Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory

BOOKS | 2010

3 June 2011

The Archaeology of Measurement. Comprehending Heaven, Earth and Time in Ancient Societies

Edited by Iain Morley & Colin Renfrew

The Archaeology of Measurement. Comprehending Heaven, Earth and Time in Ancient Societies

City: Cambridge

Year: 2010

Publisher: Cambridge University Press

Description: Paperback, 296 p., 130 b/w illus., 17 maps, 19 tables, 22.8x15.2 cm


The construction of formal measurement systems underlies the development of science, technology, economy and new ways of understanding and explaining the world. Human societies have developed such systems in different ways, in different places and at different times, and recent archaeological investigations highlight the importance of these activities for fundamental aspects of human life. Measurement systems have provided the structure for addressing key concerns of cosmological belief systems, as well as the means for articulating relationships between the human form, human action, and the world. The Archaeology of Measurement explores the archaeological evidence for the development of measuring activities in numerous ancient societies, as well as the implications of these discoveries for an understanding of their worlds and beliefs. Featuring contributions from a cast of internationally renowned scholars, it analyses the relationships between measurement, economy, architecture, symbolism, time, cosmology, ritual, and religion among prehistoric and early historic societies.


Introduction by Colin Renfrew and Iain Morley [1-4]

Part I. Number: Counting, Mathematics, and Measure [5-6]
1. Iain Morley, ‘Conceptualising quantification before settlement: activities and issues underlying the conception and use of measurement’ [7-18]
2. Helen Farr, ‘Measurement in navigation: conceiving distance and time in the Neolithic’ [19-26]
3. Denise Schmandt-Besserat, ‘The token system of the ancient Near East: its role in counting, writing, the economy and cognition’ [27-34]
4. Lambros Malafouris, ‘Grasping the concept of number: how did the sapient mind move beyond approximation?’ [35-42]
5. John Justeson, ‘Numerical cognition and the development of ‘zero’ in Mesoamerica’ [43-53]
6. Gary Urton, ‘Recording measure(ment)s in the Inka Khipu’ [54-68]

Part II. Materialising the Economy [69-70]
7. Anna Michailidou, ‘Measuring by weight in the late Bronze Age Aegean: the people behind the measuring tools’ [71-87]
8. Lorenz Rahmstorf, ‘The concept of weighing during the Bronze Age in the Aegean, the Near East and Europe’ [88-105]
9. J. Mark Kenoyer, ‘Measuring the Harappan world: insights into the Indus order and cosmology’ [106-121]

Part III. Dimensions and Belief [123-124]
10. Michael Jansen, ‘Architectural measurements in the Indus cities: the case study of Mohenjo-Daro’ [125-129]
11. Saburu Sugiyama, ‘Teothuacan City layout as a cosmogram: preliminary results of the 2007 measurement unit study’ [130-149]
12. John Clark, ‘Aztec dimensions of holiness’ [150-169]
13. Kate Spence, ‘Establishing direction in early Egyptian burials and monumental architecture: measurement and the spatial link with the “other”’ [170-179]

Part IV. Calendar and Cosmology [181-182]
14. David Brown, ‘The measurement of time and distance in the heavens above Mesopotamia, with brief reference made to other ancient astral sciences’ [183-194]
15. Mark Lewis, ‘Evolution of the calendar in Shang China’ [195-202]
16. Anthony Aveni, ‘The measure of time in Meso-America: from Teotihuacan to the Maya’ [203-215]
17. Charles Stanish, ‘Measuring time, sacred space, and social place in the Inca Empire’ [216-228]
18. Peter Biehl, ‘Measuring time in the European Neolithic? The function and meaning of Central European circular enclosures’ [229-243]

Part V. The Spirituality of Measure [245-246]
19. F. LeRon Shults, ‘The roots of spirituality and the limits of human mensuration’ [247-248]
20. Jeremy Begbie, ‘Worldview, measurement and “the roots of spirituality”’ [250-256]


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