Recovering the Past

Recovering the Past

Recovering the Past

Recovering the Past

Excerpt

GIVEN certain premises, which are for the ethnoarchaeologist to discover, each cultural system can be expected to manipulate and discard materials in characteristic ways, just as it evolves characteristic rules or "grammars" of language, social organization, and artistic expression. From an operational point of view, this aspect of ethnoarchaeological research is not much different from more- conventional, emic ethnology, except for the obvious emphasis on material culture and the material byproducts of various kinds of culturally patterned behavior generally. Just as with rules of grammar in a language, these structured patterns may not necessarily emerge consciously; cultural actors may be unaware of their operation even while they manipulate them. One need not think of trash disposal, for example, as a form of expressive behavior, as in the case of the Gypsies noted earlier, in order to include it within the domain of culturally constructed aspects of behavior within a particular group. Yet, there exists within archaeology a strong tendency to attribute expressive intent to all kinds of patterning of material culture as if they were art forms of some kind; or, conversely, to select only those aspects of material patterning that are demonstrably expressive while ignoring the rest. Before ethnoarchaeologists can deal effectively with the widest possible range of processes that produce material residues that are characteristic of particular cultural systems, they must resist their impulse to read their own expectations into the material record of the past. It is tempting to focus on such obviously expressive aspects of culture as art and ritual, yet it is precisely these components of ancient cultural sys-

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