Archaeological Semiotics / Edition 1

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This book explores the multiple ways in which archaeologists give meaning to the past, highlighting debates over the ontological and epistemological status of the discipline and evaluating current responses to these issues.

  • Explains why absolute foundations in archaeology are inadequate and looks at the alternatives.
  • Highlights debates over the ontological and epistemological status of the discipline and evaluates current responses to these issues.
  • Defines a new space for archaeological discourse and dialogue.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Preucel's book reviews the work of Peirce in the contact of contemporary archaeology. Its importance lies in the fact that it will introduce that work to a wider audience." (Cambridge Archaeological Journal, February 2008)

"As a reference text for the vast literature on semiotics across a multi-disciplinary field, this book is certainly a most useful aide."(Archaeological Review from Cambridge)

"Preucel's book reviews the work of Peirce in the context of contemporary archaeology. Its importance lies in the fact that it will introduce that work to a wider audience."(Cambridge Archaeological Journal)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781405199131
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 5/10/2010
  • Series: Social Archaeology Series, #5
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert W. Preucel is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Associate Curator of North American Archaeology at the University of Pennsylvania. He has taught previously at Southern Illinois University and Harvard University and has been a Visiting Professor at the University of Cambridge. He is co-editor of Contemporary Archaeology in Theory (with Ian Hodder, Blackwell 1996).

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Table of Contents

List of Figures.

List of Tables.



1. Introduction.

What is Semiotics?.

Archaeology and Semiotics.

Theorizing Material Culture.

Organization of Book.

Part I. Signs of Meaning.

2. Saussure and his Legacy.

Ferdinand de Saussure.

Semiology and Structural Lingustics.

Saussure and Modern Linguistics.

Structural Anthropology.

Symbolic and Cognitive Anthropology.


3. The Peircian Alternative.

Charles Sanders Peirce.


Peirce and Modern Philosophy.

Peirce and Modern Linguistics.

The Life of the Sign.


4. Pragmatic Anthropology.

Peircian Encounters.


Self and Social Identity.

Material Culture Meanings.


Part II: Aspects of a Semiotic Archaeology.

5. Structuralism and Processal Archaeology.

A Brief History of Processual Archaeology.

Rules and Representations.

Information Exchange.

Ideology and Structural Marxism.


6. Poststructuralism and Postprocessual Archaeologies.

A Brief History of Postprocessual Archaeologies.

From Structure to Practice.

Reading Material Culture.

Material Culture as Text.

Material Metaphors.


7. Cognitive Science and Cognitive Archaeology.

A Brief History of Cognitive Archaeology.

The Evolution of Mind.

Cognitive Processes.


Part III: Archaeological Case Studies.

8. Brook Farm and Architecture of Utopia.

Utopian Architecture.

The Brook Farm Historical Site.

Semiotic Ideologies of Social Reform.

Finding Utopia.

Houses as Social Actors.

Representing Brook Farm.


9. In the Aftermath of the Pueblo Revolt.

The New Mexico Colony.

The Pueblo Revitalization Movement.

“Living in Accord with the Laws of the Ancestors”.

Kotyiti Archaeology.

Social Dynamics at Kotyiti Pueblo.

Regional Settlement Pattern.

Signs of the Times.


10. Material Meanings in Practice.

On Cables and Chains.

Integrating Words and Things.

Semiotic Ideologies.

Towards a Pragmatic Archaeology.




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