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Acta Archaeologica vol. 72:1, 2001, pp.

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1. Notions of theoretical archaeology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
2. Subject matter of archaeology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
3. Archaeological sources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
4. Methodological nature of archaeology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
5. Principles of archaeology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42
6. Empiricism in archaeology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57
7. What is archaeological theory? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66
8. Structure and working of archaeological theory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72
9. Functions of archaeological theory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87
10. Archaeological fact . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101
11. Archaeological research design . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 117
12. Panorama revisited . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127
The Commandments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 132
BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 134
2 Acta Archaeologica
1. Notions of theoretical archaeology
In archaeology there has long been a difference of
interests. Some practitioners were devoted to eld ar-
chaeology and at the centre of their lives were the
expeditions, surveys and excavations. Others were
committed to the possibility of substantiating an idea,
such as Schliemanns work to prove the reality of
Homers Troy, and some were museum curators,
keen to sort through collections and systematise their
material. Identifying artefacts, managing exhibitions
and the publication of catalogues of material all offer-
ed them great delight. Happiness was to nd an ana-
logy, to place an artefact into a system.
There were also those who were drawn to ancient
artefacts by their mystery and enigma, who were
interested in ideas that might be obtained from the
artefacts. From this type of enthusiast either empty
dreamers originated, ideological speculators, or his-
torians with a spade. But sometimes, if they were rapt
by the extraction of ideas as a process itself, they de-
veloped as theoreticians. Gustaf Kossinna and Gor-
don Childe, Walter Taylor and Mats Malmer, David
Clarke and Lewis Binford all undoubtedly belonged
to this latter type, and developed theories. Less known
theoreticians brought statements to more exact word-
ings, added new arguments, and systematised theor-
etical knowledge.
I am attracted to archaeology by its enigmas, but
particularly by its theory. It is generally said that
theory serves practice and that it is only problems
originating in practice which provide stimulus to the-
oretical considerations. In Archaeological Typology
(Klejn 1991a) I have also paid debt to this idea when
describing the practical problems that stimulated me
to turn to typological theory. I pointed out then that
many students are not led to theory by the same dif-
culties. However, the demon tempter was probably
always within me.
I began student life not in archaeology, but in
linguistics and folklore-studies, dealing with problems
of ethnogenesis and semiotic searches for original
sense, under the teaching of Vladimir Propp. Then I
became interested in archaeology and was taught by
Mikhail Artamonov, who also was interested in ethn-
ogenesis. My rst published work in archaeology ap-
peared in 1955 in the form of a critical review article
on the origins of Slavs. Among my articles in the
1960s were theoretical issues concerning questions of
typology and ethnogenesis, and since the 1970s I have
continued to write theoretical papers.
In general, practice certainly does build a founda-
tion for theory, but only with the help of theory can
our knowledge grow in bounds. Scientic revolutions
actually occur through the process of theorizing.
There would be no science and no scholarly study
without theory. In archaeology this truth was ignored
for longer than in other disciplines, and it is still not
fully realised now. This raises the question: Are
specialists in theory needed? Is the demarcation of
such specialisation in archaeology justied? I know
from my own experience that to deal with theory one
must study many non-archaeological matters that are
not necessary for practical archaeologists, and in ar-
chaeology itself a great deal is also brought to light
which is required knowledge. One might well com-
bine theory with practical studies, and to some extent
it is even necessary otherwise theory risks becoming
airy and without object but few archaeologists are
able to succeed in both elds.
The post-processualists, or post-modernists, are
against isolating the theoretician. The opposition was
announced at TAG 1992 by Julian Thomas (1995,
351). He stated ironically that each university de-
partment [of archaeology] should have one theory
specialist, just as it should have one lithic specialist,
one ceramic specialist and one environmental special-
ist. In his opinion the truth is ignored that all ar-
chaeology is theoretical. The theoretician Michael
Shanks declares that, I am ... very concerned that
3 Metaarchaeology
theoretical archaeology is being dened more now as
another expert eld. It is argued that just as an exca-
vation report or department must have its specialists
in techniques, environment evidence, pottery, dating,
leather, bone, quantitative analysis, whatever, so too
they need an expert in theory seen as a separate
matter of explanation and interpretation (A dialogue
1994, 19). Shanks sets against this a view that every-
one must know theories and everyone must be able
to apply them. Must know, must apply. Yet is it
reasonable to insist that everyone must be able to
work them out? Speaking against Thomas and
Shanks is their own experience; they have not carried
out very much practical work in archaeology as com-
pared with their theoretical activity.
It is clear that for expeditions and for museum pro-
cessing of materials many more people are needed
than for interpretation. However, there was also
something else being said here. First, in order to deal
seriously with theory one needs another branch of
knowledge and another mind set than one does for
practical studies. A theoretician needs a sharp ability
to establish distant associations, a capability of sys-
tematisation, a vivid imagination, a certain courage
in thinking and good articulation of ideas too
thoughts must be put into very tting words. It is de-
sirable that he or she is trained in logic, mathematics,
linguistics and philosophy. A possession of the main
languages would not go astray either. Since these
needs were not realised, such a combination of traits
very rarely occurred among archaeologists. Secondly,
theory was not regarded with much respect for a long
while, it was in fact equal to empty rhetorics. For
quite some time all theorising was regarded as specu-
lation, and all speculative thinking (i.e. thinking ab-
stracted from direct consideration of facts) was seen
as unscientic and unscholarly.
Looking at other disciplines later convinced ar-
chaeologists of the necessity and respectability of the-
ories but it did not acquaint them with the complexit-
ies of the business and did not impart them with great
prudence for theory. So, a person having made a
new guess on, for example, the chronological distinc-
tion between charnieres of two bulas or something
else of the same crucial importance, in a somewhat
bombastic manner declares: ... according to my
theory .... (Gjessing 1962, 504).
Another contributing factor that raised the status of
theoretical work was the connection of archaeological
theories with philosophy, methodology, and strategy
of studies. However, strange as it is, this did not
undermine the notion that practical experience and
factographical erudition is everything and the only
tools we need for successful theoretical work. This led
to the point that producing something theoretical be-
gan to be thought of as a matter of prestige and privi-
lege for renowned empirical workers. A similar situ-
ation in ethnography gave the Hungarian scholar
Hofer occasion to rally for the fact that in Europe, as
distinguished from America, theorising ... is gener-
ally reserved to the peers of the science (Hofer 1968,
315). Finally, in more recent years, with the reinforce-
ment of scholarly knowledge, a realisation began
penetrating archaeology that the theoretical level of
studies has its own specicity, that it demands a
special, different education, needs its own specially
prepared cadre by the inux of youth, and that it be
separated into a special branch of archaeology (Zakh-
aruk 1971b, 12).
The relation of archaeologists to theory is two-fold.
On the one hand, a lot of practising archaeologists
eld people and museum curators regard theory as
an addle business and relate to it with some irony. As
Kluckhohn noted (1940, 46), the greater number of
anthropologists (and he counted prehistorians among
them) still feel that theorising is what you do when
you are too lazy or too impatient or too much of an
armchair person to go out and get the facts.
On the other hand, many practical workers har-
bour a secret envy at theoreticians since the latter al-
ways have a wider horizon, broadened by their
knowledge of philosophy and anthropology. The
same envy arises on account of the fact that theory is
always evident or latent in interpretation, the real nub
of archaeology. And as theory is nearer to philosophy
and to outward thinking, i.e. to ideology, theoretical
studies are considered a privilege that should be offer-
ed for merits either for great achievements and ex-
perience in practical archaeology or for a high ad-
ministrative seat. Therefore, especially in the socialist
states, where theory was considered a leading force,
old practical workers and heads of research insti-
tutions frequently advanced in the shoes of theor-
4 Acta Archaeologica
The idea was put forward that experience is the
best guarantee of a good theory, but they had the
background for creating theory no more than they
did for choreography. Their constant attempts at
theoretical pirouettes merely increased the disregard
other archaeologists had for theory. The opposite
extreme frequently occurs among theoreticians. Til-
ley, known for his theoretical works and radical
ideas, illustrated this in discussion with me when he
recounted with resentment how an older colleague
advised him to make an initial study of a remark-
able amount of material a monument, site or a
period before advancing with theories (Tilley
1991). The advice was not entirely misplaced. Both
eld experience and museum practice are necessary
for a theoretician if he or she is to realise what is
hidden behind idealised objects. Though no more
necessary than for a theoretical physicist like
Einstein, who needs to be experienced in exper-
imentation. It is desirable to avoid the mire while
gaining experience. A solid experience in practice is
usually reached after many years, by which time it
is too late to set about the theory.
What is presented here as theoretical archaeology was in
some circles termed, and still is termed, differently. In
Soviet literature there was methodology of archae-
ological science (Zakharuk 1969); in America
theory and method of archaeology (Hawkes 1954;
Willey and Phillips 1958) or epistemology of archae-
ology; and in Britain general or central theory of
archaeology (Clarke 1968, 663; 1973, 15f). There is
also a suggestion to call it archaeosophy (Szekely
1977). However, for this branch the designation the-
oretical archaeology is becoming more and more
xed. The rst appearance of the term was ascribed
to me (Gardin 1980, 126; Barich 1977; 1982, note
10), but this is not quite correct for it emerged spon-
taneously in different places and by different authors
(Sher 1972; Fowler 1977, ch. 5; Gardin 1979; 1980;
Klejn 1977a; Barich 1977; 1982; Hodder 1982; Hol-
torf and Quensel 1992; Guliaev 1993 a.o.). I have
even found the term in publication as early as 1971
What is essential here is that theoretical archaeol-
ogy is inscribed in a whole system of analogical
branches of other disciplines. Monographs systematis-
ing the theoretical knowledge in these disciplines are
simply entitled Theoretical ... (with the designation
of the discipline following). There are examples of
such book titles in biology (Bertalanffy 1932), geogra-
phy (Bunge 1962), sociology (Merton 1967), linguistics
(Zvegincev 1967) and so on. Evidently a general no-
tion of the theoretical branch in these disciplines is
established, and it remains only to apply the format
to archaeology. It seems in this case that it would be
simple enough to give a denition of theoretical ar-
chaeology. It is clear that theoretical archaeology
must embrace theoretical studies in archaeology. In
fact the question of this denition has its own dif-
culties that arise from various circumstances.
First, it is disputable as to what can be considered
theory in general on the one hand and theory specic
to archaeology on the other. Correspondingly, which
studies can be considered theoretical those only
concerning concepts and laws or others too? For in-
stance, there are notions that theory is simply general-
isation of facts, and another that it is a set of methods.
If one accepts the former, then it would be very dif-
cult to delimit archaeology from numerable surveys
of materials. If one accepts the latter, then all the
works on methods used in archaeology must be in-
cluded. How to deal with the methods of other discip-
lines used in archaeology?
Secondly, the question of differentiating between
ideas arises. Many people call any interpretation of
sources a theoretical activity, and there is a reason for
this the interpretation constantly involves theories.
Indeed, is not the whole business of interpretation a
job for theoretical archaeology? It is without doubt
that the analysis of the mental process of an archaeol-
ogist, of the development of his or her ideas, is closely
connected with theoretical thinking. During the sec-
ond half of the 20th century it became clearer and
clearer that the development of ideas of the entire
discipline in its historical course also has a direct re-
lation to the theoretical grasp of archaeology. But
how can the history of theoretical thinking be divided
from the history of archaeology in general? How can
it be separated from the history of discoveries, exca-
vations and biographies of scholars?
5 Metaarchaeology
Lastly, the question must be asked whether theory
in archaeology is possible at all or if archaeology is a
descriptive, factographic discipline. There are views
that even if theories do act in archaeology they are
not archaeological theories but anthropological or
historical ones. This would be a case of improper the-
oretical archaeology.
Therefore, it follows from all these reasons, since
the very beginning of the separation of the new
branch and of having realised this, that debates take
place on the reasonable effectiveness, the subject mat-
ter and the borders of theoretical archaeology. One
of the rst denitions of theoretical archaeology was
given in my Panorama of theoretical archaeology
(Klejn 1977a, 1f). When looking at theoretical mono-
graphs in other disciplines I noted frequent extremes;
some authors dening the theoretical branch broadly,
including both philosophical problems and particular
theories, others prefering a narrow denition, em-
bracing merely the general theory of the given disci-
As for myself, I have chosen the middle of the road.
I issued from the fact that the existing notions of
theory were various and diffuse, and to leave them
outside the branch was inconvenient as my task was
only a survey. I also derived my view from an under-
standing that people have to specialise in a whole ag-
glomerate of interconnected problems usually desig-
nated as philosophical, methodological, logical, theor-
etical and in part historical. Yet from these problems
closely interconnected and acting under the guise of
theoretical archaeology, I considered only those
which were specic to archaeology and which em-
braced the whole of archaeology.
Fowler leaned to a broader denition. Although he
admitted the practicability of a narrower denition he
referred to the involvement of theory in any interpre-
tation, be it unconscious or not, and came to the con-
clusion that in a certain sense the whole of archaeol-
ogy is theoretical (Fowler 1977: 131). More radical
inferences were made by Michael Shanks from the
same idea. In the discussion with Iain Mackensie he
declared that ... there is no such thing as theoretical
archaeology. Theory should be part of what everyone
does critical self-consciousness (A dialogue 1994:
19). On the contrary Gardin regarded my accommo-
dating denition as too broad. He indicated that I
introduced it into Soviet archaeology where it was
equal to general archaeology but it is clear from
the above references that it was not introduced by me
and not only in Soviet archaeology. That general
archaeology is broader than the theoretical one, is
not difcult to guess from the amount of handbooks,
reference-books, dictionaries and encyclopaedias on
archaeology, which are all general archaeology but
not theoretical. Gardin himself denes theoretical ar-
chaeology as the logical structure of scientic con-
structions in archaeology (Gardin 1980: 126; 183:
196) or as science on considerations produced by the
pens of archaeologists, expressed in a symbolical, sign
form, or more simply as science on symbolical con-
structions of archaeologists (Gardin 1983: 245). Gar-
dins view is also close to that of Sher, who views
theoretical archaeology as the theory of processing
of archaeological data (1973: 55), and as the discip-
lines section which studies general rules of descrip-
tion, analysis and interpretation of archaeological rec-
ords (1976: 68).
Theory is a concept from the logic of science, but
to reduce the whole of theoretical archaeology to lo-
gic, to rules and sign constructions seems to me un-
reasonably limiting. It is hardly fruitful to cut off the
philosophical, methodological, cognitive and historio-
graphical aspects. This can lead to simplication and
schematization of problems, as can be found in Gard-
ins book. On the question of the validity of theoreti-
cal archaeology, even if archaeology is viewed as
rather descriptive, it will at the very least need theor-
ies of scientic description of archaeological material.
Best of all, the question of where theoretical archaeol-
ogy belongs is solved by the life of archaeology. De-
spite the frequently diagnosed crisis (Gaffney and
Gaffney 1987) and the prognoses of its end (Kolpakov
1992) theoretical archaeology still exists. It passes in
and out of channels of the discipline, broadening in
places and narrowing in others, it introduces certain
problems as fashionable while offering no attention to
others, but all in all it continues to grow.
Every theorist, including myself, has his own point of
departure and his own approach. To a large extent
they are determined by training, background and so-
6 Acta Archaeologica
cial positions, which in turn are probably conditioned
by temperament. My own training was, like all my
compatriot colleagues, a Marxist one. I began with a
rejection of Marxism while still in high school, where
I hammered out an underground organisation of lib-
eral standing. Then there was a short period of being
rapt by Marxism, and then, still on the student bench,
it changed to a criticism of Marxism, a criticism that
grew stonger and stronger. I identied with Marxism
only outwardly and at any rate, I needed to in order
to keep the possibility of working at university. So, I
tried not to use the term Leninism. I certainly did
not accept the false Utopia of the Dictatorship of the
Proletariat and I was very sceptical of the bright
communist future, nor did I ever enter the Commu-
nist Party.
In my opinion Marxism has three main drawbacks.
Firstly, Marxism ignores the biological basis of mans
nature and reduces man to interaction of economic
factors and interests. This transforms Marxism into a
narrow populist doctrine, and its aims into Utopia.
For instance such an instinct as the love for ones own
children prevents discarding the tradition of inherit-
ance, but without discarding the tradition, real equal-
ity is unachievable. The second drawback of Marxism
is the preference it gives to the future over the present
and puts the state above the personality what is evi-
dently anti-human. Thirdly, Marxism was always dis-
tinguished by great zeal and was ready to apply any
means for the sake of its utopian aim. All of this
sickened me.
Yet the short affair with Marxism did not leave me
without trace. Many views of materialism and
methods of dialectics were deep-rooted in me and did
not meet with inner resistance. I am a denitive athe-
ist and up until now can only look at religious practice
with irony. I give attention to the material and social-
political conditions of scholarly creation and analyse
social roots of theories seriously, although I do not
consider these roots as my only ones. In my opinion,
the claims of indeterminists of absolute free will of
the individual are simply laughable. There are limits
to free will. While a person can do really whatever
you imagine, although the more extreme the more
unlikely, a mass acts with the regularity of nature.
Otherwise sociologists would have had nothing to do.
On the other hand the rectilinear thinking of Marxists
often betrayed them. The role of personality and of
chance makes history unpredictable on exactly the
points that are usually most desirable to foresee.
Rather, the very gravitation towards theory was to a
certain extent cast by Marxist training: Marxism is in
its ideals theoretical.
Marxism used dialectics as substantiation for the
necessity of revolution. Yet this is a too situation-
bound use of the method. If dialectics is considered
as teaching on contradictions, not only of develop-
ment but of modern world and conscience, it appears
much more interesting. Contradictions, antinomies
and oppositions must be considered not as anom-
alies this is just the way the world is built. Marxism
necessarily compelled the removal of the contradic-
tions by revolution. However both sides of a contra-
diction can be right. And one must learn not to take
them away, but to live with them. Turning different
sides, one phenomenon and one concept reecting it
can manifest themselves as different concepts. Differ-
ent concepts can appear as different sides of the same
one. The spirit of such dialectics can be felt in my
From Hegel, Marxism borrowed not only dialectics
but also the bureaucratic spirit of Prussian state or-
ganisation as an ideal. The interest to Neo-Kantian
teaching served me as an antidote against such Hegel-
ism and Marxism. I rst became acquainted with
Windelbands and Rickerts works through readings
of Marxist criticism of them. Yet this criticism was
enough to cause the reverse impact and it was the
criticised conception that impressed me. The expla-
nation of the specicity of humanist knowledge, the
view of the classication of disciplines, which was new
as compared with the view of Comte and Engels, and
the view of the interrelation of fact with law in them
all gave me an anchorage outside Marxism.
My background and milieu, Russian archaeology,
has its own elaborated traditions, notably distinct
from West-European. Of course I received these local
traditions, and they used to introduce not only a pe-
culiar colouring into my works but certainly permit-
ted me to take an independent and prospective posi-
tion. So, in Russia there is no division of archaeology
into two disciplines, as is commonplace in the West:
classical (often with oriental) and prehistoric (with me-
dieval). In Russia archaeology was and is one. For me
7 Metaarchaeology
it was the initial norm, and this determined much of
my understanding of archaeology. It was not a part
of history, but a source-studying discipline common
to all branches. This was also a protest against ideol-
ogy and politics involved in archaeology. Hence the
strive to create an integral theory for it.
No doubt, the impact of my teachers shows too.
The founder of Russian semiotics and Russian
structuralism Vladimir Jakovlevich Propp, under
whose direction I had a fortune to study, was often
accused of Formalism, both by Marxist ideologists
and by Levi-Strauss. Yet how is content to be
understood if not through form? I listened closely
to lessons on such Formalism and this is why I re-
searched so long and carefully on the cognitive po-
tentials of typology.
My second teacher was Mikhail Illarionovich Arta-
monov, archaeologist and art-specialist, many-years
Director of the Hermitage Museum. He was notable
for the independence of his judgements that were ad-
vanced against several conceptions produced for the
situations of the moment. Noteworthy too for his
evident orientation to the West. I liked this position
and it seems to me very contemporary even now
when the alternatives are discussed about which way
Russia is destined for, the European civilisation or
some special way, essentially Asiatic. Firstly, like my
teacher, I evinced an interest for Western literature
and common world science, and secondly, I devoted
my entire work in theoretical archaeology to working
out a system of theories and methods which could
grant strictness and objectivity of archaeological cog-
nition, in order that archaeology would be able to
resist the intentions to serve the political situation of
the moment. Propps Formalism was a support for me
in this too.
On the other hand, criticism of Neopositivism in
general and of Analytical philosophy in particular,
both very developed in Soviet methodological litera-
ture, kept me back from the theoretical task of cre-
ating an analytical machine for archaeology.
Nevertheless the task of axiomatisation of archaeology
remains attractive for me. Yet in that and in general
I tried to escape simplications.
It altogether assured me of my own position in the-
oretical archaeology, which I hope will not be without
interest for the reader.
The coverage of theoretical archaeology is very
broad. A number of diverse problems are united here,
and for the sake of comprehension one has to order
them somehow. One should present theoretical ar-
chaeology as a system, rationally differentiate its parts
and place them in a logical order.
The rst person who presented the structure of the-
oretical archaeology was David Clarke, a very analyti-
cal and conceptual thinker. In his Analytical Archae-
ology (1968) he presented a general theory of ar-
chaeology. It consisted of three models: for
archaeological research design, archaeological objects
and for archaeological processes. The rst model dic-
tates how to proceed from archaeological records to
their interpretation, describing what steps are needed
on this route. The second model grasps the nature of
archaeological material, the nature of which is con-
ditioned by the material belonging to culture and sec-
ondly by the peculiarities of human creativity, which
is complex and diffuse, despite its regularity. The
third model provides a framework to study the dy-
namics behind the archaeological material the
changes, growth and evolution of ancient cultures. As
one can see, the second model is directed to the ma-
terial and to records, the third one to the past hidden
behind it, and the rst one to the process of cognition
connecting the second with the third.
Some years later Clarke (1972b, 238) described the
three-part division of theoretical archaeology other-
wise. He divided it into archaeological metaphysic,
archaeological epistemology and archaeological logic.
Under metaphysic he understood clarication of ar-
chaeological concepts as well as their interrelations
with reality and their limitation. Under epistemology
he had in mind the prospect of revealing the speci-
city of archaeological information and consequently
modes of archaeological cognition. Archaeological lo-
gic was understood as the development of the rigor
and explicitness of archaeological reasoning.
In his article Archaeology: the loss of innocence
Clarke complicated the structure. He considered the
components of theoretical archaeology from the point
of view of archaeological philosophy. These com-
ponents consisted of: (1) theory of concepts, (2) theory
of information, (3) theory of reasoning, and nally, (4)
8 Acta Archaeologica
general theory of archaeology. The rst is character-
ised by him as metaphysical, the second as cognitive,
the third as logical (1973: 15) and the fourth is not
characterised at all. Evidently it is the correct struc-
ture of archaeology for him. In the text he connects
the rst component with notions on objects of study
and on the dynamics of the cultural process, the rest
with research design. The general theory is divided
up by the steps of the research design, that is, by steps
of the archaeological cognition. It seems to me, it is
here that the most important contribution of this ar-
ticle is contained. Clarke enlisted these parts:
(1) Pre-depositional and depositional theory it has
to consider the interrelations between activity and
ideas of ancient people and their remains and
(2) Post-depositional theory it considers changes
that occurred with the remains and traces after
their positioning in the earth or on the earth;
(3) Recovery theory considers interrelations between
the archaeological objects that appeared on the
place after all the changes produced by the time
and all what is obtained by excavations and trans-
formed into data (it is mainly theory of selection);
(4) Analytical theory it is mainly theory of elabor-
ation of the material with various methods;
(5) Interpretation theory it establishes interrelations
between the obtained results of analyses and the
events and processes inaccessible to observation.
This line is clear and reasonable but its interrelations
with the rst three of Clarkes schemes are not so
clear and neither are their interrelations with each
other or their comparative important. Why is a theory
of concepts favoured, but not theories of laws, of prin-
ciples, criteria or language of theory? If theory of ar-
chaeological information is included into the list, why
does theory of archaeological systems, of ordering of
archaeological material not deserve this too? If theory
of reasoning is here, why is theory of modelling ab-
Something here is not well thought over, and per-
haps a broad eld of systematisation remains left out
of the parts of research design. Only some compo-
nents of different ranges are selected for study.
As could be expected, Gardins Theoretical Ar-
chaeology is structured very simply; it has taken ac-
count of only one aspect of theorising, the logical one.
According to the suggested treatment of archaeologi-
cal cognition by Gardin everything is divided in two
parts: compilation and explication. Roughly speaking,
these are the collecting of material and its processing
by interpretation. This can be equalled to Clarkes
general theory which is in a similar position of a re-
search design with steps, but Gardins scheme is more
scarce and simplied.
In Soviet scholarship the late Juriy Zakharuk
thought much on the structure of theoretical archae-
ology (1969; 1973). As he worded it, on archaeologi-
cal theory. Within cognition he distinguished be-
tween the object and the subject matter. The rst one
to him is a fragment of the reality under study, the
second its reection in scholarly knowledge. The ob-
ject consists of aimed object (particular societies of
the past) and immediate object (results of their ac-
tivity the material culture). The subject matter is
also divided into the object of the discipline, which is
the archaeological records and sources, and the re-
sults, and these are reconstructed societies of the past
and their history. On Zakharuks schemes these com-
ponents are situated in the sequence in which the in-
formation proceeds, and the sequence is obtained in
the process of cognition. Everything is like in Clarke
and Gardin, only the number of stages is different:
real societies of the past their material culture
archaeological records reconstructed societies. Ac-
cordingly he postulates theories building the united
structure. At such approach the following row would
be expected: (1) theory of society, of social develop-
ment, (2) theory of culture (or more correctly, of ma-
terial culture), (3) theory of archaeological source-
study, and (4) theory of reconstruction.
The whole pathos of Zakharuks building was di-
rected to the idea of showing that archaeology is
not to be reduced to naked artefactology, that is
to say, archaeological source-study is only a part of
archaeology. This was in the watercourse of the
general ghting for the afrmation of the Arcikhov-
skij Rybakov conception dominated in Soviet ar-
chaeology that equated archaeology with history
(Arcikhovskij: archaeology is history armed with
the spade). However at such treatment one should
include theory of social development and theory of
9 Metaarchaeology
culture into theoretical archaeology but they are
theories of other, independent disciplines such as
sociology, history and culturology.
In my Panorama of theoretical archaeology I po-
sitioned literature by periods and directions, I did not
need other structure. Yet when I worked on Archae-
ological Typology the problem arose in front of me
to determine the place of typology among other ar-
chaeological theories, to establish their logical inter-
relations, i.e. the structure of theoretical archaeology.
Incidentally, I also considered then the general
theory of archaeology. Like my predecessors Clarke
and Gardin on this question I positioned some kernel
of archaeological theories in line along which infor-
mation proceeds from facts to their interpretation.
These theories deal with archaeological material and
are intended to give ideas for its processing, for inter-
pretation, for extracting historical information from
it. I have called these theories endoarchaeological (in-
ner-archaeological, intra-archaeological, or properly
archaeological) as they are in the very kernel of our
activity. Theory of classication and typology belongs
to them as well as theory of migration recovery.
However, many archaeological theories, including
those I was dealing with, do not t into this kind.
They are not directed toward archaeological material,
its peculiarities and possibilities of its interpretation,
but toward the archaeological discipline itself, toward
its perfection. These are philosophical, cognitive and
scientic problems as well as being problems of logic
and psychology, so to say self-criticism and self-cog-
nition of archaeology. When determining the subject
matter of archaeology, its methodological nature, its
meaning, the character of its facts and of theory it-
self all these tasks belong here. That is a theory of
theory ensues. Thus, it is archaeological metatheory.
As soon as Renfrew applied the term metaarchaeolo-
gy I have taken it into my tool kit and called this
group of theories metaarchaeological.
For many a long day archaeologists saw only nds
and what is hidden behind them an Indian behind
the artefact, after the catchwords of R. Braidwood
(1959a, 79). There was, and is, meant exactly this by
archaeology. Renfrew (1969a, 243) called the meth-
odological study of the discipline itself, of its general
theory and methods, metaarchaeology. Under this
term he seemed to imply ironically a cliche of D.
Clarke. It would be more exact to speak of archae-
ological metatheory, but Renfrews phrase possesses
potentials for a broader use and therefore has come
to stay. According to norms of the Greek language
one should write this term as metarchaeology
(when a prex in Greek ends in a vowel and is fol-
lowed by another vowel, then the vowel from the pre-
x is dropped). However, in newer languages the bor-
rowed prex meta- only occurs in the full form
(probably due to words like metaphysics, meta-
phor, metamorphosis, metastasis). This does not
exhaust theoretical archaeology either. Still more the-
ories remain that do not properly belong to archaeol-
ogy but have a signicant meaning for it. These the-
ories developing mainly in other disciplines like soci-
ology, history, culturology, anthropology, ethnology,
linguistics, geography and others, nevertheless elabor-
ate on concepts and laws which are condition sine
qua non of functioning of archaeology. Among these
concepts are culture, artefact, ethnos,
society, epoch, etc. These theories establish regu-
larities of migrations, diffusions, autochthonous devel-
opment, inuences, borrowings, independent inven-
tions and so on. I do not mean their hallmarks in
the archaeological material, but the laws according to
which they were developed in living societies in the
past. I have called this group of theories paraarchae-
ological. Belonging to this is concepts of culture, ma-
terial culture and historical process. Archaeologists
need to study them very carefully, often also to work
them out with regard to special needs of archaeology.
So the former elaboration of ethnological theory
did not take into account the special interest of ar-
chaeologists to know how in the remote living peoples
their entire culture is connected with their material
culture, especially with its part which is able to last
during thousands of years. It was necessary to create
a special discipline, ethnoarchaeology.
Thus, I have outlined the structure of theoretical
archaeology as three-part, consisting of endo-, meta-
and paraarchaeological theories. I consider them only
in this grouping. The three-part division later sug-
gested by Lester Embree (1989; 1992) of the structure
of American theoretical archaeology coincides to a
considerable extent with my structure. There is me-
taarchaeology in both our systems, his proper the-
oretical archaeology corresponds to my endoarchae-
10 Acta Archaeologica
ology and his philosophy of archaeology corre-
sponds to some extent to my paraarchaeology since
it concerns culture, historical process etc. However
from my understanding paraarchaeology does not co-
incide with Embrees philosophy of archaeology, al-
though philosophical issues are touched on, as they
are in metaarchaeology. I begin with metaarchaeolo-
gy because it allows me to present a general system-
atic survey of the discipline and present its initial con-
cepts and principles.
11 Metaarchaeology
2. Subject matter of archaeology
An object is perceived differently by an eye and by an ear. So, the
object of the eye is a different object than that of the ear.
Karl Marx
When in 1987 heads of archaeological departments
from all British universities elected a Committee for
outlining the future common policy in the difcult
years of reduced budgets, the Committee spotted the
unexpected truth. Absolutely fundamental is the
denition of archaeology as an academic discipline ...
Do we regard a degree in archaeology as a collection
of topics gathered together for convenience under this
heading ...? Or do we see it as dependent on a com-
pulsory inner core, the irreducible heart of the disci-
pline, without which no student can be properly
taught? (Austin 1987, 230). The Committee chose
the second alternative. Yet some problems were
brushed under the carpet. Most of our subject has
strong links with other disciplines ... with history,
ethnology etc., so the borders of the discipline ap-
peared to be diffuse. However the question is not new.
As distinct from some other problems of metaar-
chaeology, the determined concerns of archaeology,
its eld and its subject matter, have for a long time
appeared the necessary topic of any solid general text-
book in archaeology. What has changed with the ap-
pearance of metaarchaeology?
First, the role allotted to the analysis of such prob-
lems has changed. The exposition of useful results
from a study used to be aimed at rather than the
elaboration and checking the means of obtaining
them. So, having exposed his considerations on
aims, means and method of archaeology, Sophus
Mller (Mller 1898) did not begin with these con-
siderations to his monumental survey of northern an-
tiquities but placed them at the end. Such a practice
was usual even for works of more recent times. Now
it is impossible to begin a work without exposing and
analysing its premises. ... No archaeological study
can be better than the ideological assumptions which
underlie the development of its arguments (Clarke
1968, XV).
Secondly, the way matters are considered has
changed, and with it the types of implications. In the
past they were advanced with some awkwardness as
a statements of banal truths. In the same book Sophus
Mller saw it necessary to set the reader at rest by
promising to make the methodological problems as
clear as possible but also as briey as possible. Be-
cause truthfully speaking it is hardly tempting to
create such an outline or to become acquainted with
it. Yet nevertheless ... (Mller 1898, 292). Meanwhile
Buschor would scarcely agree to writing a methodol-
ogical preface to a handbook of archaeology since he
supposed that explanations on the concept and
method of some discipline can only bear a character
of self-cognition (Buschor 1936; 1969, 3). That is
they are subjective and divested of all objective
grounds. Nowadays the necessity is accepted not only
to elaborate strictly on methodological problems, but
to rethink well-tried initial principles of archaeology
(Chang 1967b).
Thirdly, the perception of the structural building of
archaeology has changed. Various branches of ar-
chaeology were formed within different spheres of
knowledge and were traditionally experienced as the
separate disciplines of prehistory, classical archaeol-
ogy and other categories. These branches have seen
great difculty in undergoing rapprochement. The
progression from sources to inferences was considered
in a far more simple way than in todays clear divi-
sions into a step-by-step process. Childe was one of
the rst to note that archaeology is one (1956, VI),
and despite the conservatism of some classical
scholars, archaeology as an explanatory science or as
a system of methods is now viewed as gradually more
united in the chronological span of its subject matter.
It is also becoming more complicated and segmented
in its steps of cognition. More than one hundred years
12 Acta Archaeologica
ago Ivan E. Zabelin lamented that it is very difcult
to clear up for yourself even the very subject matter
of archaeology. Indeed, what exactly is the business
of this discipline, what does it elaborate? (Zabelin
1878, 1).
In the systematic description of any particular disci-
pline its subject matter is the rst component. The
concept itself, the subject matter of a particular disci-
pline, was elaborated in detail by Soviet philos-
ophers and scientists. However, even among them di-
vergences exist and there is still not an agreed termin-
ology. This is why it is necessary to stipulate which
understanding of the subject matter of archaeology is
of present concern.
The subject matter of cognition, in particular of the
scientic, is interrelated with the object of cognition.
The separate piece of reality that is included in re-
search cognitive activity is termed the object of the
given discipline, if its objective character is intended,
independent of the researchers existence. This is
known as the ontological approach. If however the in-
tended meaning is the role of this piece of reality as
the source of knowledge and information, thus a gnose-
ological (the Russian term for epistemological) ap-
proach, then this piece is termed the subject matter
of this discipline (Zotov 1973, 1829).
