Explanation in Archeology: An Explicitly Scientific Approach

Explanation in Archeology: An Explicitly Scientific Approach

Explanation in Archeology: An Explicitly Scientific Approach

Explanation in Archeology: An Explicitly Scientific Approach

Excerpt

Man has always sought to understand the world about him. As the fields of science developed, natural laws were incorporated in formalized frameworks or theories for the understanding or explanation of natural phenomena. The formulation and confirmation of such laws and theories is the primary goal of science, that is, the discovery and description not only of what, when, and where, but also of how and why. By use of scientific laws and theories, explanations can be given and predictions made. This is no less true of the newer social sciences than it is of the natural sciences.

A great deal of attention has been given to just what is meant by "explanation" in science and how one achieves it. For a variety of reasons the answers to these questions have not been so straightforward in the social sciences as in the physical sciences. Discussion of this crucial issue continues at the present time, with debate focusing on the question of what constitutes explanation in the social sciences, how social scientists can best achieve it, and whether it is based on laws in such a way that predictions are also possible in the social sciences.

Recently, archeologists have become explicitly concerned with the question of explanation, and while no consensus has yet emerged, there has been so much discussion that it is worthwhile -- in fact, necessary -- to present a single, coherent synthesis of one possible approach to explanation in archeology. Such a syn-

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