he does not my next move will be to present the gist of Daniel's non-historicity argument with a change of ref to the one book I can read complete without an inter-library loan. A second subsection would appear, something like "The non-historicity argument". I got other things to do now then I will go on with Morgan. What would be a pleasant surprise would be another section with the gist of Daniel's criticisms, so I don't have to do it. Ciao.Dave (talk)

Note that the verifiability policy doesn't require sources to be easily accessible. Part of assuming good faith is assuming that sources are fairly cited unless you have a specific reason to believe otherwise. Although I agree page references are generally a good idea, their absence isn't really adequate reason to remove a sourced statement.  jroe tkcb  18:41, 22 May 2011 (UTC)
Ok. The opponent made such a good statement below I am backing out of the section to let him work on it. I did have a specific reason to think otherwise. In the things that I could check the material was not turning up. If we have some identifiable arguments written without slant and referenced avoiding the chains of numbers then I will be happy about it. We are using the harvard ref system here so I may look at the formats of the refs. There is a template for requesting page numbers. I presume it is there so we can use it if necessary. But, let's see how it turns out.Dave (talk) 20:22, 22 May 2011 (UTC)

The resumptive table[edit]

I have not even touched this yet. When I first saw it I was immediately against it. What on earth was being resumed in resumptive? Then I looked it up in the big dictionary. This is a legitimate English word used mainly in scholarly and scientific writing. I was embarassed not to have known it. I did not wish to make an a. of myself by deleting it. Obviously the editor who put it in knew more than I. So, I'm in favor of keeping it. What is means is "summary table". I said to myself, am I to impose ignorance as a standard by trying to simplify English out of this perfectly good word? That was on my mind. I think the table is an enhancement to the article. It probably needs to be updated.Dave (talk) 18:35, 22 May 2011 (UTC)

Reply to Mediation[edit]

I think the mediator got it spot on. Thank you for intervening. Either tomorrow or the day after (the notes I took are on my work computer and its night-time where I am), I'll update the criticism section to reflect those changes and include specific page numbers where I can. I'll expand the criticism section to include context and more direct quotations. I'll proofread for weasel words and clarify where applicable. I'll also clarify that the Eurocentric criticisms were specifically lobbied at its application outside of Europe and West Asia and that the system is still used in Europe as a generalized, shorthand means of classification. I'll include additional citations when possible (thanks to the mediator for providing a few) and break up the existing citations to fulfill Dave's request at eliminating strings of citations. I'll expand that one-line segment in the intro into a more appropriate lead in for the article. If anyone still has issues with the new edit we can discuss them then. Snickeringshadow (talk) 18:41, 22 May 2011 (UTC)

Now you're talking, fellow collaborator. I'm going to cease work on that section to give you a chance to do it right. There is plenty of other work to do and ultimately we will have to make size decisions. Maybe WP is capable of quality presentations.Dave (talk) 20:10, 22 May 2011 (UTC)

Revision on Criticism[edit]

After reviewing my previous edit, I did see that I put page numbers in the citations. Apparently Dave missed it and I forgot about it. I previously used the American Antiquities citation format of "Author YEAR:PP", which may be confusing and contrary to the format used elsewhere on Wikipedia. For clarification, I changed it to the format of "Author YEAR p.##". I also expanded the "epochalism" critique section that Dave started and added one on Eurocentrism. I included the quote provided by Jroe, but I'm unable to access the specific article which makes it impossible to get page numbers. If anybody else has access to that database, could somebody please insert page numbers in that citation? I also removed the Glyn Danial citation, which was referencing the following quote:

"This system has indeed been the foundation stone of modern archaeology; it is for us to say whether it is to become a mill-stone hanging around the necks of future archaeologists".

This quote does offer a cautious critique of the three age system, but it doesn't provide anything specific. It's just a sort of general remark on its limitations. It would be a strain to fit that in any of the sub-categories, so it's been cut. Now, the criticism section has been reorganized and rewritten to draw from the direct quotes of the authors, but little has been added in the way of new information. I don't have access to my University databases at the moment, but I'll try to add more sources when I can. I know I can find more american archaeologists criticizing its application in the New World, but I've got little info in the way of Africa, Asia, or Australia. I have elsewhere read criticisms written based on those areas, but I don't have access to them. Pending any sudden developments, we may have to wait until another editor with a background in those regions can contribute. As far as the introduction goes, I think the mediator was correct in stating that it should spend more time talking about contemporary usage and criticisms than historical development. However, since there hasn't been much work done on the model's contemporary usage (other than the criticism section), I see no reason to update that yet. Once the article gets more fleshed out, I'd recommend revisiting it and including criticisms alongside other modern interpretations. Snickeringshadow (talk) 07:03, 23 May 2011 (UTC)

