Reading the Past: Current Approaches to Interpretation in Archaeology

By Ian Hodder; Scott Hutson | Go to book overview

1
The problem

Many people are becoming increasingly aware that the socalled New Archaeology of the 60s and early 70s was flawed. Though the New Archaeology met resistance from its inception, a tradition of substantial epistemological critique began more than thirty years ago (Bayard 1969; Kushner 1970; Levin 1973; Morgan 1973; Tuggle et al. 1972). However there is little consensus as to the nature and scale of these flaws. It can be claimed that the New Archaeology actually inhibited the development of archaeology itself by trying to subsume it within other realms of study, such as anthropology and the natural sciences. In fact, within anthropology, the type of materialist, neo-evolutionary approach from which New Archaeologists drewinspiration had already lost much of its ground to interpretive, symbolic and structural approaches. Despite David Clarke's insistence on 'archaeology is archaeology is archaeology' (1968), his own approach, based on the importation of ideas from statistics, geography and the information sciences, has not led to a viable and distinctive archaeology.

Despite the great methodological contribution of the New Archaeology, many of the central concerns of the pre-New Archaeology era need to be rediscovered if an adequate archae- ological discussion is to take place. Of course, the traditional approaches themselves had flaws, and these have to be dealt with. But the older approaches do not have to be thrown out totally, in the way that the New Archaeology sometimes rejected 'normative' archaeology (Flannery 1967; Binford 1962; 1965).

Our own route to this viewpoint was substantially drawn by the ethnoarchaeological fieldwork reported in Symbols in Action (Hodder 1982a). The three main ideas which developed out of that work, all of which have parallels in pre-New Archaeology, were (1) that material culture was meaningfully

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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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