The role of fragments of reality as sources of infor-
mation is determined not only by their own properties
but also by the tasks and possibilities of the cognising
conscience. So on the one hand the subject matter is
narrower than the object because not all the facets of
the object can enter into the tasks of a given branch.
On the other hand the subject matter is broader than
the object for it includes the tasks of cognitions in
it as well, the aspect of the consideration.
It was formerly conventional to identify the object
and subject matter. As is still ordinary in the West,
these terms were synonyms, and they were never en-
visaged with the tasks of cognition taken into con-
sideration (or just the reverse, by only considering the
impact of the subject of cognition). Now it is some-
times suggested to reduce the concept of the object to
immediate objects of study, i.e. to sources (Grushin
1961, 12f, 74; Rakitov 1969, 174), and the concept of
subject matter to the sum of the aims or tasks of cog-
nition (Rakitov 1964, 375). These suggestions seem
unlucky. First of all they introduce again an unnecess-
ary synonymous nature, a duplication of terms. Sec-
ondly they return again to a view of reality as exclus-
ively separate from the tasks of cognition and the con-
cept thereby disappears in which they could unite.
Besides, it is hardly fruitful to take away the laws and
regularities from the object.
Suggestions also occur to place with the term of
subject matter of the discipline the community of
knowledge on the object, the reection of the object
in the sign system of science and the like, i.e. the result
of research activity (Sadovskij 1965; Melnikov 1967,
21; cf. Rakitov 1971, 3763, 75). However, here the
necessary terms are also present without such desig-
nation (knowledge, facts, evidence, theories).
Such understanding can only produce doubts in the
necessity of the very distinction of object and sub-
ject matter (cf. Trudzik 1971, 5558). Besides,
through such understanding the aspect of the con-
sideration is also ruined and the concept fades away
that was able to grasp the activity, which is the actual
purpose of research cognition.
As the tasks of the cognition are an important com-
ponent of the subject matter of the discipline their
presence or absence is told in the whole of its struc-
ture. That part of the reality which is involved in both
the object and subject matter of the discipline is dis-
membered within the subject matter. Two poles can
be recognised in it (Zak 1968: 456462, 471, cf. Raki-
tov 1969: 169178):
(A) Extrinsic phenomena accessible by direct obser-
vation and registration these are immediate
objects or initial materials, sources or rec-
(B) Intrinsic, hidden essentials (laws, causal links etc.)
which while characterising the object are just de-
sirable, outlined and attainable aims of studying
these are aims of cognition.
The task of science, Marx noted, consists in reduc-
ing the visible movement only manifested in the phe-
nomenon to the actual inner movement. This divi-
sion is important for the determination of the distinct-
ness of a particular discipline. The right of a
13 Metaarchaeology
particular discipline for its separation, for the isolation
of its own subject matter, is determined rstly by the
specicity of initial materials (sources), demanding a
special methodical apparatus (Sommerwill 1960,
155190; Kelle and Kovalzon 1966, 52). The distinc-
tiveness of a discipline is also given by the homogen-
eity and coherence of the entire chain of methods,
techniques and procedures leading from these initial
materials to the aims of cognition (Frolov 1968, 152
179). Thirdly it is given by the systemic tie or unity of
those entities which are the aims of cognition (Sokolov
1972, 7172; Zotov 1973, 29f).
The subject matter of a discipline is broader, and
by comparison its knowledge is the more complete
part. Therefore optimally separated subject matter of
a particular discipline is reached when all the three
conditions are met above. If some of them cannot be
realised at an outlined version of the subject matter
separation, it is evident that the subject matter is sep-
arated unreasonably, and one must change its borders
by dividing up some sources, and leave further ad-
vancement of the deeper aims to another discipline.
The nal aims of cognition of each large piece of re-
ality, those characterising the object, are not necess-
arily immediate aims of all disciplines studying this
piece of reality, this object. The modern process of
the research cognition is deeply divided (Ovchinnikov
1968, 26, 27, 29 on the justication of dismem-
bering of the subject matter).
There is no agreement among archaeologists as to the
question of the subject matter of archaeology. The
only point on which all concur is in the determination
of immediate objects of archaeological studies. These
are material antiquities regarded as sources for knowl-
edge of life and culture of past peoples and their soci-
eties. Perhaps the specicity of these sources is ac-
knowledged as sufciently evident. Obtaining, regis-
tering and ordering of these materials, even if only
briey, is something as a matter-of-course for any
understanding of the tasks of the discipline (Spaulding
1960, 439). Views on this are divergent, not only now
but also in the past. From the previous development
of archaeology, metaarchaeology also inherited the
discussion on the determination of the subject matter
of archaeology, in which certain positions were
reached long ago.
(1) One line of continuation stretches from Renais-
sance collectors or antiquaries who gradually became
archaeologists. Ancient artefacts, or antiques, were
initially valued merely as extremely curious. Later, as
unique items were selected they became types of
monuments, and nally, since the 19th century they
have been regarded as sources. Thus mass material
has also acquired archaeological value. It is the prep-
aration of such materials that the tasks of archaeology
are limited to according to this tradition. The cog-
nition itself can be allotted to other disciplines, rst of
all history, to which archaeology surrenders the pre-
pared material. It appears as a source-studying disci-
pline, subject matter may be reduced to sources and
records (Bulle 1913; Niemeyer 1968; Rouse 1972).
This conception is expressed by the motto Archaeol-
ogy is the handmaid of history, or as the Americans
would express it, the handmaid of anthropology.
Sometimes in archaeological materials, especially
in recent decades, a self-depending interest is con-
sidered, an interest connected with the cognition of
material culture as a part of culture in general (Deetz
1967; Clarke 1968; Dunnell 1971, 116). But this cog-
nition is understood in a cultural-anthropological
spirit, as a notion that can reveal general laws. In
opposition to this Paul Courbin effusively defends the
old position, claiming that the establishment of facts
is the archaeologists proper role and mission, the
thing that distinguishes him from all the para-ar-
chaeologists because he is capable of doing this
work, and he is the only one capable of doing it cor-
rectly ... (1982; 1988).
(2) The other line of continuation begins from his-
torians, philologists and anthropologists who as-
sembled tangible remains of the past and became ar-
chaeologists. Classicists were the rst in line, attracted
by the possibility of illustrating the subjects of ancient
authors with artefacts and monuments, to yield new
ethnographic texts and later, the chance to put to-
gether the history of visual arts.
Then scholars studying illiterate peoples and
epochs became involved too. Considering survival in
the culture of modern civilised peoples and com-
paring survival with the culture of contemporary un-
civilised peoples, they established the existence of the
14 Acta Archaeologica
illiterate, prehistoric period in the past of civilised
peoples. Having established this period they placed
their hopes in archaeological remains as the main
sources of studying this period. For the study of pre-
literate periods these sources were considered nearly
the only ones, at least as important as written sources
for the study of the next period, and in addition much
more objective than them (Bernheim 1889) and more
simple. Hence, for these scholars prehistory practi-
cally coincided with primordial (prehistoric) archaeol-
ogy (Mortillet 1883; Dechelette 1908; Daniel 1950;
Narr 1957), and the separation of a special source-
studying discipline was thought unnecessary. This
understanding is well expressed in the title of Leroi-
Gourhans (1961) article on archaeology, History
without Texts. Or in the same vein as Arcikhovskiy
said, archaeology is history armed with a spade.
In contrast is the archaeology of the literate times
of the classical, medieval and other periods, which is
treated as an auxiliary discipline that provides illustra-
tive material for history and is regarded as a supple-
ment to history. Alternatively it is identied with the
ancient history of visual arts, as an individual branch
of history (Conze 1869; Furtwngler 1908: 231;
Rumpf 1953; Narr 1957; Deetz 1967), or else it is
attached to prehistoric archaeology as a branch of
history, homogenous with it and only conditionally
separated. In this case they all are fused with history
due to sharing the same subject matter with it, namely
the historical process. The subject matter is reduced
to the nal aims of cognition. Correspondingly,
Randsborg (1997: 189) distinguishes traditional his-
tory based on the written texts and history based
on past material reality, or, archaeology.
(3) Lastly the third line of subject matter. In the
extent of one discipline it is supposed to have all the
stages of cognition from preparation to the histori-
cal interpretation predetermined by it. The subject
matter is considered broadly, and two levels are dis-
tinguished within it, source-studying and interpreta-
tion (Jacks handbook after Dikshit 1960; Sankalia
1965). An intermediate level is also possible which
operates as a history of culture (Sophus Mller 1898;
Crawford 1960). Sometimes this intermediate level is
declared as nal for archaeology (Brndsted 1938).
From this double notion on the division of subject
matter in two branches of archaeology, two disciplines
even, some archaeologists infer two different pro-
fessions (Rouse 1968, 12; Moberg 1969; Board
1982). An archaeologist is and must be an all-purpose
specialist according to this opinion (whether he can
be is another question, not put forward by these ar-
chaeologists). As to the direct studies of material an-
tiquities (description, classication etc.), they some-
times separate it into a special branch of archaeol-
ogy Ja. A. Shers and Ju. N. Zaharuks
archaeological source-study, or C.-A. Mobergs
archaeography (Sher 1966; Zaharuk 1970c; Mo-
berg 1969, 42).
The empiricist notion of history as the simple
chronological exposition of facts that speak for them-
selves (Ranke, Langlois and Segnobos, et al.), naturally
reduced the whole scientic procedure to preparing
the sources and, consequently, history reduced to
source-studies. With such an approach archaeology
had the same right to be termed history as the anal-
ogous preparation of written sources. To consider it
part of history or a separate parallel discipline would
fall into complete dependence on the appraisal of the
specicity of records and not least on the ambitions
of archaeologists. The neo-Kantian expulsion of laws
from history and neo-Positivist eviction of causal links
lead to the same consequences.
Some historians however admitted that the main
business of history is the revealing and judgement of
hidden connections between events and the search for
laws in causal links (Bernheim). Quite different conse-
quences for archaeology issued from this understand-
ing of history. According to such understanding the
main business of a historian, after source-studying
processing of materials, corporeal or written artefacts,
is to begin with the historical synthesis. This is quite
a complicated business. Hence the choice. If we ac-
knowledge that the preparation of sources is compar-
ably simple and similar in character to the procedure
of synthesis, then it is possible to equate source-study-
ing with synthesis, thus regarding them both as one
discipline called history. The processing of written
sources was frequently treated in precisely this man-
ner because both at the descriptive and synthesising
stages the scholar deals with sentences written on
paper. Archaeology was less often viewed this way
because the procedures of processing and of synthesis
are evidently dissimilar. In the case of archaeology
15 Metaarchaeology
one can of course call this merged discipline archae-
ology, but in fact a discipline parallel to history is
actually intended, i.e. another history, or a history
without texts as it were.
However, with the development of source-studying,
the drive becomes stronger to admit that the pro-
cessing of sources is quite a complicated business and
strikingly different to the procedure of synthesis. If
so, the processing of sources, both the written and
especially the archaeological sources, must be separ-
ated into special disciplines. Here, only the role of the
source-studying discipline, the handmaiden of history,
remains as a part of archaeology.
Certainly, many archaeologists will not be able to
resist putting forward historical interpretations and
conrming them with the facts they have gathered (or
can gather); some of them ... will formulate behavi-
oural laws, cultural laws. But where they were, in a
way, irreplaceable during the establishment of facts,
by this stage anthropologists and historians will be
able advantageously to take their place ... Archae-
ologists can become historians, epigraphists, or
anthropologists: but as happens every time one leaves
ones speciality, the result will perhaps or probably
not be as good as if the work were done by a historian
or an anthropologist. It would be no doubt better to
use a specialist. Otherwise specialisation has no value,
and absolutely anything can do absolutely anything
.... And perhaps some archaeologists will be earnest
historians ... The important thing is that he be aware
that, in doing this, he is acting not as an archaeologist
but as an anthropologist or a historian. He is no
longer doing archaeology, but something else
(Courbin 1988, 154, 151).
Not all of this is a scholastic debate. The discussion is
connected with philosophical and social positions and
they have a direct consequence for the practice of
research activity and teaching.
The acceptance of the rst, narrowly object-
oriented, point of view on the subject matter of ar-
chaeology can lead and frequently leads to the break
away of archaeology from history and sociology. Ar-
chaeologists close themselves within studies of all that
is antiquarian, lose the aim of the studies and, even if
studying things intensively, fail to obtain from them
the information that is necessary for historical and
sociological reconstructions. V. I. Ravdonikas (1930)
accused the Soviet archaeologists of an older gener-
ation of this and W. Taylor (1948, 4594) showed how
it occurred with the domestic (in this case American)
Taxonomists. P. Martin (1968) demonstrated this with
an example of Conjunctivists, the followers of Taylor.
Concurrently historians and sociologists either do not
use archaeological sources at all or undertake sheer
dilettante attacks of little signicance on archaeology.
Historians have no special methods of interpretation
of archaeological material (Hachmann 1970, 11).
The establishment of the second, narrowly aim-
oriented, point of view which dominated several dec-
ades of Soviet archaeology is also associated with un-
desirable consequences. The specicity of archae-
ological records and their fundamental incom-
pleteness are forgotten, leading to a tendency to solve
broad historical and sociological problems (for in-
stance those of ethnogenesis) exclusively with archae-
ological material alone, and with methods of archae-
ology, while ignoring the important, sometimes cru-
cial role of other sources, such as linguistic or
ethnographic sources (cf. thereabouts Klejn 1969, 21
35). In an attempt to compensate for their absence in
areas of sociology and history, archaeologists make
crude criticism of the study of ethnonims, toponims,
folklore etc. (thereabouts Propp 1962, 8791; Ni-
konov 1965, 45; Filin 1972, 25; Klejn 1991b; 1998).
It is as if archaeology duplicates history, but this
other history appears biased and weak. In lecture
courses not an as-if but what manifests itself is the
real duplication of history of primordial society by
archaeology, partly of ancient and medieval history.
In order to avoid duplication, it appears necessary to
schematise history of primordial society and to illus-
trate it with ethnographic examples, while the basic
aims of archaeology remain to make a survey of sites
and cultures chronologically, as found in standard
texts on archaeology. Also signicant is the changing
titles given to courses on archaeology. It was initially
termed Introduction to Archaeology, which was
later to be changed to Basics of Archaeology, and
eventually ended being called Basics of Archaeology
of the USSR. Although the meaning of the word
archaeology in the designation of course titles
16 Acta Archaeologica
changed somewhat unnoticed, it actually began as an
archaeology that designated a discipline, but which
by the end had undergone a shift in meaning to an
archaeology that was the sum total of material an-
tiquities, chronologically and regionally ordered and
supplied with historical comments. A demand of pub-
lications emerges to include not only processed ma-
terials of excavations but obligatory and well-founded
historical and sociological inferences too (Artamonov
1959: 58; Houbowicz 1961). This greatly hinders
the publication of the nds and sometimes leads to
publication of inferences instead of materials.
The compromising third point of view, where a
broad subject matter is conceived, does not win great
acceptance. As yet its advocates have not succeeded
in showing that the tasks of studying both parts of
such broad subject matter as material antiquities and
the life of ancient societies are possible by means of
one and the same discipline, without including the
sources with other specicity. There is no hope that
it is possible to unite the properties of both parts of
the subject matter, to show their common features,
while still achieving coherence and continuity in the
chain of methods. In practice this compromise point
of view appears reduced to one of the above ex-
tremes, more often to the third one, with which it has
in common an imposition onto archaeology of the
functions of history and sociology and their social and
political role, something that many archaeologists
long for. Another point relevant to these conceptions
of archaeologys subject matter is the separation be-
tween prehistory and archaeology. From a narrowly
object-oriented viewpoint on the subject-matter of ar-
chaeology, prehistory is a separate discipline, while
the other viewpoints see a fusion between archaeology
and prehistory.
With the separation of archaeology from prehistory,
history and sociology now nd more and more sup-
port in archaeology (Grigorev 1973, 4143; Bochkar-
ev 1973, 5660; Klejn 1977d; 1978b; 1991c; 1993;
Tabaczynski & Pleszczynska 1974, 1013; Hensel,
Donato and Tabaczynski 1986). Despite current
prejudice (Clarke 1968, 1213; Masson 1973, 4649),
this separation does not demand the acceptance of
archaeology as the handmaiden of history or necess-
arily the full break of archaeology from history. Nei-
ther does it entail the loss of history and sociology in
archaeology. Inclusion of truncated archaeology
into a deep staged process of cognition is denitely
possible. In a number of contemporary works an idea
is held that archaeology creates a new historical
source from its materials, a system of antiquities
which becomes an important object of palaeohistory
(prehistory and early history) and has the form of a
written source (Labuda 1957, 22; Grigorev 1973: 41;
Bochkarev 1973, 59, abs.11; Lebedev 1973, 57; Gen-
ing 1975, 11). Feedback from archaeology to history
is stressed too at the selection of attributes and other
operations (Sher 1970, g. 1; Bochkarev 1973, 58).
Archaeology separates to a certain extent from his-
tory, like in the rst conception, but does not break
entirely from history.
For this a considerable modication of the rst
point of view is necessary. Suggestions of some con-
temporary researchers are directed on such modi-
cation. These researchers introduce into the subject
matter of archaeology not only things with their sim-
plest order but also the system of deeper connections
and relations into which these things are included
(Grigorev 1973, 42). Yet these connections and re-
lations have many levels of complexity, and ultimately
everything that proponents like Binford of the third
point of view want to introduce into the subject mat-
ter of archaeology, such as laws of historical process,
can be represented as the last and deepest level of
complexity. Then we return to the middle and broad
treatment of the subject matter of archaeology, if not
to the third, narrowly-aimed one. The point is how-
ever to determine the reasonable limit on which the
penetration of archaeology as a special science into
the depth of these connections and relations must
reach. Such a shift will x the fourth understanding
of the subject matter of archaeology, also a middle
road between the rst and the third one, though
rather narrow in character.
The cognition in the frames of a single discipline must
continue until the point where the systemic connec-
17 Metaarchaeology
tion between its materials is discovered and the total-
ity of facts appear in the system of functional links.
Yet neither the sum of antiquities nor the restored
material culture constitute an integer system. They
are blocks of such a system that are isolated, unclosed,
separated on the basis of second-rate attributes of ma-
terial and safety. Such a system would be culture,
which leads archaeologists to take the study of ma-
terial antiquities to the level on which these antiqui-
ties are included into the system of culture recorded
in statics and dynamics.
Meanwhile culture as a whole cannot become the
subject matter of archaeology because an adequate
study of it in statics and dynamics demands a huge
involvement and application of other methods. Only
one aspect of culture enters the subject matter of ar-
chaeology as its nal unit, and this aspect includes
material antiquities in the system of functional links
within culture. The basis of this inclusion consists of
three processes:
(1) Continuous development of culture with inte-
gration, disintegration, convergence and interac-
tion of local cultures (Artanovskij 1967, 2650;
84207; Sokolov 1972, 5891);
(2) objectication, i.e. conversion of ideas and
events into material things (Deetz 1967, 105134);
(3) archaeologisation, i.e. egress out of life, trans-
formation of results of objectication into artefacts
and monuments (Eggers 1959, 199297; Bochkar-
ev 1973, 59f). This process contains its own causal
mechanisms and regularities, and they of course
crop up in the subject matter of archaeology.
If these considerations are correct, then there are
three levels of depth in the subject matter of ar-
chaeology: 1) things and their relationships, 2)
phenomena, events of the past, and 3) their in-
clusion into the system of culture and into the cul-
tural-historical process. This allows a category com-
position of the subject matter of archaeology to be
determined as follows:
(1) The material antiquities per se as remains of the
defunct material culture of the past.
(2) Their links and relationships in the system of cul-
ture with each other, with other elements of cul-
ture and with particular chains of the cultural-
historical process.
(3) Regularities and causal mechanisms in the basis
of all these links and relationships.
This means in particular that the concerns of ar-
chaeology are not limited, as V. S. Bochkarev
(1973, 5960) supposes, with the separation of ar-
chaeological cultures. The formation of track se-
quentions is still involved entirely in the competence
of archaeology. These sequentions look like genetic
lines but are only cultural traditions. It is in these
catenae or chains of cultures that the historical pro-
cess has owed (Klejn 1973, 14; 1974, 4748).
This means that the so-called historical reconstruc-
tions of phenomena (authochtoneity, migrations, in-
uences, transformations etc.) are the business of an
archaeologist, not of a historian. But the causal ex-
planation of these events and revealing of laws gov-
erning them is in the main not the business of an
archaeologist. These problems are of particular con-
cern to an archaeologist but only from one side. He
returns to their elaboration only as soon as it allows
him to establish the systemic link between his ma-
terials, to form sequences. In the rest, despite the
directives of L. Binford (1967, 267275), these
problems retreat to the competence of historians
and sociologists. It is here the border lies.
Under such an understanding, the subject matter
of archaeology does not appear to be the work of
history, a part or duplicate of history, or an absolutely
independent discipline. It emerges as a methodologic-
ally independent and a particular social-historical
discipline. Social-historical in the same sense as can
be said for ethnography, linguistics, literary criticism
etc. It has its own subject matter with specic initial
materials, its methods, and its theories. It can advance
in the role of a source-studying discipline in relation
to other disciplines, as do ethnography, linguistics,
and philology. Similar ways out of archaeology lead
into sociology, history, culturology, history of culture
disciplines synthetic by nature. Ambitions of status
and overt, though well meant, pretension of alien
roles do not support its authority. Archaeology is a
discipline of a narrower but sufciently important
purpose and to ensure a fruitful integration of it with
other disciplines one must rst delimit archaeology,
18 Acta Archaeologica
clearly determining its functions and localising its sub-
ject matter.
Reluctance to take into account the borders of
disciplines and a trend towards archaeology losing its
subject matter has a long tradition in the Soviet
Union. Besides the methodological substantiation
critically considered here, this tradition creates posi-
tive ideational stimuli too: a trend towards the inte-
gration of disciplines, overcoming the worship of
facts, and the rise of the authority of history.
However if the specicity of different types of
sources demands differences in methods of pro-
cessing, then there is a basis for two disciplines: ar-
chaeology and source-studying of texts. To provide
synthesis this should naturally be carried out in one
discipline. But if synthesis is necessary then it is a
question of which discipline to tackle the problem
with. Archaeology should be allowed to attain what
it reasonably can from the materials accessible to it,
carried out to the extent that the methods it has de-
veloped will allow. This would be far more benecial
both to archaeology and to history. Let us render
what is Caesars to the Caesar of archaeology and
what is Gods to the God of history.
19 Metaarchaeology
3. Archaeological sources
The term archaeological sources (arkheologicheskie
istochniki) is widely used in Soviet/Russian archaeol-
ogy and in the archaeology of formerly Socialist coun-
tries; it appears both in general handbooks and in the
titles of certain works (Arkheologija ab 1961; Hou-
bowicz 1961; Kameneckij et al. 1975; Klejn 1978b).
Due to the extensive use of the term it conveys the im-
pression that it is natural and commonly accepted. Ad-
ditionally that it is understandable and always used in
this matter-of-course meaning. Yet this is not the case.
Even skimming through the main pre-Revolution
Russian handbooks on archaeology by Uvarov, Gor-
odcov or Spicyn, or the Proceedings of Russian Ar-
chaeological Congresses, is enough to be convinced
that they are concerned with archaeological monu-
ments, sites or materials, but they were not
usually called sources. In modern Western usage
the terms corresponding to our Russian archaeologi-
cal sources are in general known. They are present
in archaeological vocabulary in German as archaol-
ogische Quellen and in French as sources archeolo-
giques. Yet the full correspondence only occurs in
continental Europe. In English the similar term ma-
terial sources is very seldom used. In its place we
meet the term archaeological records. The word
record carries the meaning of a xed message,
registration or entry. While the word source implies
the possibility of using information, the word rec-
ord is abstracted from this aspect and stresses only
the imposed nature of the information onto the ob-
ject. In general, even if these terms are used in foreign
literature, they occur not in an archaeological par-
lance but in general theoretical considerations in phil-
osophy and methodology of history. In the archae-
ological literature they are hardly ever encountered
(some exceptions will be considered later). In contexts
where they could be expected, other terms appear:
archaeological evidence, archaeological data,
archaeological monuments, archaeological nds
(German Bodendenkmaler, Bodenfunde), ar-
chaeological documents (German archaologische
Urkunden) etc.
In order to understand what archaeological sources
are and to learn how to deal with them correctly,
one needs rst and foremost to determine their place
among other sources of information, to reveal the
specicity of archaeological sources and clear up their
interrelationship with the concept historical
sources. This means complementing the historical
approach with the structural approach and consider-
ing the concept archaeological sources in the estab-
lished system of concepts characterising and serving
the research cognition. Only in the system, in a net
of connections and relations can each concept receive
adequate completeness of determination, and only
from this can a clear-cut notion on its functions and
on the limits of its application emerge.
In each theory, the scholar who wants to work
strictly and methodically will usually meet with har-
monious and rigid systems, systems of main concepts
necessary for the given theory. Yet such systems
emerging in different theoretical trends are often in-
compatible. The most general concepts of a discipline
are called to serve and connect its different theories
and even different disciplines. In real functioning such
concepts gradually accommodate themselves to each
other and spontaneously constitute one system, al-
though it does not always appear complete and clear-
cut at once. The task emerges to order and specify
this system beginning from its most general parts.
Every positive discipline has its own factual base.
The facts constitute this base, the initial data, and
the concrete evidence on objective reality, which this
discipline elaborates on with its methods and en-
lightens with its theories. Each of these disciplines iso-
lates, carefully seeks and systematises those objects
and processes in which data necessary for it are con-
tained. These are its means of obtaining information
and they differ in structure. As a rule any given disci-
pline does not limit itself by one kind of means but
nevertheless some are more important than others.
There are disciplines on functional dependencies,
behaviour etc. (biology, sociology, psychology) for
which the main such means is natural observation. Other
disciplines like physics and chemistry are supported
by experiment the observer intervenes in the investiga-
20 Acta Archaeologica
tive process and changes its conditions in order to
trace how it can be explained and thus to grant the
cognition of hidden mechanisms. There are certain
disciplines, for instance linguistics and geography,
which need comparatively less to organise special ob-
servation. They use mainly contemporary materials al-
ways accessible to description and act as the main
object of immediate study. Then there are other
disciplines whose objects accessible being analysed
have by themselves secondary interest but which are
important for the discipline in question primarily as
mediators which transfer the information, or in other
words as sources. It is from sources that one can extract
evidence about the events of the past which this disci-
pline strives to cognise about. Such disciplines deal
with processes of development during the past (palae-
ontology, history, historical geology, historical litera-
ture etc.).
In Russian the word source generally means any
reservoir or opening from which something ows out
of or can be derived from. In the direct sense it is a
spring, the beginning of a brook. In the gurative
sense it is an object from which information, evidence
or knowledge can be obtained about another object,
and it is only due to this property that the rst object
is interesting for us in some context. Only in this con-
text does the object appear a source. It is in this sense
that newspapers use this word when they refer to
diplomatic sources or to ofcial, governmental
sources etc.
In describing their means of obtaining facts his-
torians characterise the specicity of their discipline,
the peculiarity and difculty of the initial methodolog-
ical situation in normal historical study. The facts in-
teresting for a scholar are very frequently inaccessible
to his immediate observation and effect.
At the same time this statement stresses the com-
plexity too, the cognitive depth of those objects that
are accessible and liable to immediate investigation
of a historian: chronicles, treaties etc. Indeed, being
themselves facts of the past products of a certain
time, a certain medium and certain actions, like the
creative work of a chronicler or the recording of
diplomatic negotiations they contain information on
some other, more distant facts of the past, facts often
especially important for the historian. These are facts
about bygone migrations of peoples, about extinct (at
the time of recording) customs and incidents, on wars,
donations and so on. This rich information is ac-
cumulated by the conscience of bygone informants
and expressed in sign systems especially predestined
for transmitting the information, mainly in the natu-
ral language of human communication, the language
of words. In other cases this deep information is as-
sociated with regular connection of phenomena from
when some phenomena can be judged from others.
Then it is recognised only by the conscience of an
investigating historian whose conscience equates this
regular link to a sign system. Through it, he proceeds
from immediate evidences to inferred ones. In such
ways this bygone reality becomes accessible to histori-
cal conscience.
The reection theory accepted in Marxism claims
independence and priority of the reected object as
viewed against the surroundings but it does not re-
duce the result of the reection (the image) to the
reected object, and it does not consider the image
and the object identical to each other. It takes into
account the active character of the cognition process,
the possibility of removal of the image from the ob-
ject, of the cognition from the reality. In such formu-
lation this theory accumulates conventional general
ideas of Materialistic philosophy and does not contra-
dict sound reasoning. However the possibilities of
mismatch of an image with the object remained unre-
ned in the Marxist-Leninist theory of reection; as
applied to the practice of research it usually struggled
for rapprochement of the image with the object. In-
stead it preferred simplications and reduced every-
thing to direct correspondence.
Historical cognition can be considered as a specic
kind of a reection (Ivanov 1962; 1963; 1973a;
1973b; Danilov 1963; Pushkarev 1970, 6484), and it
is especially clear how complicated in reality the pro-
cess of reection can be. This is an indirect reection,
which as a rule is made without direct contact with
the object of reection by the investigator. It is out-
stretched in time, with its distribution in phases and
with delay (Fig. 1). First objects are reected in the
conscience of observers where these images are xed
and expressed in a sign system. Later the images are
passed to other people while being complemented en
route with new results of reection, and are xed
again anew. If we isolate one such xation that im-
21 Metaarchaeology
Fig. 1. Historical cognition: reection in written sources.
printed not only old images but also the condition of
their selection and xation, this is altogether just a
source. After a while, usually a long interval, this x-
ation is perceived by an investigator-historian and
xed again in his conscience and in a sign system.
The reection appears multi-step like in a periscope,
but the mirrors of this periscope are displaced in time
and they are disconnected. At the moment when the
investigator has perceived the images in their nal
form, the initial objects and many intermediate forms
are already gone. When the ray reaches the eyeglass,
many mirrors that it had passed are gone, let alone
the very objects. Checking is extremely difcult but
this is the nature of historical cognition.
Sources are an important chain in the machinery
of reection characteristic for historical cognition. It
is the sources that ensure the agency between the per-
ceived reality of the past and the subject of cognition,
the historian-investigator. They contain the connec-
tions between times and the information contained in
them is realised in images (Gulyga 1965). An image
contains some general features expressible in abstrac-
tions. But it unites them with individual features, pe-
culiar, and inherent only in the given piece of reality.
Like in any reection, by and large images could not
emerge in sources if there were no objects (prototypes)
ready to be reected, or if there were no systems able
to provide the reection.
In early stages of the development of Positivist his-
torical knowledge the reality of objects was viewed as
self-evident and the validity of images did not raise
doubts. The reecting system seemed simple, obedi-
ent and easily controllable. Later, there was an upris-
ing of scepticism and frustration in historical studies.
Real objects may remain hidden behind this array of
images but not necessarily behind each one in par-
ticular. Historians recognised the activity and com-
plexity of the reecting system and became terried
at the size of its contribution to the formation of im-
ages. It had lost not only the credulous nature of the
22 Acta Archaeologica
images, but the credit for the reality of their proto-
types. What a historian sees in a source depends on
his preparation, education and talent, on the level
and activity of his conscience. The more he knows,
the more he will see (Collingwood 1956, 237).
Indeed, the reecting system of historical cognition
deserves some attention. Included in such a system
are observers, informants, creators of sources and the
sources themselves as well as source-studying special-
ists and the users of historical information. However,
as the mental reection is not mechanical, not mirror-
like, and not direct and not repeatable in history, and
as images are not identical to the objects in principle,
there is no sense in attempting to look behind each
image for an object imprinted exactly in it. Images
can be more or less near to real prototypes and can
be absolutely distorted and complete fantasy. Of
course there is the possibility of checking if and how
the images correlate with the objects (prototypes), but
this checking in the historical cognition is very dif-
cult due to its specicity.
In principle there are two main possibilities of mak-
ing such a proof. Either to collate the obtained images
with what is known from other sources about the
same objects, or to monitor the most vulnerable mo-
ment of reection, risking injury and frequently lead-
ing to the appearance of distorted images, i.e. to con-
trol the creation of the source. Data for such a control
are partly contained in the source itself and partly in
other sources enlightening this source as a fact of the
past. Thus, there are at least two kinds of evidence in
each source: a) images of certain objects in relation to
which this source serves only as the means of reec-
tion, and b) images-facts of which a part is the source
itself as an event of the life. The point is reached of
asking whether there is historical information con-
tained in the sources. The answer is both yes and no.
One should not imagine that historical information
is contained in a source like milk in a jug. If the jug
is tipped the milk will spill and as much as was orig-
inally poured into the jug will run out; its state inside
will be the same outside the jug. And it retains one
and the same calorie content whoever drinks it. It is
not so with historical information. It does not exist
beforehand in the source, but neither is the infor-
mation brought in from outside. Rather, it grows
from information on the sources on the past (poten-
tial historical information) during the process of its
consumption. It does not ow by itself from the
source it must be extracted, by squeezing the source
like a vessel, by turning it inside out. Its quantity and
quality depend not only on the objects of reection
but also on by whom and how this information is
extracted and consumed. In that milk or cream
form in which it is often imaged, it exists neither in
archaeological sources nor in any historical sources in
their initial state. In that sense historical and archae-
ological sources are similar.
Thus if not all sources that inform about the past
are historical sources, they nevertheless all deserve
careful checking for aptitude in this respect. Any of
them can still appear as such in the future and all
need an attentive attitude. It has been a point of dis-
cussion among Russian theoreticians of source-study-
ing to consider whether it would be worthwhile to
include a special category, a potential historical
source or pre-source category, into the concept
apparatus of source studies.
There are different methods by which to group his-
torical sources epochs, territories, themes etc. Most
customary is division by way of reection, in texts,
corporeal (material), or lingual etc. L. N. Pushkarev
(1975) suggested the most exact denition of this cri-
terion, in which classication was made by the
method of coding and keeping the information in the
source. From the viewpoint of the information ap-
proach now widely applied in many disciplines, infor-
mation contained in any objects can be convention-
ally considered as messages made up in some sign
systems or in certain languages, i.e. enciphered in a
certain clue. In order to read these messages and ex-
tract information one must know this clue or code.
But it appears differently in different kinds of sources
as soon as information is extracted from them in vari-
ous ways.
Strictly speaking by this criterion we distinguish
four groups among historical sources as well as in gen-
eral among sources of information on the past: 1) lin-
gual or speech sources (written and oral), 2) behavi-
oural (customs, rituals, games etc.), 3) material, and 4)
gurative. If one keeps to conventional use of words it
is clear that the path to the denition of archaeologi-
cal sources goes via the concept material (corporeal)
23 Metaarchaeology
In the direct sense of the words archaeological sources
are those sources which are relevant to the concerns
of a special discipline called archaeology. This means
that these are sources deserving separation into a
special category by considerations of a methodical
character. In order to extract information from them
a special professional preparation and training is
needed, special methods, a special set of concepts, in
a word a special discipline. Intuitive understanding of
such a necessity emerged long ago, and a discipline
was spontaneously formed; archaeology was estab-
lished. Initially, since classical times until the 18th
century the term archaeology in full correspon-
dence with its literal sense (from the Greek a|caioV,
ancient and logoV, a word, learning, or knowl-
edge) designated a very broad branch of knowledge,
that of any true evidence about the ancient past.
