Footnotes to Plato? Palaeolithic Archaeology and Innocence Lost

By Sinclair, Anthony | Antiquity, September 1998 | Go to article overview

Footnotes to Plato? Palaeolithic Archaeology and Innocence Lost


Sinclair, Anthony, Antiquity


Trawling through old, dust-covered folders I found out that I first read 'Archaeology: the loss of innocence' as a 2nd-year undergraduate for an essay on whether the New Archaeology was as theoretically sophisticated as it claimed to be. My notes of the time emphasize the beginning and end of the article; suggesting that Clarke's purpose was just to argue that

I there had been a sea-change in the nature of archaeology leading to the development of a critically self-conscious entity in the New Archaeology; and

2 to discuss what a general theory of archaeology might look like. I was not alone in reading 'the loss of innocence' in this way, and indeed, most of the references that I have found to it, note just these parts.

In recent readings, however, it has struck me that, like a good sandwich, the bits of choice (and the parts that ought to be remembered) lie in the middle - in the interplay that Clarke sees between methodologies, observations, concepts and information. Clarke points out in a series of small sections how theory-laden our interpretations of the past necessarily are, and how important it was to be aware of all aspects of our theoretical approaches. Each is inextricably tied to the other, and the product has consequences for all aspects of our interpretations of the past. Clarke's idea of a general theory of archaeology, and his characterization of the New Archaeology, were the product of his reading of this interplay.

Twenty-five years on, much has changed. There is a new environment and there are new consequences as a result of current and recent work. Some of Clarke's concerns are now out of date: the existence of a New Archaeology is an accepted historical event, the idea of a single uniform structure of reasoning or explanation justly died soon after Clarke's comments were published. The central core, however, remains as provocative today as it was when first published. The archaeology of the Palaeolithic world is without doubt more explicitly theoretical than it was. A number of scholars have, like Clarke, dared to think out loud about what an archaeology of the Palaeolithic might be; the thoughts of Lewis Binford (1983; 1991) and especially Glynn Isaac (1989) stand out as the classic and influential examples. But the prospect of a general theory of Palaeolithic archaeology still seems, tantalisingly, both within and yet just beyond reach. Part of the reason for this is the tremendous diversity of relationships between the elements noted by Clarke, none of which can be easily held in control. Part of the reason also lies in the problems that Palaeolithic archaeologists have encountered in defining hominid behaviour in the face of perceived dramatic changes through time, within a field of study that likes to see itself as a social science with its roots in the biological and evolutionary sciences.

As an exploration of this, and in the sincerest expression of flattery, I thought that I might follow Clarke's original structure for the 'loss of innocence', although sticking more with the sandwich filling. In the spirit of the original, references are more implicit than explicit. My apologies to all those who feel that their work is thus not given due credit.

A new environment

New methodologies

Traditional methodologies of 'Palaeolithic' analysis have been expanded. Lithic analysis now commonly includes not just typological and technological observations but the study of raw materials and use-wear traces, along with the refitting of excavated debitage. Despite ups and downs, microwear analysis steadily provides useable information concerning the uses of stone tools; raw material studies provide patterns of calculated human movements in a landscape, and refitting studies are linking together intra-site actions, in a way that statistical analyses could never hope to. Scanning electron microscopes now make it possible to infer the use of lithic tools from other objects such as bone in the form of cut marks, often helping to interrelate the co-presence of faunal and lithic materials in a reliable fashion. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Footnotes to Plato? Palaeolithic Archaeology and Innocence Lost
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    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.