Although it may seem banal at a first glance, even basic linguistic observations are known to have triggered heated archaeological debates.The best example is the ‘discovery’ of the Indo-European language group (Renfrew 1987) – the simple observation that languages of the Indian continent can be correlated with those of Iranian Plateau and majority of Europe opened a new chapter in the discussion of ancient migrations.Archaeology’s affair with linguistics can be traced back to the very beginning of the former.Interrelationships and analogies between linguistic and archaeological observations have been used to provide validation for various archaeological theories, while linguists looked towards archaeology for tangible evidence to account for the past of languages.
In other words, the researcher has to know what he/she can expect from it.
On the other hand, it seems to be too seductive as an auxiliary discipline to be unanimously rejected by the archaeologists.
Here, I try to outline the main stages of interpretation every archaeologist should go through before he/she makes use of a linguistic argument.
Although linguistics and archaeology have been working togother for at least a century, there is still little agreement on how to infer about ancient languages from archaeological finds.
In this article, I discuss the pitfalls that await all archaeologists that aim at studying linguistic past and suggest potential solutions.