Since the 19th century the meaning of the term
narrowed to the study of material monuments of an-
tiquity. This was probably necessary as this subject
matter demanded specialisation. But because this oc-
curred spontaneously and was not substantiated the-
oretically, these naturally formed borders and func-
tions of such a formed discipline were often damaged.
Moreover, suggestions were frequently advanced to
change its borders to shift them or to broaden them,
or to annihilate such a discipline completely. This can
be illustrated by several examples. In the rst text-
book on archaeology published under the Soviet
power it was stated that both material and written
sources on the ancient belong to the competence of
archaeology. What, then, distinguishes it from his-
tory? An inclination of interest to the material side of
things and chronological depth. The author of the
textbook, the prominent historian S. A. Zhebelev
(1923, 4, 27, 130), apparently did not acknowledge
in material sources any specicity important for the
methods of research. He held that any special ar-
chaeological method is hardly necessary to invent,
similarly there is no reason to speak of some special
attitude in studying archaeology.
In 1932 in the introduction to a most authoritative
collaborative work, Handbuch der Archaologie, the
inuential German archaeologist E. Buschor (1969, 3)
stated that there is not any special archaeological
method, and that methodical tricks are the individ-
ual business of each investigator. In his opinion an
archaeologist is anyone who attributes a thing
formed by a mans hand to the past epoch, while
archaeological sources are simply a mirror in which
an archaeologist sees historical life (my emphasis
L. K.). Objectivity of a researcher depends entirely on
the investigators acumen and power of observation.
Meanwhile, to clarify the idea of archaeological
sources as a means of reection, they can be com-
pared to an optical device, in which they are likened
not to a mirror but to a periscope-like dive into the
past. This would not be a simple periscope like the
Minos eye (a simple periscope lowered by Lerici
into ancient burial chambers of the Etruscans), but a
much more complicated periscope consisting of a sys-
tem of mirrors: now straight, now concave, now con-
vex, now bizarrely distorted, and different ltres ro-
tating, opaque, coloured, etc. It would be foolish to
ignore this device on the pretext that it is not the
device itself that is interesting for us but the object
being observed through it. Without meticulous study-
ing of the device we cannot present, even mentally,
the object in its real form, and cannot understand
which real object is hidden behind that incomplete,
split and often senseless image which is presented to
our eye in the ocular.
Things as sources of information differ radically from
other sources of information by the way in which in-
formation is encoded in them and consequently by
the means of extracting it (Fig. 2). Why however is a
professional historian of traditional prole unable to
extract this information?
Any discipline functions only in the sphere of
thought and speech. History is no exception. As dis-
tinct from some other disciplines history is formulated
by means of everyday literary language. This means
that it operates with information expressed in con-
cepts, judgements and deductions exposed in natural
language with the help of some minimum of special
terminology. It is also how information is organised
in written sources in chronicles, memoirs, treaties
etc. This is why it is difcult to make sharp borders
between original sources (annals, memoirs), secondary
sources (compiled chronicles, chronicle convolute)
24 Acta Archaeologica
and academic works of historians. The elaboration of
pre-source for its transformation into a source does
not differ in principle from the main labour of a his-
torian from establishment of causal connections,
from trying to grasp interaction of laws and chances.
In both elds in written source-studies and in his-
tory a scholar confronts common concepts, throws
together and transforms everyday judgements in life
according to strict rules of logic.
So written source-studying is often worked out
completely in a professional way by the same his-
torian who thereafter uses the information obtained
for historical research. With material sources matters
stand otherwise. It is impossible to operate immedi-
ately with material things in the sphere of thought
and speech. Without preliminary remaking, infor-
mation xed in things is not suitable for scholarly use.
One must re-code it and do it twice. First one must
translate it from what is metaphorically called the
language of things to any of the natural languages;
to describe things and their relations. At this stage
one has to use special terminology much more than in
history. Then it is necessary, by comparing acquired
evidence with others, to establish what events and
processes of the past have been reected in the ma-
terial sources described. Only then does the infor-
mation obtained reach the form demanded by the
historical discipline.
It was once widely supposed that this was a very
simple task. Now however it is clear that to realise the
demanded re-coding of information of material things
is much more difcult than to translate a text from
one natural language to another, say from Russian to
German. Despite the polysemy of words and pliability
of their use, it is practically established that there is
plenty of very narrow correspondences between natu-
ral languages, and the context will prompt which of
them to choose. Material things are even more poli-
semic, or multiple in meaning. Full lists of all their
possible correspondences are not available, and their
context is often distorted.
The researcher takes the classical position of a de-
tective criminologist who notices a cigarette stub at
the scene of a crime. Has the stub been left by the
criminal, victim, witness or a chance passer-by who
saw nothing? Was the cigarette smoked during the
moment and at the spot of the event of interest for
the investigation, or had an ashtray been knocked and
the butt fallen out before the event? The list of poss-
ible correspondences between the things and events
is not limitless it is quite apparent the cigarette was
not smoked by a horse belonging to the criminal or
by the investigators dog but nevertheless the list is
very large, and it is difcult to grant its completeness.
Here one cannot rely on the simple expansion of
the professional training of a historian into the new
eld, one cannot do with the usual notions, life ex-
perience and sound reasoning. Absolutely new knowl-
edge is necessary, special methods and another disci-
pline is needed. For processing material evidence used
in law a special discipline is created, criminology.
Even more necessary is a special discipline for pro-
cessing ancient material sources because it is even
more difcult to elaborate on them.
For many a long day scholars observed only one es-
sential distinction in the earliest of ancient material
sources. The oldest sources available are sparse, mon-
otonous, and poorly preserved. From the Palaeolithic
period comes a plenitude of int tools and fragments
of bones, but the rest is badly preserved. In the Neo-
lithic ceramics appear in great abundance, and from
later epochs metallic ornaments, coins, and founda-
tions of buildings are found, albeit only very seldom
with things like wooden utensils and leather shoes.
Yet from the more recent past furs, laces, textiles,
paper etc. can still be found in a preserved state. An-
cient material sources are fragmentary and incom-
plete, but these are purely quantitative differences.
H. J. Eggers, the German archaeologist, was the
rst to give heed in 1950 to the qualitative differences
between the living material culture (eplebendes Gut)
studied by ethnographers, or observed by ancient in-
formants, and the dead material culture (totes Gut),
which falls into the hands of archaeologists (Eggers
In addition to this qualitative difference, archae-
ological sources are one-sided, caused by the uneven
preservation of different assemblages and the gaps
within them that cannot be compensated for. Indeed,
more often than not, things that found their way onto
the scrap-heap and into the garbage sediments of
25 Metaarchaeology
Fig. 2. Reection in archaeological record.
26 Acta Archaeologica
dwellings were items that had broken or were not
often needed, especially if they were simple to pro-
duce. Metal items would be used over and over again
for a long time. Fragments that had broken and been
ground off during production were not thrown away
but were re-melted for further production. Pots how-
ever do occasionally appear in rubbish heaps.
Archaeological sources can be intentional just like
written sources. The dead were not often laid into
graves wearing the clothes and accompanied with the
things which they used for daily use (living Christians
do not strut about in shrouds). For the next or other
world the dead were supplied with equipment espe-
cially selected according to conventional ritual, or
otherwise especially made for this purpose. In some
female burials of the Bronze Age in Central Europe
or Caucuses the sets of ornaments weigh so much that
it would be impossible to adorn them, it was possible
only to lie with them on. Golden ornaments of Scythi-
ans and Sarmatians are not always cast, frequently
they are only covered by a very thin gold leaf bearing
convex picture imprints. To wear such ornaments was
risky for they would crumple at once. They can be
placed into a grave however and the appearance is
magnicent, even though the total use of precious
metal is small. In a burial of a leader of the Scythian
time in Altay (Pazyryk barrows), as Professor Grjaz-
nov has established, the wooden details of the bridle,
different for each one of the nine horses, were pro-
duced by different artisans. Tribesmen probably do-
nated the horses as a burial sacrice, but it is doubtful
that the leader used such bridle when living. Thus
upon the transformation of the living culture into a
dead one its constitution was rebuilt and the rates of
its components were changed.
In the same work, but especially following it,
Eggers added considerations on subsequent changes
occurring to culture of the dead after its deposition,
that is, after its resting in the earth, on the earth or
underwater. In essence he has brought the reader to
the inference, without formulating it as such, that
however a dead culture differs from a living culture,
27 Metaarchaeology
the third state of culture differs even more; the re-
mains of a culture dead long ago the state in which
it properly speaking passes to the business of archaeol-
ogists (Eggers 1959: 262270). The term for the
changes leading to this state were later suggested by
David Clarke as post-depositional (Clarke 1973).
Changes affecting the culture of the dead act selec-
tively upon it. Different materials react differently to
long-term effect of chemical substances. Metals are
altered by corrosion, wood decays and falls to pieces,
bones can be better preserved, and stone and ce-
ramics resist well against time. This exaggerates the
disproportion between metals and ceramics in cul-
tural remains. Archaeologists nd ruins of settlements
almost devoid of metal but this does not mean that it
was absent from daily life. Yet these settlements are
over-saturated with ceramics there are literally
mountains of ceramics, but this does not necessarily
mean that when these settlements existed their houses
were full of all of these wares.
Not only the composition of the dead cultural ma-
terial changes but its layout and structure too. A river
can undermine a citadel and dislocate its remains,
and a coastal dune will be re-scattered by wind caus-
ing sediments of different epochs to be sprinkled into
the sand and mix together into one deposit. More
often still sharp changes are introduced by the activity
of people, such as re-digging of old deposits in a hill
fort with storage-pits, wells, and ditches for dwellings
etc., levelling of ground for fortications, clearing of
ruins, secondary use of building materials, robbing of
rich graves and so on.
When comparing antiquities with other material
sources Ju. N. Zakharuk noted their differences in
terms of diagnostic possibilities. Diagnostibility of an-
tiquities, i.e. the possibility to recognise and under-
stand them, sharply declines as compared to sources
of later origin. Younger sources are often more or less
known to the investigator or to his contemporaries
the things themselves or their apparent analogues, or
closely kindred things. Their functions are experi-
enced, their connections are congnised and their
place in the system of culture is made known. These
may be rather old things too, circulating for a long
time and may even have become defunct long ago.
Yet if such information about them is saved in the
memory of living people these are not antiquities. The
category of antiquities contains only those whose in-
formation is lost or severely distorted.
Russian terminology here is richer and more accu-
rate than the Western equivalent. In Western lan-
guages only one border among monuments of culture
is distinguished. It distinguishes modern or in general
younger objects from those that came from the depth
of a matter of centuries and are called antiquities
(in Russian drevnosti). This simplication conceals the
distinction between approaches of archaeologists and
ethnographers to the material remains of the past. It
would be simpler to use terminology with one border,
i.e. the division into two, if antiquities were the con-
cern of archaeology and modern things were the con-
cern of ethnography. Yet ethnography studies not only
things of modern life!
Eggers felt this lack of a concept and introduced an
additional term into his terminology. Between living
material culture and dead material culture he
placed one more term dying material culture
(sterbendes Gut), and in this way designated the
defunct, obsolete, out-of-date part of living material
culture. The border between the completely living
material culture and faintly living, or dying, runs in
different parts of material culture at different levels.
Everyday clothes are completely replaced on a wide-
spread basis in perhaps ve year cycles, but furniture
is only discarded with every generation or two, and
table silver and jewellery remain in a family for a
number of generations. Sometimes, however, things
of an age greater than this limit are kept in use, and
they are perceived as old-fashioned. While studying
ethnographic collections from Pomerania, Eggers has
noted that this state does not have an age limit, and
it is not equal in different parts of culture (Eggers
1959: 258261).
In other words, the dying culture also has an
opposite end behind which things are no longer util-
ised in peoples lives. They are not kept together with
more new ones but fall out completely into the dead
material culture and are deposited there. Desig-
nation of this stratum of dying culture, in some places
millennia old, is strangely enough not a commonly
accepted term in German, leaving Eggers termino-
28 Acta Archaeologica
logical innovations to remain only in his personal
In Russian there is another term, starina, which
comes from the word staryj meaning old, and it
belongs between the two extreme concepts antiqui-
ties and modern objects. Starina is everything
that emerged long ago and it no longer corresponds
to modern conditions, demands and standards. It is
everything that belongs to defunct types still circu-
lating in living culture which are applied or can be
applied because they are still understandable to com-
mon people in function and use. Material starina are
things technically or morally outdated, of obsolete or
defunct types, but preserved in living circulation or at
least in continuous possession of persons who know
how to use them until the moment when these
things come under observation or were extracted for
studying or collecting. These are materials of ethno-
graphic studies although these are not all materials of
Not everything old and decrepit is called starina.
A thing modern by type can simply be old if it was
produced long ago and if the type has still not become
archaic, or can be neglected if it is very worn out and
badly preserved. Some narrower concepts are anti-
quarian things and survivals. Antiquarian here are
antique things having value as a commodity and des-
ignated as such from this point of view. The term
survivals (perezhitki in Russian) is applied in the same
sense as in Western languages, but sometimes it only
covers musty ideas and stereotypes of behaviour, but
not things. To the latter the term relicts is applied
in this meaning. Naturally, monuments of the com-
parably recent past have more chances of receiving
the status of starina, although it is not time that is
the main criterion in question.
Antiquities are remains of the culture of the past,
usually of the distant past, separated from our lives
not only by a signicant interval of time but also im-
portantly by a break in tradition. It is such breaks that
hinder the understanding of the remains; one should
clear up the purpose of objects and search places of
fragments in the system of the whole. In a certain
sense antiquities take a similar place among monu-
ments of culture as fossil species do in biology. A spe-
cies is called fossil when it is now non-existent, and
ceased to exist before the beginning of biological
science. Both terms in biology and in history of
culture are determined not as applied to each single
object but to the whole typological totality; to a spe-
cies in biology, to a type in archaeology. In the
churches of Kievs Pechery Lavra divine service still goes
on today, but this is nevertheless an antiquity and ob-
ject of archaeology, since its functioning is a rare ex-
ception. All the other monuments of this type and
time were long ago left by their inhabitants or users
and since then have altered.
Material antiquities are things which, judging by
their type, fell into disuse long ago and were forgot-
ten, left in the earth, on the earth or underwater by
the time of their discovery by an observer. The ob-
server in this case is a scholar or a collector who ex-
tracted them from the environment for use not ac-
cording to the direct original destination, but as a
source of information on the past.
Although there are archaeological trends in which
regularities in history are accepted and which are op-
timistic towards reconstructions and explanations,
something else restrained theoreticians from reconcil-
ing the border of antiquities and archaeology with the
break of living memory. The point is that as a rule
memory about the events of long ago does not vanish
at once, it declines gradually. And with it explanatory
possibilities must decline gradually. Gradually and
smoothly the diagnostibility must weaken! If so,
changes on this scale would be quantitative and
smooth. This means that one can establish only con-
ventional or sliding borders.
Only recent studies in semiotics showed that this is
not so. The Russian archaeologist Vera Kovalevskaja
stated with a ne mathematical analysis that the sign
system of archaeological material she studied, of orna-
ments of belt sets of Early Medieval steppe nomads,
contains redundant information, i.e. more signals
than it was necessary for ancient people to compre-
hend the sense given to a thing. This permitted them
to comprehend the sense even in difcult conditions,
say partial alteration, and thus strengthen the re-
liability and vitality of the system. As it happened, the
redundant information of the sign system in archae-
ological material appeared quantitatively the same as
earlier measurements discovered in natural lan-
guage a redundancy of nearly 80%. Consequently,
optimal redundancy (such that there will be sufcient
29 Metaarchaeology
spare but not excessively so) appears approximately
equal for the main sign systems working in social
communication. This suggests that common regular-
ities of social and psychological comprehension act
within them (Kovalevskaja 1970).
Issuing from language-material psychologists estab-
lished that with a gradual and smooth decline of in-
formation, by gradual distortion of a text for instance,
comprehension does not decline gradually, but in a
jump. Initially it weakens slowly, followed by a rapid
decline and complete lack of comprehension. That is,
the cognisability is subjected to the dialectical law of
converting a quantitative accumulation into a qualita-
tive shift. If the distortions of the text touch no more
than 30% of its words, leaving 70% intact, the text is
still comprehensible. But if more is distorted, the text
becomes incomprehensible. Apparently this phenom-
enon is not limited to languages (Moles et Valancien
1963; Frumkina 1965; Frumkina and Dobrovich
1971, 31, 36f).
The discovery of the threshold of comprehension
allows to archaeologists nally to establish the cri-
terion of the separation of antiquities from starina.
Assume that the memory of things declines gradually,
and the diagnostibility and comprehension lower not
just gradually but fall in a jerk. Here oblivion is dif-
cult to measure and to determine the threshold quan-
titatively is also difcult but one thing is clear: behind
some threshold of oblivion a thing becomes an an-
tiquity. The necessity to decode emerges the need
for archaeology.
Much has been written on the specicity of archae-
ological sources. The whole body of study came to
the conclusion that there is such specicity. Neverthe-
less it was contested again and again. In dispute was
either its existence, its detectability or its importance.
Now we see that it was impossible to construct the
best and deepest criteria for determining and isolating
the specicity of archaeological sources without and
before the development of the semiotic approach.
Therefore investigators spontaneously approaching
the determination of archaeological sources usually
stopped at attributes which would not even lead to a
fruitful division. Either these were attributes with only
seeming divisive ability for the given material such
as indications about the unintentional and objective
character of remains, as opposed to the intentionality
and tendentiousness of written sources. Or they were
weak attributes of narrow coverage, not obligatory
as, e.g., underground position, which would ex-
clude petroglyphs and medieval churches from ar-
chaeological sources. Or they were attributes that
were diffusely formulated and unclear (like outlook,
character, material nature, etc.). Or they were attri-
butes such as incompleteness, indeed peculiar to ar-
chaeological sources, but separating them only in the
function of historical sources, and only from other
main kinds (i.e. from modern). This is a very scematic
distinction, because to admit absolute completeness of
any sources is impossible.
Investigators did not usually attempt to motivate
their choice and explain why a particular attribute
demands strict isolation of a group of sources. Neither
did they attempt to determine if one attribute is
enough for the isolation of sources. Indeed, one attri-
bute is not adequate. This can quite obviously be de-
rived from the above facts and considerations.
Archaeological sources belong at once to two
broader groups, things (or artefacts), and antiquities.
There are other material sources that are partly his-
torical sources. For example the architecture of build-
ings, coins, smashed cars at the scene of an accident
or a bloody knife at the scene of a crime. There are
other fossil and ancient sources, such as skeletons of
pangolins, traces of glaciers, chronicles, letter patents,
and Russian Laws, including cultural remains (an-
tiquities). Archaeological sources differ from other
material sources by their antiquity, and from other
ancient ones by their materiality. This double separ-
ation is probably important for the isolation of this
group into such a category of sources which demands
a special discipline. Double isolation produces ex-
treme difculty in cognition.
Turning to material antiquities the investigator
nds a double break. It occurs in the traditions be-
tween the distant past and our time and in objecti-
cation, i.e. in the forms of how information is incor-
porated (a break between the world of things and the
world of ideas able to operate in the research). This
double break is the main specicity of archaeological
30 Acta Archaeologica
sources. To tackle the problem of this double break
does not simply mean doubling the research effort.
The double break creates a new qualitative difculty.
Let us compare archaeology with disciplines deal-
ing with only one break, such as ethnography and
history. In ethnography when we take a thing and it
is clear to us what type of an object it is. Perhaps a
rock, a clasp, a vat, or an oven fork, things that must
be noted and described. This involves information
which must be translated into another form, like in
archaeology. Of course it is not easy to formulate in-
formation, to translate it into ideas, into words, i.e.
to isolate the essential and to discard the inessential
attributes. This can be done in various ways and one
can certainly go wrong. Yet in ethnography much is
already at hand to aid in overcoming this difculty.
The connection of the thing with the actions of people
is present, the date is known and there is a context of
functioning. There is an entire assemblage, the whole.
In archaeology this is absent. There are only frag-
ments in front of us, fragments no longer actively con-
nected to life and very indenitely connected with
each other. Contemplating them is fraught with risk
and demands special methods of study. An example
of this occurs in hill forts of so called Djakovo type
in the Moscow region and its neighbouring districts
of two thousand years ago, where small earthen disks
with a central hole are always found. Some archaeol-
ogists believe they are spindle-whorls, while others
think they are loom-plummets, burners from oil
lamps, weights for measuring grain, or objects of a
sun cult. They were rst discovered in the 19th cen-
tury and are still debated today.
In the history of ancient written sources the op-
posite picture is found. Here like in archaeology the
break in tradition is also present. Much is forgotten
and is incomprehensible to the modern investigator.
Yet this is not as detrimental as it is felt in archae-
ological material. It is told most of all by conversion
of information from material form into word form,
an operation unnecessary for a historian to take. In
ancient written sources it has already been accom-
plished by an ancient author. He was most probably
biased and as distinct from modern scholars he had
no broad interests or deep understanding of general
trends. But in return he, as distinct from an archaeol-
ogist, had to translate not fragments but a whole body
of text or other source. And he did not have to guess
about destiny and connections, he knew them and
sometimes saw them as an eyewitness, not only things
but also actions and events associated with them.
Thus although they hinder cognition, taken separ-
ately any one of the breaks is not so hazardous. The
loss of acquaintance with the context that interests us
may be compensated by the transmission of restora-
tive information through another channel. In eth-
nography through the channel of live communication
with the participation of the investigator, and by di-
rect observation, and in ancient history through the
channel of a written tradition. Only both breaks to-
gether in combination like in archaeology, lead to a
radical isolation of the scholar from the past reality,
to a shattering of the whole into pieces, sometimes to
the complete loss of the sense of the information. To
restore it some external supports are needed in the
form of the possibility to attract additional infor-
mation that would allow a bridge to be built from the
known to the unknown. This may be the knowledge
of the sense of other things. Among them are archae-
ological objects already deciphered. These are other,
non-archaeological sources pertaining to the same
past reality; general evidence on the structure of ob-
jects similar to those under study; knowledge of laws
according to which the incorporation of ideas into
things happened and still happen; transformation of
things and events into archaeological traces and re-
mains, etc. And of course strict and reliable methods
of using this knowledge for recovery of the lost sense
is also necessary.
This is why only a double break demands isolation
of sources into a special category and creates a special
discipline for their study. For this reason ancient ma-
terial sources those that it is customary to call ar-
chaeological constitute this category.
From these considerations it follows that it is im-
possible to establish a strict and common chronologi-
cal date for the separation of archaeological objects
from non-archaeological. It follows too, that exca-
vations are not obligatory for attributing objects and
works to archaeology and are not exclusive to archae-
ology (there are excavations without archaeology and
there is archaeology without excavations). It is clear
then that some studies are attributed to archaeology
due to the broad or confusing understanding of the
31 Metaarchaeology
term archaeology. In fact, strictly speaking, they do
not constitute archaeology and have no grounds to
do so. In Archaeology of Cognition the French his-
torian of science Michel Foucault (1966) uncovers
past layers of the mental culture of scholars. In it he
presents how scholars approached their study in the
19th century, in the Renaissance period and earlier
still, and which principles were adhered to in the
study. It is clear that Foucault designated his theme
archaeology in a sheerly metaphorical sense (prob-
ably in order to alienate the consideration from de-
scriptive history) this is a simple case. A more com-
plex case is the so called industrial archaeology,
which would rightly be involved in archaeology if ar-
chaeology was identical to the history of material cul-
ture. But if it is not then industrial archaeology also
has to be left outside archaeology. This is a branch
of history of material culture using some methods of
archaeology, ethnography and museum activity. An-
other example would be if archaeologists together
with criminologists were invited as experts to partici-
pate in the opening of graves from World War II. An
archaeologist would call this excavation activity, while
a criminologist would say exhumation work. In this
case their work becomes neither archaeology nor
criminology. It is an expertise for history. Similarly a
radiochemist determining the date of a Neolithic
hearth by radiocarbon dating is practising within ar-
chaeology, not in radiochemistry.
In summarising what characterises the place of ar-
chaeological sources among other kinds of sources of
information on the past, we can say that they have a
specicity that forms the basis for the separation of
archaeology as a special discipline.
32 Acta Archaeologica
4. Methodological nature of archaeology
Despite long debates on the subject matter of archae-
ology, most archaeologists themselves still declare
their perplexity as to the nature of it. Sir Mortimer
Wheeler wrote: What in fact is archaeology? I do
not myself really know (1956: 17). Robert Braid-
wood added that archaeology is what archaeologists
do (1959b: 1), a comment that agrees nicely with the
opinion of Friedrich Koepp, There is no archaeol-
ogy, there are merely archaeologists (Hausmann
1939: 11). The denition and description of the sub-
ject matter of archaeology alone does not exhaust its
determination. In order to comprehend what archae-
ology is, it is insufcient to answer the question of
what it studies. In addition one has to determine how
it studies its objects (Taylor 1967: 23).
Formerly this was described by determining its
methods (cf. Reinach 1911). In the West even now
the expression theory and method of archaeology
is used (Hawkes 1954; Willey and Phillips 1958;
South 1977; Schiffer ab 1978; Stjernquist 1984), and
sometimes in Russia such an expression can be seen
(Rogachev 1978). In a recent book by Evzen Neustyp-
ny (1993) Archaeological method specic method-
ology in general is described as distinct from a text-
book of archaeological methods (such as, say, by
Hrouda 1978, Martynov and Sher 1989 or Djindjian
1991). On no account is one particular means of re-
search meant by Neustupny, Hawkes and others
when they use the word method (evolutionary-
typological method, cartographic method, method of
horizontal stratigraphy and so on). Nor is the sum of
different means of research implied by the word. The
point is to inquire which general path of cognition it is
that gives archaeology its methodological distinction,
choosing from the few principal possibilities there are
for a discipline. What is its specicity in respect to its
methodological nature?
This requires asking and solving questions of a
classicational character. Is archaeology a humanistic
discipline or a science akin to physics, chemistry and
sociology? Does it operate as a discipline distinct in
itself or as part of some other discipline? Or is archae-
ology just the reverse, an entire complex of discip-
lines? Is it a self-dependent discipline, or is it an
auxiliary, subsidiary thing? Can archaeology be
counted among the fundamental disciplines? A practi-
cal conclusion from this circle of questions is to ask
what tasks, procedures and methods are admissible in
archaeology, and which ones are not?
Of course, in such an understanding the method
of the discipline, i.e. its methodological nature, its
epistemological character, and its status and prole
are determined largely by its subject matter. The typi-
cal properties of this material and the aims of study
condition how it approaches its material.
In Anglophone countries the main division of re-
search disciplines falls into a) natural and exact ones
and b) the humanities. There is no separate term for
research activity (like the Russian nauka or Ger-
man Wissenschaft). Two terms exist instead,
science used for the natural and exact disciplines
and the term humanity for humanistic disciplines.
If there is a need for designating the research activity
without this specication only approximately similar
terms are used: knowledge, scholarship, disci-
pline, research eld etc. Sometimes the term
science acquires a more general meaning and it is
used in this way, but this can cause confusion.
When considering the position of sociology it is
mostly located in science, together with physics,
chemistry and political economy, while history is
placed in the humanities with literary criticism and
philosophy as its neighbours. In Russia we are very
unaccustomed to this, but we feel that in the methods
of sociology there is something that in fact makes it
33 Metaarchaeology
akin to physics and chemistry, namely its revealing
laws by generalisation of facts, its negligence of indi-
vidual facts, and the proving of hypothesis by inde-
pendent facts. In sociology facts are interchangeable
and not central to analysis as compared with laws. On
the contrary, it is difcult to deny the methodological
similarity of history with literary criticism and philos-
ophy, although typologically history is rather closer to
In USA the anthropological complex of sciences
exists separately, consisting of physical anthropology,
cultural anthropology with ethnography, prehistoric
archaeology, linguistics, and psychology. This entire
complex is located in science. To such a grouping a
Russian is even less accustomed, but for Americans
these disciplines do indeed use similar methods, ap-
proximately the same as used in sociology. The excep-
tion is archaeology, for which it is better to speak of
separately. Other things, and in some respect more
important ones, depend on these criteria of division
rather than on the object. In particular the methodol-
ogical nature of the disciplines depends rst and fore-
most on the aims of study. Meanwhile in the classi-
cation of disciplines there are known conceptions
based purely on the difference between methods and
aims of study.
In the natural sciences F. Bacon distinguished be-
tween physics of abstracts and physics of con-
cretes (1977). A. Comte built his ve-unit scheme of
the increasing complication of objects just for the row
of abstract sciences, but beside each abstract
science he placed the corresponding concrete one,
for example alongside sociology and its generalising
nature he placed purely fact-describing history (1900).
The most well known among such conceptions is W.
Windelbands and H. Rickerts scheme dividing
disciplines into nomothetic (aimed at revealing laws in a
mass material), and idiographic (concerned with expos-
ing and explaining facts in their individuality).
We can liken the world in which we live to a at.
When moving into a new home we learn laws of pos-
session, rules of house keeping and using the home.
Standard norms about its installations and furnishing
are interesting to us too. But besides these things, it is
important for us to know how these norms are re-
alised in the given individual home where in its
walls the electric wires run, who the neighbours are,
where the windows open onto etc. Geography serves
to such orienting in space, as history does to time.
Issuing from this example, one can determine his-
torys interrelations with sociology.
Sociology reveals laws of functioning, the develop-
ment of society, and laws of historical process, while
history analyses events of the past and nds causal
links between them. History, one could say, recon-
structs the historical process. Both sociology and his-
tory are concerned with facts but as Gulyga showed,
they manifest different relations between fact and law
(Gulyga 1969). Sociology generalises some totality of
facts, usually a representative sample, extracts a law
from them, and in this function facts are mutually
interchangeable for sociology; thereafter they lose any
interest for it. As distinct from sociology, history is
interested in facts themselves, in each one separately,
in their concreteness and individuality. For History,
Julius Caesar cannot be replaced by another great
general, like Napoleon. Sociology needs facts only for
revealing the laws. History needs laws mainly for ex-
planation of facts.
David Clarke had a vision to make archaeology a rig-
orous discipline. Lacking an explicit theory, he
wrote, ... archaeology has remained an intuitive skill
... (1968: XIII). He welcomed the use of methods
borrowed from natural and technical sciences, but he
noted, scientic aids no more make archaeology a
science than a wooden leg makes a man into a tree
.... However, the use of theory, models, mathematics
etc. being introduced into the very core of archaeol-
ogy would transform it, he hoped, into an analytical
discipline comparable with sciences and similar to
them in status (1968, 635).
Nevertheless, according to Clarkes notions, it
would still not be a science. The temptation to see
this aspect of archaeology as an archaeological
science must be resisted. Analytical archaeology is not
a science but it is a discipline, its primary machinery
is mathematical rather than scientic. The archaeol-
ogists pursuit of the scientic mirage has long ob-
scured the point that a study may be based on empiri-
cal observation, experiment, induction and formation
of hypotheses without necessarily being a science
34 Acta Archaeologica
Fig. 3. Archaeology in the system of disciplines conventional look.
(1968, 663). So for Clarke, mathematics is not a
science, and archaeology as an analytical discipline is
not a science either. Then it appears that analytical
operations theory building, models, and use of
mathematics do not qualify as scientic studies.
Clarke views a science as distinguished by a high de-
gree of certainty, while archaeologists can reveal only
more than chance regularity. On this basis soci-
ology and anthropology are not sciences either.
What Clarke described as an analytical discipline,
others would safely attribute to science, even to a
hard, exact science in the strict sense of the word. The
differentiation of exact sciences from inexact ones is
very poor though, especially if using a degree of cer-
tainty in the differentiation. Physics and chemistry
were evidently ideal for Clarke, whereas archaeology
was his love. Why did he not claim the term science
appropriate for analytical archaeology? It may be a
psychological matter that could be most desirable to
reveal. We can surely say that Clarke had a dream to
transform archaeology into something like science.
Strangely enough, Christopher Hawkes, from
whom nobody would expect, shared this dream
with Clarke and was even more radical in his view
of it. At the anthropological section of the British
Association he gave a presidential address, which
he entitled Archaeology as Science, and which
took place ten years before Clarkes Analytical Ar-
chaeology appeared. My theme, he declared, is
not archaeology and science, but archaeology as
science (Hawkes 1957: 94). In America, Robert
MacNeish published his book entitled The Science
of Archaeology? (1976), a title noteworthy for its
question mark.
In Poland Zbigniew Kobylinski (1981), stimulated
by the example of New Archaeology, called to pro-
vide nomothetisation of archaeology, to make it
into a science revealing laws and ruled by theories.
Really it proceeds from axiomatisation too, on build-
ing a system in which everything is logically co-ordi-
nated and built on principles. Urbanczyk responsed
to Kobylinski with an extremely sceptical response.
Przemysaw Urbanczyk (1981, 58f) admits that it
would be ideal to have a scientic theory in the full
sense as an ordered system of statements linked by
outlined logical relations. Yet it is difcult to expect
this to be a deductive system like in mathematics.
Such deductive sciences completely abstracted from
concrete objects do not expand our knowledge on re-
ality. Only theories as those of empirical sciences can
be in question such as the electromagnetic theory
of light or classical mechanics. Some of the axioms
in them belong to determinative and statistical laws.
However in archaeology they have not achieved exact
quantitative expression and will still not achieve it in
the near future. The empirical theory of archaeology
still remains in the sphere of dreams.
In general the position insisting that archaeology
be turned from humanity or even art into a science
may be considered as occupying the middle ground
between two extremes (Fig. 3). At one extreme are
the scholars who assume archaeology is a part of
anthropology as a nomothetic social science or, as the
majority of Soviet archaeologists see it, archaeology as
a part of sociologically oriented history, Archaeology
with a capital S (Flannery 1973). The other extreme
is represented by scholars who insist that archaeol-
ogy is not an exact science (Amalrik and Mongajt
1959, 252).
It must be admitted that both extremes seem to be
more logical and consistent than the middle position.
Indeed, disciplines can hardly change their methodol-
ogical nature arbitrarily. The methodological nature
of a discipline is stipulated by its object, aims of study
and place in the system of knowledge. If it is changed,
we simply get quite a different discipline, usually with
a different name, for instance, astronomy instead of
astrology. So archaeology, by its methodological na-
35 Metaarchaeology
ture, is either a science or a humanity. Or even art.
