My preciousssss... Zwanghaftes Horten, Epistemologie und sozial verhaltensgestörte Archäologie

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Since the beginnings of our subject in the German speaking countries, a mostly unreflected, firmly logical positivist epistemology has been the fundament of our practice. Established by ‘fathers’ of modern archaeology like Virchow and Hoernes, we believe that “...beginning and progress...” in archaeology lie in “... the observation of plain fact, in the stringing together of individual, of themselves unremarkable observations to incontrovertible knowledge...” (Hoernes 1892, 43). Virchow (quoted in Hoernes 1892, 70) hoped that the anthropological disciplines would progress “ purely inductive means...” in the future. One of the necessary (epistemo-)logical preconditions for the possibility to arrive at proof positive by inductive reasoning is the completeness of observations. And since it has become disciplinary dogma that only inductive reasoning based on correct and complete observations of archaeology can create reliable, i.e. ‘true’, knowledge about archaeological things (and people), a particular relationship of the discipline with these things necessarily follows: every archaeological object is a infinitely valuable treasure, is sacrosanct, must be conserved forever. Only this can guarantee that our observations remain repeatable and thus allow our discipline progress by no other than inductive means. Industrial hoarding thus is a necessary consequence of our epistemological approach.
This paper demonstrates that the approach to professional archaeological collecting resulting from this is both causing suffering within the discipline and causes damage to our subject and the objects we pretend need to be maintained ‘in perpetuity’, and is ultimately unsustainable. Perhaps even more significantly, the resulting professional practice exhibits virtually all diagnostic criteria of a recently newly-defined obsessive-compulsive spectrum mental disorder, of compulsive hoarding. It is thus argued that the discipline of archaeology as a community of like-minded and like-educated professionals in the German speaking countries exhibits a serious social functionality disorder: it is, quite literally, sick and in urgent need of therapy.


  • ARCHAEOLOGY, collecting, museums, German archaeology, Austrian archaeology, THEORY & METHODS, positivism, compulsive hoarding, mental disorder
Original languageGerman
Title of host publicationMassendinghaltung in der Archäologie
Subtitle of host publicationDer Material Turn und die Ur- und Frühgeschichte
EditorsKerstin P. Hofmann, Thomas Meier, Doreen Mölders, Stefan Schreiber
Place of PublicationLeiden
PublisherSidestone Press
Number of pages26
ISBN (Print)9789088903465, 9088903468
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016

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