It's the online edition, so there aren't any page numbers.  jroe tkcb  07:35, 23 May 2011 (UTC)

Another view[edit]

I'd like to add an aspect that is lacking from the article so far. While the three phases Stone / Bronze / Iron obviously don't fit the Americas, a different three-age system was devised and is still in use (with some modifications). The Archaic / Formative / Classic phases of Mesoamerica were influential for the Palaeoindian, Archaic, Woodland, and so on phases of northern America. So maybe the article needs an introduction with a broader approach showing that three step models are common and were derived from the original three-age system that applies as such only to Europe and the Near/Middle East. Does anyone knows about Africa? --h-stt !? 11:24, 24 May 2011 (UTC)

Well, I think this article specifically is about the three age system as the metallurgical division. I could see the application for explaining similar time period divisions based on regional assemblages, but such a section would probably function better by linking to other articles specifically about those classifications. Still, if you can find some sources explaining how the model has influenced other chronologies in different parts of the world, I say have at it. It's definitely been used as a template to derive other regional classification schemes. And yeah, we really need some African archaeologists here. Snickeringshadow (talk) 18:56, 24 May 2011 (UTC)
The Africans (white and later native) did propose a different system. I covered this albeit yet incompletely under Stone Age. They still use that system but when they devised it they had no dates. Subsequent radiocarbon dates merged most of their system with the traditional. They use either with equal facility but I must say it is a bit confusing. The terms somehow ended up being similar or the same so when they speak the hearer always has to ask, now which system is he using? As far as your other suggestions are concerned I think those are good suggestions. This keystone article is just getting started really. You can find more under the different subdivisions. Frankly I was feeling a bit crushed having to handle all this myself. I'm still around. When I do work I will finish what I started on the traditional. I do not see any American systems at all so as you perceive someone needs to do that. It is beyond the scope of my interest at the moment. As far as this article is concerned I was going to put the African in just before the revolutions but I had just worked on Stone Age and wanted to complete the Stone Age sections. You see there is a gap and a tag there. I do not know where the Bronze Age will lead me. Probably to the traditional first. As I have said all things will create a space problem here but at the time we can make the appropriate offload decisions. I must say I am rather pleased at all this. If you want to do the work you won't find me uncooperative. Go ahead, work.Dave (talk) 12:31, 25 May 2011 (UTC)

Some replies[edit]

I'm archaeologist, and sorry not very capable with Wikipedia editing, but will try to give some light (or more debate) to this. First of all... about the 3AS, the beginning of the article with its history is ok. It was originally designed for Europe, and fitted. Not anymore (will go back to this). Secondly... about the table. I would made it simpler, as this should be well developed in Prehistory and make clear some points already mentioned: This table just fits Europe, Chronologies are very different even inside Europe. It was tried to be used in the rest of the World, but early changed. Anyway, it is true, that other areas tried to follow a similar approach (so yeah, the 3AS has a basis for the divisions in Africa, Asia and America). Thirdly... In the rest of the world are other systems; Someone mentioned the American before, the African is quite a bit complicated (can see this) and for Asia, China has one, India another one, and around the Pacific another one. Anyway, the point I wanted to focus is about the 3AS in current archaeology. There is a feeling lately, mainly after the development of Commercial Archaeology, that records don't fit our categories. We still use the 3AS but more and more the differences among regions, as well as the change in the records, make us feel we need some kind of change. In the book 'Europe before History' de Kristian Kristiansen there are some notes about the topic, but real discussions are in congresses, etc. And not sure if yet properly written. A couple of weeks ago, we were for example having this discussion in a congress in Faro (Portugal) but also aware about the difficulty to change the system, as it is what children study at school and we all know and have been using. For example, in Paleolithic archaeology they have done so, and now they talk about Mode 1, Mode 2... in technology and chronologies of ESA, MSA, LSA to homogenize Africa, Middle East and Europe. Not sure if this was helpful, hope so. --JAS 16:57, 26 May 2011 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Jascabaco (talkcontribs)