However the whole of this apportionment is correct
only if:
(A) The nature of archaeology is dened by its alter-
native association either with anthropology (cor-
respondingly with sociology or sociologically
oriented history) or with idiographic history;
(B) These two domains are really two halves of re-
search knowledge: science and humanity.
This is not the case however. Generally I share Walter
Taylors opinion that archaeology is neither anthro-
pology nor history (Taylor 1948, 44). I fully agree
with D. Clarkes insistence that archaeology is ar-
chaeology, is archaeology (1968, 13). Clarke ex-
plained very simply that archaeology cannot be re-
garded as history because the nature of the archae-
ological record is such that there is no simple way
of equating our archaeological percepta with ... lost
events (Clarke 1968, 13). It is worth adding that ar-
chaeology and history have different inspirations of
knowledge; history strives to understand unique
events and heroes, whereas archaeology is obsessed
with generalisation, typication, and its central con-
cept is type.
I must add that archaeology cannot be considered
the same as anthropology or sociology either, because
the system of archaeological data is lifeless. It has no
simple and direct correspondence with a society that
lived in the past and with the cultures that lived in
the past. So regularities we reveal in archaeological
data are not the same as the laws that were in force
in the living societies and cultures of the past. I would
also add that to me archaeology, even prehistoric ar-
chaeology, is not equivalent to prehistory, although
D. Clarke assumed such equivalence (1968, 12). To
him Archaeology and archaeologist contain prehis-
toric studies and the prehistorian. It follows that the
prehistorian is always an archaeologist ... archaeology
is often synonymous with prehistory. On that point,
David Clarkes teacher Graham Clark seems to me
to have been more logical when distinguishing clearly
between archaeology and prehistory in the rst chap-
ter of his book Archaeology and Society, entitled
Archaeology and prehistory (Clark 1957, 9).
I am fond of Childes aphorism Archaeology is
one (Childe 1956, VI). This is the idea to which Da-
vid Clarkes well-known demand for general theory
fully conforms. He demanded a central theory which
should unite studies within the discipline regardless of
area, period and culture (1968, XV). He meant the
wider scope of archaeology stretching beyond the per-
imeter of prehistoric studies and mentioned such as-
pects as classical, medieval, recent colonial and in-
dustrial archaeology (1968, 12). If Childe and Clarke
are right, and I think they are, then we must treat
prehistoric times within archaeology just as we treat
the classical ones. So if we distinguish between classi-
cal archaeology and ancient history, why do we need
prehistoric archaeology and prehistory to merge to-
gether? There are some other arguments in favour of
delimiting between these branches of knowledge
which are presented in my article To separate Cen-
taur (Klejn 1993).
According to D. Clarke, recent development in-
clined to distort these terms in a dangerous fashion.
There is currently a tendency to take the term prehis-
tory as meaning a writer of history covering periods
without written records with the implication that the
prehistorian is an armchair synthesiser of the analyti-
cal work of the archaeologist. Here the termarchaeol-
ogist is warped to mean the unintelligent excavator or
the narrow-minded specialist ... (1968, 12).
Indeed, the archaeologist is an excavator and a
narrow-minded specialist and cannot be different be-
cause of the limited nature, scantiness and incom-
pleteness of his data. Quite the opposite is true for
the prehistorian, who should be a synthesiser because
it is necessary to put together, compare and combine
results of studies covering different kinds of sources.
Not only are there archaeological, but also ethno-
graphic ones, linguistic, osteological, folkloristic and
so on. Yet to undertake comparative studies and inter-
disciplinary synthesis a special kind of knowledge is
needed. It has its own methods, it requires peculiar
erudition, and needs special training. Nobody forbids
an archaeologist to do the prehistory too, but then he
must realise that it is another profession and he is
thereby faced with the problem of mastering a second
Essentially, the root of the confusion lies in the con-
ventional dichotomy dividing the whole totality of
knowledge in the sciences and humanities. Other
36 Acta Archaeologica
Fig. 4. The same: Klejns suggestion.
classications of knowledge were proposed (in par-
ticular by F. Bacon, Comte and others) which provide
division in abstract and concrete disciplines. My own
scheme is developed according to this trend (Fig. 4).
Reconstruction of the past is called the main task
of history, where reconstruction means recovery,
reinstatement and reproduction. This is a very dif-
cult task since a historian deals only with fragments
of the past and the complete picture of the past is not
reected in the sources, it remains for ever unknown
to the historian (Erofeev 1976). Nevertheless many
historians consider the task of fully adequate recon-
struction as feasible and even suppose that the recon-
structed past has preferences over the past reality be-
cause the general picture of the past is better observed
from a distance and as the sophistication of historians
grows (Dondt 1969). Naturally it is the mental recon-
struction that is implied here.
In confrontation with the terms restoration, re-
production and the like it becomes clear that the
term reconstruction is not unambiguous or simple.
Due to its similarity to the concept of constructing
it entails notions on the complexity of the procedure
and on the inadequacy of the result to the past itself.
Nevertheless reconstruction is perceived for the
most part as restoration and recovery. Taking into ac-
count this undesired coincidence a suggestion was
made to determine the essence of the reconstruction
procedure by comparing it with prediction (to which
it is similar by initial data and by composition of ac-
tions) and so it was designated as retrodiction.
This is the procedure, and correspondingly the total-
ity of methods applied in it, of indirect acquirement
of inferred knowledge on past objects on the basis of
present objects or other past objects (Nikitin 1960).
Reconstruction is far from the main task of history,
indeed, if it was we would reduce history to a chron-
icle. In history we seek something more: the systemic
order, explanation, and causal connection in the past.
But it is not only this I refer to. In the spirit of histori-
cal science the task of reconstruction as recovery is
not manageable, or to be more exact, is manageable
in part. It is possible to reveal regularities or laws of
the historical process. They are general sociological
laws, and in Marxism it was historical materialism
that was allocated to establish these laws. It is possible
to introduce correctives that are subject to conditions
of territory and environment (general sociological
learning concerns the principles of an impact of these
conditions on the historical process). Yet going along
this path one cannot reach individualisation. It would
be necessary to enact not only main regularities or
laws and main local conditions but an enormous
number of small particular circumstances which are
not even always known to us. Besides it would be
necessary to take into account a personal choice of
many people, which is also regulated by some laws,
but those are probability laws with a great extent of
freedom for each individual case. Now nally to the
question of how to take chance into account.
P. N. Tretjakov once remarked that, ... There are
no contingencies in the development of culture ... (P.
N. Tretjakov 1962). Really, this statement itself was
not a chance, rather it reected the pathos of the day.
None other than T. D. Lysenko (1948, 520f) pro-
nounced that Such sciences as physics and chemistry
became free from chance events. Therefore they be-
came exact sciences. Ejecting Mendelism-Morgan-
ism-Weissmanism, we automatically banish contin-
gencies from biological science. We must rmly re-
member that science is the enemy of chances.
Marxist theory refused absolutisation of determin-
37 Metaarchaeology
ism but Marxist practice demanded and favoured it
because the belief in rightfulness and destiny of the
complete and nal victory of socialism was supported
by determinism, and here it was less dangerous to
overdo than underdo. In knowledge on prehistory this
practice had a theoretical tradition too, which was
spontaneously continued by Marxist archaeologists
and ethnographers. The same simplication was also
characteristic for evolutionists. For them history was
moving with the exactness of a railway timetable, and
periods, epochs and stages changed like passing sta-
tions on a one-way track. Yet we know that trains
sometimes experience delays, let alone accidental
crashes, and the route is not usually along only one
track. As for history, it does not run on rails at all.
How is the historical process recovered however, in
all its completeness and in its diversibility of individ-
ual manifestations? Strictly speaking it cannot be re-
covered at all in this way. It lies fragmented and is
then assembled from saved remains and fragmented
reections, and of course never recovered in its full
entirety. The remains produce doubts because they
can be damaged. The reections are of course subjec-
tive and need to be corrected according to other re-
ections if they are present. Without the remains and
reections such operations are only connected with
facts as interpolation, extrapolation and inference by
analogy. In any connections with facts they are never-
theless hypothetical of course. Still more distant are
disposed models based on these areas of knowledge
and on theories, i.e. on sociological, demographic,
psychological and other types of regularities. The
general principles of historical reconstruction are for-
mulated more completely by the late geologist S. V.
Meyen (1978, 80ff). Only by historical ction is a
substantially more concrete and colourful recovery
obtained, but this is accomplished with the rich and
in many ways free play of imagination, so that any
guaranties of adequacy fail.
All this activity is fully justied. It deepens and
broadens our knowledge, and brings us to a more
sophisticated understanding of the past. Apart from
history being unable to return the past to us (this in
itself is a banal truth), it does not even recover it men-
tally in the esh in all obviousness and concreteness,
although sometimes it bears such an illusion. The past
produced by historical studies appears fragmented in
its solid core and schematic in its all-embracing
attempts. This fragmented past is like tatters of events,
lumps of what happened, and they are hung on frag-
ile constructions of theory.
History cannot retrieve facts that have disappeared
without trace, and can no longer make them concrete
or retrieve them in their concreteness and uniqueness.
History can only build plausible hypotheses about
past existence and on the character of the past as seen
through its hypotheses. It sees the past in terms of
certain general characteristics, which are expressed
by its hypotheses. In a sense, this is actually sociology
rather than history. It does not reconstruct, but it syn-
thesises historical past on the basis of its sources and
the result of the synthesis is not one of reconstruction.
If it were able to reconstruct then it would also be
able to predict, which is far from what it does! Indeed
Hegel said that people did not draw lessons from his-
tory, for each situation was too individual to do so
(1935, 7f). In Marxs introduction to his 1857 Econ-
omical manuscripts we nd a very interesting state-
ment which is often cited without recognising its full
meaning. According to Marx, the categories and
structures of the most developed formation give us
the possibility to penetrate into the organisation of
all the obsolete social forms ... The anatomy of man
is a clue to the anatomy of ape. On the contrary, the
hints of higher species in lower species of animals can
only be understood (sic! L. K.) in the case of the
higher already being known. Bourgeois economy
gives us thus a clue to classical times etc. (Marx 1958
[1857], 731). This is an unambiguous statement on
the impossibility to predict in history! And conse-
quently on the impossibility to reconstruct it What is
this principle conditioned by? Evidently by the open-
ness of the prospects of development, by the subjec-
tive factor, by the interaction of regularities with those
contingencies without which history would bear a
very mystical character (Marx 1964 [1868]: 175), it
would be doomed in a fatal way.
K. Popper proposed that predictions in the form of
prophecy are in principle impossible (1957). Avowed
to the likening of history to natural sciences, A. I.
Rakitov advances serious counter arguments, but it
appears that he only defends the possibility of making
predictions of a special kind only probabilistic pre-
dictions of stable types and successions of socially sig-
38 Acta Archaeologica
nicant activity in certain time intervals, not on con-
crete and exactly xed results, i.e. events (1982,
282ff). Time and again, assurance is given that there
is no fatal predestination in concrete turns of the his-
torical process. At each step history appears before
an open situation, with opportunities of alternative
solutions or choices (Gurevich 1969). When events
have already happened, it seems that everything
could have be foreseen and predicted, and such pre-
dictions use to be made behindhand: vaticinia ex
eventu. Yet predictions of concrete events are made
only as guesses.
As inter alia the geologist V. I. Onoprienko noted,
retrodiction and prediction are similar in their logical
structure and they are connected with each other.
These two procedures have time symmetry, op-
posite in direction to the ow of cognition ... Retrodic-
tion looks like the basis of prediction (1976: 158).
Consequently they are similar in their strength of in-
ference. The impossibility of historical prediction im-
plies the impossibility of full retrodiction, an unrealis-
able in terms of adequate detail in reconstruction of
the concrete course of history, and in terms of those
details which did not leave clear traces.
Both in Russian and Western publications one can
frequently see the statement that, as a prominent
American scholar writes, the aim of archaeology is
historical reconstruction (Kroeber 1937, 163). V. D.
Victorova noted that Soviet archaeologists applied
the term historical reconstruction or reproduction,
recovery of historical reality by archaeological ma-
terials and did so from the late 20s until early 30s
(1988: 225). In practice when real reconstruction of
artefacts and assemblages is concerned, one speaks of
an archaeological reconstruction, while when men-
tal reconstruction of phenomena, structures and
events is concerned, one speaks of a historical recon-
struction in archaeology.
At rst sight, by its role in the discipline and by its
procedure, reconstruction in archaeology is com-
pletely like reconstruction in history. But while in his-
tory reconstruction is only one of the tasks, everything
in archaeology can be reduced to reconstruction. It is
the all-embracing task of archaeology. As far as ar-
chaeology is a source-studying discipline and archae-
ological sources are ancient artefacts and assem-
blages, its task is to convert information from the lan-
guage of things into the language of history, the
language of historical phenomena, events and pro-
cesses (Klejn 1981b: 1617). In other words to look
behind preserved remains and traces, and behind
their relations to reveal ancient phenomena, events
and processes. How do archaeologists go about doing
The simplifying approach, to which Soviet sociol-
ogists and even others were inclined, consisted of as-
cribing a corresponding social meaning to every kind
of element and trace, and to their relations. In a
word, a social meaning for every type of archaeologi-
cal pattern, where the type is considered a sign, as a
stable correspondence to a certain category of histori-
cal phenomena, events and processes. J. Hill and M.
Schiffer later called these kinds of archaeological pat-
terns archaeological correlates to social phenom-
ena. Correspondingly the latter could be called social
and cultural correlates to archaeological patterns.
They are composed like an archaeological-sociologi-
cal alphabet for reading the past. One only needs
to know this alphabet in order to read history freely
from archaeological texts.
The problem however is that social phenomena
and historical events in different conditions leave dif-
ferent traces in material culture. Both sling and bow-
and-arrow served the same function. On the other
hand archaeological traces of historical events are not
unambiguous, behind them different phenomena of
the past can be hidden. A dwelling burnt to the
ground can be interpreted in several ways: natural
disaster, arson, war or ritual could have caused the
re. Even the causes of a contemporary re are a
headache for criminologists, while in the archaeologi-
cal situation many centuries have passed and possibly
anything but the necessary distinguishing details re-
Step by step archaeologists reconstruct former
states of sources, monuments, artefacts and assem-
blages, retrospectively from the end of their exist-
ence to the beginning. Even if the law is not revealed
or is unknown to the archaeologist, he always has the
handy means of substituting the law or doing without
it, although this puts the reliability of the result at
39 Metaarchaeology
stake. This method uses analogy in order to compare
objects. An investigator seeks objects belonging to the
same type or objects of a similar kind, and looks for
similar assemblages that are already known or other
ones that are better preserved. Thus he provides an
interpretation by close comparison. As Chang stated
with some exaggeration, archaeology as a whole is
analogy .... He explained: ... for to claim any
knowledge other than the objects themselves is to as-
sume knowledge of patterns in culture and history
and to apply these patterns to the facts (Chang
1967b, 109).
J. Hawkes stated that the main aim of archaeology
is the reconstruction of individual events in time
(1968: 255). If the word individual is understood
as separate, then this statement is doubtful, and if
understood as unique, taken in their specicity,
it is simply erroneous. As is known to all archaeol-
ogists since their student days, archaeology is oriented
on the typical, on typology. It retrieves only what is
general from artefacts, assemblages and cultures.
In this way it is fully consistent with history. But
while for history it means that reconstruction receeds
from its central position and appears largely irrel-
evant, archaeology does not squirm by such refusal.
It is content with a much smaller degree of individual-
isation, while it supports culturology (anthropology in
Anglophone understanding) and history of culture,
sociology and sociological history the history of so-
cial structures which the Annales school propagated.
Archaeology helps protohistory history of early
peoples that were already neighbours to literate soci-
eties to retain the general canvas of the cultural
process. Archaeology connects prehistory with
palaeoanthropology and palaeontology since for a sig-
nicant part of that period man was little different
from animal, and animals do not possess biographies
and have history. This is a time for which individual-
isation was to a large extent objectless.
Does this mean that archaeology is not concerned
with unique phenomena at all? Not for toffee, of
course. Unique objects are not so infrequent among
archaeological nds. Furthermore, individuality can
be observed in every object as the opposite side to
what is typical. Indeed, in the discovery of individu-
ality it is not so much the presence of such properties
in the object that is shown (although this is of course
important too) as the attitude of the subject of inquiry
on the object. Of course the possibility of such an
attitude is to a great extent conditioned by the pres-
ence of such properties in the object.
A considerable amount of unique things appears
where an archaeologist nds objects well preserved.
Having obtained such an object he must transmit it to
a historian untouched, but of course archaeologically
processed having been dated by assemblage, having
passed through an expert investigation, undergone
analyses etc. Archaeology has the means to convert
unique objects having no analogies into more amen-
able objects of typological study. One should only dis-
member mentally such an object in a number of de-
tails so that each of them appears without complicat-
ing elements (they have formed neighbouring details),
resulting in the objects appearing very simple and no
longer retaining their uniqueness. So a complex pat-
tern disarticulates itself in its elemental components
and in very commonly used motives. The combi-
nation of these elements and motives remains unique.
But it does not affect archaeology. The uniqueness
exists before archaeological analysis and returns to
the thing after this analysis.
Archaeology transmits objects to historical investi-
gation having reconstructed them and, as much as it
is accessible to archaeology, interpreted them; but
they will undergo individualisation after their in-
clusion into history.
So far we have considered the place of history and
of sociology in the system of knowledge. What about
archaeology? We have seen how it differs from both
history and sociology so which group of disciplines
does it belong to? Certainly it contributes to history
and, as yet in lesser measure, to sociology, and to
anthropology too. However this fact says absolutely
nothing about the methodological nature of archaeol-
ogy, it only uncovers its working contacts, connections
and partners. The fact it co-operates with history
makes archaeology no more a kind of history pace
Clarke than contacts with men make horses human,
or vice versa. Archaeology is archaeology, is archaeol-
ogy ...
40 Acta Archaeologica
Archaeology is unconditionally connected with his-
tory, but it is connected by business relations, as a
partner. In other areas they are sometimes not only
dissimilar but not even akin. They are of different
methodological nature. While history is an individ-
ualising discipline and, taking into account the indi-
viduality of human creatures, history is a humanity,
archaeology is not. This is a fundamental difference.
Having said this however, they do have something
in common. In particular it is apparent that neither
archaeology or history reveal laws, they only use
them. History uses laws for explaining facts while ar-
chaeology does so for reconstruction. This means that
archaeology does not belong to the fundamental
sciences but to the applied ones. Something similar is
remarked on by G. A. Antipov with respect to narra-
tive reconstruction in history: Differences between
ordinary research cognitive procedures and narrative
reconstruction is fully analogous with, for instance,
the difference between the activity of a specialist in
the sphere of theoretical mechanics and the building
of bridges, houses, machines etc. (1987, 94f). For
even greater reason this can be said about archae-
ological reconstruction about real creation of miss-
ing details and constructions (like modern reparation
and restoration activity). Due to the similarity and
even identity of logical operations this also applies to
the whole of historical reconstruction in archaeology.
As soon as one tries to search not for its partners
but its nearest relatives among disciplines, neither his-
tory, sociology or anthropology would be discovered
in such roles. Unexpectedly, one would nd similar
methods, principles, aims far from pure scholarship,
namely in criminological tracing, in professional
knowledge and the skills of a detective or police in-
spector and court investigator. The only difference is
that a detective serves society by exploring merely the
pathological side of social life and that he arrives at
the place of the event without such an enormous de-
lay as the archaeologist does. But the nature of the
aim is the same; to restore the events and processes
of the past by their material traces and fragmented
The analogy with detective activity was sometimes
used by archaeologists to describe their trade (Clark
1957, 20f; 1963; Braidwood 1959b, 5f; Klejn 1967;
1978b, 48; Adams 1973; Shanks 1992, 53ff; Olsen
1997, 295f), but usually proposed as a metaphor. Yet
it is not only this, it lies at the very core of things.
The very rst of these authors who made compari-
sons, Clark, was quite serious when he began his fore-
word to a compendium of scientic methods in ar-
chaeology with precisely this analogy. In his mode
of work, he wrote, and in his general approach the
archaeologist resembles in several signicant respects
the detective. Like the disciples of Sherlock Holmes
he seeks to recover the activities of men in past time
from clues which compensate for their incomplete
and often vestigial character by abundance and diver-
sity. Most of this evidence is necessarily circumstan-
tial it can only be made to speak by bringing upon
it the resources of natural science; and the more effec-
tively these can be harnessed the more complete the
information likely to be won from traces, which in
themselves may appear to the layman to be almost as
slight as the blood stains and nger-prints used by
skilled detectives to reconstruct crimes.
Bartel Hrouda (1978, 15) remarked in a textbook
that, Basically archaeology is a kind of criminology.
That is why archaeology adopted so many working
methods from criminology. It enriched itself with
them especially during trials with archaeological sub-
jects (e.g. the Gloselle scandal) the custom of proto-
col investigation, the reckoning of scientists and ex-
perts etc. In the study of objects a detachment of the
place of origins is demanded from legal experts and
similarly from archaeological classicators (Daniels
1978). That is why some prominent archaeologists are
known as popular writers in ction as well, both in the
detective genre (Casson, Glyn Daniel) and in science
ction (Francois Bordes as Francis Carsac).
One can object and ask if the task of a historian is
not also of the same kind? The historian also tries to
restore the events and processes of the past, although
he mainly relies on material traces or on considering
the stories told by participants, eyewitnesses and other
informed persons. Let us introduce itemisation, not
really the task of history, but a eld of historical
source-studying, the preparation studies of written
sources, and there are specialised professionals for this
task. A proper historian analyses the results of such
an investigation and tries to answer other questions
on the causes of the restored events, on their causal
connection, on their meaning and signicance, on
41 Metaarchaeology
regularities in the course of history and how they
manifest themselves in the events. Thus it is more
similar to the function of a court and the activity of
judges. The archaeologist is nearer to the stage of the
criminal case in the related frame of detective activity
and the prosecutions investigation.
Restoration of antiquities and works of art is an-
other similar occupation. There is no need to prove
likeness. The only thing to be stipulated is that res-
toration is not just a skill or a trade. It has its own
basic rules, principles, methods and system of con-
cepts. This makes it is a scholarly discipline too. So
what kind of disciplines are these? I suppose they be-
long to a wide group of applied sciences, and this goes
for archaeology too. This means that Walter Taylor
was near the truth when he afrmed that archaeol-
ogy is no more than a method and a set of specialised
techniques for the gathering of cultural information.
Archaeologist as archaeologist is really nothing but a
technician (Taylor 1948, 44;1968, 41). Nevertheless
archaeology is not just a method or technique. It has
its own system of concepts, its own theory and its own
42 Acta Archaeologica
5. Principles of archaeology
According to the physicist T. Hertzs statement, there
were two paths of development in the history of phys-
ics, Babylonian and Greek. Along the Babylonian
route scientists established a great number of concrete
facts, particular regularities and a numerous connec-
tions. The Greeks in contrast tried to reveal axioms
from which it was possible to deduce everything else
(Hertz 1980, 173203). This is called the axiomatis-
ation of science and it was along this route European
science developed. One of the most important theor-
ies developed in physics is Thermodynamics, which is
formed around three main principles. Another im-
portant theory is Classical Mechanics, based on three
fundamental laws of motion and formulated by New-
ton in his Mathematical Principles of Natural Philos-
ophy in 1687.
Newton also formulated his general idea on certain
principles: To derive two or three general principles
of motion from phenomena and afterwards to tell us
of how the properties and actions of all corporeal
things follow those manifest principles, would be a
very great step in philosophy, though the causes of
those principles were not yet discoverd (1730, 377).
Einstein contended: Fundamental ideas and laws
which cant be reduced any longer, form an integral
part of a theory ... The most important aim of any
theory is to make the number of these fundamental
elements as little as possible and to make the elements
as simple as possible (1933, 183). There are two such
principles in his Theory of Relativity. So far only
physicists have been mentioned but in biology and
psychology, as well as in the humanities, fundamental
principles are not usually marked out, though they
are implied. Apparently they have simply not yet had
the necessary time to take shape.
In contrast to fundamental or pure sciences, ap-
plied ones are, by their nature, more oriented to serve
other sciences and practices and this is the reason
they are less theoretical. Their objects are marked out
less clearly in terms of structure and so it is more
difcult to understand their scope with a common
theory. Correspondingly it is more difcult to defend
their scientic, or at least scholarly status. It is more
difcult to prove that they are something more than a
collection of methods, that they have their own strict
theory, harmony, stable unity and systemic order. For
this reason the problem of initial principles is particu-
larly important for these sciences.
Having enumerated some examples of how scien-
tic methods and technical analyses are used in ar-
chaeology, C. Hawkes then concluded the following:
But, whatever kind of archaeologist or prehistorian
you are, your own claim to scientic status here, for
yourself, rests only on the care which you take to pro-
vide as far as possible properly guarantied, undam-
aged, and uncontaminated specimens for the appro-
priate examination. And that it is genuine claim, and
not simply a matter of taking common sense pre-
cautions against getting things mixed up, broken up,
or messed up, must depend on the principles embodied
in your part, our part, the archaeologists part, of the
interpretation of the nd. If these are scientic, then we
to that extent are scientic; if they are not, we are
here no more than painstaking and inquisitive indi-
viduals who have managed to get some information
from other people who are scientists while we are
not (Hawkes 1957: 94, My emphasis L.K.).
In a recent book by Lewis Binford we nd a similar
idea. Speaking about inferences that the archaeologist
draws from investigated data, Binford concluded that:
All these inferences were made tenable by his link-
age of archaeological observations to principles and
laws of causation drawn from the sciences of mech-
anics, physics, and the related elds of applied engin-
eering ... Archaeologists cannot wait for other elds
to permit them to make reliable inferences about the
past. They must themselves develop a science of ar-
chaeology (1983 198: 17).
Gibbon, writing in his 1984 book Anthropological
Archaeology includes a section on Methodological
principles and rules. He notes that more often than
not these principles and rules are untestable or at least
untested tacit assumptions that lie hidden in our
thinking (1984: 93). In a later work, Explanation in
Archaeology, he divides these principles in two sets
(1989: 3f). The rst set consists of primary presuppo-
43 Metaarchaeology
sitions without which any archaeology as it is usually
understood would be unthinkable. As examples Gib-
bon provides such banal truths like Archaeological
assemblages are material remains of past human ac-
tivity and We can learn about the history of the
human species by studying archaeological remains.
Such primary presuppositions can be regarded as
the ultimate justications of archaeology, and they
lead directly to general methodological directives such
as Preserve and examine archaeological sites and ma-
terials! . Denial of the primary presuppositions of
archaeology ... would entail the collapse of archaeol-
ogy as we know it.
The second set of principles is formed by the sec-
ondary presuppositions, i.e. presuppositions which are
supplementary or subsidiary to the primary set. For
instance, An archaeological assemblage is a mirror
of past human activity. Being unnecessary for the
very existence of the archaeological discipline such
presuppositions determine the strategy of interpreta-
tion. Whether the past human activity is reected in
archaeological monuments as in a mirror is a debat-
able question, yet it has nevertheless conditioned their
forming. The methods of interpretation depend any-
how on this connection. These principles are not in
any way banal, they are worthwhile studying. In any
case one can deny neither the necessity of some gen-
eral principles in archaeology, or their a priori status,
nor the fact they must be principles of interpretation.
I have examined in brief their necessity and I shall
deal with it further at the end of this chapter. For
now let us remain with the other two characteristics.
The nature of archaeology as an applied science is
connected with its aim of serving other disciplines. It
serves scholarly research just like other applied
sciences serve practical life and it is this indirect goal
of archaeology that makes interpretation so crucial to
it. Principles of interpretation appear as central in its
theoretical system. They control its relations with
other disciplines it serves and thus the principles of
interpretation make it relevant for them. Interpreta-
tion is placed at the very output of archaeology, but
the discipline exists purely for the sake of it.
The a priori nature of these principles is connected
with their axiomatic character. As we saw, this is also
how principles of other disciplines are that evidently
belonged to sciences. When Newton considered the
disciplines he began to assume an uncertainty of their
grounds. The axiomatic character of these principles
was clear since the times of Aristotle, who stated that
the existence of the principles is to be accepted, all
the rest to be proved (Aristotle, Anal. Sec., I,10). For
the most part, a remark made by Mill on this matter
proves to be correct: There is nothing more dark in
each science than the fundamental principles of the
science itself (as quoted by Regirer 1966: 90). Funda-
mental concepts and principles of any science or disci-
pline appear to be fundamental for it precisely be-
cause they do not nd grounds in this discipline it-
self on the contrary, the discipline is based on them.
The grounds are found either in other disciplines or
in practice and in common sense. It is the business of
philosophy to deal with them. In short, getting to the
core of axioms is an obscure task best left to philos-
ophers. From our side, archaeologists must ensure ax-
ioms are reliable, reasonable, stable and arranged so
that the other propositions of our discipline can be
inferred from them. Inferrence should be explicitly
possible according to strict rules of logic. Is the axiom-
atisation of archaeology possible?
How many and what principles build the basis for
archaeological interpretation and make it explicitly
reliable? When looking for axioms it is difcult to sug-
gest any preliminary order, save perhaps starting from
within the discipline, from the supposed derivatives.
If something is done already, one can begin with a
review of existing versions, with the experience of a
science. Then one may correct accumulated proposi-
tions and determine what is in shortage.
In his book Foundations of Archaeology (1976)
Jason Smith, the American archaeologist of Marxist
orientation, writes that it is possible to reach scientic
level by holding the following four assumptions: 1)
that the world and universe are real and indepen-
dent of human consciousness; 2) that all things are
directly or indirectly interconnected through cause
and effect; 3) that there are no things which by
their very nature are unknowable, that is, supernatu-
ral or magical; 4) that change is a universal con-
stant, that no things stay as they are forever.
Yet these assumptions are applicable to all the
44 Acta Archaeologica
Fig. 5. Principles of interpretation according to Hawkes.
sciences and to cognition as a whole. It is, as Smith
himself notes, the basis of materialist philosophy
(1976: 391). There is no sense in taking into account
these principles, at least not in this form, for they are
too general for our topic and they do not convey the
specicity of archaeology. Vadim M. Masson built
theoretical principles for archaeology from a Marxist
positions. He took three basic principles of historical
materialism from standard manuals (historicism, de-
terminism and primacy of production) and, carrying
them into archaeology, examined the resulting realis-
ations (sociological orientation, preference to mass
materials, interest in functions, Stadialist conception
etc.) (Masson 1978: 32). The trouble was not so much
that these principles were narrow and dogmatist. The
problem resided mainly with the way they deter-
mined the nal appearance of the cultural-historical
process under reconstruction, but not with the way to
it from the material or the methods of reconstruction.
These principles made the result deliberately known,
but the way of reaching it was unimportant and was
left to common sense, cunning speculations or tacit
consent with an authority.
James Grifns 12 principles, axioms of the cul-
tural process, are of a similar kind (Grifn 1956).
They set some reference-points for when the recon-
struction is nished, what the cultural process must
look like, and which conditions it must meet to be
recognised by the scholarly community. Still these
axioms, irrespective of whether they are correct
and felicitously worded say nothing about how to
carry out the reconstruction or interpret the archae-
ological data. In contrast to these principles the
scholar Edward Sangmeister considered archaeology
to have only one fundamental principle. The only
premise which any archaeology works with ..., he
wrote, is that a relationship on which some state-
ments may be advanced exists between the things
made by people, the manufacturer of these things and
its users (1967, 201). The relationship is not deter-
mined, and surely one may advance statements about
anything you like. Sangmeisters premise is so diffuse
and weak that it is useless to rest upon it. This scholar
appeared to be too cautious.
In Gibbons book Anthropological Archaeology
the principles of interpretation do not build a system
but examples are provided and there are some very
apt ones among them: The processes of the past
were the same as those in operation at the present
(the principle of uniformitarianism) (1984: 9397);
People did things in the past for the same reasons
they do things today (Roes principle of cultural uni-
formity). The last principle is entitled after Roe and
the reference to Roes article (1976) follows after this
In Gibbons book. However Roe has only narrowed
and made more exact the principle formulated earlier
by Hawkes.
Two papers, those of Christopher Hawkes (1957) and
of Robert Dunnell (1978), seem to be the most inter-
esting and serious elaborations on the theme. It has
proved useful to make the analysis of the problem just
by considering these works, by examining their choice
and selection of principles. In Hawkes presidential
address not only reasoning about the methodological
nature of archaeology is of interest, or the insistence
of revealing the fundamental principles of interpreta-
tion, the selection of the principles themselves is at-
tractive. What are the archaeologists principles,
which are embodied in his interpretation of his exca-
vations, measurements, and comparisons?, asks
Hawkes. I have often asked myself this question ...
(1957, 95). In Hawkes opinion there are only two
principles controlling archaeological interpretation
(Fig. 5):
(1) People in the past did things for purposes which
can, in the most cases if not in all, be correctly
(2) If different people did the same or closely similar
things, ... their doing is not fortuitous, but requires
a single ... explanation to cover them together,
45 Metaarchaeology
unless these cases are too separated in time or
space or otherwise.
If we look closely (Fig. 6) at Hawkes rst principle
(comprehensibility of ancient artefact), one can see
the criterion of simplicity is not maintained. At least
two principles have become one here. The rst is the
principle of cognisability of functions in material cul-
ture, meaning that one can comprehend the purposes
things are made for. The second is the principle of
connection between epochs aims that existed in the
past can be understood by contemporary people as
it was worded by Roe.
When examining the second of Hawkes initial
principles, the principle of non-fortuity of similarities
in things, it does not appear very simple either. It
implies two different propositions. First, that formal
similarities in things are important since they are not
merely formal some correlation between form and
sense is implied. And second, that similarities are im-
portant because similar things have something com-
mon in their origin; Hawkes meant the real common
origin of similar things from one cultural source and
then spreading by diffusion. Convergence can also be
intended here because there is also something com-
mon in it in terms of common causes and common
regularities. Thus, where Hawkes saw two initial prin-
ciples, at least four are present.
The rst of them is rather general. It concerns all
the disciplines on man and culture. I should even like
to say, it is not very axiomatic: it is based on other
principles. For instance, the principle of cognisability
could not act if every thing were absolutely unique
and was made for absolutely new purposes, ad hoc. So,
to be able to rely on this principle one should accept
the existence of some regularities in culture, some
laws of satisfying the basic needs. That means the
principle of determinism in culture is necessary and
some others alongside. Thus behind, or rather be-
neath the rst principle implied by Hawkes, no less
than three very important initial, and really funda-
mental principles should be placed: the unity of hu-
man nature and correspondingly the community of
human culture, the existence of social and cultural
laws, and the systemic order in culture.
