Feeling Forward into the Past: Depths and Surfaces in Archaeology

Cristian Simonetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


As novice archaeologists learn to project their attention beyond what is immediately visible on the ground, in the company of experts who support them by drawing their attention through gestures, they develop a capacity to feel forward into the absent properties of the landscape. A multisensory exercise, this capacity constitutes a movement not only to the future but also into a deeply buried past. This experience, common to the practice of excavation, has been recently questioned by the landscape approach and the archaeology of the contemporary past, which have invited practitioners to lift the past up to the surface. Unlike the traditional corporeal tendency to look downward, these approaches have encouraged archaeologists to raise their heads and walk the past, following the image of an unfolding horizon. This contrast suggests continuity between the ecology of movement and time concepts. I argue that concepts of time are not abstract entities, fixedly stored inside the mind, but sentient acts of conceptualization that depend on the dynamic field of forces in which things and people become entangled. As sentient conceptualizations, concepts are neither discovered nor constructed, but grow as archaeologists learn to find their ways through materials in a world in constant formation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-89
Number of pages21
JournalTime and Mind
Issue number1
Early online date22 Dec 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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