ATH 242-01

Why do we need theory?

  • to evaluate interpretations of the past
  • we are always using theory, whether we realize it or not
  • theory is a set of rules we use to translate facts into meaningful accounts of the past (distinguishes archaeologists from antiquarians)
  • allows for relative importance of facts to aid in interpretation
  • Alfred Watkins: Ley Lines
  • Culture History

  • 1914-1940’s
  • archaeologists began to refine their techniques:
    • stratigraphic excavation
    • relative dating techniques
  • Archaeologists embraced Boas’ Historical Particularism and stopped trying to examine cultural change
  • Normative Concept of Culture

  • all human behavior is patterned; patterns are determined by culture
  • behavior patterns result from adherence to cultural rules or “norms”
  • artifacts arfe expressions of cultural norms
  • those norms define what culture is
  • allows archaeologists to infer patterns of behavior from material remains
  • Culture History

  • concerned with descriptions and generalizations
  • focus on spatial and temporal extents of cultures & cultural traits
  • 1914: Nels Nelson introduced stratigraphic excavation in the SW (utilized to generate regional ceramic sequences)
  • law of superposition: deeper = older
  • A.V. Kidder

  • seminal figure in cultural history
  • conference at Pecos Pueblo, 1927
  • Developments in the Midwest

  • massive amounts of unprovenanced artifacts, many found on surface
  • Midwestern Taxonomic System (1939, aka McKern Classification System)
  • hierarchical artifact classification system
  • component, focus, aspect, phase, pattern
  • initially no spatial or temporal context — similarity basis only
  • 1920’s – 1950’s

  • description & classification
  • little attn paid to anthropology
  • in turn, archaeology became sidelined and irrelevant to anthropologists
  • W.W. Taylor, 1948: A Study of Archaeology
  • Culture Ecology

  • late 1940’s – 50’s: a return to anthropology
  • advantages in other fields allowed reconstruction of past environments
  • proposed by Julian Steward
  • ecology – understand cultures in their natural environment
    • similar cultural adaptations may be found in similar environments
    • no culture has achieved an adaptation that has remained unchanged over time
    • cultural changes can add to complexity or result in new patterns
  • Multilinear Cultural Evolution

  • Each society pursues an individual evolutionary career
  • this career is shaped by accumulated specific cultural adaptations
  • opposite of Morgan’s theory
  • Willard F. Libby (1949 – Nobel Prize for Chemistry)

  • radiocarbon dating
  • Systems Theory

  • cultures are made up of interdependent subsystems (subsistence, trade, ritual, social). Changes in one subsystem affect the whole
  • Processual Archaeology (aka “the new archaeology”)

  • proposed by Lewis Binford (a student of Leslie White)
  • 1960’s – present
  • most American Archaeologists today are processualists
  • Processual concepts

  • originated in Culture Ecology and Systems Theory
  • Normative Concept of Culture gives way to behavioral/adaptational concept
  • use of the scientific method
    • models, hypotheses, sampling
    • use of statistics and computers
  • all artifacts occur in meaningful patterns, reflecting the cultural systems that produced and utilized them
  • artifacts incorporate both function and style
  • use of analogy – similarity between two entities in some characteristics is used to imply similarity in other characteristics as well
  • middle-range/bridging theory: used to link arch. record with observed behavior
  • Ethnoarchaeology, Experimental Archaeology

    Postprocessual Archaeology

  • emerged in 1970s-80s as a reaction to processual archaeology
  • subsumes numerous diverse schools of thought such as:
    • marxist archaeology
    • feminist archaeology
  • Critiques of processual

  • do people always act in their best interest
  • how do we move from examining material culture to understanding social/ideological aspects of culture?
  • how does out modern Western perspective bias our understanding of prehistoric perspective?
Advertisements
Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.