The primary theme of the inaugural Shanghai Archaeology Forum is the comparative archaeology of ancient civilizations. As late Professor Bruce Trigger pointed out, “the most important issue confronting the social sciences is the extent to which human behavior is shaped by factors that operate cross-culturally as opposed to factors that are unique to particular cultures” (Understanding Early Civilizations, 2003). By using comparative methods, archaeologists can understand the material record of past cultures and to explore variation over time and space. Comparative analysis is the best way, if not the only way, to determine commonalities and regularities in human behavior, and to identify unique features as well as variations of human societies and cultures.

首届世界考古上海论坛的主题是古代文明的比较研究。正如已故的布鲁斯·炊格尔教授所言:“社会科学面对的最重要的议题是人类行为在多大程度上受制于跨文化因素,或受制于某一文化之特定因素。”(《解读早期文明》,2003年)通过使用比较研究的方法,考古学家得以认识古代文化的物质遗留并探索其时空变化。对于认识人类行为的共性及规律,无论是认识人类社会、文化的独特性,还是它们的多变性,比较分析即便不是唯一的,也不啻为最好的研究方法。

Many fundamental institutions of modern society are deeply rooted in ancient civilizations that emerged many millennia ago. The study of ancient civilization has significant implications for the understanding and solution of many contemporary problems or even crises such as globalization, economic and social inequality, and long-term sustainability and resilience of human societies. The investigation and comparison of ancient civilizations have been always of primary interest in modern archaeology, and understanding the causes and consequences of the rise and fall of ancient civilizations has been of great interest to archaeologists for a long time. However, the advancement of our knowledge on the emergence of ancient civilizations and the social, economic, political, and population dynamics of early cities, states, and empires has been hampered by the relative lack of rigorous comparative studies.

现代社会的基本制度和价值观深深根植于数千年前的古代文明。研究古文明对于理解和解决当今社会面临的问题及危机有着重大启示意义,比如全球化,经济和社会不平等,以及人类社会的长期可持续性发展等。对古代文明的调查和比较研究一直是现代考古学最关注的课题,长期以来,探索古代文明兴衰的原因和结果受到考古学家的特别关注。然而,我们对于古代文明的出现,早期城市、邦国、王国和帝国的社会、经济、政治及人口的动态机制等的认识却因缺乏科学缜密的比较研究而止步不前。

In the past decades, fieldwork has expanded tremendously throughout the world. Archaeological investigation of households, communities, settlements, and landscape has led to an explosion of well-documented diachronic and synchronic data that allow much more productive comparison of ancient civilizations. The time is ripe for a revived commitment to the comparative archaeology of ancient civilizations that provided the cultural and historical foundation for the modern world we live in today.

在过去的几十年中,全世界范围内的田野考古工作成绩斐然。有关家庭、社群、聚落及景观的考古调查获得了大量历时性、共时性的第一手材料,从而使得深入开展古代文明比较研究成为可能。

Archaeologists are uniquely positioned with comprehensive and comparative data to contribute to dialogues and debates surrounding contemporary issues and the numerous challenges of our era. The comparative study of ancient civilizations will promise to shed new light on and insights into the nature of the complexity of past human life and society, and the processes of complex cultural and social developments; and it will enhance the scientific understanding of the past, the present, and the future of our human society.

现代社会根植于古代。面对当今世界的问题和挑战,占有完整、丰富比较性材料的考古学家有其独特见解。古代文明的比较研究有助于阐释人类社会和人类文化的发展历程,并终将帮助我们理解过去、服务现在、把握未来。

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