《经济学人》:时间机器解密 新石器时代的繁荣期
日期:2011-06-20 10:56

(单词翻译:单击)

The Neolithic
新石器时代

Boom-time machine
时间机器解密:新石器时代的繁荣期

A new technique lets archaeologists reconstruct the past in greater detail
考古新技术让考古专家们能更加详尽地重构远古原貌

Building site, 3670BC
公元前3670年的建筑遗址

THAT economic expansion leads to building booms seems to have been as true 6,000 years ago as it is now. When agriculture came to Britain, it led to a surge of construction as impressive—and rapid—as the one that followed the industrial revolution.

在经济扩张时期,人们往往喜欢大兴土木。如今的这条经济定律在6000年前似乎也同样适用。随着农业在英国生根萌芽,建筑业也随之蓬勃兴旺,其发展速度之快,令人印象之深刻毫不逊色于英国工业革命之后的那次农业变革。

Which is all a bit of a surprise to archaeologists, who had previously seen the arrival of the Neolithic as a rather gentle thing. But that may be because of the tools they use. Radiocarbon dating provides a range, often spanning 200 years or more, rather than an exact date for a site. Stratigraphy, which looks at the soil layers in which artefacts are found, tells you only which ones are older and which younger. None of these data is precise. They do, however, limit the possible range of dates. And by using a statistical technique called Bayesian analysis it is possible to combine such disparate pieces of information to produce a consolidated estimate that is more accurate than any of its components. That results in a range that spans decades, not centuries.

这一切让考古学家们显得有些惊讶,他们之前一直认为新石器时代是经济发展较为和缓的时期。不过这可能是由于他们使用的考古技术方法还不够先进。采用放射性碳技术来测定一处考古遗址的年代,得到的并不是一个准确日期,而是一个时间跨度范围通常为200年或更久远的数值。而地层学采用的方法是通过对已发现古代文物的土壤层进行探测分析,从而判断土壤年代的远近。这种方法得出的数据也都不精确。然而它们确实是缩短了可能估算的时间跨度。通过贝叶斯分析的统计方法,这些分散孤立的信息可能被整合成一个可靠详实的估计数值,这比单一研究其中的任何一条信息都更为精确。采用地层学断代推算出的时间范围是几十年,而不是几百年。

A team led by Alex Bayliss, from English Heritage, a British government agency, has just used this technique to examine digs from hundreds of sites around Britain. The results have caused them to reinterpret the Neolithic past quite radically.

Alex Bayliss领导的研究小组来自于英国政府机构的古迹署,他们刚刚采用这项技术对英国周围几百处的人工挖凿遗址进行了研究。这些成果可以让他们更为彻底地重新诠释新石器时代。

Agriculture seems to have arrived fully formed in what is now Kent, in the south-east, around 4050BC. The new culture spread slowly at first, taking 200 years to reach modern-day Cheltenham, in the west, but over the following five decades it penetrated as far north as Aberdeen. Soon afterwards, causewayed enclosures (circular arrangements of banks and ditches hundreds of metres across—see picture) began springing up all over the country.

大约在公元前4050年,在现今的英国东南部的肯特郡(Kent),那里的农业时代似乎已经到来并发展成熟。起初这种新文化传播缓慢,用了200年的时间才到达今天英国西部的切尔滕纳姆(Cheltenham),但是在后续的50年中,它迅速东扩到了北部的阿伯丁(Aberdeen)。随后,筑有堤道的围场(其格局为几百米跨度的环形堤岸与沟渠)开始在全国遍地开花。

Until now, archaeologists had assumed that these were built over the course of centuries. Dr Bayliss’s work suggests they were the product of two booms, each just a few decades long—for the Neolithic seems to have seen its share of busts, too.

现在,考古学家断定这些建筑物是在几百年间陆续建成的。Bayliss博士的考古研究表明它们是两个繁荣期的产物,每个繁荣期的持续时间仅为几十年,可见新时器时代似乎也存在过衰落的萧条期。

The team’s work offers such a sharp picture of the past that it is possible to trace the histories even of individual communities, such as one in Essex whose inhabitants built, used and then abandoned an enclosure within the span of a single generation.

考古研究小组为我们展示了清晰的远古画面,让我们可以追溯到更远的历史甚至小的个体群落,例如在埃塞克斯(Essex)考古遗址,考古人员发现了当时原始居民修建,使用和后来废弃的围场,它伴随了一代人的成长。

English Heritage now plans to apply the technique to another murky era of British history, the early Anglo-Saxon period between 400AD and 700AD. In principle, the method can be applied to any archaeological site, and several groups of researchers around the world are working on similar projects. But, fittingly for a discipline that deals in centuries and millennia, the revolution will be a slow one. Unlike traditional radiocarbon dating, which can be bought off the shelf, Dr Bayliss reckons it takes between three and four years to train a graduate researcher to use the new technique properly.

现在英国古迹署计划将此技术应用于英国另一段有着模糊记载的历史年代,即介于公元400年至公元700年的早期盎格鲁-撒克逊时期。理论上,此种方法可以应用于任何一个考古遗址,现在全世界已经有几组考古人员运用此方法进行着类似的考古项目。但是恰当地说,对一门牵涉几百年和上千年的学科,它的革新将是一个漫长的过程。传统的放射碳断代法是一种现学现卖的技术,但地层学与之不同,Bayliss博士认为培养一名完全掌握此项新技术且具有硕士学位的研究人员得需要三到四年的时间。

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重点单词
  • combinev. 结合,联合,使结合 n. 集团,联合企业,联合收割
  • constructionn. 建设,建造,结构,构造,建筑物
  • enclosuren. 附件,围墙,围绕
  • spann. 跨度,跨距,间距 vt. 横跨,贯穿,估量 动词s
  • gentleadj. 温和的,轻柔的,文雅的,温顺的,出身名门的
  • preciseadj. 精确的,准确的,严格的,恰好的
  • expansionn. 扩大,膨胀,扩充
  • impressiveadj. 给人深刻印象的
  • producen. 产品,农作物 vt. 生产,提出,引起,分娩,制片
  • circularadj. 循环的,圆形的 n. 传单,通报