Reading the Past: Current Approaches to Interpretation in Archaeology

By Ian Hodder; Scott Hutson | Go to book overview

10
Conclusion: archaeology as archaeology

The archaeology for which we have been advocating attempts to capture a new openness to debate in archaeology – a broadening to include a variety of influences including Marxism, structuralism, practice theories, embodiment, feminist critiques and public archaeology. At the same time, the aim is to establish archaeology as a discipline able to contribute an independent voice to both intellectual and public debates. The contextual approach discussed in chapter 8 is one way of doing this which we personally find attractive, given our own views of the society in which we live and of what ought to happen to it, and given our opinion of the development of archaeology over the last 20 years.

In contributing to and being involved in broader interdisciplinary debate, archaeologists read various types of general meaning in their data. We have discussed three overlapping types of meaning. One is the meaning of objects as physical, involved in exchanges of matter, energy and information; the concern here is with the object as a resource, functioning after its production, to facilitate organizational needs. A second is the meaning of objects in relation to the structured contents of historical traditions. A third kind of meaning – operational meaning – resides in the specifics of the context of each event or expression. Operational meaning is shaped by the previous two meanings but also takes into account (1) the specific intentions underlying the discrete actions of people in the past and (2) the unique lived, embodied experience of each actor. In claiming that these views (object as object, object as meaningfully constituted, object as product of situated intentions, object in relation to personal experience) are necessary in archaeology, we do not espouse a live and let live policy in which these approaches can exist separately, side by side. There is little one can do by focussing only on the object as physical object. Perhaps distance from the

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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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