New PDF release: Archaeological Approaches to Cultural Identity (One World

By S. J. Shennan

Examines the severe implications of cultural identification from numerous views. Questions the character and bounds of archaeological wisdom of the earlier and the connection of fabric tradition to cultural id.

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Mellor 1973). Secondly, data only become data in the context of specific theories: observations are ‘theory-laden’. In other words, we do not see the world as if we were indiscriminate sensing devices; on the contrary, the ideas that we have and the problems in which we are interested direct our attention to particular ‘facts’ or data which some chain of argument (implicit or explicit) leads us to believe are relevant to our problem. In their discussion of these questions Hollis & Lukes (1982) draw a series of useful distinctions which tend to be overlooked by those who leap from the view that archaeological hypotheses are not totally determined by the facts to the conclusion that anything beyond description of the material is speculative guesswork, in which one person’s guess is as good as anyone else’s.

Precisely which is relevant at a given time depends on the context and conditions, as Wiessner points out. This further emphasizes the argument presented above that it is impossible to regard what goes on within social groups as independent of what happens in the relations between them, and again brings home the importance of detailed analysis of archaeological data and their social and economic implications. Darwinian models for style and isochrestic variation Archaeology has usually taken as the limit of its brief the description of the patterns of variation, most often in terms of ‘cultures’, and the explanation of the specific patterns observed in particular cases, traditionally on the basis of a ‘culture=people’ hypothesis.

However, we can question not only the equivalence (see, for example, Clarke 1968, Ucko 1969, Hodder 1978a, b, Renfrew 1987) but even the existence of these other supposed entities. Mann (1986) has argued that individual ‘societies’ do not exist; instead we should think in terms of overlapping social networks of varying scales relating to different types of social power, whether ideological, economic, military or political. Fried (1967, 1968) has argued that ‘tribes’ as we usually conceive them are an artefact of the political situations which arose in many parts of the world with the expansion of Western influence.

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