[The archive] is the border of time that surrounds our presence, which overhangs it, and which indicates it in its otherness; it is that which, outside ourselves, delimits us.
Foucault uses poetic language toward the end of his major arguments, and often shifts from rigorous description to far-reaching philosophy. The archive, as the set of material on which a historian works, is redefined in the Archeology. No longer a collection of documents to be interpreted, it becomes a system with its own discursive history. As the most general system for the emergence and transformation of statements, the archive gives us the very possibility of saying what we say. Thus, it cannot be seen except from a historical distance, when we are no longer capable of saying what we once said. This rupture by which the archive becomes visible also ruptures us from clear knowledge of ourselves; defined by discursive conditions too close to us to see, our identities escape our understanding and control.