Reading the Past: Current Approaches to Interpretation in Archaeology

By Ian Hodder; Scott Hutson | Go to book overview

7
Archaeology and history

In this chapter it will be argued that archaeology should recapture its traditional links with history (Deetz 1988; Young 1988; Bintliff 1991; Hodder 1987; 1990a; Knapp 1992; Morris 1999). Unfortunately the term 'history' is used with a variety of different meanings by different people, and it is first necessary to establish what we do and do not mean by the word here. We do not mean the explanation of change by reference to antecedent events; simply to describe a series of events leading up to a particular moment in time is a travesty of the historical method. Neither do we mean that phase n is dependent on phase n-1. Many types of archaeology involve such a dimension. Thus many social evolutionary theories expect some dependence in the moves between bands, tribes, chiefdoms or states, or in the adoption of agriculture (Woodburn 1980). In the application of Darwinian-type arguments, the selection of a new social form is constrained by the existing 'gene-pool'. In systems theory the 'trajectory' of a system is dependent on prior conditions and system states. Each trajectory may be historically unique and specific in content, but general laws of system functioning can be applied. Within Marxism the resolution of conflict and contradiction is emergent in the pre-existing system, as part of the dialectical process of history.

History, in all such work, involves a particularist dimension, but it also involves explaining the move from phase n-1 to n according to a set of universal rules. As such, the historian remains on the outside of events, as a natural scientist records experimental data. But history in the sense intended here involves also getting at the inside of events, at the intentions and concepts through which the subjectivities of actors are constituted. The historian talks of 'actions' as well as behaviour, movements and events. Collingwood (1946, p. 213) provides an example. Historians do not just record that Caesar

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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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