The second implied principle of those two into
which it appeared reasonable to divide the rst prin-
Fig. 6. Hawkes principles corrected.
ciple of Hawkes is known as the principle of ac-
tualism. The third deals with the correlation of ma-
terial parts of culture with its non-material compo-
nents (ideas, social functions and so on). The fourth
principle is not exposed in detail by Hawkes. He did
not explain how and why the fortuity should be deter-
mined. Yet it was clear from the context that Hawkes
saw an afnity between the separate cases, and corre-
spondingly something behind the formal similarity
namely a relationship caused by spreading. Behind
this briey uttered reection a discourse is hidden,
reminding one of Graebners criterion of form, which
was worked out by him for the sake of estimating the
likeness while determining the propinquity (homo-
logy) of ethnographic objects. Graebners criterion de-
manded the occurrence of a rare combination of attri-
butes, not conditioned by the nature of the object.
Graebner also had another criterion, that of quan-
tity the particular combination should appear re-
peatedly (Graebner 1911).
However, Hawkes had predecessors in these mat-
ters in archaeology itself. Sophus Mller wrote:
Where there is a likeness, there must be a relation,
a connection of some kind (1884, 185). This prin-
ciple does not look initial or axiomatic. It is inferen-
tial, quite evidently deduced from the recognition of
laws in culture and society, i.e. from some kind of
determinism. Indeed, if law-like regularities exist in
the material, then likeness must exist as well. In that
case neither differences would be fortuitous. They
show either the manifestation of different regularities
or the interference of some other factors. In contrast,
if there are no regularities, then the differences are
quite natural even if they are because of random
dispersion. What is more, it is often impossible to dis-
tinguish between random and non-random events.
True, Hawkes himself did not suppose it was necess-
ary to use regularities for explaining the non-fortu-
46 Acta Archaeologica
Fig. 7. Principles of interpretation according to Dunnell.
itous character of similarities and differences. He was
ready to look for explanation exclusively in identity
and heterogeneity caused by diffusion. In turn, dif-
fusion has its own regularities.
The importance of formal similarities and differ-
ences in the archaeological material depends also on
the recognition of regular relations between material
forms and social meanings. All this leads to other,
deeper principles. An article by Robert Dunnell
(1978), or more precisely one section of it, is a central
work on this topic, although both the article and the
section in question are entitled without indicating this
topic. It concentrates on functions but questions in
fact the initial principles of the functional interpreta-
tion of archaeological evidence. The system of inter-
pretation fundamentals (Fig. 7) is constructed by Dun-
nell in two axioms and in some derivatives inferred
from them, which consist of three theorems and one
corollary. Everything looks strict and logical like in
mathematics. Although mathematics is not a science
to David Clarke, archaeology when presented so
structurally in its fundamentals looks very scientic.
Dunnell made an impressive attempt in structuring
the basis of archaeology.
According to the rst axiom, the purpose of ar-
chaeology is anthropological description. Two the-
orems are consistently inferred from this, the rst one
that archaeological data are incomplete and the sec-
ond that it is not identical to anthropological data.
Hence, enrichment of the data is necessary. The sec-
ond theorem is that archaeological interpretation may
take the form of functional reconstruction. The sec-
Fig. 8. Dunnells principles corrected.
ond line of discourse consists of an axiom and two
inferred propositions: a theorem and a corollary. It
leads to the legitimate use of ethnographic analogies
in archaeological interpretation.
Although Dunnells construction is serious and in-
teresting, its realisation can hardly satisfy (Fig. 8).
Dunnells rst axiom is awkwardly formulated. The
aim of archaeology is narrowed and its orientation on
history is dropped. Overall, if it was necessary to
ground the inherent incompleteness of archaeological
data, the grounds might be chosen more correctly.
Archaeology aims to be of service to other disciplines
on the past like palaeoanthropology, its subject matter
does not coincide with the nal object of their com-
mon interest and is merely a source of cognition of
this nal object. It could be said that Dunnells rst
theorem is no theorem at all as it does not need sub-
stantiating. It is simply a corollary to the rst axiom.
As far as archaeological sources reect the nal object
of disciplines studying the past, it is quite clear that
they relate only incomplete information. The reec-
tion through the mists of time leads to remains and
traces, and they give naturally less information than
the object itself.
The second theorem indeed deserves its status,
since it needs to be proved. However, to ground it
one needs rst of all to rely on positions which are
not contained explicitly in the initial axiom. They are
contained neither in Dunnells wording nor in the
suggested substitute. For the substantiating, some pro-
positions on the signicance of function in culture are
necessary, on its connection with reconstruction of
47 Metaarchaeology
historic events. Also necessary is a very broad de-
nition of function that includes semantic aspects and
the use of the thing as well. Otherwise why would
reconstruction be limited to function? On the whole,
all this line of discourse does not lead to the revealing
of interpretative mechanisms. It leads solely to the
proving of its necessity in archaeology and to its goals
of functional reconstruction. It does not explain how
to carry out the reconstruction. Hence none of these
propositions (the axiom, theorems and corollary) are
to be included into the principles of archaeological
interpretation. Rather they concern the foundations
of the structure of archaeology and are similar to the
rst series of Gibbons principles.
From the recognition of incompleteness of data I
would prefer to infer the demand for enrichment of
archaeological information by non-archaeological
sources, and not only by ethnographic analogies, a
demand that I have advanced before (Klejn 1977d;
1978b, 3944, 5456).
The second line of Dunnells discourse is of a differ-
ent kind. It begins with the second axiom, the con-
stancy of laws (uniformitarianism), and derives
therefrom the corollary of actualism. Dunnell dis-
criminates between these two principles. As distinct
from the Evolutionists and in accordance with the
task of his study he formulates the initial principle
very narrowly according to the task of his study
and disputably: Function, form and relationship be-
tween them are constant through time (Dunnell
1978, 45). Hence he deduces the theorem: Modern
peoples are functionally representative of past time.
After which his corollary follows: Functional inter-
pretation of prehistoric data is by reference to ethno-
graphic occurrence of similar forms. Dunnell sees
this as the foundation of why ethnographic parallels
are applicable in archaeology. The foundation being
rather insufcient for the reason that ethnographic
parallels would be better considered in the frames of
archaeological signicance of analogies in general.
Thus, having in mind the initial, fundamental prin-
ciples of the archaeological interpretation, Dunnells
work broaches them indirectly and incompletely, but
his stipulations and the title of his work do not allow
one to hurl criticism at him. Yet one of the principles,
which has been noted by many practitioners for a
long time, is sustained by him successfully. Moreover,
the whole construction presenting the base of inter-
pretation, and by this I mean the built up system of
principles and their derivatives, may become a model
for further studies.
While analysing these two important articles,
Hawkes and Dunnells, it becomes clear that some
fundamental principles were observed by the two
scholars, while others were only dimly implied and
popped up during the analysis. In my analysis here
propositions of other scholars were also used.
After analysing these and other works we may pro-
ceed to a conclusion that six principles of archaeology
have been selected in the long experience of its
studies. Some scholars relied upon one part of them,
some upon another, but on the whole six intercon-
nected principles appear.
(1) Determinism
As Michael Schiffer (1976, 5) writes, archaeologists
... found it necessary to draw a wide variety of behavi-
oural laws to facilitate documenting and explaining
past events. These laws may appear in some var-
iety as determining the course of evolution, or as
keeping society and culture dependent in their devel-
opment on natural changes, or as enforcing techno-
logical progress, and so on. For instance, Montelius
Law concerns things of the same category and the
same tradition the most similar things in shape, are
also the closest to each other in time. Thus it formu-
lated a correlation between formal similarity and
chronological proximity. In other words, it described
the development of things by their regular character
(Clarke 1972a, 45).
The principle of determinism, however, is not
limited to the recognition of laws. The corollary of
this recognition is no less important for science. Bohr
declared, Really, I think ... all of us agree with New-
ton: the most profound basis of science is condence
that in nature identical phenomena appear in identi-
cal conditions (Bohr, 1961 [1932], 22). The base of
our deductions concerning culture is the same. How
important is it to have the condence that in every
case, cultural community or similarity is based on the
identity of conditions either geographical, or racial,
48 Acta Archaeologica
or of social stage. This proposition may be called the
corollary of parallelism. It grounds the phenomenon of
convergence. From this corollary the applicability of
analogies in archaeology should be logically deduc-
ible. The signicance of analogies for archaeology,
and in particular the signicance of ethnographic
analogies for archaeological interpretation is recog-
nised everywhere. Chang Kuang Chih has even
found it possible to declare that As to analogy, ar-
chaeology as a whole is analogy (Chang 1967b, 109).
Objecting to the exaggerated hopes pinned on ethno-
graphic analogies, Binford did not deny the signi-
cance of analogies in general and described the appli-
cability of analogies as a separate principle. If two or a
few phenomena have many traits in common they
probably hold some additional traits in common, and
the probability is higher if you are lucky enough to
reveal the inherent tie linking the resemblances
(Binford 1967, 1ff).
(2) Universalism
This is the principle proclaiming the unity of human
nature (consequently of psychology too) and in con-
nection with this the community of human culture.
Haag mentions the psychic unity of mankind
among the main archaeologists presumptions
(1969, 47). It is implied that the psychology of all nor-
mal people is basically similar. So for any person the
behaviour of another person is predictable in a con-
crete situation. It is also implied that any culture must
in any case satisfy some basic needs of a person, and
these requirements in food, rest, sleep, posterity
etc. are mainly the same. This is the principle of
universalism and it was formulated for ethnography
by Evolutionists (Tylor 1958, 6).
(3) Uniformitarianism
This principle is most important for providing a
foundation for interpretation. The foundation forms
from the same regularities that are being observed
now and which acted in the past (i.e. the principle of
uniformitarianism, the constancy of laws). Only then can
we interpret the results of ancient processes by resting
upon contemporary experience the principle of ac-
tualism). This second one is a principle well known in
all the disciplines studying remains of the past ge-
ology, palaeontology, palaeoanthropology, archaeol-
ogy. This principle is built on the idea of bringing
together the epochs. That is, as soon as the unity (or
community) of basic traits in processes of the past and
present are recognised, we can, with knowledge of
contemporary processes, infer processes of the past.
In other words, through studying contemporary pro-
cesses we can transfer this knowledge to processes of
the past. Thus two principles are operating here, an
axiom and a corollary.
The same line of discourse is present in Smiths
principles of stratigraphy. Smith derives it from the
geologist Hutton (1785) and expresses it with the aph-
orism The present is the key to the past (Smith
1976, 515). However, according to British and Ameri-
can tradition, he covers both principles with the term
uniformitarianism. Meanwhile, since long ago the
term actualism has been used too (see Guntau
1967), and also for the designation of both principles
as one, which in my opinion is not very appropriate.
The ethnologists J. Lubbock and P. Ehrenreich ap-
plied the rst principle to prehistory. The second was
common place in Evolutionists works where it usually
took the form of a label like backward peoples are
like living fossils (Tylor 1958, 16, 2124; Morgan
1877, 10f). In archaeology Malmer (1997, 7) divides
its application into three kinds: ethnoarchaeology, ex-
perimental archaeology and reasoning of an archaeol-
ogist based on his personal experience. On the basis
of the actualistic principle a thing or an artefact is
transformed into a source of information not simply
on events and ideas, but exactly on events and ideas
of the past, a potential historical source or record.
(4) Systemic order in culture
These general propositions exist in archaeology only
as theorems and in order to deduce them they need
not only the corollary of parallelism but also the prin-
ciple of systemic order in culture. In general form this
principle was worded as applied to archaeology by
Sophus Mller (1884, 185). This scholar saw archae-
ological thinking as being underlain by our con-
dence that there is order and arrangement in this
Contemporary authors describe the systemic prin-
ciple in culture with items that are characterised as
interconnected and interdependent. This principle
was accepted not only by Binford and his New Ar-
49 Metaarchaeology
chaeologists, but also by Trigger, a supporter of the
contextual approach. The last scholar calls a basic
proposition the idea that all elements of a cultural
system are interrelated and that alterations in any one
component will result in changes of varying degree in
all features of the system and in their interrelation-
ships (Trigger 1973, 103).
(5) Material/non-material correlation
To comprehend the functions of things one needs to
rest upon another principle, very specic to archaeol-
ogy. One may consider it as an aspect or corollary of
the principle of systemic order in culture. The link is
not evident and yet the specicity to archaeology is
extraordinary. The essence of this principle is ex-
pressed by Raymond Thompson (1956, 329) as a
correlation between a certain set of archaeological
material objects and a particular range of sociocultur-
al behaviour. James Deetz (1971, 3) has worded this
in the following way: The sine qua non of archaeology
is a concern for the relationships between mans vis-
ible and measurable modication of his environment
and his invisible and less easily measured social and
ideological life. Both are regular, patterned, and inter-
related. Some archaeologists call these relationships
correlates (Hill 1970, 63; Pebbles and Kus 1977; Schiff-
er 1976, 12f). One can even say more denitely that
for every particular case the ideas of people and the
corresponding behaviour are recognised as factors de-
termining the form (in broad sense of the word) of
things and assemblages directly. This is the principle of
objectication of ideas and events in things.
Hence the possibility to make judgements on the
conditions of things, of their formation and the causes
of their formation based on the form of these things.
That is, the possibility to apprehend a thing as the
source of information on events and ideas. Similar to
Hawkes, Malmer expresses this principle very suc-
cinctly: physical similarity entails a probability of
every other form of similarity, i.e. similarity in respect
of time, use, name and environment (1963, 264).
(6) Fundamental sufciency of data
Many archaeologists have insisted on the idea of the
sufciency of data more than any the ideologists of
Soviet archaeology. In the acceptance of the incom-
pleteness of the data they saw a view that declared
the inability to know about the past. Obviously this
would be in contradiction with their inherent epis-
temological optimism. The idea that we can cognise
the real world is one of the main principles of materi-
alist dialectics. In the eyes of most primitive Marxists
a disbelief in this looked simply like an attack upon
Marxist ideology; Marxism is almighty, and there
cannot exist anything that it could not get to know!
The other proponent was New Archaeology which
had its own epistemological optimism. Everything in
culture had to be interdependent with such regularity
that after the saved fragments one could completely
restore its lost parts. The leading gures among these
proponents were Arcikhovskij in the late 20s and
Binford in the early 60s. They each advanced a state-
ment on the essential sufciency of the archaeological
data for full reconstruction and reliable interpreta-
All in all, six fundamental principles are outlined: 1)
of determinism in material culture, 2) of universalism,
3) uniformitarianism with its corollary, actualism; 4)
the systemic order in culture; 5) of objectication of
ideas and events in things (material/non-material cor-
relation), and 6) fundamental completeness of archae-
ological data. For many archaeologists, whether they
are conscious of that or not, the whole system of inter-
pretation in archaeology is based on these principles.
Enthusiasm for any of these principles has often
raised hopes, but warnings immediately followed
from the side of sceptical scholars. In an article from
the thirties published in French and in English,
Tallgren noted a widespread opinion that method
adopted by students of the humanities was as certain
and as rigid as that of natural sciences. The achieve-
ments of Darwinism, he noted, transferred to the hu-
manities, and the course of evolution, made subservi-
ent to the laws of history, had to make history as exact
as natural sciences. Tallgren inquired whether the for-
mal method is correct when applied to the humanities
and he concluded as follows: No, I do not think it
is, and probably most archaeologists, who are of the
same opinion, are sceptical. Scepticism is a powerful
aid to scientic thought ... One must be bold enough
50 Acta Archaeologica
to cast doubt both upon the theories of others and
upon ones own, and even upon the foundations of
ones own science and its method ... (Tallgren 1937,
153f). None of the principles included in the set pre-
sented here have avoided criticism.
(1) Determinism
Evolutionists, Soviet Marxist sociologists and Neopos-
itivists all took a liking to this. Pjotr N. Tretjakov
uttered casually that There are no contingencies in
the development of culture (1962, 262). This could
not, of course, convince practical archaeologists who
run up against strange occurrences, surprises and
mysteries at every step in their work. As for Hawkes,
he did not see similarities and differences as chance
phenomena. Nevertheless he did not interpret non-
fortuitous events as a display of social regularity, con-
vergence and the like in the spirit of Evolutionism.
He saw in it simply cultural and genetic kinship the
evidence of diffusion, migration and common origin.
However, the non-fortuitous character of similarities
and differences so fundamental for Hawkes was still
rejected by R. Lowie in 1912. The comparison of
forms can never do more than establish the identity of
forms; that such identity is to be explained by genetic
relationship is an hypothesis ... (Lowie 1912, 28).
Contemporaries of Hawkes developed Lowies
harsh scepticism. Some of them, for example Thomp-
son, emphasised that subjectivity of choice in the ac-
tivity of both ancient masters and todays classiers
undermines the effectiveness of laws. Others rejected
the truth in the proverb that an exception just con-
rmed the rule. There are too many exceptions in
cultural reality, so many in fact that the concept of
law itself caves in (cf. Kbben 1967). Having entered
archaeology, the idea of stochastic processes and regu-
larities of probability saved the conception of law, but
changed the content of determinism. It has become
particularly stronger as regards to mass material, but
it has stopped determining every isolated fact and,
hence, lost touch with its cause.
I do not touch here upon the orientation of archae-
ology on searching for laws in the framework of
anthropology criticism of this enthusiasm is well
known, but I do call attention to the point that the
availability itself of the laws of cultural process and/
or the possibility to use these laws for archaeological
interpretation are called into question and are sub-
jected to criticism. Determinism is avoided, Hodder
stated the fact (1991, 9). Hodder opposes determinism
as counter to the emphasis on the active role of an
individual in culture (1991, 610).
(2) Universalism
Universalism has become rmly established together
with the idea of unity of the human race and culture.
This idea typical for Evolutionists and supported by
Soviet Marxist archaeologists sounded quite progress-
ive. Evolution was considered as development of the
total culture, homogeneous in principle, of the whole
of mankind. The subsequent trends Migrationism,
Diffusionism, and Ecological conception have
undermined this idea. Tallgren stated, No state of
culture, no evolutionary stage is or ever has been uni-
form; there have always been differences. In every
culture one discovers rudiments, survivals, archaisms,
marginal features, whatever word one may employ ...
In every stage of culture there are dialects, if I may
use a philological metaphor ... Any reconstruction of
a given culture which disregards dialects may lead
to serious errors ... It would be a fault not merely in
the application of a method but in the method itself
(Tallgren 1937, 155f).
Walter Taylor made the next step by rejecting com-
parative manipulations of types and gave paramount
importance not to type but the individual artefact and
its position in a single particular context. It is this
position that allows the functional use of the artefact
to be exposed. The broad trend of Contextual Ar-
chaeology begins with this appeal.
(3) Uniformitarianism and actualism
The principle of actualism, which originally gained a
foothold in geology, met with opposition from the
very beginning. Among ethnoarchaeologists the scep-
tical opinion of R. Gould has been heard, The less
the archaeologist must depend upon uniformitarian
assumptions to infer past human behaviour, the more
valid his explanations will be (1978, 254).
In archaeological interpretation Atkinson considers
only conclusions on technology to be reliable be-
cause there is no reason to suppose that the laws of
physics and chemistry have changed. The inferences
are made here within the framework of an invariant
51 Metaarchaeology
system. This is manifestly not true, however, of infer-
ences about social organisation or religion, where
there is no one-to-one correspondence between inten-
tion and action (or between cause and effect), and
therefore no possibility of unambiguous inference in
the reverse direction. The essential frame of reference
here is a system of inference which gives due weight
... to the strength of inference that the individual data
will bear, but no more (1975, 176f).
Very important was the refusal of ethnographers to
consider the currently less developed peoples and so-
cial strata as living fossils representing the prehis-
toric past. The ethnographers have come to under-
stand that these populations had changed greatly by
the present time because they exist in new conditions:
it is unjust to consider any of the now living groups
as our contemporary ancestors (Herskovitz 1949,
71). The proposition of M. Foucault (1968) on the
peculiarity of every epoch and even its comparative
isolation from other epochs has sharpened the prob-
lem even more. A. Leroi-Gourhan (1964) is known for
his aspiration to reconstruct primitive religion without
adhering to direct ethnographic analogies. He even
considered whether they had caused more damage
than benet.
Guided by the fact that conditions and causes of
every cultural phenomenon are multiple and extra-
ordinarily complex, Bruce Trigger contends that the
armchair prehistorian, no matter how much general
theory he knows, is unable to produce a detailed re-
construction of the course of human prehistory on the
basis of what he knows about man at the present
time (1973, 104).
(4) The Systemic approach
Trigger has also stated the principle of systemic order
as the interdependency of every element of a system
on any other element of it. In such formulation it
contradicts the ordinary experience of every person.
We often observe evident independence of one or an-
other important component of a cultural system by
the behaviour of many others in it. Even where de-
pendence is present, it often proves to be one-sided.
The idea of the universal interdependence in culture
is very close to Binfords notions. Yet from the very
beginning, from his rst theoretical article, Binford
came out against recognition of all the elements as
equal and comparable. He noted that subsystems, not
single elements of a system, interact and inuence
each other in a system. He noted also that elements
have different signicance depending on their belong-
ing to a subsystem (Binford 1962, 218).
In 1971 in a paper presented to the Shefeld Sem-
inar I directed the attention of archaeologists to the
structural organisation of a system adopted in the Sys-
temic approach. I emphasised how signicant the po-
sition of an element is in this hierarchical structure
for determining its role in it, for the inuence it has on
the other elements of the system (Klejn 1973, 702f).
(5) Objectication of ideas and events
The idea of a one-to-one correlation between ma-
terial elements of culture and non-material ones has
lost strength too. Since historical events and essential
social divisions of prehistoric peoples dont nd an
adequate expression in material remains, Margaret
A. Smith (1955, 7) reasons, it cannot be right to try
to arrive at a knowledge of them through archaeologi-
cal interpretation. Michael Schiffer (1976, 11f) de-
clared the idea of material/non-material correlation,
the principle recognised by Binford, to be incorrect
in archaeology. Binford supposed that social struc-
tures had left a direct adequate imprint in material
remains. Opposing him Schiffer means that due to
the action of natural and cultural forces, material re-
mains have reached us in very much a destroyed con-
dition. The principle I offer, he noted, is that ar-
chaeological remains are a distorted reection of a
past behavioral system (Schiffer 1976, 12). He did
not call into question the availability itself of some
imprints in the material culture under archaeological
study and he does not deny the correlates with an-
cient social structures, processes and events. On the
contrary, he afrmed their presence, though in dis-
torted condition.
However this idea has also come under strong criti-
cal re. To Raymond H. Thompson (1956, 330f),
Although a correlation between the artefact types
and various cultural generalisations is the ultimate
goal of an archaeological reconstruction, and conse-
quently considered as possible in principle, it is never-
theless not granted as objective. Resting on analogous
relationships in ethnography, it is based on judge-
ments by analogy which are known to be logically
52 Acta Archaeologica
unnecessary, and is permeated with subjectivity. ...
[The] archaeologist injects a subjective element into
his inferential reconstruction ..., unavoidably and
not only once.
Karl Heider called the ethnographic validity of this
correlation into question. Such conclusions of archae-
ologists can only be tested against the facts of ethno-
graphic cultures. Although for the most part they can
never be proven universally valid, only a few counter-
examples can throw their usefulness into question.
Heider provides such counter-examples, one of them
in the statement of Thukidides who, long before the
birth of archaeology, reasoned as if he foresaw the
risky discourses of archaeologists. He remarked that
in comparison with magnicent Athens, the military
Sparta looked just like a large village, but it would be
a mistake in future, looking at its scarce ruins, to draw
the conclusion that Athens dominated Sparta politi-
cally. While exploring contemporary New Guinea
aborigines Heider observed an unexpected picture.
He has found that Between the formal and func-
tional typologies of the aborigines, as well as in other
aspects of culture, there are a number of discrepan-
cies which would mislead the archaeologist (Heider
1967, 55). Hodder has explained this theoretically: it
is ideas, beliefs and meanings which interpose them-
selves between people and things. How burial reects
society clearly depends on attitudes to death (Hodd-
er, 1991, 3).
Holding an archaeological conference on an anal-
ogous problem, Carl-Axel Moberg (1981, A12f) called
both the conference itself and his introducing paper
to it Similar nds? Similar interpretations?, all
under question marks. He sums up in this work: The
thematic question in the title is, in reality, the question
whether archaeology is feasible at all. Actually, an
answer in the afrmative, even if often entirely inex-
plicit and unconscious, underlies all archaeology:
Similar nds do indicate similar interpretations. But
we know so well (or ought to know) that in many
concrete cases the reply has to be negative more often
than not. In this special research situation, similar
nds are poor indicators for similar interpretations.
Is archaeology then feasible at all?!
(6) Fundamental sufciency of data
If the data were sufcient, reconstruction could be
reduced to mutual positioning of components. How-
ever, many data are simply absent they have disap-
peared forever and in archaeological practice we rec-
ognise this at every step. Since Winckelmanns time
authentic parts of artefacts are to be distinguished
from restored, newly created ones. Flinders Petrie left
spaces free for early points in his sequence of dates
just as there are plenty of blank spots on archaeologi-
cal maps, as well as hypothetical chains in typological
series (historians of language would say forms under
asterisk). Childe admitted his beloved short chron-
ology to be just as invalid as the opposite, long one
the last appeared however to be better substantiated.
Binfords belief in the fundamental reconstructabil-
ity of cultural components on the strength of their
mutual reection makes this principle in turn depend-
ent on another of the systemic order in culture.
Thus it is not primary and appears vulnerable from
many sides.
Despite all the stumbling blocks reconstructions have
indeed been carried out. Archaeologists albeit with
hesitations and doubts, give credence to them and pin
their hope on them overall. The principles I talk
about stick implicitly in our heads. Here some dis-
crepancy may be observed between our theory into
which we sometimes dive and our everyday practice.
In theory we disprove these principles and now and
again jeer at them because of their naivety, but in
practice we follow them and act as if we justify the
use of them by other people, i.e. give credence to the
results inferred therefrom. Are there any grounds for
this? It seems to me there are.
Firstly strict determination of laws, correlations and
inferences is, as it turned out, not the only possible
determination. Stochastic laws, probabilistic infer-
ences, diffuse or fuzzy sets, incomplete dependences
take more and more signicance in our constructions.
An inference adopted for a totality does not necess-
arily cover each member of the totality. A law incor-
rect with respect to a single part may be true for all
the totality. This impels us to decide with circumspec-
tion if it is possible to rely on the fundamental prin-
ciples I have enumerated above. It is important to
dene the kind of the phenomena we are going to
apply these principles to.
Secondly, the principles are none other than the
53 Metaarchaeology
main, most inuential, governing laws. But are they
universal? Edward Tylor wrote: The tendency of
modern inquiry is more and more towards the con-
clusion that if law is anywhere it is everywhere (as
cited by Kbben 1967, 3). Binford reiterated the
teaching of Leslie White with the aphorism: Laws
are timeless and spaceless (Binford 1972, 8). How-
ever the inclination to formulate universal laws has
since greatly decreased and belief has grown that the
more universal a law is, the more trivial or unreliable
it is (Trigger 1973, 102). Well known is the bitter
irony of one of the leaders of New Archaeology who
admitted that after lots of trouble many of his associ-
ates produced rather trivial and petty Mickey Mouse
laws (Flannery 1973, 51). Many students have seen
the way to save the conception of law by limiting it.
Arguing with Kbben I contended that a law would
not be banal and would get out of difculties with its
exceptions if the limits of its use were indicated (Klejn
Thirdly, a principle does not just cease from acting
outside the limits of its applicability. We may nd the
opposite principle is acting there. In general this is
clear: a principle formulates some elementary truth,
which has no gradations but expresses polar relations.
So if one thing is not true, then the opposite is true.
As soon as we try to formulate the opposite idea as
an independent principle, its corollaries and theorems
will immediately spring up from it, the neighbouring
principles with their inferred theorems join them, and
all of this having turned into a complex system of
propositions, into theory, will lose all the former sim-
plicity and banal look. What is more we will most
likely nd that we already know these principles and
having existed for a long time they are quite respect-
able. They can be examined as follows.
(1) Indeterminism
Contrasting determinism is the principle of indetermi-
nism. This principle is suggested both in history and
archaeology. Some critics of determinism came to
such an opposition of determinism. The conviction of
Heider is contrary to Hawkes belief that the aims
of prehistoric peoples in their production of cultural
material are comprehensible. Heiders ideas are also
contrary to the belief that ethnographic analogies are
reasonable. Unfortunately for the archaeological
process, writes Heider (1967, 52), cultures are gen-
erally quite unreasonable. In his concluding address
to the Shefeld Seminar the ethnologist Edmund Le-
ach (1973, 764) warned archaeologists: The proper
analogy for human behaviour is not natural law of
a physical kind but a game of chess. The eld of
play and the rules of the game are laid out in advance
but the way the game is played out is unpredictable.
Authoritative archaeologists, especially in Britain,
were prone to think in this way. Even more so in
Germany, where as Ulrich Fischer (1987, 184) has
written, cultural laws dont exist.
(2) Individualisation (particularism)
The principle of universalism has its opposite too; the
belief in the unique character of every phenomenon
in culture, in a nutshell, the principle of individualis-
ation. In implicit form it was already inherent in the
passion with which the Diffusionists opposed particu-
larism (the other designation of the principle) to gen-
eralisations of Evolutionists (Buettner-Janusch 1957).
Now this principle is exposed and clearly formulated:
each archaeological object and situation is unique
(Chang 1967a, 230).
(3) Historicism
What is counter to the principle of uniformitarianism,
for which all epochs are equal? It is of course the
principle of historicism that demands that all
phenomena in development are taken into account
and substantial differentiation of epochs is made. This
principle arose even before Evolutionism in teachings
of the catastrophe and progress in history. It is the
fourth initial proposition of materialist philosophy in
Jason Smiths book. On the whole Marxism has very
much propagated it as documenting the law-depend-
ent character of changes which lead to Communism.
Historicism is not alien to New Archaeology oriented
to the study of cultural process, of sociodynamics.
The acknowledgement of development alone does
not require the identication of laws that acted in dif-
ferent epochs. Nevertheless a very narrow principle
of historicism existed, i.e. reduced to the demand for
perceiving sharp qualitative differences of epochs. It
54 Acta Archaeologica
was present in Marxism and in some other teachings
close to archaeology in the teachings of Foucault
for instance.
(4) Irregularity
It is not difcult to see that opposite to the principle of
systemic order is the principle of irregularity, of dis-
order. More difcult is to nd this principle realised in
research practice. The question would apparently not
be contained in what existed before the principle of sys-
temic order was introduced but in the reaction of its op-
ponents. Very seldom are its uses clear but it is im-
plicitly contained in the initial ideas of archaeologists
who do not believe in the wisdom of the Systemic ap-
proach and the boundlessness of cognition. Either they
do not consider that culture is an ordered enough sys-
tem to be worth serving as a base for further con-
clusions, or they recognise living culture as such a sys-
tem but refuse to do consider archaeological material
as such a system for it is too fragmented and incom-
plete. A system can only be introduced into such ma-
terial from outside it will be a subjective creation of
an archaeologist, just the position of J. O. Brew and J.
Ford (Brew 1946; Ford 1954b; 1962 a,b).
(5) Polysemism
In the rst row of principles the fth one is the prin-
ciple stating that material components of culture must
correlate with its non-material ones and with events
of history. This principle has its opposite in the prin-
ciple of polysemism of archaeological facts. I de-
fended the idea of polysemism in my paper to the
Shefeld Seminar of 1971 (Klejn 1973; see also
1978b, 48). In his Theoretical archaeology (1979)
Gardin equates interpretation to the logical para-
phrase establishing the likeness of monuments dis-
persed in space and time, and he advises not to for-
get that this paraphrase is almost always one of
many, and the less we take this simple fact into ac-
count, the more plausible such paraphrases will seem
to be (Gardin 1983, 154). Now Shanks and Tilley
(1987, 115) note that material culture is unreducibly
polysemic and Stutt and Shennan (1990, 767) pro-
ceed from the view.
(6) Initial incompleteness of data
By denition archaeological objects are less informa-
tive than direct access objects in a living culture. Be-
tween the two is the destructive activity multiplied
by time, a point that was stressed by Dunnell. The
recognition of the initial incompleteness of data is
very important for archaeology. It leads to the necess-
ity of interpretation and the involvement of non-ar-
chaeological information, to the interdisciplinary syn-
thesis in studying the historic and prehistoric past. Sir
Mortimer Wheeler (1952, 180f) expressed this very
graphically. He noted that the archaeologist will nd
the tub and will completely miss Diogenes. He will
write profound papers on the typology of tubs; he will
classify tubs in categories A, B and C; he will discover
a Tub-bearing Folk and plot their wanderings upon
geographical and geophysical maps ... Only, he has
overlooked, and could not help overlooking, the one
signicant thing about that Tub, namely, that it shel-
tered the eminent Cynic and symbolized his philos-
ophy for all time.
Hawkes made the cognisability of ancient purposes
one of his two principles, yet three years earlier he
had introduced essential limitations. At that time he
had built his well known ladder of incomprehensibility. It
consisted of different cultural spheres gradually more
inaccessible to the archaeological cognition accord-
ing to the growing incompleteness of the sources
(Hawkes 1954). He is one of several who formulated
this principle for archaeology.
Thus, this is the other group of initial principles of
archaeology, a group that is quite opposite to that one
which was investigated above. It must be admitted
that these different principles are also realistic and
reasonable, by no means without foundations and in
any case useful. They also form an integral system
with its derivatives corollaries, theorems etc., and
all of them rank high in archaeology. So the demand
to concentrate the study on the context (the principle
of contextuality) is guided by the principles of indeter-
minism and of individualisation. A further support of
this principle of contextuality comes from the func-
tions of things. The context principle was instilled into
archaeology by followers of W. Taylor, in particular
by Chang and Deetz, and in a somewhat different
way by Trigger.
55 Metaarchaeology
In logical space the fundamental principles of archae-
ology are arranged in pairs like the quarrelling
Gods before the Battle of Gods in Homers Iliad
the principles are in opposition to each other in every
pair (Fig. 9). This reminds me of a maxim by Niels
Bohr. When visiting Moscow in 1961, Bohr said that
the most fundamental truths were so profound that
quite the opposite ones were also true! Having dis-
covered such truths, he explained, a science enters its
best period (Fainberg 1988, 30).
Malmer pointed out something similar in prehistory:
To some scholar a vague hint on political conditions
may seem more important than a lot of information on
daily life but the opposite view is equally reliable
(Malmer, 1963, 249). ZbigniewKobylinski pointed out
the opposite views of M. Schiffer and R. A. Gould, both
stated in the same year of 1978, with regards to the
problem of uniformitarianism. Schiffer calls to formu-
late universal laws as the same in both prehistoric and
industrial societies, while Gould denies the existence of
universal laws because the research concerns unique
combinations of factors. Instead Gould insists on site-
oriented studies, and both of them seem to be right
(Kobylinski, 1981, 30f, 46f). In an interesting article en-
titled Axioms in archaeology A. B. Johansen (1984,
36) writes that having revealed the fundamental ax-
ioms and having built a system of knowledge on this
basis it would be reasonable to derive thereafter a con-
trastive alternative, could not the prehistoric people
be counting and non-counting at one and the same
time? At one and the same time hating and loving? Re-
acting both constructively and destructively onto outer
However, as applied to physics this dialectic of
principles remains somewhere in the deepest philo-
sophical comprehension of science. Thus inside of
every physical discipline physicists manage to con-
struct its basis without intrinsic contradictions. In ar-
chaeology the picture is different. Universal laws are
inessential, while essential laws not universal. Data
are always terribly incomplete, and meaning is hidden
which must be deciphered. So it is impossible to avoid
contradictions in the basis of archaeology. The Battle
of Gods takes place right in the discipline itself.
