Approach to Archaeology

Approach to Archaeology

Approach to Archaeology

Approach to Archaeology

Excerpt

The recent popularity of archaeology has produced a surprising number of books for the general public dealing with various aspects of the study of the human past. Almost without exception these books have been about field archaeology and excavation, or presented the more spectacular results obtained by these means. But with one or two exceptions, there has been no explanation of what is involved in the archaeological approach to the past, nor of the nature of the evidence which archaeologists use, and still less of the relationship of archaeological studies to those concerned with other approaches to history.

It would perhaps be pessimistic to think that this reflects an over-riding interest in means rather than ends, in techniques rather than theory, in practical processes rather than intellectual problems. In the hope, in fact, that this view is a pessimistic one, and that a few people at least may be more interested in the ideas and concepts which direct archaeological operations, and which bring about the elaboration of techniques employed in the field and laboratory, I have written this short account of what at least one archaeologist thinks about his own discipline.

The book is addressed to the beginner who wishes to know something about the foundations of a subject in which he has become vaguely interested, and especially to those early in their intellectual career at school or in the university. I have tried to present complex problems as simply as I can, without, I hope, falling into the pitfall of assuming, or giving the impression of assuming, that anything, however involved, can be presented simply without distortion of its true nature. Many of the problems which I have had to touch upon are ones of great complexity, and just cannot be simplified without turning them into a different problem from the one first encountered.

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