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RAI Research Seminar

Tuesday 2 April 2024,  3:00-5:00pm GMT

This is a hybrid event.

To join us online via Zoom, register here

To join us in Person at the RAI (50 Fitzroy Street, London W1T5BT), register here

(Image: Ken Dark. ”Tintagel – where archaeology, long-term memory and legend collide’)

Beyond the Horizon:
rethinking the long-term transmission
of historical information

Professor Ken Dark (King’s College London)


Generations of anthropologists, archaeologists and historians have usually thought of oral tradition as fluid and contextual, endlessly re-shaped by shifting political and cultural circumstances. If reliable information is transmitted in this way, it is frequently argued, then this extends back in time only to a ‘historical horizon’ of two centuries or less. However, recent evidence from worldwide anthropology, archaeology, history, and even geomorphology, has identified a series of chronologically and geographically diverse instances where seemingly accurate knowledge, for example details of ancient topography, has been transmitted outside known textual sources for several centuries or longer. Here, a range of these studies – usually treated in isolation due to disciplinary and other boundaries – will be brought together to argue for a new and more nuanced understanding of the possibility of historical information being preserved over much longer periods than previously supposed without, at least extant, written records. In conclusion, this will be seen to have wide-ranging implications for understanding past human societies globally.




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