1. What are the main types of sources?

The main types of sources are archaeological and written sources. Archaeological sources are the physical remains of past cultures. Written sources include any materials or objects that have been written on.


2. What kinds of questions need to be asked of archaeological sources?

The types of questions that need to be asked of archaeological sources are:

– What is it?

– In what matter was it found?

– Can it be accurately dated?

– How does its condition affect its interpretation?

– Is it reliable and / or useful in providing evidence about the past?

– What evidence does this source provide about the past?


3. Do these questions differ from the questions asked of written sources? Why?

Yes, these questions differ from the questions asked of written sources because archaeological sources are not subject to bias. Analysing written sources can reveal the writer’s perspective whereas archaeological sources reveal descriptions of an artifact when being asked questions on the sources.


4. What is meant by the saying that ‘historical writings reveal more about the author than the events or personalities being related’?

‘Historical writings reveal more about the author than the events or personalities being related/ ,eans that historical writings are mainlt based on the author’s perspective, so their analysis may eother be true or false towards the content of reconstructing the past. It’s more about the historian being bias on one side, than the actual source.


5. Go online and find one example of an ancient written source and one ancient archaeological source. Analyse each one (hint: ask those questions!)


Ancient Written Source – The Rosetta Stone is an Ancient Egyptian artifact, instrumental in advancing modern understanding of hieroglyphic writing. The Stone is a Ptolemaic era stele with carved text. The text is made up of three scripts, hieroglyphic (an ancient Egyptian script using symbols), demotic (a simplified Egyptian script used for everyday writing), and Greek (the langauge introduced after the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great). It was created in 196 BC, discovered by the French in 1799 at Rosetta, a harbor on the Mediterranean coast in Egypt, and contributed greatly to the decipherment of principles of hieroglyphic writing in 1822 by the French scholar Jean-Francois Champollion. The text of the Rosetta Stone is a decree from Ptolemy V, describing the repealing of various taxes and instructions to erect statues in temples. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosetta_Stone


Ancient Archaeological Source – The 2000 Year old bronze Iron Age Chain is an artifact discovered during work in Scatness. The chain, with 20 double links and the reemains of possibly the clasp, was recovered from a roundhouse wall by the Shetland Amenity Trust. The chain is described as extremely well preserved and adds to the jewelry and other metal artifacts found at the site. Shetland Archaeologist Wal Turner said: “This discovery is quite rare”. (BBC)



February 26, 2008

1. Using examples (modern or Ancient), discuss the difference between ‘fact’ and opinion’.

A fact is something that is generally accepted without dispute. For example, that Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC is a fact. An opinion is a personal belief or judgment that is not founded on proof or certainty. For example, the motives of the assassins are open to interpretation and thse interpretations are therefore opinion.


2. What factors affect the objectivity of authors of written sources?

The factors that affect the objectivity of authors of written sources are race, gender, class, politcal and cultural factors.


3. What is gender bias? How has it manifested itself in the reporting of history over the millenia? Give three examples of gender bias? Is it still a problem today in historiography?  

Gender bias is unfair difference in the treatment of men or women because of their sex. Throughout ancient sources, women have been portrayed in a negative light, had no voice and remain invisible in sources. Examples of gender bias can be found in Dio Cassius’s description of Boudicca who was a Celtic chieftain’s wife and the part of a modern historian displayed by Sir Alan Gardiner, a well-known Egyptologist who displays unmistakable bias in his treatment of Hatshepsut. Yes, it is still a problem today in historiography.


4. Go to this website and read the blurb on Josephus-http://www.earlyjewishwritings.com/josephus.html . Who is Josephus? When did he live? What did he write about? How have modern authors ‘deconstructed’ Josephus’ accounts? Do they consider him biased and Why?  Lastly, is his Bellum Judaicum useful as a source for the Jewish Revolt?

Josephus, was a 1st century Jewish historian and apologist of priestly and royal ancestry who survived and recorded the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70. He lived from 37 until sometime after 100 AD. He wrote about the Jweish War (c.75) and Antiquities of the Jews (c. 94). Jewish War recounts the Jewish revolt against Rome (66-70). Antiquities of the Jews recounts the history of the wrold from a Jewish prespective. These works provide a valuable insight into the background of 1st century Judaism and early Christianity.


Martin McNamara writes: “All of Josephus’ four extant works are important sources for Jewish history and tradition. The first to be composed was The Jewish War—an account of the war of the Jews against the Romans. Raymond F. Surburg writes: “In evaluating the historical worthiness of The Jewish War, it must not be forgotten that the Memoirs are written from a Roman point of view. Furthermore, the fact that Josephus is writing under imperial patronage tended to give the work a pro-Roman bias”.


Raymond F. Surburg considers him to be bias because Josephus’s accounts “tend to give the word a pro-Roman bias”. His Bellum Judaicum is useful as a source for the Jewish Revolt because it gives an accurate insight into the background of the Jewish War.





February 25, 2008