When Gods are ghting, defeats and victories are il-
lusory no corpses are left on the battleeld, wounds
Fig. 9. Dialectics of fundamental principles in archaeology.
recover and all as though nothing had happened. Only
mortals involved in the conict lose their lives. What
can a poor archaeologist do by watching Gods ghting,
when far from being God? The decision suggests itself
which if suggested for a real ght would be deemed
cynical: ignore one side and move on. It would evi-
dently be the most stupid way out and ruin would be
inevitable. One has to adjust to the situation and this
means estimating which of the sides is stronger in the
given situation, each time anew. One must also rely on
intuition, on ones own sense of measure.
Apparently this matter contains the fundamental
methodological difference between archaeology as an
applied science, besides studying culture, and physics
as a fundamental science studying natural phenom-
ena. David Clarke seemed to feel this irremovable dif-
ference when he declared that the conversion of ar-
chaeology into a science was not his ideal. He merely
called for the formation of an analytical discipline, i.e.
an objective discipline acting strictly and explicitly.
However, does not the result obtained here under-
mine the very possibility for archaeology to be ana-
lytical? For Clarke as well as for all who derived inspi-
ration from analytical philosophy the ideal was un-
doubtedly an analytical machine. By the phrase
analytical machine is meant the logical research
structure, elaborating the information explicitly, un-
ambiguously and equally, always and everywhere.
This ideal has been realised in the modern computer,
by offering some researchers the possibility of con-
56 Acta Archaeologica
tructing the articial intelligence of an archaeologist.
Thus they hope to make a computer program able to
solve the tasks of interpretation.
The rst intention of analytical archaeologists is, of
course, aimed at rectilinear formal logic issuing from
a non-controversial system of principles (Watson et al.
1971; Salmon 1982b). An almost schizophrenic split
into two is revealed however in the very logic-founda-
tion of the discipline. This is enough to frighten any-
one who hopes for vigorousness and unambiguity,
and for a non-contradictory basis of inferences. There
are suggestions how to avoid this difculty.
One can construct the program of interpretation as
an expert system (Ennals and Brough 1982; Gardin et
al. 1987; Gallay 1989) like those already existing in
medicine or geology. However, such a system would
not differ much from simple generalisation of existing
subjective estimations. It would only make their
search easier. One can construct the articial intelli-
gence on the basis of hypertext (Stutt 1988; Stutt and
Shennan 1992) as simulation of the usual arguing
of hypotheses which would however be supplied with
explicit argumentation. Nevertheless a scholar does
not get rid of the feeling of dissatisfaction unless the
logic is traced to the very fundamentals.
Yet if one is going to model the discourse of an ar-
chaeologist at interpretation, then the task is much
more complex than it may be imagined. Nevertheless
the conclusion is not so pessimistic as it may seem. In
one of the rst collective volumes on the application of
computers in archaeology M. Doran (1970) formulated
the differences between machine thinking from the
usual thinking of an researcher archaeologist. He had
in mind how one should reconstruct and discipline the
archaeologists thinking in order it to make it easier for
conversion into formulations accessible to the ma-
chines comprehension. Indeed, it manipulates only
mathematical expressions and thus needs exact de-
nitions, unambiguous orders, in full formalisation. The
brilliant Russian mathematician and linguist V. V. Nal-
imov at the end of his life wrote a strange book entitled
In search of other meanings (1993). To him the
thinking of a machine is uni-directional and accurately
segmented, whereas human thinking is diffuse, uent,
and not without inherent contradictions, but very mo-
bile and plastic. This qualitative difference is con-
ditioned I suppose by the fact that in the brain of a hu-
man the multiple devices processing the information
(the neurones) co-operate in parallel processing.
On a macro level this is expressed in that the brain is
split in two hemispheres. These are relatively indepen-
dent of each other and able to think differently, some-
times even generating polar guide lines. In the most
lower portion of the brain, the connection and co-ordi-
nation of the two cerebral hemispheres occurs, located
in the brain stem. This means that the duality or du-
plicity of the initial principles which is discovered in the
very foundations of archaeology does not border on
schizophrenia. It makes this part of archaeological
interpretation closer to human thinking, partly intuit-
ive, but also plastic and very rich in ideas, and less like
the strict and rigid logic of computer. I consider here
archaeological interpretation as a purely logical pro-
cedure segregated from the executor and hence I com-
pare it with human thinking as something different.
Perhaps a system of two parallel computers (may be
with a third one for co-ordination) would be able to
imitate the interpretative thinking of an archaeologist
with good approximation to reality. When speaking of
parallel computers I am simply trying to catch the
essence of the matter (professionals in computer
science would prefer more exact and cumbersome ex-
pressions), but this seems to satisfy the task at present.
The idea of parallel computers is active in the science
of articial intelligence, but with the aimto reach more
speed in calculations (Deering 1985; Feldman 1985;
Hinton 1985). Apparently the task to approximate
structurally the modelling machine system of human
thinking should nd its solution this way too. Hewitt
(1985) works with such ideas in the open systems of
many computers with a different logic, based on the
hypothesis of contradicting axioms.
Some qualities a modelling system must have pref-
erence over the brain of a researcher, otherwise what
use would it have? The preference may be attained
by means of strengthening the relative role and capac-
ities of the third, uniting computer. In the human
brain the choice between contradictory guiding lines
is made to a great extent under inuence of irrational
stimuli, but in a way that is individual and not ex-
plicit. Computers may help in avoiding these factors.
Thus, the axiomatisation of archaeology is possible
but the net that is realised appears very complicated
and contains inner contradictions.
57 Metaarchaeology
6. Empiricismin archaeology
Ian Hodder is known as a theoretician who advanced
against the theoretical enthusiasm of New Archaeol-
ogy, and against the determinism of laws and belief
in objectivity. In his book Reading the past he op-
poses his simple reading of material culture (with
multiple interpretion of material culture from under-
standing contexts) with Binfords reading off human
patterning from material culture patterning (with the
help of deterministic correlation) (Hodder 1991, 4).
He considered it appropriate to explain that his re-
actionary views do not return us to simple empirical
description and inductive generalisation. He insisted
that archaeology can be distinguished from anti-
quarianism by its concern with the context of material
objects. It seems to him that archaeologists can in-
corporate inductive methods in building up from con-
textual associations ... (1991, 190f).
But if theory is dismissed as depending on biases
and if at the same time uniqueness of events and cul-
tural situations is propagated, how can contexts save
archaeology from being reduced to inductive general-
isations and guesses on facts, let alone in contexts?
Reading the past, reading the monuments without
universal clue to their symbolic meanings is no inno-
vation, it is something our empiricist grandfathers
also tried to do. The use of contexts is not new
either Walter Taylor, K. C. Chang and settlement
archaeology used this approach. Does the new con-
textualism (Hodder 1991, XIV) differ considerably
from the old one? It initially came as a shock to
me that post-processual archaeology was having little
impact on data acquisition (Hodder 1992, 171).
People continue to collect facts as before.
It is a remarkable situation practical archaeologists
are left in who are devoid of their recent belief in
laws, analogies and objectivity. Nearly three decades
ago I showed what the impact was of the ideas of
British Hypersceptics, with their belief in uniqueness
and their dismissal of theories, on the practice of ar-
chaeology. They were brilliant theoreticians (Daniel,
Hawkes, Piggott), but I saw them (Klejn 1972c) under
the device that he who sows Hyperscepticism, har-
vests empiricism. The pupils of Piggott appeared to
belong to this trend, and Hodder is in the same vein.
What will practical archaeologists do who follow his
principles? After much criticism has been directed to
post-processual works, young archaeologists are al-
ready left without any theory and feel happy in such
a state; Archaeology does not need another Grand
Theory (Campbell 1994, 141). They are ready to
collect facts quietly. Really, the two decades of post-
processualism have re-enforced the empiricism that
never died in archaeology.
Since the time of Francis Bacon the idea of experi-
ence entered science as the master: purely philosophi-
cal a priori schemes broke away; facts became the
only legal source of positive knowledge, and the in-
ductive method became the main principle of science.
At least until the late 19th century empiricism was a
very respectable way of research. However, later on
its authority often rose up in one country or branch
of science, then in another, especially where the dom-
inating theory plummeted into deep crisis.
In archaeology this way of thinking had especially
steadfast practitioners, largely because archaeological
material is so demonstrative and large-scale. Sophus
Mller worked in just this way and regarded it as
universal; gradual generalisation leads an investigator
from the material to the inference. The proper
method of archaeology is ... the safe induction
(Mller 1898, 298f). For a long time classical archae-
ology has formed the safest accommodation for em-
piricism, more so than prehistoric archaeology, and
both retain this way of thinking more in Germany
and Russia than among British or French archaeol-
ogists. Having said this, the outstanding British ar-
chaeologist Flinders Petrie even wrote a book called
Inductive methodology in 1877.
In pre-Revolutionary Russia even the most deep
58 Acta Archaeologica
thinking of archaeologists Vasilij Gorodcov was con-
vinced that facts speak for themselves. In the result of
methodical cross-section or excavation of the earth,
he declared, as exact and coherent a reading of sites
must appear as the reading of a usual book. For this
process no subjective intervention of an investigator
is needed since every phenomenon, every thing, must
speak for themselves, like characters and words writ-
ten on sheets of paper tell the reader everything they
were ordered to tell (1908, 11).
Soon after the Civil war the historian Sergey Zheb-
elev, at that time one of the leaders of Soviet archaeol-
ogy, wrote a textbook for archaeologists. In this text-
book he reduced archaeological methodology (for
the sake of irony he placed these words in quotation
marks) to description, comparison and generalisation
of monuments. Therefore, in his opinion, one needs
only diligence, erudition and experience. The experi-
enced archaeologist needs only to look at monuments
in order to read them, i.e. to understand them.
The skill to read monuments in order to interpret
them constitutes the subject matter of archaeological
hermeneutics. The latter must be based on rules in-
ferred empirically and not by metaphysical ways
(1923, 132f). Even the vocabulary is the same as that
of the Post-Processualists.
Ernst Buschor, the authoritative classical archaeol-
ogist whose introduction opened the model handbook
in classical archaeology in the editions of 1939 and
1969, could say nothing commonly valid on ar-
chaeological method. There was no general method
for him: There are so many archaeological methods
as monuments and groups of monuments under the
consideration, and so many methods as research per-
sonalities. This shows good correspondence to Hod-
ders irreducible meanings unique to each context.
Nevertheless, Buschor continued, one initial point
is unmistakable; looking at the object. The archae-
ological method, even though its application is ex-
ecuted intensively in an apparatus of thinking, always
issues from eye experience, from seeing (Buschor
1969, 5f).
So simply reading the monuments and interpreting
them by free comparison with the like, and then con-
cluding from an intuitive understanding of contexts
was one of the features of empiricism. The fact that it
is hidden under the cover-up of theoretical discourse
merely shows that empiricism has had its time. Never-
theless it pops out now and again more or less openly,
not as an entire movement but in a scattered way.
Sir Mortimer Wheeler looked with open eyes and
forthright conscience at the humanistic and empiricist
qualities of his profession. He concluded his book
Archaeology from the earth (Wheeler 1954/1956,
230) in clear diction: As archaeologists, then, we are
at the same time collectors and interpreters ... Let
it be agreed that the two words archaeologist and
antiquary shall in future be exactly synonymous ....
In archaeology the rst opposition to rise against the
common belief in inductivist methodology was young
Soviet archaeology, and this movement was due to its
Marxist claims. Marxism dictates that it stems from
theory, namely from Marxist theory of Historical Ma-
terialism. So archaeologists should issue from Marxist
theoretical dogmas and not from facts, however much
in contradiction to facts these dogmas may be (re-
member the matriarchy thesis). Despite all difculties
facts had to be subordinated and could not contradict
theory. If they did, woe betide them and the
One of the gures who initiated the outt of Soviet
archaeology with Marxism was Vladislav Ravdonikas.
When he attacked traditional archaeology with sharp
criticism he started with the impeachment in empiri-
cism: It was still not long ago that it was considered
enough to make archaeological excavations and to
print a report on them, i.e. simply to establish a fact,
and the scientic work would be fullled and the
author can rest on his laurels, especially if there was
a chronology in the report, together with a descrip-
tion of usual life, and some notorious ethnic attri-
bution .... Ravdonikas condemned the empirical
slavery of thinking, and pointing to the Holy Scrip-
tures of Marxism he concluded: Now we have no
right to be empiricists but unfortunately empiricism
holds many of us in its captivity (1930f 51f).
Paradoxically as it may be, the ght of Soviet dog-
matists to support theory corresponded with the gen-
eral development of sciences. Ten years later Clyde
Kluchhohn with similarly clear eagerness advanced
against the empiricist outt of American anthro-
59 Metaarchaeology
pology, and he included archaeologists. In my obser-
vation, he remarked, the greater number of anthro-
pologists still feel that theorising is what you do
when you are too lazy, or too impatient, or too much
of an arm-chair person to go out and get the facts
(1940, 46). This especially concerns that part of
American anthropologists who dig and are oriented
to history, i.e. Americanist archaeologists. If they use
the word theory at all, they tend to use it as a pejor-
ative synonym for speculation (1940, 44). In Kluck-
hohns judgement archaeologists are but slightly re-
formed antiquarians (p. 40), and he concludes that
they remain on the intellectual level of stamp col-
lecting (p. 45). Having in mind their belief in self-
obviousness of facts the critic states a methodological
and theoretical naivety of his archaeological col-
leagues (p. 51). He repeats words of the sociologist
Parsons when saying: The facts do not speak for
themselves; they have to be cross-examined (p. 42).
Nearly a decade after Kluckhohn, in the late 40s
his pupil Walter Taylor (1948) went for American ar-
chaeologists because of their empiricism with more
developed, sarcastic and individually addressed criti-
cism. Taylor noted that for American archaeologists
history is nothing but hypotheses. As an example he
refers to the passing but very meaningful remark of J.
Thompson (1944, 23; Taylor 1948, 59) who presented
his monograph in the series Theoretical approaches
to problems as follows: The fact that the paper is
published in the present series is sufcient indication
that the case is not considered to have been com-
pletely proved.
Taylor produced a reproach of his fellow specialists
that they considered theorising as something not
worthy of proper science, and that they hang on to
the untenable position to hold on facts which
means to avoid inference, hypothesis and proof
(1948, 113). He refuted their outt wait-until-all-the-
facts-are-collected (p. 61) and concluded his critical
analysis with the words: Americanist archaeology is
not in a healthy state. Its metabolism has gone awry.
It is wasting and not assimilating its foodstuffs (p.
Two decades later Lewis Binford continued this
criticism. He turned against methodology reducing
the actions of an archaeologist to elementary ones
to generalising about the facts he uncovers
(Binford 1968, 21). Indeed, an empirical generalis-
ation of data no matter how accurate it is is never
an explanation for the data (p. 15). His disciple Jam-
es Hill a few years later (Hill 1972) analysed in detail
differences between the inductive way and the op-
posite, deductive procedure, he stressed preferences
of the latter and made consequent inferences
therefrom. So New Archaeology began its triumphant
raid through the Western world; everywhere it con-
demned empiricism and aggrandised theory. In other
circles of Western archaeology the understanding
started to take roots that empiricism was detrimental.
Still during the time of the World War II the French
historian Marc Bloch wrote: ... Texts or archaeologi-
cal nds, seemingly very clear and accessible, speak
merely when you know how to ask them. The int
tools in the Somme alluviums were abundant both
before Boucher de Perthes and after him. Yet there
was no man who knew how to ask and there was
no prehistoric times (1973, 38). In Germany Rafael
Uslar published an article (1955) under the drastic
title On the advantage of speculative consideration
of prehistoric monuments.
In the VII International Congress of Pre- and Pro-
tohistoric Sciences in Prague in 1966 Geza Rohan-
Csermak from Paris presented a paper that was later
published against empiricism in 1971. The axiom of
the empirical approach reads: Primo observare, deinde
intelligere, postremo philosophare (rst observe, then under-
stand, nally philosophise). As soon as observation is
not possible without previous setting of rules and con-
cepts for sampling, perceiving and description, this
author adds to the above axiom an initial phrase:
Primo praejudicare (rst foreordain, or predestine).
According to Durkheims designation the author
calls his own outt a priorism. One can doubt if his
choice of the terms is lucky (predestination, preju-
dices, preconceived ideas, and biases are hardly things
archaeology badly needs) but the idea itself is reason-
able. With his a priorism Rohan-Csermak partly join-
ed the assault on New Archaeology, which inciden-
tally also likes formulations of ostentatious sharp-
The struggle of New Archaeology against empiri-
cism is weakened by one circumstance. Empiricism
remains in neopositivist methodology too, i.e. in the
methodology of New Archaeology itself. The same
60 Acta Archaeologica
point was stated by A. Paubicka (1973) with regard
to Rohan-Csermak. Nevertheless more than two dec-
ades went by under the title of New Archaeology
which strongly and inuentially advanced against em-
piricism. Then post-processual archaeology broke the
domination of New Archaeology and, as was shown,
built the ground for revival of the empiricist ap-
proach, although it managed to do so under the ban-
ner of theory.
In the 1970s theoretical archaeology as a special
branch of archaeology was formed. It does not mean,
however, that archaeology in general changed its sen-
timent towards theoretical studies. The anti-theoreti-
cal mood of German archaeology is well known
(Hrke 1991; 1995), and is even somewhat exagger-
ated (on this issue see Klejn 1995b). Yet look at
France. Hodder and Tilley one evening in 1986 put
a pressing question to some well-known French ar-
chaeologists over an excellent beer. French archae-
ologists are fortunate enough to speak the same lan-
guage and breathe the same air as Althusser, Bourd-
ieu, Foucault, Levi-Strauss, so why do these
archaeologists use so little theory? And French ar-
chaeologists (Gleziou et al. 1991, 91) agree: To de-
scribe the position of theoretical archaeology in
France seems indeed equivalent to posing the ques-
tion: Why is there no theoretical archaeology in
France? . They conclude that: The best current
French examples suggest that interpretative work will
remain very empirically grounded in an interaction
between the data on the one hand and analogy, ex-
perimentation and analytical techniques on the
other (Gleziou et al. 1991, 119). These archaeol-
ogists, known as the most theoretically oriented
among French archaeologists, dropped such com-
ments as, The irony is that in actual fact the most
conservative position is no doubt the most promising
(Gleziou et al. 1991, 105).
When New Archaeology was on its climb in the
USA, holding up high the banner of theory, Kent
Flannery (1972, 103, 106f) estimated that perhaps
60 percent of all currently ambulatory American ar-
chaeologists belong to the traditional, norma-
tive school. This includes most of the establishment
and not a few of the younger generation. Many of
them felt (and many still feel) that if we only wait until
all the facts are in they will speak for themselves.
Only 10 percent of archaeologists belong to the pro-
cessual school. The rest aim their re freely at
both camps, but at least some of them are more on
the traditional side. This was the impression of a par-
ticipant in the movement on the side of the processual
school. It is still a favourable estimation for processua-
Later, when Ezra Zubrow (1980) looked at the quo-
tation statistics of the most creative years of 1968
72 of New Archaeology, it appeared that the most
cited authors were empiricists Zeuner, Hole, Braid-
wood (the lively opponent of Binford) and Helbk,
and only then do Binford and Flannery follow, while
the whole of New Archaeology took merely 2

True, in the years 1977 and 1978 the most cited
authors were already the theoreticians Taylor, D.
Clarke, Hill, Flannery and Binford. Yet this was al-
ready the time when the domination began shifting
from USA to Britain and from processualists to
The place of theory in Great Britains academy for
the period of the highest peak of post-processualist
success is described by post-processualist Julian
Thomas (1995, 349f). As he notes, in the United
Kingdom there are more than 200 archaeologists who
hold appointments at universities. Over 100 of these
scholars have a traditional outlook they are large-
ly concerned with the extraction, description, classi-
cation and compilation of archaeological evidence.
They believe that it is their task to accumulate as
exhaustive and well-documented a record of their
chosen material as possible, on the understanding that
when complete this record will constitute a self-
evident account of past human activity. These
atheoretical archaeologists are contrasted to 85 the-
oretically inclined archaeologists with determinable
views. Among them somewhat less than 40 individ-
uals are listed whose approach to archaeology is
broadly processual (inuenced by Binford, Clarke
and Higgs). A further group of around 30 persons is
indicated who are strongly theoretical but belong
to several trends (Marxism, feminism etc.) that cannot
be included strictly into mainstream post-processual-
ism. Merely fewer than 15 persons are true post-
61 Metaarchaeology
processualists professing hermeneutic interpreta-
tion, contextualism and critical theory. Of course
Thomas regards only the last little group as the true
theorists, while to me post-procesualism, as I have
noted already, is a path to empiricism. He concludes:
Academic archaeology in Britain is overwhelmingly
empiricist in tenor.
Thus some 70 theoretically oriented archaeologists
oppose the 100 empiricists and 15 hidden empiricists
plus all the archaeologists working outside universit-
ies and this is the world stronghold of theoretical
archaeology! As Peter Ucko (1995, 2) notes, theoret-
ically inclined archaeologists are in the minority in all
countries, and are thus forced to form a ghetto within
their discipline. This picture of theoretical archaeol-
ogists applies in Russia too. Although Marxism de-
mands theory and negates empiricism, after the viol-
ated collapse of Stadialist theory in 1950, any en-
thusiasm Soviet archaeologists had for theory
evaporated and Soviet archaeology saw an atheoret-
ical period for the following decades with the re-
stored domination of empiricism.
Thus, there are deep roots to empiricist methodology
in the post-Soviet landscape, while both the positivist
methodological ideas of New Archaeology and the ac-
tivity of post-processual archaeology formed con-
ditions for retaining empiricism in the West. What are
the symptoms of this now anomalous narrowness of
thinking in archaeology?
(1) All hopes on fact
Gorodcovs belief that things speak for themselves
like characters and words and an archaeologists be-
lief in simply reading monuments like normal
books still rules archaeology openly or in a guise
form. As Hrke (1995, 50) remarks, A. E. van Giffen,
the founder of modern Netherlands archaeology be-
tween the wars, liked to use the German motto: Die
Interpretation schwankt, die Tatsachen bleiben
(The interpretation changes, the facts remain).
When P. Courbin (1982/1988) fought against sim-
plications of New Archaeology he was mostly right
in the exchange. But when he hastily insists on raw
facts, on neutral, objective, fundamental,
evident facts, on facts speaking for themselves, he
demonstrates his stubbornness. When he invokes to
reduce archaeology to facts and in the essence limits
the aim of archaeology with establishing of facts,
i.e. disposes archaeology of theory, he essentially
weakens possibilities to cognise the facts.
(2) Belief in pure facts
Many veteran archaeologists still crave for pure
facts. They are convinced, like K. Godovsky in Po-
land (1962, 81f), that the researcher sees objectively
existent reality in archaeological records, that in ar-
chaeology the main approach is induction and that in
its basis pure sources should reside, not already
interpreted and bearing on them a load of views and
conceptions. Deduction is permitted by this author
solely in attempts to reveal as much as possible the
gaps in our sources or unclear phenomena and facts.
(3) Revealing types
The simplest method to reveal archaeological types is
with statistics and correlation, a method discovered
by Binfords teacher Albert Spaulding (1953, 1960)
which is widely disseminated. Spauldings outt sup-
poses that our types, properly speaking, are contained
ready-made in the material. The Marxist archae-
ological school, Sher stated, has developed a notion
on types of artefacts, objects and monuments as of
real classes between which the differences are pro-
duced by chronological, ethnic, local, technological
and other natural-historical conditions and not by the
opinion of a researcher (Sher 1970, 13, note 7).
(4) Description instead of thinking
This may be manifested in several attitudes, for in-
stance, in preferring ostensive denitions. Cristopher
Hawkes (1973, 177) wrote in the journal Antiquity
that If cultures, as a viable concept, are indeed to be
recognised, they can be dened only by total enumer-
ation of their parts.
(5) Induction as the only valid way
Domination of empiricism is expressed in that a
simple generalisation of facts became in practice to
be taken as the only way of study for a reliable guar-
anty against unrealistic ideas. L. N. Gumilev (1989,
30) refers to the example of natural sciences: instead
62 Acta Archaeologica
of philosophical postulate the natural scientists apply
empirical generalisation having after V. I. Vernadsky
validity equal to observed fact. It was meant that in
empirical generalisation petty facts are fusing together
and instead of an array of small facts one large fact
appears. We can leave this without further analysis
with the truth expressed by L. von Bertalanffy (1969,
53): a simple junction of empirical data though
standing for a certain progress does not properly con-
stitute science . We can also leave aside the idea
that empirical generalisation is not a simple sum of
observed facts and is not equal to the individual result
of observation (recall here the problem of choice and
(6) Data vs. speculation
The same empiricist outt is expressed in the strive
to confront solid empirical studies of material with all
sorts of theory anywhere it is possible as speculation,
as empty philosophising. Binford characterises the
thinking of his teacher James Grifn as antitheoreti-
cal. To Grifn, he writes, theory was to be
equated with speculation, and one only did that if
there were no data. If data were available, it was clear
what one did: one summarised the data and the self-
evident units of meaning were historically syn-
thesised. In Grifns mind there was no question
about what data meant or what they were telling us
about the past (Binford 1972, 3). In the USA many
remain on the side of Grifn.
The situation in modern Germany is characterised
by Heinrich Hrke (1995, 48) as follows: The word
theory, to German ears, sounds airy-fairy, it implies
speculation without foundation (i.e. without evi-
dence), and it seems to exclude practicality which is
considered highly desirable. To call somebody a theor-
etician, or to call something theory, invariably carries
derogatory undertones. In order to avoid these conno-
tations, German scholars outside the natural sciences
avoid the term theory as far as possible, and if they
have to, they put it under the heading of method-
ology. Methodik has a solid ring; it sounds practical,
systematic, goal-oriented and efcient. Hrke refers to
the textbook by Ziegert as an example.
For such a position the notion itself is character-
istic; these people view the argument between empiri-
cists and practitioners of theory as the confrontation
of purest factography against empty theorising with-
out any connection with facts. However while in-
ductivists eject theory completely from science, their
opponents do not think it possible to manage without
facts. Even the New Archaeologists who exaggerate
their worship of theory, use facts which they often
borrow from empiricists, as Courbin (1982, 162ff)
showed. Binford himself admits that The reader may
well nd some incompatibility in my insistence on in-
ductively formulated research problems and my advo-
cacy of an essentially inductive data collection pro-
cedure based on sampling theory. I, too, nd some
incompatibility (1972, 133).
(7) Generalisation as the road to theory
Going beyond theory considered as speculation, em-
pirical generalisation, especially broad coverage of
facts, came to advance as theoretical study in con-
trast to description of facts. In our current archae-
ological use the words theoretical generalisation
fused to a phraseological unit, a common cliche. If
there is a generalisation, a summing up, many are
inclined to suppose that it is already no longer at the
empirical level of study.
Even if one adopts theory, it is considered in an
inductivist vein as extracting regularities from the
generalisation of facts. For instance, Martin Jaguttis-
Emden (1977) builds a symmetrical scheme in which
artefacts are xed with protocol sentences, some pro-
tocol sentences united form a hypothesis relating to
layer or site, and a compound of such hypotheses re-
lates to the whole culture and is called theory. It
follows that theory and hypothesis are distinguished
from fact-xing sentences merely by their coverage,
by a higher stage of generalisation. Evidently for this
author one fact is a fact, two similar facts form coinci-
dence, and three are adequate for regularity, and this
means law, and law lies in the basis of theory. So
there it is, three generalised facts make theory.
(8) Voracious hunt for facts
It is supposed that the more facts are collected, the
more valid are inferences, and in the case of the gen-
eralisation held as theoretical, the more facts that are
accumulated, the deeper the theory is. Hence the si-
lently approved uncertainty of aims in many project
plans. Indeed, in any case something will be exca-
63 Metaarchaeology
vated, new facts obtained, and they will be possibly
generalised or included into previous generalisations,
with broadening and strengthening of the inferences.
As the saying goes, one more extra brick will be put
into the building of the discipline. The hunters for the
facts are ignorant that not all facts allow the inference
to broaden, that often the simple multiplying of the
facts does not strengthen the grounds, and that the
extra brick can appear extra indeed, i.e. a waste. In
this case excavations risk appearing to dissipate
money and ruining the monument if, of course, it is
not a salvage excavation. The simple accumulation of
the same evidences brings nothing new. When the
borders of the necessary representative sample are
overridden, the further accumulation of the same
facts is useless.
(9) Horror vacui
As Kent Flannery (1972, 106f) noted, the traditional
archaeologists were often deathly afraid of being
wrong ... They spoke in awe of the incompleteness of
the archaeological record and of the irresponsibility
of speculating on scanty data. Somehow they seem to
feel that if they could get together a few more pot-
sherds, a few more projectile points to a few more
architectural details, their conclusions would be un-
The exceptional care or abstinence from inferences
came to be regarded as prudent. The archaeologist is
advised to wait until the sufcient quantity of facts
is provided. S. N. Zamjatnin (1951, 92) emphasised
that in archaeology the accumulation of facts usually
[go] slowly, and one should nd forces in oneself to
refrain from temptation of solving and sometimes
even from putting the question if the sources did not
allow this.
(10) Unfeasible desire of completeness
But how many facts are necessary in order that the
setting of the question and the assumed conclusion be
permissible? One cannot nd criteria of sufciency
if one admits incompleteness of data in general.
Therefore the demand emerges to dig and survey
literature until all the necessary facts relating to the
theme are collected, the desire to collect all the
facts, that is the completeness of the sources. This
view penetrates even the considerations of theor-
eticians. The narrowing of specialisation, supposed
Kolchin, Marshak and Sher (1970, 4), derives not
from the loss of interest to theoretical work, as it is
sometimes said, but because to deal with theory is
impossible if you do not possess the entire complete-
ness of initial data. The entire completeness! Yet En-
gels (1952, 256) objected against such approaches: If
we should want to wait until the material is ready in
pure form for the law, it would mean suspending the
mental research until then and by this cause alone we
could never obtain the law.
The American anthropologist Julian Steward
(1949, 24f) developed the same idea in the middle of
the 20th century. For him it is obvious that the mi-
nutiae of cultural history will never be completely
known and there is no need to defer formulations un-
til all archaeologists laid down their shovels and all
ethnologists have put away their notebooks. If
anthropology is not interested in unique and exotic
details it is necessary that attempts be made to formu-
late the law however preliminary they be. This for-
mulation allows us to establish new kinds of problems
and directs our attention onto new kinds of data
which escaped us earlier. Fact-collecting of itself is
insufcient scientic procedure; facts exist only as
they are related to theories ... and theories are not
destroyed by facts they are replaced by new theories
which better explain the facts. As logic specialists
showed long ago, induction cannot in principle be
(11) Practical experience as a permit to theorising
It is common belief that theoretical and methodolog-
ical judgements are only allowed to be made by those
who have a long empirical experience. Joachim
Werner worded this most openly and sharply: Publi-
cation of archaeological sources is a very laborious
business, it demands tenacious and accurate working.
Only he who has fullled these imperative obligations
and possessed them receives the right to get into the
questions of method; this is the border between
science and journalistics (1951). Werners highbrow
disdain to certain exponents of political journalism in
the array of scientists is quite understandable, never-
theless his argumentation is a bit naive.
On the basis of this view lies belief in theory as
merely inductive generalisation of collected and pro-
64 Acta Archaeologica
cessed facts. The most profound and careful among
empirically oriented archaeologists avoid indicating
the exclusively inductive way and speak of theory
being merely the rationalisation of experience
(Randsborg 1995, 221; see also 1994).
(12) The not-the-time-for-theory argument
In view of successes of theory in other disciplines and
the glory of great theorists of the past in archaeology,
a climb-down is sometimes suggested: there is place
for theory in archaeology though only at a later stage
or in its earlier stages, but not now. The rst state-
ment was developed as an excuse for the absence of
theory during some decades in Soviet archaeology.
Ju. N. Zakharuk (1970a, 10) argued that it was necess-
ary to go through an empirical period and rst ac-
cumulate enough facts in order to reach an analytical
period and begin building theoretical constructions.
The second solution has been developed by Ulrich
Fischer (1987, 194): All theoretical methods of pre-
historic archaeology ... were developed in the 19th
century ... One can justiably state that the theoreti-
cal section of the methodology of our subject has been
completed. Additions are to be expected in the practi-
cal section.
The absolutisation of induction and the blind vener-
ation of facts is the Positivist principle. Inuential in
the philosophy of the 19th and 20th century, it is re-
jected by many modern philosophical and methodol-
ogical schools, including Marxism, right from its be-
ginning! Empirical observation of itself never can
prove sufciently the necessity, Engels wrote (1961,
244). Science, writes the Soviet philosopher Bazh-
enov (1968, 316), develops not by way of simple gen-
eralisation of particulars but by advancing hypotheses
and including them into deductive systems with the
aim of their subsequent checking.
Another philosopher, N. F. Ovchinnikov, notes
(1968, 12f) that nobody observed in immediate sen-
sual experience Democritus atoms and elementary
particles of modern physics. Only through a long
chain of theoretical deductions is a thought on these
particles mediated by experiment in which properties
completely different from those of objects under study
are given to us immediately. A foggy trace of a par-
ticle in the ionisation chamber is distinguished by its
properties from the particle itself, just as a visible trace
of an aeroplane high in the sky is not comparable
with the aeroplane itself, and is actually completely
different from it ... In the cognition of nature such a
situation emerges in which the striving to confront a
thought with an object on the basis of experience is
actually the confronting of an experience with an ex-
perience and thought with a thought.
Archaeological materials are interesting for
scholars not only in themselves, but as sources of cog-
nition of extinct social and cultural systems and long
past events. These sources are merely some fragments
of what is necessary to reconstruct, only imprints,
traces, and they are also in themselves incomparable
with societies and events. One cannot make good pro-
gress by means of a simple generalisation of them.
As B. M. Kedrov (1966, 36) rightly notes, empirical
discoveries by themselves, however important they
be, do not produce revolutions in science for this
theoretical discoveries are needed. The entire history
of science reects this.
Among philosophers a saying by Einstein is popu-
lar: There is no inductive way which may lead to
fundamental concepts of physics (Einstein 1965, 47).
