If we argue that the archaeological record does have a temporality then we are challenged to find new ways of thinking about that record. To that end, it is useful to salvage one idea of the old static notion of the archaeological record – and that is the notion of palimpsest. Given the textual metaphors used by many postprocessual archaeologists for the archaeological record, the concept of palimpsest is rather apt (Patrik 1985). Originally meaning a manuscript on which earlier writing has been effaced to make way for new text, translated in terms of the archaeological record, it refers to the traces of multiple, overlapping activities over variable periods of time and the variable erasing of earlier traces. The concept of palimpsest is certainly very different from any ‘Pompeii Premise’, but its real value only emerges if we recognize that a palimpsest is not akin to layering, but a rather messier affair. Indeed, the true nature of the archaeological record comes out if we compare it to any scene around us in everyday life. Consider this by the French archaeologist Laurent Olivier, as he writes a paper on time in archaeology:

The house where I am writing this paper was built towards the beginning of this century, in the courtyard of an ancient farm whose structure is still visible. From my open window, I see an interweaving of houses and constructions, most of them dating back to the 19th century, sometimes including parts of earlier constructions from the 18th or 17th century. The 20th century here looks so localized, so secondary: it is reduced to details, such as windows, doors or, within houses and flats, furniture . . . . Right now, the present here is made up of a series of past durations that makes the present multi-temporal.