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ANT200Y1 Lecture Notes - Processual Archaeology, Lewis Binford, Archaeological Culture

Course Code
Christopher Watts

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ANT200 Lecture Notes 3
Term test 1 on Dec. 5 will be held in EX200 from 6-8pm
Next week’s reading is Boast (1997) “A Small Company of Actors”. See
website or syllabus for details
Paradigms for the Past
What is a paradigm?
A philosophical and theoretical framework within which theories,
laws, and generalizations are formulated
E.g. Paradigm: Darwinian Evolution
E.g. Scientific school: Biology, Zoology, etc.
Why study paradigms?
To understand the historical development of the discipline
What trajectory led archaeologists to discuss the past in a
specific way?
To understand epistemological bases for interpretations
Allows for contextual interpretation of past works (e.g.
archaeological papers from the 60s-80s would possibly be
written in the framework of processual archaeology)
Because conceptual frameworks are inextricably linked to the
‘doing’ of archaeology
Cannot divorce methodology from theory
Key Paradigms in Archaeology
Early Evolutionary Thought (mid to late 19th century)
Culture History (after 1920)
Processualism (after 1960)
Post-Processualism (after 1980)
Early Evolutionary Thought

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Tied to Victorian ideals (e.g. ‘scientific rationalism’ – the world
can be understood through scientific principles) of the mid to late
19th century
Thoroughly ‘Modern’
Though there were interests in the physical remains of old since
ancient times, archaeology did not become a scholarly discipline
until then
Thoroughly Eurocentric
The rest of the world and the past world could be put on a scale
of their overall prowess and fitness; this was based on the
European standard (hunter-gatherer societies industrial
- Key tenet: Uniliear evolution
Lewis Henry Morgan’s Ancient Society (1877)
Unilinear evolution
Savagery, Barbarism, Civilization (The stages of evolution of
Key technological inventions were associated with each stage
-Savagery: fire, bow and arrow, pottery
-Barbarism: domestication, agriculture, metallurgy
-Civilization: alphabet and writing
The Birth of Culture History
Emerged in the late 19th century
Replaced emphasis on evolution as historical ‘prime mover’
New emphasis on time and place (peoples); replaced ‘flat’ view
of culture
-New emphasis on mechanisms of change (e.g. diffusion and
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