, system of groupings (such as “landed gentry” or “rain forests”), usually called types, the members of which are identified by postulating specified attributes that are mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive—groupings set up to aid demonstration or inquiry by establishing a limited relationship among .
A type may represent one kind of attribute or several and need include only those features that are significant for the problem at hand.
Groups of pottery, for example, may be assembled by those with long necks, those with handles, and those with a pedestal base.
Within these may be sub-groups based on variations in handle shape or decoration.
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It must be made clear at the outset that typology is not, strictly speaking, a dating method, but a means of placing artefacts into some kind of order.
Classification divides things up for the purposes of description, whereas typology seeks to identify and analyse changes that will allow artefacts to be placed into sequences.
Culture history and diffusionism may - with hindsight - seem excessively preoccupied with classification and social evolution, and to have applied unsophisticated historical interpretations instead of asking fundamental questions about human behaviour.
The latter have been considered preliminary to the discovery of sequences or laws.
Because typologies invariably use ordering for additional purposes, classifications can be regarded as typologies that are limited to the problem of order.
The extent of documentation varied considerably in 'historical' cultures and the information that survives is determined by a variety of factors.
If a context containing burnt debris and broken artefacts is excavated on a site from a historical period, it is tempting to search the local historical framework for references to warfare or a disaster in the region, and to date the excavated context accordingly.