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Mike Pitts on the Plinth
Quote:quote:Janet Spector.....
Quote:quote:Mark Edmonds....

Ha ha, do I know you? I seem to be having the same discussion about the same books/papers here as I did recently 'in the flesh' with some post-processualists and some neo-feminists after giving a slightly tongue-in-cheek paper that seemed to yank the odd chain :-) Although in the case of Edmonds it was 'Ancestral Geographies' and the discussion seemed mostly beer based, and the other volume was, of course, "Stone Worlds" that demonstrates my point to some extent in that it is as much about the dig and how the dig was viewed by diggers and ley-people (and how those views worked to form the past in a reflexive relationship) as it was about the past itself. Although, in this case it is the approach that I talk about rather than the style of writing which I wasn't that keen on (yes, I can hear you: "pot, kettle, black"). Indeed, had a short but interesting chat with one of the so-called 'Cornish-nationalists', mentioned in the book, the other day and his view of the 'reality' of the dig was a little different to that of Tilley, Bender and Hamilton - again showing that everyone has a different past.

Quote:quote:Without totally abandoning the scientific method, your idea does not stand up to the evidence from the trenches.

Ah, this is the problem with the discussion. We err toward running into the risk of not reaching common ground because we are talking different languages as it were. You can't prove to someone that their method doesn't stand up to scientific testing if it is the scientific testing itself that they are saying is wrong (like believing in God). OK, you didn't quite say that. And I agree that 'evidence', 'data', 'facts' (or what ever we might want to call these so-called scientific deductions from the trench) are needed to create a framework onto which we can base our narrative of the past. And many would probably argue that understanding the past is a two stage process (simplistically speaking): we have the field workers who record what is in the ground without making judgement, and we have the theorists that bring the 'data' together with the current en-vogue theory to create an interpretation or story of the past. And in theory (excuse the pun) it should be possible to decouple the two: the field work should last for all time and the theorists can repeatedly return to it to rebuild their narratives as theoretical approaches change. Alas, IMHO it isn't quite so simplistic because the line between the data collection process and the interpretation (in terms of macro understanding) is a totally arbitrary one; the fieldwork and recording is laden with judgement just as the theoretical interpretation is.

So, can we argue that the closer we get to source the less possibility there is for erroneous interpretation (eg compare a section drawing with 'A Phenomenology Of Landscape' and ask which has the most errors in it)? Probably....but at the same time, we must also ask which has the most use? OK, then Phen' o Landscape was probably a bad example to use when talking of most use as it is somewhat inaccessible to all but a few (those that know the magic and guarded knowledge concerning the rites of academic archaeology), perhaps Ancestral Geographies would be better as anyone can get into that?

Quote:quote: This has led you to a pragmatic solution where the point of archaeology should be to help people deal with present day contemporary issues, rather than establish secure knowledge.

TBH, I think that I am exaggerating my viewpoint a bit for the sake of discussion. I do feel that it is impossible to ever gain a "secure knowledge" of the past, but that we can gain a "normalised knowledge", which, at the risk of creating a house of cards, is near enough to allow us to continually progress and build our understandings, and is strong enough for us to relay to others without fear of mis-educating them. And, indeed, I am happy to admit my two-facedness on the subject when faced with views such as those put about by Von Daniken et al. - everyone should have the right to cite their own interpretation of the past as long as they are qualified to do so Wink

But I fear that I have digressed well off the tack of the discussion and so will cease babbling for a bit, put my beret back to its jaunty angle and go back to sharpening my beard.
....what the hell..........
From the new scientist a few years ago: "Engineers ask: 'how does this work?'; Scientists ask: 'why does this happen?'; philosophers ask 'do you want fries with that?'"
Quote:quote:Originally posted by Windbag

From the new scientist a few years ago: "Engineers ask: 'how does this work?'; Scientists ask: 'why does this happen?'; philosophers ask 'do you want fries with that?'"
Big Grin
and archaeologists? ask for more time to complete the post-ex!

Constant development is the law of life, and a man who always tries to maintain his dogmas in order to appear consistent drives himself into a false position.
Mohandas Gandhi
Oh Dear, see what happens when you take it Jazz!

The trouble with theory is the language can be difficult and self referential, ironically excluding the people who could use these ideas to make the most impact. Srd123 is addressing two points: whether the results of excavations are unwittingly fabricated and how best to keep the public engaged. Joking aside, I think we?d all agree these are some of the most important questions archaeologists must ask ? including engineers (field technicians?), scientists (specialists?) and philosophers (academics?). Dismiss this without thinking and soon we'll all be serving fries.

This is all spinning off piste, and clearly not to everyone?s taste, so I?ve blogged a response to this called
?The unrepeatable experiment? and I?d welcome any comments there. I?ve also just noticed that the latest Plinthian controversy involves an outbreak of wily waving, so perhaps we?re still on topic after all!

I'm quitting while I'm behind - this being a family show and all?
Great blog post diggingthedirt, and one with which I fully agree.
My joke about the engineer, the scientist and the philosopher was somewhat tongue-in-cheek.
As someone that has been formally educated in the post-processual school of theoretical archaeology, as well as in the processual side, I'm aware of the subjective-objective debate etc. The main gripe I have is that theoretical archaeology is cheap to teach- one seminar and one lecture a week (if you're lucky) with the rest of the time dedicated to reading up on those key texts and papers. Science is harder and more expensive to teach- more labs, more materials and more face-time mean more money.

Post-processual archaeology is very self-referential- knowledge of one's subjective point of view in analysing data is very important. In my opinion I'd like post-processual archaeologists to acknowledge that part of the success of post-processualism lies in its appeal to university accountants as much as to university undergraduates.

The product of low investment in students at undergraduate level is a lower standard of graduates. There are plenty of archaeology graduates who don't "do" science, or statistics. But knowledge of basic scientific and statistical techniques should be at least as important as knowledge of post-structuralism (or pots, for that matter). Knowledge of these sorts of things is important as a general life skill (autism and the MMR jab anybody?) as well as being appealing to employers outside of the heritage industry.

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