Time and the archaeological archive

This paper begins by reviewing conventional understandings of the historical and archaeological record and questions the lack of problematizing the nature of time in relation to the archive. Drawing on the concept of memory in both mental (testimony) and material terms (trace), the paper argues that we need to address the temporal paradox at the heart of any archive, namely the continuity of the past into the present. Using the concept of palimpsest, the materiality of memory as trace is then explored as a way to understand the intersection of objects and events - and their residues. It is proposed that the trace produces a very different historical ontology to testimony, one that requires different kinds of narrative. Specifically, the residuality that is implicit in the concept of trace references an interia or resilience in the material world where preservation and destruction - memory and forgetting - are entangled with degrees of reversibility to the order of things.