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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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Final Words

Final Words

(p.190) 8 Final Words
The Quality of the Archaeological Record

Charles Perreault

University of Chicago Press

For years, archaeologists have used the archaeological record as if it was a window on the past. As if they could look through it, like an observer behind a one-way mirror, and study past human societies the way cultural anthropologist would do. In doing so, archaeologists have uncritically borrowed a programmatic agenda that was designed by, and for, researchers who study humans in the present-time and using data that has a scope, a sampling interval, a resolution, and a dimensionality that is orders of magnitude different than what archaeologists have access to. Unlike the study of cultural history, macroarchaeology, that is, the search for mega-scale patterns and processes in the archaeological record, is uncharted territory. The current theories of human culture have virtually nothing to say about what mega-trends could exist in the archaeological record, or about what mega-scale drivers, such as climate or biogeography, might have shaped the course of human history.

Keywords:   Cultural anthropology, Programmatic agenda, Macroarchaeology, Macroscale patterns, Macroscale processes

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