This is true for any discipline, including archaeology.
Confronting a thought with a thought, theoretical
archaeology inevitably appears in front of a necessity
to turn to that discipline which specialises in the
matching of a thought with a thought to philos-
The reckoning to philosophy is inevitable for any
particular discipline in the critical moment of the
change of its theoretical conceptions. In front of the
task of reconstruction and cognition of complicated
systems, inaccessible by direct observation, archaeol-
ogy naturally has to turn to the application of models.
Among them the most similar and accessible models
appear as the main ones for archaeology, namely eth-
nographic parallels. Therefore the way of overcoming
empiricism in archaeology demands its integration
with ethnography on the basis of a program which
should be worked out by theoretical archaeology.
Without this the rise of archaeology on a new, higher
level would be impossible.
65 Metaarchaeology
Of course, this is not to simplify. A number of at-
tainments of archaeology are connected with the
domination of the empirical method in the 1950s and
1960s. It is always the case where the empirical
method works in a previously empty place, where ma-
terials have still not been collected there were such
sections in archaeology or where there are no
methods at all, which has also occurred, or where it
confronts schematism and dogmatism, preconceived
ideas, and a priori schemes. Here it gains victories.
The absence of new and proper archaeological
methods in Soviet and post-Soviet archaeology can
be conceded as an essential hallmark of the general
weakness of the empirical method that dominated
Soviet archaeology for many years. All methodical
novelties of the last decades in archaeology have
been borrowed in almost ready form from natural
sciences or worked out for the rst time abroad
(Semenovs functional-technological method of
traceology was created long ago).
The need for archaeology in its own archaeological
theory is realised more and more strongly, and the
trend towards theoretical studies is indeed observable.
In order to advance further in our approach towards
a general theory of archaeology, we need to realise
clearly what theories are, as applied to archaeology,
what their distinctions are from empirical generalis-
ations of archaeological material, and what we expect
from archaeological theory of the future.
66 Acta Archaeologica
7. What is archaeological theory? Asystematic analysis of the issue
It is not the question Is my theory true? that now appears crucial
for a theoretician, but rather Is what I am creating a theory?
Dyson (1967, 118f).
What is theory?, asked the archaeologist Pete Rush
recently (1994, 6676). His answer did not make for
great clarity: ... no general and complete answer to
this can be given, he writes, for even where theory
has been explicitly formulated in archaeological dis-
course, the range of conception of theory, of its limits,
capabilities and purpose is vast. He comes to the
conclusion that it is impossible to nd anything com-
mon in archaeological theories, and they form some-
thing like Wittgensteins family resemblance that
is some of them are similar to some others, but alto-
gether they are connected only by their common par-
ticipation in a net of links. Eventually they are linked
with practice. But then any reasoning of archaeol-
ogists could be called theory.
Julian Thomas (1995, 350) distinguishes a wide-
spread misconception of what theory is and what it
does. As Peter Ucko (1995, 1) notes, there is little
agreement about the relationships of archaeological
theory to practice, nor even, perhaps, about what con-
stitutes archaeological theory . It appeared clear that
until now archaeologists had no united and clear no-
tion on the essence of theoretical work. With only
limited experience and their archaic, most often unrec-
ognised, inadvertently borrowed ideas of philosophers
(mostly of empiricist ones), archaeologists approached
research work with extremely simplied notions on its
tasks and demands. Meanwhile, going now through
the stage of scientically-technical revolution, archae-
ology needs a check-up and substantiation of its means
of cognition. This stimulates it to venture more inten-
sively into philosophy for help. Whereas in various
philosophical schools as well as in various disciplines
the inclination towards cognitive problems and the in-
terest in metatheory is already manifest.
(1) Ordered totality of facts
According to such an understanding any generalising
inquiry is theoretical (induction is excluded from em-
pirical studies; solely description is assigned to them),
and the wider the circle is of generalised facts, the
higher the level of theory must be. Only theory,
Zakharuk claims (1971a, 48; 1971b, 8), ... is the
single form of scholarly generalisation (Note: the pe-
culiar double emphasis of this author has been pre-
served in this translation). It is in compliance with this
that Brjusov (1954) entitled his article where the fac-
tual basis for chronology of the Neolithic of the forest
region was generalised, entitled Some theoretical
fundamentals of the Neolithic chronology. Such
treatment of course reects the broad authority of the
empirical method (see Klejn 1977c) the summary
of facts is raised to the level of theory!
Even to an archaeologist who ghts for theoretis-
ation of archaeology (Gening 1982, 7), early theor-
etisation appears to be a matter of sorting and simple
functional identication of things a pot, a knife, a
grave though it is recognised on the spot that this
is purely empirical study, and additionally that this
is empiricism of the lowest descriptive level. Further
theoretisation, transitional from an empirical level to
a theoretical one, must be secured by generalisation,
classication, revealing of regularities all this is al-
ready present in empirical study. Gening writes that
... A certain degree of theoretisation of the knowl-
edge is reached but this does not move it [archaeol-
ogy] out of the limits of an empirical science. And
he elucidates this with a quotation from a philosophi-
cal work: one should not reduce it [the empirical
discipline] to an accumulating of facts ..., on its em-
pirical stage, too, certain conceptual positions rest in
its basis, ... on the logical activity (Gening 1982, 10).
This means that as far as scholarship is not reduced
to the accumulation of facts, but is concerned with
generalisations, manipulations with sets of concepts,
acts of logic, then theoretical activity has already
started. So what is the distinction of theoretical activ-
ity from the empirical one?! Goethe said everything
factual is already theory. But, everything factual,
and not everything empirical! Leaning to some in-
apt innovations of certain philosophers Gening at-
taches the so called descriptive theories to real the-
67 Metaarchaeology
ories, which must take an intervening place between
the empirical and theoretical levels. According to
these philosophers descriptive theory immediately
describes a group of objects ..., solves rst of all the
task of ordering of ... facts. Its laws are generalis-
ation of the empirical stuff (Popovich and Sadovskij
1970, 206). But then, is there in general a ground for
naming it theory? Of course, not least to take into
consideration the desire of some empirical scholars to
be called theoreticians.
For those who deny the priority of the empirical
method, there will be a resulting lack of understand-
ing of theory too. Our philosophers suppose scholar-
ship as a theoretical base of knowledge is not and
cannot be the totality of facts ... (Ovchinnikov 1968,
(2) Ordered totality of concepts
Chang writes, Archaeological theory ... is a system-
atic set of concepts which we believe our archaeologi-
cal facts ... can be consistently dealt with and ex-
plained (Chang 1967b, 128). However, concepts are
also to be considered not as a priori ones, but as
simple generalisation and registration of facts. In this
case the whole conception appears as the perfection
of the preceding one. Therefore it is not infrequent
that the adherents of the rst one are also ready to
accept the second. Zakharuk (1970a, 10ff) awards rst
place to the working out of concepts, the systematis-
ation of them and the co-ordination of terminology
in the theoretical development of Soviet archaeology.
He presents this work as the main means for tran-
sition from empirical stage in the history of our
discipline to its synthetic stage, while identifying
synthesis and generalisation with theory.
Of course, concepts are necessary for theoretical
work, and theory puts them into a certain system.
But the concepts themselves, even if ordered, do not
constitute theory. The kernel of theory consists of
judgements in which concepts are connected with
each other so that the dynamic interdependence of
variables expressed by the concepts is established.
This alone allows the prediction of changes in some
variables based on the changes in others. From the
point of view of contemporary philosophy, if a logi-
cally non-contradictory system of concepts is unable
to predict some observable consequences, then there
are no grounds in general to believe it is theory ...
(Kopnin and Popovich 1968, 88).
With such correction this idea was recently exposed
by Chapman and Dolukhanov (1993, 1): The sim-
plest denition of theory is the selection of the rel-
evant variables or factors in a dened problem and
the establishment of the inter-relationships between
those key variables. So working at theoretical archae-
ology means working at three connected stages: (1)
denition of problem focus, (2) selection of variables,
and (3) characterisation and explanation of interac-
tions between and transformations of variables. The
issue, however, consists in what kind of interactions
between these variables are implied and how they
could be established.
(3) System of laws
In a programmatic book of New Archaeology the
equation is given: Scientic theory, formally speak-
ing, is a body of related laws (Watson et al. 1971,
163). Laws are to be formed into the logical form In
C, if A, then B and are understood as expression
of a regularity (Fritz and Plog 1970, 411). In Soviet
literature it is difcult to nd such clear wording of
the equation theorylaws, but the idea itself is very
broadly accepted and directs many studies. A fully
Marxist directive to reveal laws or regularities, under-
pins it here, albeit reduced by the inuence of empiri-
cism to the level of a simple generalising of iteration
However, as A. L. Mongajt (Amalrik and Mongajt
1966, 173) illustrated with simple examples, law-type
regularity is not reducible to an exposition of iter-
ation, to an enumeration of common outer attributes,
but presupposes a common cause of analogous
phenomena. The leader of New Archaeology him-
self, Lewis Binford recounted a remark by his teacher
Leslie White: Julian Steward doesnt know the differ-
ence between a universal fact and a law. At the
time, admits Binford, I really didnt understand
what White was saying. Were not law statements uni-
versally true? The difference of course is the role of
theory. An empirical law and a covering law are
very different. One implies lots of looking; the other
implies lots of thinking (Binford 1972, 18).
Thus, it is not that laws grow from empirical basis
and form theory, but quite the reverse, they are
68 Acta Archaeologica
formed by theory and are applied in the explanation
of regularities in the material. It is not the other way
around, There is simply no logical path which could
lead from experimental material to building of
theory (Bazhenov 1973, 403). This is actually an old
idea and was expressed by Albert Einstein (1965, 10)
with certain brevity: ... [a] theoretical system is prac-
tically unequivocally determined by the world of ob-
servations, though no ways lead from observations to
fundamental principles of theory.
(4) A set of interconnected methods
What does it mean to proceed from empirical tasks
to theoretical ones? Some Soviet scholars understood
it as the following: For example, it is necessary to
pass from an empirical procedure of comparing a
given vessel with another vessel ... to general rules of
comparing any two or more things or objects, and
to build general rules of classication, dating etc. (Ka-
meneckij et al. 1975, 5f). Sher (1973, 55) considers
theoretical archaeology as the theory of elabor-
ation of archaeological data. This theory is a system
of general models, and the latter are exposed as
general rules of comparison ..., various methods of
statistical elaboration ... and so on.
Among the determinations of central theory of ar-
chaeology by David Clarke there occur procedures
common to archaeology everywhere (Clarke 1968,
XV). For many New Archaeologists theory means
simply a mathematical model a formula for calcu-
lating the relations between observable variables.
Patty Jo Watson with her co-authors suppose, how-
ever, that one should not call methods and techniques
of excavation and analysis archaeological theory,
for these methods and technologies are mostly bor-
rowed from other disciplines. Although it is not logi-
cally objectionable to group all these general rules to-
gether into a body to be called archaeological
theory, ... it surely would best be referred to simply
as the set of methods or procedures used in archaeol-
ogy (Watson et al. 1971, 165).
The essence is obviously not in the fact that
methods are often borrowed from other disciplines,
but that archaeology also needs its own methods for
its specic tasks which are suitable for its subject mat-
ter. These methods do exist and it is optimal if their
apparatus is not built from the facts themselves but
from strict interpretation of them, from the mental
processing of them. The methodological apparatus
should be inferred from theory, and theory should not
be substituted with exclusively empirically-based
In the opposite case, a situation described by Hole
(1973, 25) arises: Rather than an explicit set of
theory we have a set of procedures: typology, numeri-
cal taxonomy, attribute analysis and the like. And
even worse, since we must work with what we have,
we tend to grasp at straws, hoping that ... artefacts ...
will somehow inform us on the behaviour that we
question. Neither established procedures nor the
artefacts at hand necessarily result in information that
is meaningful in terms of the cultural categories we
wish to understand.
(5) Projection of philosophical theory
There was a time when in Soviet social learning only
dialectical-and-historical-materialism was ranked with
the status of theory. No dialectical issue was intended,
albeit only one realised in a narrowly dogmatic sense
and scholastically strict. Even the Marxist dialectic
was opposed to theory simply because somebody
from the classics of Marxism somewhere labelled it
so. It was thought that in any social science dialecti-
cal-and-historical-materialism is the only general
theory for this discipline. So the dialectical etc. not
only appeared in the function of philosophical and
sociological learning but also was allotted with func-
tions of special theories of various disciplines also
having the tasks to reveal the specicity of each con-
cern. This dogmatic directive of Naturphilosophie
(which would be better paraphrased as Sozialphilo-
sophie), having reduced theoretical work to an ar-
rangement of the materials according to general
schemes set beforehand, was abolished in the late 50s
during the years of the Thaw. The point of view
refuted by Engels that arises from the treatment of
philosophy as the science of sciences has lost recog-
nition by many Marxist philosophers (Kopnin and
Popovich 1968, 94ff). The importance of philosophy
for the development of positive knowledge, of sciences
and humanities, is doubtless. Marxist philosophy did
contribute to them with interesting ideas. However,
penetration of philosophical ideas into research prac-
tice of positive disciplines is a complex and mediated
69 Metaarchaeology
process. They enter a positive discipline not in place
of its special theories and not disguised as these the-
ories supercially but are refracted, transformed and
assimilated by them (Zakharuk 1970a, 14f).
The obligatory study of the general methodology of
research is not realised in Russian university pro-
grams. The rich and rened conception of theoretical
knowledge on science and more broadly speaking on
scholarship elaborated by philosophers and specialists
in the sciences, including Marxist ones, is simply un-
known to archaeologists, and only comparatively
weak gleams of it are reected in the theoretical work
of archaeologists. It is highly necessary to introduce
archaeology to the contemporary notions on what
scholarly theory is and from that point of view to ana-
lyse the simplied notions, evident or latent in archae-
ology and as realised in daily research work. With
some philosophical snobbishness L. B. Bazhenov once
declared the following: In general, in our opinion, a
strict determination of theory in the frames of con-
tent-philosophical study is impossible and not necess-
ary, (Bazhenov, 1973, 392). Nevertheless, it seems to
me that he outlined, and partly realised in the same
magnicent article, the possibility of four attitudes for
such a determination of theory in archaeology:
(1) The logical-deductive approach by indication of
a covering concept and specifying distinction (this
is the proper denition).
(2) The ostensive approach by enumeration of
(3) The philosophical-content approach by the
totality of the main characteristics of theory.
(4) The systemic-structural approach by observing
how the place of the concept in the system is
changed at its various turns, if we consider the
participation of this concept in different oppo-
The last method of determination listed here seems
to be the most tting one to initiate a general ac-
quaintance with the complex and many-sided object
of theory. It helps to orient oneself and to select the
visual angle suitable for the task. The word theory
has many meanings but it usually designates any of
the following:
(a) Every mental activity of a scholar, as opposed to
practice (e. i. Strong 1973; Hensel et al. 1986;
Shanks and Tilley 1987).
(b) The solving of practical tasks on the basis of gen-
eralisation of facts, as opposed to speculation.
(c) Simply a hypothesis as opposed to fact (see
Strong 1936; Johansen 1974; 1982);
(d) A proven conception as opposed to hypothesis.
(e) Any explanative idea as opposed to other such
ideas (e. i. Artamonov 1947).
This is not merely homonymic use of terms but an
exaggeration of one and the same concept which has
some narrower meanings, which happen not to co-
incide with each other. In general, if despite some
inconveniences people prefer to do with a single term
by assigning to it various meanings in different con-
ditions, it is not without reection. Concepts desig-
nated with the same term can coincide in certain con-
ditions, they can transform into others, or they can
transit from one to another it is exactly this partial
transformation and transition that are xed by the
transmission of the term.
Thus, for archaeologists, it goes without saying that
facts play an important role in forming theory, as its
source according to one opinion, and according to
another, as the touchstone for its establishment as a
theory, or at least as its aim or object of application.
It is a little more difcult to understand the inclusion
of theory into the structure of facts, but if we recall
concepts by which we are only able to apprehend
mentally and describe artefacts for a message ...
The British archaeologists M. Shanks and C. Tilley
(1989, 2) phrase this idea extremely sharply and para-
doxically: Theory and data are not in outer relations
to each other ... Any set of data must have a theoreti-
cal orientation ... Our dialectical approach means
that theoretical structure becomes a part of denition
of data and vice versa. In fact, this idea has been
around for some time. Even with the opposition of
theory (as hypothesis) to fact, Goethe still man-
aged to grasp the impossibility of a pure factography
and stated: The main thing is to understand that
everything factual is already theory (Maximen und
Reexionen, Nr. 886).
70 Acta Archaeologica
Fig. 10. The concept of theory in oppositions.
Or let us take another aspect. Speculation is the
opposite of theory if theory is considered a generalis-
ation of facts (see determination (b) above). However,
for a theoretician, speculation is his practice, closely
connected with other kinds of scholarly activity in ar-
chaeology. Exaggerating this truth, Shanks and Tilley
declare in a previously cited passage: We make stress
on theory as practice ... Such position puts an end to
theory considered as something sharply divided from
practice of real activity in archaeology and standing
behind of this practice. What we were working for is
theory from practice and inside practice, the notion
that archaeology is theoretical practice. Sic!
On the other hand, speculation is pure thinking
separated from practice from immediate dealing
with facts. And such thinking is part and parcel of
operating with concepts, that is, of a scholars mental
activity in other words, an integral part of the cre-
ative activity of a scholar. Surely it is present and it
cannot be absent in the work of an archaeologist too
(Uslar 1955). From this point of view, theory (see de-
termination (a) above) opposing practice naturally im-
plies and includes speculation.
In the methodology of research inquiry, in all the
sciences, it is considered correct to designate the term
theory with:
(f) Strict logical systems which arise not on the level
where the information on concrete objects is col-
lected and xed, but on the level where it is cre-
atively processed. This is the level of manipulation
with ideal objects, which the real objects, individ-
ual and (mainly) group ones, are replaced with.
Under certain conditions results of these oper-
ations on ideal objects are translated onto real ob-
jects, which in the end permits explanation and
prediction of phenomena. All this presupposes
strict rules that form a program aimed at the in-
formation on the data. Under this meaning,
theory is a program based on some fundamental
idea for processing information. Here theory is the
opposite of empirical. To me this is the main
denition, and the most modern, well specied
and embracing of denitions.
(g) By transforming the mechanism of processing into
a stereotype, theory turns into method (Ovchinni-
kov 1968f). On the other hand, to react exibly
upon impulses of empirical workers and for the
sake of a free evolution of theoretical thought,
theory is not enfettered with application tasks in
each of its links, and it does not include a stereo-
typed methodical apparatus. It leads to it only in
the end, separating it, and in this sense, it opposes
the method. It is not by chance that more than
half a dozen very well-known archaeological pub-
lications contain the opposition theory and
method in their title (see Hawkes 1954; Willey
and Phillips 1958; South 1977; Schiffer ab 1978;
Gening 1980; Stjernquist 1984).
(h) Further, if prediction is only possible once theory
correctly grasps and reects the regularity in-
herent in its object, then it opposes the object in its
reection. The reection is inevitably incomplete.
(i) Finally, theory itself serves as an object of meta-
theory and in this capacity it is in opposition to
(k) However, at the same time it opposes metatheory
in terms of identity, because metatheory is also a
Thus, in each of the indicated oppositions theory
can also occur as its own opposition, but does so with
the transition into another opposition. So the oppo-
sitions themselves are linked in pairs. Each pair con-
tains three concepts of which the middle one is
theory (Fig. 10).
71 Metaarchaeology
The philosopher B. S. Dynin (1972, 69), while con-
sidering the categories theory and law also dis-
covered the necessity of opposite (by their meaning)
explications of one and the same categories of meth-
odology. Such an abundance of dialectically contra-
dictory outer relations, with possibilities of distri-
bution, shifts and reconstructions of a concept, pre-
supposes a complex inner structure. This inner
structure appears to be too complex for archaeol-
ogists. Too often they substitute some single compo-
nents of theory for theory as a whole. The contem-
porary simplied notions on theory in archaeology
have more to do with this substitution than with an
inability to explicate, to narrow and to specify the
concept of theory.
It is time to move away from simplications reducing
theory to one of its components. Such impoverishing
is especially threatening in archaeology because in the
materials of this discipline, the driving forces of the
process being studied (and of its most important regu-
larities) are hidden deeper and are more distant from
empirically observable phenomena than in other
spheres. This means the components of theory are
more separated in archaeology. We would like to
navigate through the history of peoples and the laws
of their development, but we see merely traces and
remains of things.
To summarise facts, to specify concepts and their
interrelationships, to establish regularities, to elabor-
ate methods, formulas and algorithms, and to apply
philosophical principles separately or even together,
is not sufcient to explain the similarities and differ-
ences in the material, to translate the facts of archae-
ology into the language of history and sociology, and
to predict reliably what the missing material was
in short, to reconstruct the past. And without such
explanation and prediction there is no theory. Some-
thing else is needed that will tie the components of
theory together, transform it into an efcient working
mechanism, into an instrument of cognition. Con-
crete explanative ideas are needed and one needs to
know where they should be taken from, how they
should be collected and how they should be proved.
This is what forms the system of theory.
If, for instance, observed similarities are to be ex-
plained, and the idea of diffusion is drawn in from
ethnography, then one needs to assess the principle of
actualism, and specify the concepts of borrowing,
assimilation, area and others, and confront
chronological data. One must also modify the typo-
logical method the genetic linking. After this many
other considerations would still remain.
The simplied notions on the nature of theory
do not continue to linger in the environment of ar-
chaeologists because it is short of clear-cut de-
nitions they are far from rare in the methodolog-
ical works of philosophers, and the addition of yet
another denition would not solve anything in ar-
chaeology. Much more important is to comprehend
how particular philosophical ideas and empirical in-
formation enter into theory, and which of its com-
ponents they inuence. For this, one needs to know
which places the various components occupy in
theory, how its cognitive mechanism is built and
how it works. Thus, the critical analysis of the cur-
rent, customary notions on archaeological theory
turns us to the problem of the cognitive structure
of theory. So far, at least in Soviet philosophical
literature, there are very few works on this topic,
and in theoretical archaeology there are none at all.
Understanding this theme is a vital task.
72 Acta Archaeologica
8. Structure and working of archaeological theory
The sociologist Myrdal (1958, 233) once made the
following remark of theory in sociology: In our pres-
ent age the task is not, as it was some time ago, in ...
lling the empty box of theory with empirical data.
Our theoretical boxes are empty, because rst of all
they are not constructed so as to perceive realities.
True, but one must still understand that the construc-
tion does not only mean the form of the box, and that
it is not every form that will make theory workable.
The point is not a box that one should ll, but the
mechanism within the box that one should bring into
play to perceive and interpret reality. This idea is now
entering archaeology, so it is important to examine
this mechanism in a theoretical framework.
As far as this matter is concerned, references to
denitions in philosophical literature can be very dif-
ferently expressed and offer no solution. One has to re-
veal how philosophical ideas and empirical infor-
mation enter theory, and which of its components they
affect. It is necessary to nd the components that ar-
chaeological theory consists of, their roles within it,
how its cognitive mechanism is built and how it func-
tions. It is a matter of the epistemological structure (gnoseolog-
ical in Russian terminology) of theory and it is desirable
to differentiate this structure from that of a logical one.
The logical structure of theory is a system of its state-
ments and of the deductive connections of these state-
ments, i.e. of the possibility to make a statement that
follows from another. The logical structure of theory
is also a system of corresponding hierarchy. To this
can be added strong means induction and deduc-
tion for instance which must provide the substan-
tiation for and the use of these statements. By epistemo-
logical structure something else is to be understood. This
is the set of means of cognition (laws, concepts etc.)
and the interrelations between them. It is this set that
forms theory and offers it the heuristic and creative
force, and provides it with the ability to transform
information and to create new knowledge (Shtoff
1972). Both themes are clearly connected with each
other but the archaeological elaboration of the logical
structure does not really clear up very much in the
epistemological structure.
In archaeological literature there is still no work on
this second theme, although some of its aspects were
touched upon by American archaeologists. It was done
when they considered the neighbouring theme of the
logical structure of theory, in particular such sections of
it as explanation and verication (Fritz and Plog 1970;
Watson et al. 1971; Gibbon 1989; a.o.). Outside archae-
ology, however, in works of Western philosophy of
science the epistemological structure of theory was very
intensively elaborated, though mainly for natural
sciences (bibliography see in Harvey 1969).
Culture has its own specicity, which is exemplied
by several traits: polisemy, a high degree of chance,
the interest of researchers in individuality, the signi-
cance of estimating etc. The specicity concerns pe-
culiarities and differences in the way of proof and in
the role of particular components as well as in the
methods of formalisation, in a word, in many things
but in the epistemological structure in general, in its
general contours and plan. Let us separate the main
components of the epistemological structure of theory
in general and consider them in the light of the
understanding of archaeology developed in the pre-
ceding chapters.
It is clear from the previous chapters that archaeol-
ogy is to be understood as a discipline which draws
and processes material antiquities as sources of infor-
mation on the past. The task of archaeology embraces
historical interpretation of archaeological materials,
i.e. recognition by traces and remains, as well as the
reconstruction of things, historical events, processes
and cultural phenomena of the distant past, while the
causal links between them are established by history.
As soon as these recognitions and reconstructions are
not just an art but a research activity (science in Rus-
sian, French and German), it is implied that they con-
tain some regularities in their basis, even laws, and
among them there are laws specic for archaeology.
In order to explain and to predict the behaviour of
objects, which is a primary demand of theory, one has
to know the laws of this behaviour. In propositions
73 Metaarchaeology
asserting laws (nomological propositions), the depend-
ability between variables is stated as well as conditions
and limits in which this dependability is valuable, that
is, the character of this dependability. Very often
when archaeologists speak about laws they mean em-
pirical generalisations, i.e. a general summary of facts,
and they try to build theory purely on this basis. Thus
A. E. Matjukhin (1975, 20) hopes to achieve theoreti-
cal explanation by means of general regularities such
as the chronological correspondence of different
types of tools with the character of production and
the economy of ancient people as well as with their
intelligence, or the increase of the coefcient of the
use of implements and of entire assemblages from
epoch to epoch, etc.. V. F. Gening (1975, 7) justly
considers such regularities as empirical generalisations.
One cannot build a well-grounded explanation and a
strong theory on such a framework. Theoretical work
in archaeology has no prospects without recognising
Theoretical laws differ rst of all because they em-
brace dependencies between phenomena, causal or
functional. There are works especially concerned with
substantiating the presence of laws in archaeology
(Plog 1973), and to establish that there are the same
kinds of laws in archaeology as in other disciplines:
causal, functional, dynamic, laws of probability etc.
(Stickel and Chartkoff 1973). It would be no less es-
sential in archaeology to reveal the specic type of
these laws and establish their grouping.
This specicity is in particular connected with a
peculiarity of archaeology; in archaeology the objects
directly observable (archaeological materials, material
sources of information, or the material record) are
separated from those objects which properly speaking
are only of interest to the investigator, namely from
the sociocultural systems of the past. An ethnographer
observes such objects directly and a historian receives
data on them from other people. The archaeologist
meanwhile has access to neither of these and instead
must view the behaviour of objects that once lived
on the basis of the behaviour (the variability and
diversity) of other objects the dead ones. However
the behaviour of these others, as soon as they are
dead, is not independent. Therefore in archaeology
the laws of behaviour of the directly observable ob-
jects, the archaeological material, can be only empiri-
cal. To explain this behaviour the archaeologist needs
two series of theoretical laws. A statement along these
lines can be found in several works, especially in Wat-
son et al. 1971, 24; and Fritz 1972, 140.
The rst series embraces the laws of behaviour of
active objects whose behaviour only interests the ar-
chaeologist in the nal analysis. This analysis consists
of the functioning and development of sociocultural
systems. So these are processual laws of the cultural
process (in Russian terminology specied as cultural-
historical, for cultural embraces also contemporary
processes, not only development). In other words
these are statements on the connections between vari-
ables of the cultural (cultural-historical) process, and
in particular the stages it traversed long ago. These
are the laws of evolution.
The second series embraces the laws of the surren-
dering of the cultural-historical process to the archae-
ological record, of the reection of this process in ar-
chaeological materials. These are statements on the
interrelations between the sociocultural phenomena
of the distant past and the patterns of the preserved
archaeological material. These last laws express the
dependence of the saved archaeological materials on
sociocultural phenomena of the distant past.
The matching dependencies or correspondences,
according to Binford (1972, 249), form the basis of
the bridging argument, so one can call these
bridging laws. More to the point, these are the laws
under the ruling of which certain processes subse-
quently proceed: (1) transformation of ideas into
things (objectication of ideas), (2) materialisation of
events, (3) mortication and archaeologisation of ma-
terial culture (wear and tear deterioration, run-
out, selective accumulation, dilapidation etc.), (4) de-
position of results, and nally traces and remains en-
tering into research processing.
A lack of understanding in how practice differs be-
tween these two groups of laws often leads to un-
clearness in important inferences. For instance, D.
Clarke (1968) explains the behaviour of archaeologi-
cal cultures directly from laws of their adaptation to
the natural environment as if they were dynamic sys-
tems like animals or living cultures. This would mean
that each change could be explained as the result of
some impact of an environmental event.
Let us look at the struggle between the two strat-
74 Acta Archaeologica
egies of research. The contextualists (the traditional
archaeology of the USA) believe that it is rst necess-
ary to reconstruct the historical events of migrations,
inuences, wars, building activities etc. and then
based on this establish the laws of history (Sabloff and
Willey 1967). The Processualists of New Archaeology
demand quite the contrary. First to reveal the laws of
the cultural process and only then, with their help, to
reconstruct events (Binford 1968). There is clearly a
muddle here. To recognise and prove new regularities
in past stages of the cultural-historical process one
must really know its course and direction, and this
means a need for a preliminary reconstruction of
events. On the other hand, in order to reconstruct
them correctly and reliably one has to be in pos-
session of the laws. But which laws are these exactly?
Here is the key to this circulus vitiosus. With regards to
the processual laws, they are of course necessary to
the archaeologist in the selection of the structural
models used in reconstruction, they are his only
hope, as G. Clark (1957, 170) describes them. If it
were the case, then the cognitive scepticism of C.
Hawkes, G. Daniel, S. Piggott would receive metaar-
chaeological substantiation, for the role of the pro-
cessual laws in archaeology appears twofold. They are
one of the main aims of cognition because they are
necessary for prognostication. At the same time they
serve as the means for cognition because they are
needed for the explanation of archaeological material
and to reconstruct historical events. However, this
contradiction is solved in the dynamics of research.
The rst role (of the processual laws) is appropriate
for the laws that are under investigation and the sec-
ond role for the laws already discovered (partly dis-
covered by other disciplines).
It remains without doubt that the laws, once dis-
covered and accepted, would lead the researcher to
quite denite reconstruction models that would strive
to afrm and support these laws, and this would not
only hinder but delay the whole progress. Where is
the way out of this circle? Most important is that the
bridging laws play a crucial role in reconstruction,
and that these are inferred not from archaeological
materials but from ethnographic observations and
from experiments. The processual laws are used in
the passage from archaeology into history rather than
in archaeology itself, although they are also used in
archaeology too. Thus both of the contesting strat-
egies ignore the diversity of laws and appear to make
incorrect simplications.
Until recently it was not custom in archaeology to
formulate laws clearly after having been discovered,
or to give them names, as it is customary to do so in
physics. But this does not mean that things did not
come off satisfactorily when establishing empirical
and theoretical laws. Rather, the weight of the formu-
lation was produced by the diffuse probability charac-
ter of these laws and by a lack of hope in developing
them into a strict system. Even in traditionally more
strict sciences, when the decisive role was occupied
by laws-trends and archaeology began moving to-
wards the strict sciences, the basis for purity became
weaker. This saw the beginning of the explicit formu-
lation of the old, long established laws and even
authors being awarded with laws named after them
on the basis of priority. For stratigraphic relations
Steno laws were adopted from geology, in particular
the Law of Superposition. They were named after
a 17th century Danish physician (Hole and Heizer
1969, 16f). This law states that providing there has
been no redeposition of material, then the upper
layers of material are younger than the ones beneath.
For work on burial assemblages the Worsaae Law was
designated after the Danish archaeologist of the 19th
century. According to this law things that appear in
the same burial (and in general in the same assem-
blage) were used at the same time (Rowe 1962).
Since then more new laws are being introduced
and discussed. For instance in the collection of laws
presented on prehistory by the American R. Carneiro
is a law stating that in the relative sequence (in a typo-
logical series), the extent of similarity of any two attri-
butes is directly proportional to the evolutionary dis-
tance between them (Carneiro 1969, 492ff). That is,
the more distant these elements are from each other
by their level of development, the fewer the cases of
their reverse chronology.
There is some very obvious criticism to be made
concerning the laws of archaeology, for surely these
truths are too banal and self-evident to be declared
theoretical laws. Why are they claimed to be laws of
archaeology when each of them embraces a sphere
much broader than the subject of archaeology?
One of the initiators of this raid on archaeological
75 Metaarchaeology
laws, K. Flannery, says that it seems to him that in
order to discover a natural law in the allotted six
weeks of his eld season, the investigator was forced
to tackle a problem of the utmost trivia; this has pro-
duced series of low-level generalisations that some
critics have called Micky Mouse laws. These laws
have even emerged from the lips of colleagues whom
I regard as sane, serious, and competent people. For
instance, at a genuinely exciting seminar on the Bush-
men I learned that the size of a Bushman site is di-
rectly proportional to the number of houses on it.
From another colleague I recently learned that as the
population of a site increases, the number of storage
pits will go up . And Flannery adduces the cry of his
co-worker R. Whallon: If this is the new archaeol-
ogy, show me how to get back to the Renaissance.
(Flannery 1973, 51). This is challenging criticism,
though one might seek consolation in the fact that
theoretical laws do not exist in such a simple form
each one of them is inscribed within an entire system.
Theory is extensively useful and is able to separate
and embrace the subject matter of a discipline. It can
be used for systematisation and it is able to self-de-
velop. These capabilities are provided by its structure;
the net of laws that make up the kernel of theory is
constructed deductively and shows a branch struc-
ture out of one or a few postulates (main laws) quite
a number of derived laws are drawn according to
strict rules of deductive logic, in the way a syllogism
is drawn from premisses. What usually escapes the
attention of methodologists is that the previously
stated connections between phenomena serve as the
second premisses of the syllogisms (and because ...,
and as soon as ...). Or quite the contrary, the old
law forms the rst premiss, while the new law forms
the second one. Carneiros Law is in actual fact de-
rived from postulates of Evolutionism, while notions
on the dispersion and normal distribution of single
artefacts around the selected positions serve as second
premisses. The main postulates of archaeological
theory are always evolving from some fundamental
explanative idea which potentially holds the clue to
the whole theory in compact form. For Evolutionism
this is the idea of evolution, for Migrationism the idea
of migration, for Environmentalism the idea of the
impact of the natural environment on culture, for
Stadialism the idea of qualitative leap, and so on. All
these ideas are able to suggest an explanation for the
main enigma of archaeology, namely the phenom-
enon of the abrupt interchange of archaeological cul-
tures, and in the same stroke to explain similarities
and differences of culture in various territories (Klejn
1975a). Therefore when people speak of a crisis in the
currently dominant archaeological theory, this means
that it is time for a new fundamental explanative idea.
