Conceptual Issues in Environmental Archaeology

Conceptual Issues in Environmental Archaeology

Conceptual Issues in Environmental Archaeology

Conceptual Issues in Environmental Archaeology

Excerpt

Relationships between human culture and its environmental setting are among the oldest, most solidly grounded concerns of archaeology. They have been a primary preoccupation of many archaeologists, whose claims to have made major contributions to an understanding of the complex interactive processes that are involved are strong and well-recognized. Both the preoccupation and the claims are reinforced by special qualities of archaeological data that have been greatly enhanced in recent years in precisely an environmental direction. They also reflect the unquestioned responsibility of the discipline for the material residues of human behaviour, over spans of time and space that are coextensive with the full sequence and distribution of hominid species. How, then, do we justify returning yet once more to such a familiar subject, and in particular to the substantial re- thinking of it implied by the phrase 'conceptual issues'?

The primary justification is not to be found in what has certainly been an impressive accumulation of detailed, local knowledge, nor in our rapidly expanding capabilities for the recovery of new types of evidence. More fundamental, I believe, are numerous - more epistemological than substantive - questions that have increasingly, and for the first time rather explicitly and self-consciously, come to the fore. A representative, by no means exhaustive, sample of them might include the following:

Are there discoverable regularities in human behaviour, arising from the operation of strictly limited numbers of external forces or prime-movers? To what extent can we justify a focus on adaptive or economically 'rational' human behaviour alone, stripped of culturally-imposed patterns of association, perception and meaning? Is there a valid distinction between basic patterns of adaptation and the local complexities or microdynamics of process in which these are manifested? Is there a valid distinction between 'infrastructures' and 'superstructures', however defined? If there are teleological traps in most 'functional' explanations, what do archaeological data permit us to substitute for them? What is the role in explanation, if any, of . . .

Author Advanced search

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.