Alexander Cunningham of the Archaeological Survey of India

Prof Michel DaninoAs archaeologists dig the ground, they also dig into our minds—and their  own. And sometimes these latter findings are equally revealing. – Prof Michel Danino

The fluidity of historical interpretation is well known among historians themselves: it is accepted that there can be no such thing as “objective history”. The French philosopher Voltaire was rather scathing in his assessment of the discipline: “History is the lie commonly agreed upon,” he wrote. The assessment of the U.S. historian Will Durant was probably closer to the truth: “Most history is guessing, and the rest is prejudice.”[1] Depending on the model they choose (and the best of the day is likely to be obsolete tomorrow), the scholars’ readings of events will vary widely.

At first glance, archaeology would appear less immune to such guesswork. After all, potsherds are potsherds, bones are bones, dating techniques are now fairly secure, and major events, such as…

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