Interpretative Archaeology

Interpretative Archaeology

Interpretative Archaeology

Interpretative Archaeology


This fascinating volume integrates recent developments in anthropological and sociological theory with a series of detailed studies of prehistoric material culture. The authors explore the manner in which semiotic, hermeneutic, Marxist, and post-structuralist approaches radically alter our understanding of the past, and provide a series of innovative studies of key areas of interest to archaeologists and anthropologists.


One of a legion of criticisms directed against the recent emergence of a 'post-processual' archaeology has been that theoretical exposition dominates and it lacks many clearly worked-out examples tackling archaeological data. Those given often discuss contemporary rather than prehistoric material culture. The purpose of this book is to address that 'failure' and provide a sense of the excitement of carrying out archaeological research in a new way, inscribing the fragments of the past back into the present through various forms of narrative structures. The studies in it consist of detailed explorations of the past and one of those institutions desiring to document and control it-- archaeology.

It is a theoretical book and the perspectives put forward in it will be of general relevance to archaeological research. The theoretical perspectives used by the contributors draw on hermeneutic, structural-Marxist and post-structuralist discourses. However, the book does not valorize and elevate theory, discussing it in the abstract and putting it on a pedestal. It rather aims to put theory into action to constitute the past and the present in a fresh manner.

The book is divided into three parts. The first explores the relationship between the human body and its representation, space and architecture. The issues discussed are fundamental to any consideration of the past: What do representations of the body mean in prehistoric art? What light do they throw on sex/gender systems? How do architectural forms impact on the body as it moves through space? How does the control of bodily movement in domestic and funerary architecture relate to patterns of social control and forms of perception of the world?

Part II explores the relationship between symbolism in material culture, politics and power, using the specific example of Neolithic Brittany. The two chapters approach the rich archaeological evidence from this region from alternative points of reference to produce a politics of the past for the present and reinscribe mute archaeological materials within textual forms that make them speak in different voices.

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