Archaeology beyond anthropology

  • View
    191

  • Download
    0

Embed Size (px)

Text of Archaeology beyond anthropology

  • 1.Society for American Archaeology Archaeology beyond Anthropology Author(s): George J. Gumerman and David A. Phillips, Jr. Source: American Antiquity, Vol. 43, No. 2, Contributions to Archaeological Method and Theory (Apr., 1978), pp. 184-191 Published by: Society for American Archaeology Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/279243 . Accessed: 25/07/2011 15:30 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at . http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=sam. . Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. Society for American Archaeology is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to American Antiquity. http://www.jstor.org

2. ARCHAEOLOGY BEYOND ANTHROPOLOGY GEORGEJ. GUMERMAN DAVIDA. PHILLIPS,JR. Archaeology's relationship to anthropology in the United States has been one of a naturaland beneficial alliance. Archaeologists are currentlyshowing more of an interest informal models drawnfrom outside anthropology, but the classification of American archaeology as a subdiscipline in anthropology generally remains unquestioned. We argue that at the present time archaeological research is being hindered by its institutionalized relationship to an- thropology and its uncritical use of modelsfrom other disciplines. Archaeologists will make the greatest theoretical progress if they view theirdiscipline as an autonomous technique withno a priori ties to sociocultural anthropology. Archaeology as a technique makespossible a truly interdisciplinaryresearchbase, but requiresin turna reorganiza- tion of researchand trainingprocedure as well as an academic restructuring. ARCHAEOLOGY, at least superficially, seems to have entered a new age of optimism. The verbal battles of the late 1960s and early 1970s appear to have abated, and for the most part, archaeologists feel that the war that existed between the culture historians and the new archaeologists is over and has been won by the latter(Leone 1972;Flannery 1973;Klejn 1977). To be sure, there are still isolated skir- mishes, but the concern now seems to be with the quality of archaeology, rather than breast beating over new or traditional. What dissatisfaction there is with the new status quo of archaeology has been reflected mainly in at- tempts at refinement, either in the ability to recover or interpret data, or in the specific models used, without questioning the epistemology of archaeology. True, occasionally there is serious concern ex- pressed about our methodological and theoretical directions (Binford 1977; Butzer 1975; Flannery 1973; Schiffer 1976), but the word "crisis" is most often used to refer to the destruction of sites by struction activities, the non-renewable aspect of our resource base, the scarcity of funds, or organiza- tion problems (Brown and Struever 1973; Davis 1972; Lipe 1974). While we agree with those scholars who suggest that there have been great improvements in archaeological method and theory in the last decade, due largely to the proponents of the new archaeology, we feel that the case for complacency is poorly founded. A major symptom that something is amiss in current archaeology is the disparity between the ideal and real situations in the application of models to the archaeological record. For this paper a catholic definition of model is most appropriate. A model, in most general terms, is an experimental analogue, or the hypotheses that emanate from that analogue (Clarke 1972:10). It is a simplified and idealized representation of an assumed real situation. The use of formal models, explanatory or descriptive, is one of the hallmarks of new archaeology. In contrast, the more traditional archaeologists have tended to work from implicit models. The scope and variety of the explicit models used, and especially the formal models, have contributed greatly to archaeologists' feeling of progress. In our opinion, the ac- tual application of these models has generally been trivial or fairly crude. Computer packages and philosophers of science have been "used" in the most mechanical sense; systems theory, ecology, and other disciplines have been raided for concepts that are used out of any warranted generalizing context. The disingenuous manner in which such models have often been applied is one of the most disturbingaspects of the last decade of archaeological work. Many practitioners seem to feel that continued improvements in technique will upgrade the quality of archaeological information, and serve to bridge the gap between data and models; hence the interest in sampling, behavioral chains, microwear analysis, and the like. It is, however, not the quality or precision of the models, or the methods used to connect them with data, that are at fault. The basic problem is the abuse of the models often leads to elegant but faulty conclusions. The source of these problems lies not only in the realm of archaeology itself, but also in the relation- ship of archaeology to anthropology, the major discipline from which archaeologists have traditional- 184 3. ARCHAEOLOGYBEYONDANTHROPOLOGY ly drawn their intellectual sustenance. If, as is the current majority feeling in the United States, ar- chaeology is an integral part of anthropology, then at least some of our methods and bodies of theory should relate to general anthropological methods and principles. An examination of the relationship of archaeology to anthropology reveals that we may have been hindered, as well as helped, in recent years by adopting anthropology as the mother discipline and by adherence to rigid disciplinary bound- aries. THE RELATIONSHIP OF ARCHAEOLOGY TO ANTHROPOLOGY Archaeology's stance vis a vis anthropology has not always been obvious, but archaeologists seem to have taken this as an indication that they were not "anthropological enough." In 1948, for example, Walter Taylor castigated archaeologists for dressing themselves in the trappings, but not the substance, of anthropology. Taylor's criticism of American archaeology was not that it was unan- thropological, but rather that most archaeologists calling themselves anthropologists and housed in anthropology departments were not in fact doing anthropological archaeology. His complaint was, in part, that archaeologists were guilty of misleading packaging practices. More and more, however, the trend has been to associate archaeology with anthropology in fact as well as in name. A decade after Taylor's work appeared, Willey and Phillips (1958) published their now classic Method and Theory in American Archaeology and in it the statement quoted ad nauseum, "American archaeology is an- thropology or it is nothing." Willey and Phillips were saying, correctly, that archaeologists should be making more statements about human behavior, and in the intellectual climate of the 1950s this meant being "anthropological" to most American archaeologists. During the mid 1960s to early 1970s ar- chaeologists utilized mainly anthropological models to construct their theoretical base, and continued to exhort one another to make archaeological research more "anthropological" (Binford 1962; Longacre 1970;Spaulding 1973). Ironically, there was at the same time some indication that archaeologists increasingly looked to other disciplines for their basic precepts for understanding human behavior. Clarke (1972:6-7), a British archaeologist, lists four contemporary paradigms of archaeology only one of which is an- thropological. In a review of a book of articles by Southwestern archaeologists, Woodbury (1974:400) notes that there are as many references to titles such as Biometrica and the Journal of Economic Geography as there are to anthropological works. MacNeish (1974:463) and Fitting (1973) have ex- pressed a feeling that many archaeologists in the last 15 years are expressing more interest in non- anthropological models. Indeed, there have been calls for archaeologists to become more independent of their anthropological heritage. Marvin Harris (1968), commenting on the ethnological orientation of the Binfords' landmark New Perspectives in Archeology (1968), urged not greater, but lesser con- cernwith ethnologically derived models. As Deetz (1972:115) has noted, . . . Perhapsit'stimewe(archaeologists)stoppedtryingto findpostnuptialresidence,descent,ormarriagepat- ternsin ourdatabecausethesein factareclassificatoryrubricswhichareaboutthirdor fourthorderabstrac- tionsthemselves.. . In short, although the vast majority of archaeologists in the United States claim allegiance to anthropology and anthropological models, there is visible uneasiness with this state of affairs. The irony is that while archaeologists attempt to become more anthropological in their orientation they in fact are testing or applying more and more models from other disciplines or models that cut across severaldisciplines. In noting the growing interest in models from outside anthropology, we feel that the automatic association of archaeology with anthropology has hindered archaeologi