Thanks. You are portraying for us the complexity of the archaeologies facing the archaeologist as we go on finding increasing amounts of data. This complexity does not alleviate the need for system; far from it. Until other systems are proposed and put into effect we have the 3AS by default. This article is ABOUT the 3AS. If we have alternative systems, they should require different articles. If we do not have alternative systems but the 3AS does not a fit a region or site, we can still present an article on that region or site saying that this data does not fit, etc, if that is the view the excavators take. This issue that we have just fought out is not a minor WP issue but as you see reflects the state of the field. It undoubtedly should say something about criticisms as it now does (and probably will get expanded) but remember this IS the place of presentation of the 3AS. Apparently we have all come to the agreement that currently it is mainstream but there are serious questions as to its adequacy. We still need to present it before we can criticise it and that presentation should be a fair one conceding to its historic importance. We can present other systems elsewhere. I started to do that with Morgan but I have not got that far on it yet. There is plenty of room here on WP. My main concern as you can see is quality.
For the larger circle from hither Eurasia around through the Middle East and North Africa this system has no challengers. If you are going to try to shake it out of the Mediterranean, Scandinavia, Britain and the like, forget it. They invented it. There is not even a sniff of a hint of fundamental overthrow. Late Helladic, Middle Minoan, etc., or "the Bronze Age in Greece" are here to stay. I don't know what is happening in the outlands of the Portuguese fringe but I can't imagine it having any serious impact on the Aegean world. The very university attended by the mediator obtained for this article has an extensive website and a serious archaeology program. I have never seen anything at all there suggesting an overthrow. I am quite sure the current mediator will not be graduating from there in archaeology with a revolutionary view of the three ages, unless his thesis advisors might be kind enough to allow him to support some radical proposals. No, the mainstream prevails. For the rest of it, well, how much can we put in one article? We can't put the whole of archaeological discovery, dissatisfaction, systemization and counter-proposal in this one article. Give me a break. This is for the presentation (not the attempted destruction) of the 3AS. Archaeology is a big place but so is WP.
For the rest of your comments, well, I was afraid this would happen. The original article was just too nascent to even be considered so people ignored it, and justifiably so. Then I started. I put in the material you seem to find so acceptable. Unfortunately I am nowhere near done and yet none of you seem to realize that. You want to treat it as a done deal and it does not pass muster for that. That happens in tech writing all the time. Your competitors or enemies (same thing) snatch your incomplete work right out of your hands and rip it to shreds based on the incomplete parts. We need to finish this article. Thanks for your advice on some things that should be said. As far as your WP editing is concerned, you would have to go through the gamut just like everyone else. It's up to you whether you have time and patience for that. In the academic world you have the support of the whole field so to speak and you write an an expert. Here no such conditions apply. You might not like it. I must say it is a big time-consumer. Quite inefficient. So, it is different. I'm a little more used to being jumped by the local gang and beat up for my territorial infringements, so to speak so I hang on. Now, for the table, this goes into the category of incomplete and unverified. It will be carefully looked at at some time in the future. Perhaps we should identify it as based on the traditional 3AS. We cannot put tables in based on all the achaeologies of the world, I don't think. That would be an encyclopedia of archaeology. This is for the historical develpment of the 3AS. All the other systems are not the topic here. We can link to them especially under see also. My time is up. Ciao.Dave (talk) 11:38, 27 May 2011 (UTC)

Removed opinion[edit]

"Archaeologists that advocate this view argue that the advancement of one technology does not necessarily imply the advancement of another, and that categorizing social change based on a specific technological development is arbitrary."

This statement draws attention for two major qualities: first it was inserted into what I had but it is unrelated to my topic and second it contains a generalization with unsupported weasel words. In fact I did not understand it as English at first. What technology? What social change? After puzzling over it I think I know what the editor meant. These are not serious criticisms proposed by anyone but trivialities with a ready answer. Basically, no one is claiming that one technology implies the advancement of another without proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that it does. For example, an advance to bronze weaponry proves beyond a shadow of a doubt an advance to bronze-working. Second, no one is categorizing any social change based on a specific technological development. They all go by trends and are careful to caution the reader that this is not an absolute scheme. The trend of urbanization, for example, can be associated with the bronze age. No one is saying no cities appeared in the Neolithic, only that they tend to appear in the Bronze Age. I probably will regret saying this but I think the editor's critique is based on a misunderstanding of the 3-age system. In any case this is the sort of thing that needs an authority to say it and none is given. It is I believe your personal opinion as I know of no one else who holds it. Criticisms go forward on other bases. As for the arbitrariness, I have seen nothing arbitrary. What do you mean, arbitrary? They flip a coin? Everything I read is logically interconnected by archaeologists who go to great lengths to find connections. They present evidence, not arbitrary facts. Arbitrary is if I assert the sky is falling because the sun came up today.Dave (talk) 03:17, 29 May 2011 (UTC)

