This paper in the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science recieved the issue’s Editor’s Choice award, and so is open access.
Our epistemic access to the past is infamously patchy: historical information degrades and disappears and bygone eras are often beyond the reach of repeatable experiments. However, historical scientists have been remarkably successful at uncovering and explaining the past. I argue that part of this success is explained by the exploitation of dependencies between historical events, entities, and processes. For instance, if sauropod dinosaurs were hot-blooded, they must have been gluttons; the high-energy demands of endothermy restrict sauropod grazing strategies. Understanding such dependencies extends our reach into the past in spite of incomplete data. In addition, this serves as a counterexample to two accounts of