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Lecture 6

Lecture 6 Part 1 – Archaeological Theory

Course Code
ANTH 2229F/G
Christopher Ellis

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Lecture 6 Part 1 Archaeological Theory
How do archaeologists achieve the three main goals of archaeology?
o Have to do more than just “discover things”
o Takes a lot of information and analysis to put the pieces together
o Objects cannot speak for themselves
o Have to recognize the significance and importance of objects
o Make the archaeological dynamic and come to life
o Tool kit to interpret the past
o Consists of theories and analytical/reasoning methods
What is theory?
o Body of ideas and knowledge about how things work, how the world
works or reportedly works
o 2 kinds of knowledge:
1. Experiential Knowledge
Know that world works in a certain way through
May describe how it works, but doesn’t explain why or
how it works
2. Theoretical Knowledge
Overtly explanatory, explains how and why things work
Explains events, empirical phenomena, etc.
Not only tells us what happens and why it happens
Also explains why it didn’t happen some other way
3. Gives meaning to information
Not just the information
Gives data
Tells you what is important to collect
Data information relevant to a theory, allows you to
evaluate and test theories
Data only has meaning in relation to the theory
No one way to excavate a site
What is excavated is based on the questions being asked
What makes a good theory?
o 1. Explanatory
o 2. Explains known information and new information
Points way to other observation
Predicts other things, etc.
E.g. Continental Drift explains how and why with physical
evidence (fossils, continents fit together, mountain ranges, etc.)
o 3. Assign meaning to information
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