Archaeological Theory: Who Sets the Agenda? (New Directions by Norman Yoffee (editor), Andrew Sherratt (editor)

By Norman Yoffee (editor), Andrew Sherratt (editor)

Because the l960s, archaeology has turn into more and more taught in universities and practiced on a growing to be scale through nationwide and native history businesses through the international. This ebook addresses the criticisms of postmodernist writers approximately archaeology's social position, and asserts its highbrow value and achievements in learning actual evidence in regards to the human earlier. It seems to be ahead to the construction of a very international recognition of the origins of human societies and civilizations.

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In all honesty, however, the comparison would be strained, far too harsh or, in the words of this paper, critical. Processual archaeology has unquestioned merits, as do its post-processual successors. Our purpose was to focus on the negative for self-praise is all too evidently another shared trait of the new and the post-new archaeology. Notes 1 An earlier version of this paper was presented at the "Theory in post-processual archaeology" symposium, organized by Dr. James Chiarelli, at the Society for American Archaeology meetings in Phoenix, AZ, April 1988.

But archaeology is not any old science; it is a historical study, and has the special features of a historical science, like paleontology and historical linguistics, that addresses more-or-less remote historical events by means of the fragments that survive. It is unfortunate that so many views of archaeology as science have overlooked this, so that deference to non-historical physical and biological sciences remains strong among archaeologists of processual or no declared persuasion. To an extent this must be so, since archaeology has always been and must always be uniformitarian in its methods; in making sense of regularities in the past, it depends on knowledge of regularities in the present.

American archaeology is the perpetual junior in an unequal partnership with a generalizing anthropology. Prehistory, since its beginnings a century ago, has thought of itself as wanting to become a science, an attitude affirmed again by the spirit of the New Archaeology. Insofar as "science" is systematic knowledge, almost all academic disciplines are science. Unfortunately, the word is ambiguous in English; as well as Wissenschaft, it means more narrowly that knowledge expressed in universal general laws on the model of physical sciences and especially of classical mechanics.

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