Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
The Quality of the Archaeological Record$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Charles Perreault

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226630823

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226631011.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 28 October 2020

Archaeology and Underdetermination

Archaeology and Underdetermination

Chapter:
(p.135) 6 Archaeology and Underdetermination
Source:
The Quality of the Archaeological Record
Author(s):

Charles Perreault

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226631011.003.0006

This chapter examines whether the current research program of the discipline matches the quality of the archaeological record and argues that most processes studied by archaeologists operate over a decade or less. This is 2–3 orders of magnitude faster than the sampling interval and the resolution of archaeological data. This has three consequences. First, most archaeological results are wrong. The chance that an archaeological interpretation, picked among dozens of equifinal alternatives, is valid is vanishingly small. Second, most archaeological research is also unneeded. The short-scale processes studied by archaeologists are borrowed from other disciplines, such as cultural anthropology. These disciplines do not need archaeology to confirm or disprove their ideas. Third, archaeological theory is balkanized. The archaeological literature is crowded with a daunting number of theories and claims that are mutually exclusive. New theories and processes are added to the literature faster than old ones are eliminated. Archaeologists are ignoring the equifinality problem for historical reasons that are outlined here. This was further amplified by the way archaeologists understood uniformitarianism, a human-centric view of the world, and the way archaeologists test hypothesis. Paleontologists, faced a similar problem years ago and solved it by changing their research problem.

Keywords:   History of archaeology, Anthropological archaeology, Uniformitarianism, History of paleontology, Research program, Equifinality, Archaeological theories, Individuals, Agency

Chicago Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.