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Gustav Moreau, L’Apparition (1876), watercolour on paper, 102 × 76 cm.
One of the excitements of archaeological prehistory [is] that the past which seemed for ever gone can be brought back by the skilled use of archaeological reconnaissance, excavation, and interpretation. We are now accustomed to learn of whole civilizations being recovered from the speechless past — the Minoan and Harappan are two that come immediately to mind. We are even accustomed by now to recover the faces of the past: the dead in the Scythian barrows at Pazyrik and in the Danish peat-bog at Tollund live again after hundreds of years. But these enormous possibilities had to be learned, and the apprehension by the scholars and public of the [eighteen] seventies that Troy and Mycenae could be made to live again by the spade is one of the great moments of the development of an idea of prehistory.
Glyn Daniel, The Idea of Prehistory (1962)
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When it repudiates a past paradigm, a scientific community simultaneously renounces, as a fit subject for professional scrutiny, most of the books and articles in which that paradigm had been embodied. Scientific education makes use of no equivalent for the art museum or the library of classics, and the result is a sometimes drastic distortion in the scientist’s perception of his discipline’s past.
Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962)
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Yan tan tethera pethera pimp: old sheep-counting systems in the UK
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I could not more write a romance than an epic poem. I could not sit seriously down to write a serious romance under any other motive than to save my life; and if it were indispensable for me to keep it up and never relax into laughing at myself and other people, I am sure I should be hung before I had finished the first chapter. No, I must keep to my own style and go on in my own way; and though I may never succeed again in that, I am convinced that I should totally fail in any other.
—Jane Austen, April 1816, in a letter to James Stanier Clarke, who had suggested that she write a historical romance.
The earliest linguistic maps of the four continents. Where he can, Hensel translates the first few words of the Lord’s Prayer (“Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name”) into local languages. Elsewhere, as in America and Africa, he notes human migrations. In Brazil, for example, evidence suggests, he says, that the first humans there came from Africa. In the box at the bottom right of Africa, he states that the map colors mark areas settled by descendants of the three sons of Noah: Japhet (“rubicundi,” here pink), Shem (“oriundos,” here yellow-orange), and Ham (“virides,” here olive green). Along the sides and at the bottom of the four maps are alphabet tables that cover most known written languages. (1741) [3397 × 2806]
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Pleasant to me is the glittering of the sun today upon these margins, because it flickers so.
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The Catholic Church originally insisted that there were no such things as witches flying through the air. In the year 1000 A.D. it was forbidden to believe that such flight really took place; later, after 1480, it was forbidden to believe that they did not take place. In 1000 A.D. the Church officially maintained that the ride of the witches was an illusion produced by the Devil. Five hundred years later, the Church officially maintained that those who claimed that the ride was merely an illusion were themselves in league with the Devil.
Marvin Harris, Cows, Pigs, Wars & Witches: The Riddles of Culture (1974)
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He had made up honor early in his life and stuck with his rules, fierce in the protection of them. In 1951 he went to jail because he and two other trustees of the bail bond fund of the Civil Rights Congress refused to reveal the names of the contributors to the fund. The truth was that Hammett had never been in the office of the Committee and did not know the name of a single contributor. The night before he was to appear in court, I said, ‘Why don’t you say that you don’t know the names?’ ‘No,’ he said, ‘I can’t say that.’ ‘Why?’ ‘I don’t know why.’ After we had a nervous silence, he said, ‘I guess it has something to do with keeping my word, but I don’t want to talk about that. Nothing much will happen, although I think we’ll go to jail for a while, but you’re not to worry because—’ and then suddenly I couldn’t understand him because the voice had dropped and the words were coming in a most untypical nervous rush. I said I couldn’t hear him, and he raised his voice and dropped his head. ‘I hate this damn kind of talk, but maybe I better tell you that if it were more than jail, if it were my life, I would give it for what I think democracy is and I don’t let cops or judges tell me what I think democracy is.’ Then he went home to bed, and the next day he went to jail.
– Lillian Hellman, in her introduction to Hammett’s The Big Knockover and other stories
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