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Paul Courbin puts forward a penetrating and eloquent critique of the New Archeology, a movement of primarily American and British archaeologists that began in the 1960s and continues today. The New Archeologists dropped the "ae" spelling, symbolizing their intent to put the field on a modern and scientific footing. They questioned the bases, the objectives, and consequently the methods of traditional archaeology.
Courbin examines this movement, its latent philosophy, its methods and their application, its theories, and its results. He declares that the record shows a devastating failure. The New Archeologists, he contends, may have developed scientific hypotheses, but in most cases they failed to carry out what is necessary to test their theories, thus contradicting the very goals they had set for the discipline.
Reevaluating the field as a whole, Courbin asks, What is archaeology? He distinguishes it from such related fields as history and anthropology, emphatically arguing that the primary task of archaeology is what the archaeologist alone can accomplish: the establishment of facts—stratigraphies, time sequences, and identification tools, bones, potsherds, and so on. When archaeological findings lead to historical or anthropological conclusions, as they very often do, archaeologists must be aware that this involves a specific change in their work; they are no longer archaeologists proper. The archaeologist's work, Courbin stresses, is not a humble auxiliary of anthropology or history, but the foundation upon which historians and anthropologists of ancient civilizations will build and without which their theories cannot but collapse. What Is Archaeology? was originally published in French in 1982.
Preface to the English Translation Translator's Preface Introduction
1. The "New Archeology"
The Founding Fathers A Prehistoric and Americanist Archaeology Traditional Archaeology as Seen by the New Archeology The New Archeology Compared with the "Old"
The Philosophical Foundations of the New Archeology The Theoretical and Scientific Environment of the New Archeology The Objective of the New Archeology
2. The Hypothetico-deductive Method The Hypo-deductive Method The Validation of Hypotheses Protracted Amazement: The Nonvalidation of Hypotheses Pits and Pots Against Braidwood Against Bordes The American Disciples The English Renfrew and the Cyclades Traditional Validations Pseudovalidations Validations
3. Laws Laws Variations No Laws Mickey Mouse Laws Schiffer's Laws Critique Waste Products Law South's Law
4. Theories Theories Central Theory, Middle-Range Theory Read's Theory: Area of Habitation and Population Critique Binford and the Nunamiut Eskimo Against Yellen Critique
5. The Old Archaeology and the New: A Comparison of Results An Epistemological Failure The Essential Conclusions Their Character Their Solidity Their Interest The Results of Conventional Archaeology The Example of Nichoria
6. The Spirit and the Letter The State of Mind Sects Days of Contempt The Motivations Form References and Illustration A Cloud of Smoke
7. The Conned The "Conned" and Followers Critical Faculty Variability The Motivations
8. An Attempt at an Assessment An Acknowledgment of Failure Logical Reasons Philosophical Reasons
9. What Is Archaeology?
What Archaeology Alone Can Do The Establishment of Facts Facts and Approaches to Problems Toward an Open Approach to Problems Against the Manipulation of Facts The Difficulties of Identification Archaeological Demonstration Induction A Return to the Facts
10. The Territory of Archaeology New Fields and New Problems Excavation Experimental Archaeology Archaeometry The Elaboration of Data Description Classification Quantification Processing by Computer
11. The Frontiers of Archaeology Anthropology or History?
History and Liberty The Distribution of Roles Conclusion Abbreviations Notes Index