I was the one who included this quote and it was immediately preceded and followed by direct quotations from authors explaining this viewpoint. I reject the idea that it constitutes "opinion". The idea was to summarize the viewpoints of Connah, Kristiansen, Rowlands. I included it in the section that you wrote because you were using the Connah quote I had provided in a way that I thought was out of context. Perhaps this reflects poor writing on my part, as the point was apparently not made in the summaries I provided. Connah and the others were primarily arguing against the tendancy of many early archaeologists/anthropologists to divide human societies into evolutionary stages of development (a la "Morgan"). The three age system, both the orignal version proposed by Thomsen and the updated version pitched by Gordon Childe did imply social changes that accopmanied technological ones. Childe associated the ages with the processual stages of social complexity (tribe, chiefdom, and state) and Thomsen's contemporaries (if not Thomsen himself) used the terminology to compare contemporary societies with the European past. (i.e., Native Americans were a "stone age" people and thus were "backwards" on the evolutionary ladder). The articles I included in the criticism section were criticising this tendancy to associate social and technological developments. When Connah was criticizing "epochalism" he was specifically targeting the tendency to bracket social and technological changes into evolutionary steps. The way you've rewritten it sidesteps this caveat by explaining the issue away as "relative dating". This does not accurately explain the viewpoints that the authors have argued and that I was attempting to summarize.
Now people that still use the three age system have indeed been able to accomodate this criticism but they have done so by recognizing it as a loose division used only as a shorthand. This appears to me to be the view that you are advocating, in which case I agree with you. The Peter Bogucki quote provided by the mediator explained this quite well. I'll repost it here for emphasis:

Although modern archaeologists realize that this tripartite division of prehistoric society is far too simple to reflect the complexity of change and continuity, terms like ‘Bronze Age’ are still used as a very general way of focusing attention on particular times and places and thus facilitating archaeological discussion.

This quote, IMO (and the author's opinion), summarizes modern archaeology's views on the three age system. Because of this, I believe this should be the conclusion to which the criticism section arrives. I won't revert the changes you made, but if you prefer, I can take another crack at it and see if I can word it better. Snickeringshadow (talk) 07:37, 14 June 2011 (UTC)

Browman & Williams ref[edit]

This is a little trickier. Browman & Williamns are not actually the authors, only the editors. The book is one of those compendiums. WP often handles that by a "citation" template, which allows both author and editors. I'll fix it.Dave (talk) 12:13, 29 May 2011 (UTC)

Hm. You've set it up so I can just replace the name of the author in the text. Might be simpler that way.Dave (talk) 12:16, 29 May 2011 (UTC)

Dating section[edit]

Much of the discussion above on the criticisms of the system is based on an inaccurate concept of the goals and methods of archaeology. The dating section contributed somewhat to that misunderstanding. For example, I cite the editors' faith (and that is all it is, faith) in the carbon dating method. Carbon dates do not generally prove anything, they only support (or do not support) the relative chronology. The whole point of archaeology IS the relative chronology. No one is seeking or can seek to replace the relative chronology or the periodization with "absolute" dates. The editors misunderstand "absolute." They aren't so "absolute." They can only stand in conjunction with the relative. And for the epoch, if there are no epochs, there is no archaelogy. The epochs are the hypotheses the archaeologist is trying to prove (or disprove). However there certainly should be a critisicm section and it should bring up these concerns. There also should be dating section. I reused as much of the single paragraph that was there as I could but basically it was wrong and nowhere near sufficient. I have got started expanding it, mainly with new introductions. A brief write-up of the various methods should follow, with links to the numerous appropriate articles.Dave (talk) 11:15, 2 June 2011 (UTC)

the tag[edit]

