A Comparison of Archaeology and Literature

Life in the ancient world has always been a great interest among scholars of the past and the present. In order to find out new information about the lifestyle of ancient Greeks scholars have used two types of evidence to better understand the people living in that day and age. One of these sources is literary evidence. Literary evidence primarily consists of a range of oral stories to by the Greeks that were later written down and preserved. The second source is archaeological evidence.

Archaeological evidence is material remains that were excavated and relate to the culture of ancient Greece. These remains could be pottery, armor, building, and more. These two sources can provide much information for scholars but both sources have flaws and can not be used alone.

The history of the Greek world wasn’t recorded until around the seventh century B.C.E. This is when writing became available to the Greeks and it was then possible for them to record the mythoi that had been pasted down for generations orally.

Ancient historians took these mythoi literally and “used them to reconstruct the early history of the Greeks” (AG pg. 4). The most popular source of literary evidence would be the story of the Iliad. The Iliad was told by a poet named Homer who was thought to be the best poet of his time. In this epic Homer tells of a great war between the cities of Troy and Mycenae.

Originally this epic was thought to be fictional until the two cities were discovered through an archaeological excavation.

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With the help of archaeology the literary evidence that was once thought fictional now held some truth. This find proved that the two cities existed and it shed some light on the Mycenaean culture that proved to be war oriented. One of the most fascinating artifacts found was a bore’s tusk helmet that was worn by some of the warriors in the Iliad according to Homer. This artifact alone further aided in showing that some of this epic poem had truth. However, the find did not prove that the war between the Trojans and the Mycenaeans that actually took place. Without the use of archaeological evidence the literary evidence would not hold a strong case.

Even though some of the literary evidence was proven to be true it still holds many flaws. Many scholars know that stories that are passed down through many people changes greatly throughout time. Therefore one can not base history off of an oral myth because much of the information that might have originally been true has been exaggerated from one person to another thus resulting in a different story. Once people started to record events that took place in their societies there became a lot more literary text to refer to but we only receive on point of view and don’t always know the other side to stories. Thus without archaeological evidence one can not confirm the writings to be true.

Archaeology also has its flaw. Just like literary evidence archaeological evidence can not work alone. Without literary text much of the artifacts found wouldn’t have much meaning. For instance, without the Iliad archaeologist might not have found Mycenae and Troy because they would not have any reason to look for them. If they had still found these cities and found the bore’s tusk helmet they would not know what to relate it to. For all they might know it could have been a hat that the people wore during religious ceremonies. Therefore without literary text much of archaeological finds would not make since.

In conclusion, literary evidence and archaeological evidence can not get conclusive information without each other. Each plays an important role in the finds of the other.

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A Comparison of Archaeology and Literature. (2023, Feb 18). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/a-comparison-of-archaeology-and-literature/

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