How do they know?
Ancient History Magazine wants to bring together what belongs together: scholars and general audience, all parts of the ancient world, all disciplines. After all, someone who studies an ancient text without knowledge of the material world of its author, is bound to make mistakes, just as anyone who studies an ancient civilization in isolation will inevitably overestimate its originality. And finally, it goes without saying that a scholar whose insights do not reach the general audience, has a job that must feel discouragingly futile.
If you bring together what belongs together, that implies it’s currently separate, which in turn means that you need to build bridges. This is the reason for our recurring department “How do they know?”
It addresses those questions that we all encounter when we are reading about the ancient world. An archaeologist says that a piece of wood dates from 17 AD, but how does he know? What does it mean when a classicist says that a manuscript can be eliminated? And what are historians doing when they say the same of a source? How can archaeologists be so sure that a piece of pottery was made far away from the place where it was excavated? What are those hemeneutics that you read about?
So far, our contributors have explained how papyrologists know that a papyrus is genuine (AHM 1) and how Latin was pronounced (AHM 2). In the third issue, an archaeologist explains the radiocarbon method that is used to date ancient objects. In AHM 4, we will explain how classicists are able to recognize that a Greek or Latin text represents spoken language.
The number of methods employed by classicists, historians, and archaeologists is almost infinite. If you want to contribute to Ancient History Magazine, and if you think you can explain a method to others, your proposals are welcome!