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The concept of prehistory and the invention of the terms 'prehistoric' and 'prehistorian' : the Scandanavian origin, 1833-1850.

Rowley-Conwy, P. (2006) 'The concept of prehistory and the invention of the terms 'prehistoric' and 'prehistorian' : the Scandanavian origin, 1833-1850.', European journal of archaeology., 9 (1). pp. 103-130.


It is usually assumed by historians of archaeology that the `concept of prehistory' and the terms `prehistoric' and `prehistorian' first appeared in Britain and/or France in the mid-nineteenth century. This contribution demonstrates that the Scandinavian equivalent terms forhistorisk and förhistorisk were in use substantially earlier, appearing in print first in 1834. Initial usage by Molbech differed slightly from that of the present day, but within three years the modern usage had been developed. The concept of prehistory was first developed at the same time by C.J. Thomsen, though he did not use the word. It was used more frequently in the nationalism debates of the 1840s, particularly by J.J.A. Worsaae. One of the other protagonists, the Norwegian Peter Andreas Munch, was probably responsible for introducing the concept to Daniel Wilson in 1849, and suggesting that an English equivalent to forhistorisk was required.

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:Published on behalf of the European Association of Archaeologists.
Keywords:Forhistorisk, Molbech, Munch, Nilsson, Prehistoric, Thomsen, Daniel Wilson, Worsaae.
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Publisher statement:The final definitive version of this article has been published in the Journal European journal of archaeology 9/1 2006 Copyright © 2010 by European Association of Archaeologists, SAGE Publications by SAGE Publications Ltd at the European journal of archaeology page: on SAGE Journals Online:
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:17 February 2010
Date of first online publication:April 2006
Date first made open access:No date available

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