I'm taking this out now. It's been on there since I started many words ago. I doubt it was appropriate to begin with. We are not interested here in a discussion of the general utility of periodization or of tripartite epochalization. This is an article on a specific tripartite system of that name. Moreover nothing at all has been said in the discussion about the tag. Presumably the editor who placed it actually meant something else. My guess is, he/she wanted to make sure criticisms of the system got in. Fine. They are in. More can be placed in if necessary, if there are any. Of course there are other tripartite classifications. Those have been noted so far as WP covers the topic on the disambig page. We don't need this glaring inappropriate tag at the top. Naturally there are still topics that are scanty or need work and there are still obvious errors. I think it would be more useful to request information on those with in-line or sectional tags. Please try to be specific. Thank you.Dave (talk) 11:00, 3 June 2011 (UTC)


I revisited this. I'm pleased with the current state. A article of such a broad scope is tough to do. Thank you all for chipping away at it. I see we got a class B rating. The last edit was in June of this year. I'm sure it could use more if anyone cares to shoot for class A. Just working on it now is a big undertaking. However, no pain, no gain. Thanks. By the way Branigan is Dave. I bought some respite from hostile attacks by this devious maneuver.Branigan 01:04, 22 October 2014 (UTC)

Lucretius as a source for what the Romans believed[edit]

Here's a sentence in the article:

The Romans believed that the species of animals, including man, were spontaneously generated from the materials of the Earth, because of which the Latin word mater, "mother," descends to English-speakers as matter and material.

The only cited source for this is Lucretius. Now, I don't know whether or not this is an accurate account of what the Romans believed, because I'm not a classicist. (I suspect it isn't, because there probably isn't a lot one could accurately say about what the Romans believed.) But I don't think that Lucretius is a good source for what they believed. He was a Roman, but an unusual one because he's an Epicurean. The issue in question is something that Epicureans had idiosyncratic beliefs about. There are lots of things that Lucretius says in De rerum natura that the Romans didn't believe: that all is atoms and void, that the Gods cannot intervene in human affairs, that justice is just what is useful, that the best life is one of pleasure, etc. Anyway, Lucretius is a primary source, so also probably inappropriate here. (talk) 14:42, 15 May 2016 (UTC)

Focus of the article[edit]

I think all the text about the history of the establishment of the three-age system should be better left for another article, say "History of the three-age system". The details of the poeple involved, the things they published, what one said, what the other responded, etc. are overkill for this particular article and really bloat sections like "Stone Age subdivisions" or "Origin", for example.

It would be better to have a short summary, no more that a couple of paragraphs, in the "Origin" section about how the three-age system came to be, with a link to "History of the three-age system" for further information. Then the other sections: "Stone Age subdivisions", "Bronze age subdivisions" and "End of the Iron Age" would just list the currently accepted subdivisions and what they encompass. I'm not an expert on the subject, but if there is controversy among the relevant experts about including some other sub-divisions y should be stated and those sub-divisions listed too as reference.

Best regards, Alejandro E. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:35, 22 June 2016 (UTC)

Lead section[edit]

SuggestBot got me here. To summarize the article's scope and not giving the impression to simply repeat everything is the trick here. Talk to me. ATBWikirictor (talk) 22:59, 26 December 2016 (UTC)

Suggestion for First Paragraph[edit]

I suggest the fact that the three age system consists of the stone, bronze, and iron age be moved up into the first sentence, or at the very least to the first paragraph. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:27, 6 August 2017 (UTC)

Split Proposed[edit]

Can some part of the origin section be split into Periodization — the periodization article would benefit from the well-sourced content, and this article could focus on the three-age system. (For example Rowley-Conway has a detailed introduction of this background history).Seraphim System (talk) 00:44, 14 May 2018 (UTC)

Doesn't seem a great idea to me - this account is very detailed, and does "focus on the three-age system" as a concept. The actual archaeological accounts are in the various period articles, which is surely right. You can always copy over (making clear in the es where stuff came fom) but too much of this would rather overwhelm Periodization. Johnbod (talk) 02:05, 14 May 2018 (UTC)
    • ^ Pai, Hyung Il. 2000. Constructing Korean Origins: A Critical Review of Archaeology, Historiography, and Racial Myth in Korean State Formation Theories. Harvard University Press, Cambridge.
    • ^ Crawford, Gary W.; Gyoung-Ah, Lee (2003). "Agricultural Origins in the Korean Peninsula". Antiquity. 77 (295): 87–95.