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The Quality of the Archaeological Record$
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Charles Perreault

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226630823

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226631011.001.0001

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Taking Advantage of the Archaeological Record

Taking Advantage of the Archaeological Record

(p.161) 7 Taking Advantage of the Archaeological Record
The Quality of the Archaeological Record

Charles Perreault

University of Chicago Press

A research program that takes full advantage of the quality of the archaeological record eliminates the study of most microscale processes — those that are observed within a human lifetime and that operate at the hierarchical scale of the individual — because the archaeological record is not a suitable medium to study them. Instead, an appropriate research program focuses on: (1) cultural history and (2) macroarchaeology, the search for macroscale patterns and processes in the global archaeological record. Archaeologists can also make unique contributions to the social sciences by studying macroscale processes that operate at a hierarchical level well above that of the individual, that cannot be seen within the span of a human lifetime, but that become visible only when looked from an observation window thousands of years long and thousands of kilometers wide. The archaeological record has the scope necessary to detect macroscale phenomena because it can provide samples that are large enough to cancel out the noise generated by microscale processes. In order to discover macroscale principles affecting human history, archaeologists need to build a global database of archaeological types. Such database can act as a low-pass filter that cancels out the noise generated by microscale factors.

Keywords:   Research program, Cultural history, Macroarchaeology, Biogeography, Climate, Low-pass filter, Noise cancelation, Global database

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