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Flannery

Flannery

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The Golden Marshalltown: A Parable for the Archeology of the 1980sAuthor(s): Kent V. FlannerySource:
American Anthropologist,
New Series, Vol. 84, No. 2 (Jun., 1982), pp. 265-278Published by:
on behalf of the
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Accessed: 01/12/2010 13:00
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TheGoldenMarshalltown:AParablefor theArcheologyofthe 1980s
KENT V. FLANNERYUniversityof MichiganIamhappilytoobusydoingscience to have timetoworryaboutphilosophizingabout it.[ArnoPenzias,NobelLaureate,1978]THIS ISASTORYboutarcheological goalsandrewards,andno oneshouldlook foranythingtooprofoundinit. It'sreallyjustthestoryofarideItook on anairplanefromSanDiegoto Detroit.Thatmaynotsoundvery excitingto those ofyouwhoflyalot,butthisparticulartripwas memorableforme.For onething,itwasmyfirsttime ona 747.Foranother,I met someoneonthatplanewho became oneof themostunforgettablecharactersI've ever run across.Theflightwastakingme home to Ann Arbor after theSocietyforAmericanAr-chaeologymeetingsinMayof1981.IwasleavingSanDiegoaday earlybecauseIhaden-dured all thephysicalstressIcouldstand.Ididn'tparticularlyfeellikewatchingthemovie,so as soon astheplanewas airborne and the seat beltsignhad been turnedoff,Iwent forwardto theloungearea of theplane.There wereonlytwopeoplethere,both ar-cheologists,andbothrecognizedmefrom themeetings.SoIhad nochoice buttositdownand have a beer with them.Iwant tobeginby telling youa little aboutmytwocompanions,butyouhavetounderstand,I'm notgoingtogivetheir actual names.Besides,theirreal identities aren'timportant,becauseeach considers himselfthespokesmanfor alarge groupofpeople.The firstguy,Isuppose,cameout ofgraduateschoolinthe late1960s,and heteachesnow at amajordepartmentinthe westernUnited States.Hebeganas a traditional ar-cheologist,interestedinPueblo ruins and Southwesternprehistory,and he went ondigsandsurveyslike the rest of us.Unlikethe rest ofus,hesaw thosedigsandsurveysnotasan endinthemselves,but asa means to anend,and a meansthatprovedto be tooslow.After a fewyearsofdustyholesinhot,drearyvalleyshe was no closer to thetopthanwhen he hadstarted,andinfact,hewasshowingsignsof lamentablefallibility.In50tries atlayingouta 5-ftsquare,hehad never come closerthan 4ft10inby5 ft3in,andhe'dmissedmore floors thanthe elevatorinthe World Trade Center. Andthen,justwhen all seemeddarkest,he discoveredPhilosophyofScience,and was bornagain.Suddenlyhe found the worldwouldbeatapathto hisdoor if hecriticizedeveryoneelse'sepistemology.Suddenlyhe discovered thatsolongas his researchdesignwassuperb,he never hadtodotheresearch;justpublishthedesign,anditwould be heldupas amodel,a brassringhangingunattainablebeyondtheclumsy fingersof those who ac-
KENT V. FLANNERY is ProfessorofAnthropologyandCuratorofEnvironmentalArcheology,Museum ofAnthropology,UniversityofMichigan,AnnArbor,MI48109.HepresentedtheDistinguishedLecture to the AmericanAnthropologicalAssociation at the nationalmeetingsinLosAngelesonDecember5,1981.Copyright@1982bythe AmericanAnthropologicalAssociation0002-7294/82/020265-14$1.90/1
265
 
266AMERICANANTHROPOLOGIST[84,1982tually surveyanddig.No moredust,nomoreheat,nomore 5-ftsquares.He worked inanofficenow,generating hypothesesand laws andmodels which an endless stream ofgraduatestudents was sent out totest;for hehimself nolongerdidanyfieldwork.Anditwasjustaswell,for as one of his formerprofessorshadsaid,"Thatpoor wimpcouldn'tdighiswayout of akittylitter box."Inall fairness to theBorn-Again Philosopher,he wasinlargemeasure aproductof the1960s,and there arelots more likehimwherehe came from. Andletusnotjudgehim tooharshlyuntil we have examinedmyothercompanioninthelounge,ayoungmanwhosedegreecamenot from1968,but from 1978.Iwill refer tohimsimplyasthe Child of theSeventies.Likesomanyof hisacademicgeneration,theChildof theSeventies had butoneoutstandingcharacteristic: blind ambition.Hehad neither the commitment toculturehistoryofmygenerationnor the devotiontotheoryofthegenerationof the1960s.Hisgoalsweresimple:to befamous,to bewellpaid,to bestroked,and toreceive immediategratification.Howhegotthere didnotmatter. Who hesteppedonalongthewaydid notmatter.Indeed,the data ofprehistorydid notmatter. Forhim,archeologywasonlyavehicle--onecarefullyselected,becausehe had discoveredearlythatpeoplewillputupwith almostanythingin theguiseofarcheology.As agraduatestudent,theChildof theSeventies had taken a courseinintroductoryar-cheologyfrom a manIwillsimplyrefer to as ProfessorH. Professor H. workedveryhardon thecourse,synthesizingtheliterature,addingoriginalideas and a lot of hisownun-publisheddata. The Child of the Seventies tookcopiousnotes.Sometimesheaskedques-tionstodraw the instructorout,andsometimesheaskedifhe couldcopyProfessorH.'sslides.Whentheprofessorusedhandouts,hebound theminhis notebook.Atgraduation,the Child of theSeventies went off to his firstjobatSpringboardUniversity.Thedayhearrived,he wentdirectlytoSpringboard UniversityPress andaskediftheywouldlikea textbook onintroductoryarcheology.Ofcoursetheydid.TheChildpolishedhisnotesfrom ProfessorH.'s course andsubmittedthem as abook.Itwaspublishedtoravereviews.Todayit istheonlytextbook onthesubjectthat Professor H.reallylikes,and herequiresit inhis course.ThefacultyatSpringboardUoverwhelming-lyvoted theChildof theSeventiestenure. ProfessorH.,onthe otherhand,hasbeen heldbackbecausehehasn'tpublishedenough."He's agreatteacher,"hiscolleaguessay."Ifonlyhecouldwritemore. Likethat student ofhisatSpringboardU."Tohiscredit as ananthropologist,the child hadmerelydiscernedthatoursubculturenotonlytoleratesthis sortofbehavior,itrewardspeoplefor it. Butthestorydoesn't endthere.The Child oftheSeventieshadwritten asix-chapterdoctoraldissertation.Nowhexeroxedeachchapterandprovidedit withan introductionandconclusion,makingit aseparatearticle. Each wassubmitted to adifferentjournal,andall werepublishedwithinayear.He thenpersuaded SpringboardUniversityPress topublishareadercomposedofhissixreprintedworks.Inthatreader,thechaptersof hisdissertation were atlastreunited betweenhard covers. Headded anoverview,recountingthewayshisperspectivehadchangedas he lookedback over the fullsweepof his 18months as aprofessionalar-cheologist.Hispublisheraskedhimto doanotherreader. Thistime,heinvited sixcolleaguestowrite the variouschapters.Somewereflattered.Someweredesperate.Allaccepted.Hewrote athree-pageintroductionandputhis name on the cover as editor. Thebooksold.Andsuddenly,hispathto thetopwas clear: he could turn outa book ayear, usingtheoriginalideasofothers,withouteverhavinganoriginalideahimself. And in thelongrun,he wouldbebetter known and betterpaidthananyof hiscontributors,eventhoughtheyworkedtwice as hard.

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