Reading the Past: Current Approaches to Interpretation in Archaeology

By Ian Hodder; Scott Hutson | Go to book overview

Preface to the first edition

In some ways I am surprised that a book of this nature, discussing widely varying theoretical approaches to the past, can be written. In an important article, David Clarke (1973) suggested that archaeology was losing its innocence because it was embracing, in the 1960s and 1970s, a rigorous scientific approach, with agreed sets of procedures, models and theories. The age of unreflecting speculation was over.

However, archaeologists have always claimed to be rigorously scientific. Indeed, I argued (Hodder 1981) that archaeology would remain immature as long as it refused to debate and experiment with a wide range of approaches to the past. In grasping positivism, functionalism, systems theory and so on, and setting itself against alternative perspectives, archaeology remained narrow and out-of-date in comparison with related disciplines.

But over recent years, alternatives have emerged, largely from the European scene (Renfrew 1982), and one can now talk of Marxist and structuralist archaeology, as well as of processual, positivist approaches. Certainly such alternatives existed before, on the fringe, but they did not constitute a distinctive approach with a body of practitioners. The older normative and culture-historical schools also continue to thrive today. While many of these developments, and the erosion of the old 'New Archaeology' debates, have far to go, archaeology is now beginning to lose its innocence and is gaining maturity by being fully integrated into wider contemporary debates. This book seeks to capture this new spirit of debate and to contribute to it from a particular point of view.

At the same time, it seems to me that far from becoming submerged within other disciplines, archaeology has, through the wider debate, become better able to define itself as a distinct and productive area of study. The debate picks out the differences from other disciplines as well as the similarities.

-xi-

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Reading the Past: Current Approaches to Interpretation in Archaeology
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface to the First Edition xi
  • Preface to the Second Edition xv
  • Preface to the Third Edition xvii
  • 1: The Problem 1
  • 2: Processual and Systems Approaches 20
  • 3: Structuralist, Post-Structuralist and Semiotic Archaeologies 45
  • 4: Marxism and Ideology 75
  • 5: Agency and Practice 90
  • 6: Embodied Archaeology 106
  • 7: Archaeology and History 125
  • 8: Contextual Archaeology 156
  • 9: Post-Processual Archaeology 206
  • 10: Conclusion: Archaeology as Archaeology 236
  • Bibliography 248
  • Index 284
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