When explaining the breaks between archaeologi-
cal cultures one must always choose between explana-
tive ideas based primarily on some kind of law
either on a processual law or a bridging law. In
the basis of an archaeological theory an idea of one
of these kinds may be laid down. When Migrationists
explained breaks by the occurrence of invasions, and
the Stadialists by leap-form transformation, they ap-
pealed to processual laws. When Evolutionists ex-
plained breaks with gaps in our knowledge, and when
E. Wahle offered the obscurity of the rst shoots of
each new culture as a reason, they addressed laws of
reection, i.e. bridging ones.
However each leading theory explains not only this
enigma, for in its collateral, accessory explanations it
can support other laws. As a result Migrationist
theory constantly explained the smallest similarities
by means of migrations and made every effort to
make the criteria of substantiation of migrations less
strict, while Stadialists, on the contrary, made these
criteria more rigid. Operating in this way, both theor-
ies appealed to bridging laws. On the other hand,
Evolutionism was unthinkable without the notion of
regular and gradual progress and its uneven develop-
ment (with which they explain differences and simi-
larities). Wahles theory implies an elitist production
of culture, and both Wahles theory and Evolutionism
employ processual laws. Thus, systems of laws in
archaeological theories have a complex structure (Fig.
Provided that a law can directly manipulate the same
objects as represented in empirical studies, then in its
wordings, only the interconnection of two particular
phenomena or (by generalisation) of the interconnec-
tion of two groups of homogenous phenomena would
be xed. Yet the investigator would always remain on
76 Acta Archaeologica
Fig. 11. Structure and working of theory.
77 Metaarchaeology
the level of the observable surface of the world. The
theory would be doomed to remain a hypothesis ad
hoc; neither explanation, nor verication with inde-
pendent data would be possible.
However, the power of theory consists in the way it
operates with special ideal objects abstract concepts
(type, inuence, evolution, and qualitative leaps
etc.), and in its ability to establish relations and de-
pendencies between them. The properties and re-
lations of objects in the real world, such as pots and
arrowheads, are reected on by generalisation, trans-
formation and by nding meaning.
How is the transitiveness of archaeological knowl-
edge implemented? How is the transfer to sociocultur-
al phenomena of the past possible? The Swedish ar-
chaeologist M. Malmer places this task with archae-
ological typology. Among archaeologists the word
typology has long carried a special meaning: the
term designated certain means and results of classi-
cation and ordering (Klejn 1979a; 1982; 1991a).
Under typology Malmer understands the set of classes
randomly established by an archaeologist. Malmers
types are established by means of denitions, until
there is denition there is no type (Malmer 1962).
This is, of course, idealistic exaggeration, even abso-
lutisation of the relativity of our concepts, and it re-
ceived critical appraisal in archaeology (Spaulding
1953; 1954; Klejn 1973c).
It is essential that Malmer correctly grasped the
necessity for every generalisation and for every inter-
pretation to break away from particular artefacts. Ar-
chaeologists who believe they avoid typology and rely
exclusively on stratigraphy or on combinations of
artefacts in assemblages remind Malmer of Molieres
Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme who did not realise
that he was speaking prose. In fact these archaeol-
ogists use typology permanently, but only uncon-
sciously and therefore they often do so incorrectly.
The typological action helps the archaeologist to
formulate empirical laws, but this is not sufcient for
theoretical laws that reveal hidden interdependencies
which have explanative character. Among ideal ob-
jects in this case are inevitably ones that have no cor-
respondences in the real world at all (theoretical con-
structs). Either they still have no correspondences
(they are designed to receive them in the course of
practical creation, or at least can receive them) or
they have already lost them due to disappearance,
destruction, both quite common in archaeology, or
they are unable to carry the correspondences (the
error of the conscience). Or these objects must in gen-
eral have no such correspondences by denition, be-
cause they are relative assumptions, auxiliary con-
cepts, or secondary abstractions.
From the projection of the laws and concepts of
theory onto reality some general aggregate theoretical
object is accumulated, an ideal and abstract one, and
theory regards this object as the essence of the real,
empirically observable fragment of reality, a fragment
which it purports to explain. If these concepts remain
ideal, i.e. only as mental objects, they could not be
grasped in the research and one could not manipulate
them. Meanwhile clear dependencies must be estab-
lished between them to save this information and to
transfer it. In order that theory can manipulate these
ideal mental objects successfully, they have to be
partly materialised without losing their ideal prop-
erties and while still remaining abstract. This means
that they should be conceived in sign form. Conse-
quently, in order to be unambiguous and sufcient
for the aims of theory, its terms should be placed in
a system a glossary must be compiled, rst and fore-
most in natural language.
Natural language is however very elastic and ex-
ible, its words and expressions not always clear. This
has its merits as well as its aws. Drawbacks can be
caused by the separation of dependencies, leading to
complications and possible confusion. Many words
are needed for detailed descriptions and this results in
particularisation, which contradicts the actual essence
of theory. Therefore it is necessary to work out some
special terms. Terms are special words with a single
meaning that are precisely delimited and provided
with denitions. They are limited and required by the
aims of theory and can be granted by systematisation
as if creating a glossary. Connected with the concepts,
they form the vocabulary of theory, and together with
laws as a kind of grammar, the basis of the language
of theory is built. It is only when one translates infor-
mation from the concrete language of observations
into this abstract language that one is then able to
build theory.
For a long time in archaeology, concepts and terms
were selected and accumulated rather spontaneously.
78 Acta Archaeologica
Additions of terms were scarcely made, only a hand-
ful appearing with each new theory. Evolutionists
have introduced development, connection by ori-
gins, typological series, typological rudiment,
epoch, period and others. Migrationists added
type area, origins of culture, Urheimat (orig-
inal homeland), invasion, and Autochthonists
added continuity. Diffusionists introduced inu-
ence and borrowing. From the Theory of
Stadiality archaeology received sinstadiality. New
Archaeology has brought model, cluster, pat-
tern (conguration), structural pose, and tool-kit
among others. In the beginning it is usual practice for
each theory to manage with old concepts and terms
(Akchurin et al. 1968, 56f). However, because of the
terminological conservatism and thrifty ways typical
of the Old World archaeologists, this state is consoli-
dated and as a result akin but different concepts are
designated by one term: the archaeologist constantly
tries to strike a chord on the piano with a single n-
ger. But this means that terms lose their status and
become simply words of a professional jargon.
Today archaeologists think more accurately about
their sets of concepts and terminology, and they intro-
duce more radical and new terms more often, both
for new concepts and for explication of the old ones.
It became accepted to supply theoretical works with
explanatory guides consisting of lists of denitions.
We meet expansive dictionaries of this sort in the
works of M. Malmer (1962), D. Clarke (1968), R.
Dunnell (1971), I. Rouse (1972), Klejn (1991a), and in
Malinas textbook we nd a summary glossary (1975;
1980). Another example actually arose as a separate
book (Klassikacija 1990). The danger appears how-
ever which previously struck American archaeologists
who boldly introduced new terms. The danger
threatens that soon every archaeologist will speak his
or her own language and others will not understand
properly without the dictionary of the author in ques-
tion. The elaboration of a unied language then en-
ters the agenda and there are in fact works especially
devoted to tasks of this kind.
It is inevitable that one stumbles at this difculty,
one of the important peculiarities of archaeology, and
one of its distinctions from natural sciences. In the
natural sciences not only structural elements but also
their combinations are stereotyped and are con-
sidered on equal ranking and interchangeable. In cul-
tural material individual combinations are also im-
portant and the choice of them is not irrelevant.
Therefore the task of unifying the language of archae-
ology is laminated, and the possibility of nding a
solution appears differently in different layers.
The ordering of elements of analytical classi-
cation necessary for the primary description pro-
ceeds most successfully. Of course such ordering, de-
scriptive archaeology, implies some theoretical basis
for the description (Gardin 1963; 1967), but this
basis is not connected with the cultural content of
the material, merely with its physical substance.
Only topological parameters, physical-chemical
properties and the like (K. Pyke termed these etic)
have been taken into account. For their xation a
joint conventional net of standards, templates and
procedures is actually quite possible and such a net
is minimally dependent on archaeological theories.
However, as soon as it comes to unication of the
nomenclature, i.e. names of types having cultural
signicance, known as emic after Pyke, things be-
come more difcult. In such ordering, in taxonomic
classication, and in cultural typology no unity of
criteria is possible. The criteria differ by tasks which
are in front of the student, and by cultures which
he describes, and these circumstances condition the
different nets of types for the same material (Hill
and Evans 1972; Klejn 1982; 1991a).
The dependence on theories is quite apparent, as
indicated when revealing evolution or migrations, in-
uences or imports, an archaeologist dismembers the
material differently. Archaeologists long for systematics,
as in biology, but end up only making an inventory.
The overall works appear cumbersome and an indis-
putable result is reachable only when the author in-
troduces order into the conventional practice of nam-
ing and builds the whole scheme in the fashion of
identifying directories with convenient clues. Unfortu-
nately, as a rule, archaeologists avoid this and do not
recognise the qualitative difference of either task
systematics and inventory (Klejn 1979a). Among the
disciplines dealing with mass materials archaeology is
the only one which did not create even a single identi-
fying directory (cf. directories of bones, leafs, owers,
languages and even classic mythological heroes). This
is the payment for theoretical illiteracy.
79 Metaarchaeology
More complex is the unication of variously desig-
nated theoretical constructs. Strictly speaking, on this
level the joint glossary implies joint theory. Each
theory needs a certain set of concepts with certain
interrelations between them, although there are in-
variant concepts descending from theory to theory.
Yet in archaeology, naive hopes are very popular, rst
and foremost to establish a unied and commonly ac-
cepted glossary, to agree on the necessary set of theor-
etical concepts, on their delimitation and designation
and then, on this basis, to build theories and to dis-
pute them (Zakharuk 1970; Dunnell 1971, 4; Rouse
1972, XXV).
Only the contrary approach can be realistic: rstly
to create and rene our general theoretical object, to
ascertain its needs in terms of concepts, then to work
them out and confront them with the concepts of
other theories. The systematisation of all the theoreti-
cal concepts of archaeology implies systematisation of
theories in archaeology, and this is the task of metaar-
chaeology. The requirement of terminology is of an
auxiliary, technical character and can proceed in an-
other more simple way, but then it should be reduced
purely to glossary tasks: registration and conventional
formulation of meanings, without establishing the
normative net and hierarchy.
As a rule, modern physical theory proceeds in math-
ematical form. Propositions are formalised, variables
and their relations receive quantitative characteristics
and postulates become initial equations. Admissible
mathematical transformations are made in full ab-
straction from the content of the variables. As a result
new derivative equations emerge, with additionally
discovered relations between the variables or with
new variables. It remains to take these new relations
and variables back to the content and to nd their
correspondences in the language of the given theory,
i.e. to supply mathematical symbols again with the
content of theoretical object. Usually it is called con-
tent interpretation of formalised propositions, but
Harvey calls it transliteration, leaving the term inter-
pretation for the switching from theoretical concepts
to realia.
This entire procedure allows the shortening and
standardisation of form of operations that infer laws
from postulates, to mechanise operations, and, using
the sophistication of mathematical technique of trans-
formation, to discover additional laws that exist in
very complex connection with the initial ones. In such
a complex connection it would hardly be possible to
reach them by means of direct study of the subject
content. The principle of using mathematical appar-
atus in archaeology is the same as in other disciplines
(Sher 1970; Kameneckiy a.o. 1975), but here the con-
ditions are different; there is a distinct specicity to
the material and there are different tasks to tackle.
Thus the functions and the role of the mathematical
apparatus are rather different.
First of all by studying the complex cultural ma-
terial, more attention is given to the task of searching
for oppositions and evaluating discrete relations. This
means evaluations for which gradual changes are in-
essential, only the question of whether the relation is
present or not is important. Therefore many laws of
archaeology do not hold quantitative character, for
example the Stenos and Worsaaes Laws already
mentioned. It is true that modern mathematics is not
reduced to quantitative operations, and it is possible
to nd a number of quantitative laws in ancient cul-
tural material (Ford 1962a,b; Carneiro 1970), and
there are ways of quantitative expression of qualita-
tive dependencies (i.e. Hill 1968). Nevertheless the
role of mathematical apparatus in archaeological
theory is more modest.
To narrow down and establish the functions of
mathematical apparatus in archaeological theory, den-
sity and cascade character of links in cultural material
are especially important, as well as frequent inclusions
of random non-controlled factors, which comes from
the difculty of isolating the connections under study
from noise. But most important is the uncertainty of
cultural characteristics of archaeological material. The
quantitative analysis demands evening out, which
stems from the assumption of units of counting, for dif-
ferent variables can have equal value in different con-
ditions. In ancient cultures these units had a different
meaning and different range, but exactly what these
were remains unknown to the archaeologist.
This is why mathematical apparatus in archae-
ological cultures has not been developed as a rule
since the very beginning of working on theory. It was
80 Acta Archaeologica
added considerably later and does not embrace the
whole corpus of its system of laws, it only renes
single branches of this system. So the Theory of Dif-
fusions has taken a remarkable place in archaeology
since the beginning of the 20th century and was
strengthened since the middle of the twenties by Chil-
de, but only in the 1960s did quantitative studies
based on it appear. These were estimations of the dif-
fusion rate (M. Edmonson 1961), connection of per-
centage distribution of types with territorial propa-
gation (M. Malmer 1962), and they acceded quanti-
tative diffusion models elaborated in geography
(Hgerstrand 1952; Brown 1968; Hudson 1972).
Theory does not emerge from an empty space. In
order to explain one must have something that per-
tains to explanation, some body of empirical data,
and sources are needed from which explanative ideas
can be taken when they are not contained in the em-
pirical data. Thus, for creating a theory two groups
of premisses are needed: the empirical basis and the
theoretical basis. The comparable evaluation of their
roles in forming archaeological theory brought about
a most polemical attitude.
The empirical basis consists of the collection of, 1)
single data of experience (observation and experi-
ment) and, 2) empirical laws derived by means of
their generalisation. For instance, the discovery of a
burial with a bronze awl found in the barrow is an
empirical observation, while the statement that
bronze awls occur (or can occur) in barrow graves,
but int hand axes never do, is an empirical law. The
empirical basis will be reliable only in the case of this
knowledge being obtained by means of strict
methods. But methodical proof and improvement is
one of the functions of theory (Klejn 1978a; 1995c),
and theory cannot come before its premiss. So what
methods can be applied to the building of these prem-
isses? Only methods derived from the previous theor-
ies or borrowed from other disciplines. So for check-
ing Migrationist constructions one needs relative dat-
ing of similar sites on the assumed original homeland
and in the new area populated. This dating can be
provided by the Evolutionist-Typological method
elaborated on the basis of the earlier Evolutionist the-
oretical conception or can be obtained from natural
sciences with their methods (pollen analysis etc.).
For the followers of Empiricism, including the
early Positivists, the empirical basis was the only
permissible source of theory, and its core was re-
duced in essence to the execution of empirical laws.
One could explain an observation by means of
covering it by empirical law, and one could explain
the empirical law by means of covering it by a
broader empirical law, and all while remaining on
the surface of phenomena, without diving into hid-
den causes. In these frames, solving the tasks of ar-
chaeology would appear absolutely hopeless: to re-
construct and cognise unobservable processes on
the basis of the principle of actualism this cannot
be empirically defended!
The opposite extreme is a refusal to rely on em-
pirical basis. It is performed by reducing the func-
tion of factual material to a purely passive role to
become the object of application of explanatory
ideas and to provide an illustration for them (vari-
ous scholastic and dogmatic conceptions). A looser
variety of such an attitude is connected with the
attempt to reduce the role of the empirical basis to
the testing of theory. This occurred in Post-Positiv-
ist Deductivism and in archaeology, which has ac-
cepted this as its initial principle in New Archaeol-
ogy of the USA and Britain. In fact, only in the
latter role can the empirical basis serve as the start-
ing-point for a strict deductive inference able to
connect it with theory.
Is its meaning exhausted here? Can the other basis,
the theoretical one, serve as the only source of theory?
The theoretical basis consists of two parts: (1) the
scientic view of the world and, (2) the collection of
previous theories of the given discipline. A scientic
view of the world is specied as applied to each disci-
pline and consists of principles (the most general laws
of this discipline) and universalia (its most fundamen-
tal concepts). The principles build borders for what is
possible in terms of the laws introduced by the new
theory, and through the universalia culture or
artefact we dene concepts introduced by the
theory. For the determination of the universalia them-
selves, as they are the most fundamental concepts of
the whole given discipline, one must go outside its
borders. Universalia can maintain a number of kin-
81 Metaarchaeology
dred disciplines simultaneously and archaeology uses
Age old principles of archaeological interpretation
remained tacitly implied and in recent decades
attempts have been made to formulate them. In these
attempts the conviction of archaeologists has been dis-
covered that there are very few such principles if not
only a single one. As earlier mentioned, Hawkes be-
lieves that there are merely two principles which
offer scientic status to archaeology (1957, 94; see
above, ch. 5.3)
However, in other attempts more principles are
mentioned those of determinism, actualism, histor-
icism etc. When the full list is compiled they are many
in number. This becomes clear as soon as the ques-
tion arises on the possibility of handing interpretation
over to the machine ... There are a number of recent
works devoted to universalia to the concepts cul-
ture and archaeological culture, type, attri-
bute, artefact etc. (Dunnel 1971; Bochkarev 1975
The scientic view of the world is closely connected
with intertheory. Intertheory is the environment that
is made of theories of other disciplines and, with its
ideas, inuences the theoretical development of ar-
chaeology. These interconnections are most apparent
in the case of Evolutionism which is represented in
biology (Darwinism), geology (T. Calvin, Ch. Lyell),
linguistics (A. Schleicher), ethnography (E. Tylor and
J. Lubbock), archaeology (G. de Mortillet and O.
Montelius). The idea of complementarity formulated
by N. Bohr for natural sciences did much to achieve
popularity for the model conception in a number of
disciplines. G. Gjessing made an attempt to apply this
idea directly to archaeology and connected this with
models in archaeology. Intertheory and the scientic
view of the world developed under the command of
philosophy, although not always under its leadership.
Changing abruptly, they form subsequent styles of
the scientic thinking, after M. Borns expression
(1953, 501; 1955, 102; cf. Klejn 1973b).
Metatheory is connected with the laws and con-
cepts of previous theories. Relying on the methodol-
ogical function of philosophy, metatheory studies,
generalises and gives them sense, and through them
it describes the main characteristics of the given disci-
pline in order to enable the production of new the-
ories. Some contemporary investigators consider just
the theoretical basis as the main source of new theor-
ies and the empirical basis only as a touchstone for
verication of new theories. Of course, many con-
cepts and terms are delivered from the stores of theor-
etical foundations in ready form for the needs of a
new theory while universalia allow the formation of
new concepts. Metatheory helps to manipulate them,
to establish the relations they have with the material
and to previous theories. Many laws of the previous
theories will pass to the new theory too and serve as
secondary premisses of syllogisms. The principles will
also be useful by helping to formulate postulates.
In a word, much more of the building material
comes from the theoretical basis to the building site
of the new theory than from the empirical one. How-
ever, even with this there is no fundamental idea,
strictly speaking delivery is not guaranteed. A fun-
damental explanatory idea may be borrowed from
the theoretical store of an adjacent discipline as ideas
of evolution and migration were borrowed, and may
be transformed from the inherited theoretical luggage
by means of broadening a narrow idea, by means of
release of limitations this is how Contextualism was
formed. Methodological expansion of a branch that
developed successfully is considered a normal case
(Ovchinnikov 1968: 22). In archaeology organised
searches for a prospective source of borrowings are
discussed (e.g. Renfrew 1969b). For those searching
after ideas a directory of explanatory ideas was com-
piled which contains a thousand such ideas able to
explain human (Berelson and Steiner 1964).
An idea can also come from non-scientic knowl-
edge or can emerge anew as did Wahles conception
of the idea of a latent development of a culture, and
there are no strict rules for its creation. In retrospect,
one can estimate the role of various inuences: (1) of
the situation in the empirical basis, (2) of theoretical
resources, (3) of the state of social conscience, e.g. the
role of the ideas of equality, progress, competition and
reforms in forming of Evolutionism, and (4) of an in-
dividual practice of an investigator. However, any
stimuli act indirectly through the creative con-
science of a researcher, through his or her imagin-
ation. It is here where the notions that were earlier
unconnected now touch each other, where new unex-
pected associations emerge and surprising ideas are
82 Acta Archaeologica
born those from which it is necessary thereafter to
select intuitively a suitable one. Thus, some creative
act which is equated with abduction would be posi-
tioned before induction and deduction, more exactly
before their inclusion into theory (Hanson 1965, 86f;
Hempel 1966, 15).
This thought has already found its way into archae-
ology and introduced a confusing re-estimation of
values. Good abduction does not depend upon the
quantity of data a given investigator has examined ...
It is a function of his creative ability as a scientist,
and no more ... Those who wish to explain hypothesis
creation as a linear function of data examination are
trying either to shift responsibility for hypotheses they
could not create or to protect themselves lest they be
wrong ... Hypotheses may be indicated conclusions of
the research of other archaeologists, anthropologists,
or social scientists. That is, one may be using the ab-
ductions of others (Plog 1974, 19). There is, of
course, some exaggeration in such strong distancing
from the real material. To create new ideas material is
necessary too but the creative process does not extract
general, repetitive characteristics from the material in
the way induction does and it does not cover facts by
imperatives derived from more general regularities
like deduction. It is a mixing of information that leads
to new connections and associations which forms part
of the creative process.
By itself this act is alien to the discipline and does
not belong to strict science, but without it there is no
theory. When completely embraced by a strict disci-
pline, without its divisions, knowledge is faultless and
lifeless. In order to shape a theory it is insufcient to
know facts and to think strictly. Creative boldness is
necessary too and although it can sound impolite,
sometimes talent does not go astray.
Theory is always exposed in a special language and
establishes laws in a special ideal world by postulating
links between ideal objects. If so, in order to provide
proofs from the facts and to apply it to the real world
of particular things and events, it is necessary to trans-
late concepts and inferences of theory into the lan-
guage of facts and particular operations. The complex
problem emerges of the interrelation of two worlds:
the world of theory and the world of facts.
Empirical generalisations are partial whereas a
theoretical law expresses necessity (essentiality) and
in its own sphere it is complete and universal. If
and when facts are generalised and rise to the level
of empirical laws, then to bring the world of facts
closer to theory is impossible while they are still dis-
tant from the form of necessity and universality of
research thinking. We are left with the only solu-
tion: to transfer the world of facts over to theory.
There is only one way to do this, namely to trans-
form the mental objects and propositions of theory
into real ones, i.e. to render concrete the fragment
of reality under study by means of this theory. This
means constructing a third world, ideal but real,
and formulating a particular statement in the lan-
guage of laws and concepts of this theory.
For this sake one must rst and foremost describe
the factual material in concepts and terms of the
given theory. In general there is no such thing as pure
description as well as pure observation free from the
demands of theory (or of fuzzy mixing of old theories)
and free from theoretical notions.
When describing something, we inevitably use con-
cepts, and concepts are inevitably components of a
system of notions. This system is of a theoretical
character, and let this theoretical setting be dim and
dull, implicit and non-strict. However, concepts and
terms with which the material was described before
forming the new theory, belonged to the glossaries of
old theories. Now one has to describe this material,
in the glossary system of the new theory and using
the old glossary only to the extent in which its parts
are assimilated by the new system. Using this descrip-
tion, one can already infer particular empirical regu-
larities from abstract theoretical laws, i.e. to build
models that realise theory as applied to every particu-
lar fragment of reality. From each law one can infer
a number of such models, because the conditions of
realisation are different. These models dictate the ex-
pectation of observations. When confronted, the ex-
pected empirical laws and observations must coincide
with real ones if the theory is true (they can however
also coincide if the theory is not true).
In order to describe strictly the material by means
of the glossary of the new theory, one must possess a
83 Metaarchaeology
set of rules that regulate the covering of particular
phenomena with concepts of theory. These rules of
correlation, connecting the ideal objects with real
ones, control the selection of the chosen things, prop-
erties and relations of reality, norms of measuring the
material, permitted operations with terms, i.e. the
functions of the present terms.
In the same vein, in order to infer particular
models of real phenomena from theoretical laws, one
must possess a set of rules that regulate the transform-
ation of dependencies between the variables into par-
ticular ones. This transformation includes: a) simpli-
cation imposed by the unevenness of the material:
by encumbrances, noise, gaps; b) delimitation im-
posed by the specicity of the material, by the im-
peding conditions. The rules must predict reliable op-
erations with concepts and formulas of the theoretical
laws and determine in this way their real sense, the
semantics of the matter. The operational apparatus
of theory is built by these two codices that regulate
operations with the laws and glossary of the theory in
the theoretical rendering of reality. If by concepts and
terms of theory we mean the glossary and by the laws
we mean the grammar of a certain language, then the
operational apparatus of the theory forms the seman-
tics of this language.
Most specialists of scientic methodology make no
distinction between the text of theory and its oper-
ational apparatus. In descriptions of the cognitive
functioning of a theory one can nd a text (Brown
1963) or the operational rules (Nagel 1961) and one
can nd direct statements on their make-up (Harvey
1974, 85). Meanwhile their functions are very differ-
ent as they are in every language the functions of
semantics and the statements or text of a theory are
different from the functions of the rules and the re-
sults of their use. It is therefore reasonable to distin-
guish between these two members of the cognitive
machinery of theory because they are distinct by their
connections with other parts of this machinery.
In archaeology, perhaps in history too, the task of
theoretical rendering of reality appears to be more
complex than in other disciplines. The point is that
theoretical laws of archaeology, while providing his-
torical reconstruction, also establish dependencies of
rendering. These are dependencies between variables
of either the rendering procedure (bridging laws) or
of the object to be rendered (processual laws). There-
fore, when formulating the statements of theory on
the basis of theoretical laws and rendering initial re-
ality as if it were empirical material, it will be already
a secondary rendering that is arrived at, and the result
will have been rendered twice. In the beginning in
fact, on the basis of the archaeological record we must
render the real world of the past, and then we must
render the record on the basis of this rendered world.
However, reconstruction of the real world on the
basis of the archaeological record has many possible
outcomes since cultural objects are polisemic and the
record is fragmentary in several ways. Going back to
the record from our hypothetical reconstruction we
must face not only the manifestation of known laws
in the formation of records but also the contribution
of chance. So in both ways to the past real world
and back to the record distortions and losses of in-
formation can occur.
This brings us back to the question of the specicity
and importance of archaeological laws (Klejn 1979b).
Really, both the main categories of archaeological
laws processual and bridging often seem quite
ordinary. They have been revealed with methods and
materials of other disciplines, such as sociology, eth-
nology and anthropology, or simply through some ex-
perience by means of sound reasoning. Processual
laws also fully realise their explanative and organis-
ational potentials in other disciplines like the history
of material culture, and historical sociology. However,
even the laws of this group are particular to archaeol-
ogy and are used differently than in other disciplines.
They demand special rules in operational apparatus,
for intsance the need to separate the diffusion of ideas
from the diffusion of things in archaeology. Further-
more, in this group there are laws where archaeologi-
cal materials are necessary and irreplaceable in order
to reveal those laws. In particular are the specic laws
of early stages of the cultural-historical process (Wat-
son et al. 1971, 168f).
As concerns bridging laws they are simply un-
necessary for any other discipline, except other areas
of source-studying. Not by accident the means by
which these laws are obtained and veried, through
scientic and sociological experiments as well as eth-
nographic observations, formed several branches not
of sociology or natural sciences or ethnography, but
84 Acta Archaeologica
just of archaeology: experimental archaeology (Se-
menov 1957; Ascher 1961; Coles 1966; 1973), ur-
gent archaeology, living prehistory, and action
archaeology. From this series of new disciplines only
living prehistory belongs more to ethnography or
ethnology, although it is oriented to serving archaeol-
ogy (Kleindienst and Watson 1956; Asher 1962;
McKern and McKern 1974; a.o.). In essence, the rul-
es of correspondence in operational apparatus must
receive substantiation from these laws.
It is customary to make a clear distinction between
rules and laws in methodology of science (Popov
1972, 121, 151), but in archaeology the distinction, to
a large extent, is lost. Laws of archaeology, as was
mentioned above, are involved in the operational ap-
paratus of archaeological theory by receiving status
and meaning from this system of laws. Thus laws in
archaeology display a far from trivial and ordinary
character. Let us take the laws of Steno and Worsaae.
Surely, what is simpler than a sequence of sediments
or the contemporaneity of things in one and the same
grave? It can however prompt us to think of con-
ditions in which these laws are not valid, situations
where superposition does not hold. Many natural
phenomena can present contradictions to the law of
superposition volcano eruptions, levelling of a sur-
face, the activity of burrowing animals, geological
faults etc. The law of Worsaae can also be opposed
as a consequence of certain human actions crypts,
secondary burials, reburials, the robbing of graves etc.
More complicated still was the task of expanding this
law, performed by O. Montelius, in order to embrace
non-burial assemblages like stores and dwellings.
In other words, it is the incomplete wordings so far
typical of archaeological laws that make them so
banal. This can happen when one forgets that, as En-
gels wrote in the Dialectic of nature, relations that
are extended to a law are present only in certain
conditions, i.e. the realisation of laws always occurs
wherever these conditions are present (Engels, 1961,
Archaeologists have felt the necessity of an oper-
ational apparatus for their theories for a long time but
until recently it was compared with the operational
apparatus of the physical sciences and endeavoured
to nd close correspondences of its theoretical objects
in the real world. This meant archaeologists were and
sometimes still are stubborn in seeing only ancient
ethnicity in archaeological cultures, despite all the
cautions of ethnographers (for criticism of these views
see Mongajt 1967; Klejn 1970). For a long period the
source criticism in archaeology was limited to the so-
called extrinsic criticism, that is, checking the authen-
ticity and preservation state of the material form of
the records; whether they are false or not. Only re-
cently the demand of the inner criticism of sources,
i.e. evaluation of their cognitive potentials, expanded
into archaeology from history (Eggers 1950; Klejn
1978b; Kristiansen 1978). This led to the situation
that even now the possibilities contained in a number
of old theories have not been exhausted, despite their
one-sidedness. This is because in their time these the-
ories did not receive a satisfactory operational appar-
atus. The elaboration of such an apparatus presents
large heuristic opportunities.
We rightly criticise Migrationsim and Diffusionism
for converting the ideas of migration and diffusion
into a skeleton key for the interpretation of any
changes in a culture. The migration theory in Kos-
sinnas doctrine was built on extremely primitive rules
of correspondence and particularisation (see Klejn
1974). But as it is, we have no need to recoil from
these phenomena migrations and inuences per
se. These phenomena acted signicantly in the cul-
tural-historical process, and archaeology needs the
theory of migrations and theory of inuences and
borrowings. The development of operational appar-
atus for the archaeological theory of migrations
means searching for archaeological hallmarks of mi-
grations, for qualitative criteria of the validity of mi-
gration hypothesis in each particular case (Klejn
1973a; 1999a; Titov 1982).
Such apparatus await development for other old
archaeological theories, provided they have revealed
essential characteristics of some real phenomena.
These old theories will still work further in the disci-
pline and will gradually become more dened cases
of a more general theory. Of course, one cannot take
for granted that this will not produce new exagger-
ations, and it is possible that archaeology still awaits
Neoevolutionism, Neomigrationism, Neodiffusionism
etc. However, archaeology has not only the experi-
ence of plummeting into extremes but also the experi-
ence of overcoming them.
85 Metaarchaeology
Formulating the statements of a theory is made poss-
ible by verication against reality its test. For New
Archaeologists this is a comparably simple procedure
of empirical verication, or the slightly more compli-
cated procedure of empirical falsication. In the case
of empirical verication the statements are conrmed
by looking for correspondences in the real world,
whereas empirical falsication checks for unexpected
phenomena that do not correspond with the expected
or predicted phenomena of the theory, i.e. to disprove
the theory.
However, verifying a theory is not limited to a
meeting with reality on an empirical basis (let us call
this procedure the E-test). The point is that this type
of testing has a number of weaknesses. It is only a
strict procedure when applied to material in which
facts are always unambiguous, always occurring in
one-to-one relations: when the cause of or the reason
for a type of material is able to produce only this one
type; while each such consequence can only have a
cause of one kind. Yet even in the study of the physi-
cal world this condition is not always granted.
In culture, at least similar causes in similar con-
ditions can lead to similar results, and by means of
altering conditions one can recognise regular connec-
tions. Nevertheless the procedure of deduction of ex-
pectations is there unreective, it cannot be turned
back. Unforeseen observations disprove a theory of
course, and predicted observations substantiate it, al-
though not completely for they only make it more
probable (and without quantitative determination of
the degree of probability) because the expected phe-
nomenon could be due to other causes. Many ways
have been suggested to compensate for the weak-
nesses of empirical verication: to enlarge the number
of the deduced predictions, to provide the diversity
and mutual independence of the predictions, or even
to substitute falsication for verication, i.e. to check
the competing hypotheses for the possibility of dis-
proving them. Yet none of these means give assur-
ance. Basically this is conditioned by the imperfection
and incompleteness of induction that is the founda-
tion of the empirical basis.
In the cultural material the role of the conditional
choice of forms, of conditional offering of meanings
to them, is considerable. So quite often similar factors
even in similar conditions can lead to different conse-
quences, and behind similar phenomena in similar
conditions different causes can be hidden plural
causality dominates in cultural material (Kbben
1967). Archaeological fact is polisemic (Klejn 1973b),
and regularities are therefore discredited. In order to
avoid having these regularities discredited, it was sug-
gested such disturbances of laws could be considered
excusable exclusions as statistical or explainable
errors (Kbben 1967), or as borders of the sphere of
the law (Klejn 1972a). Although this disposes discred-
iting of laws, it does not remove the difculty of their
testing. There is more asymmetry here than in the
physical world: even an unexpected observation does
not disprove a theory and does not demand its re-
vision and correction it might be simply the result
of the inclusion of an untting fact.
In this situation there are additional difculties in
rendering reality. In order to understand them one
has to return to the contents of the text or statements
of a theory. Beside the enlisted links in rendering re-
ality, two more are involved: explanation and predic-
tion. Both use the means of projecting the inferential
expectations onto empirical matters and onto prac-
tice. However, in the case of explanation it is achieved
through the comparison with reality (the E-test). So,
prediction is a simple projection of expectation (and
its repeating as applied to practice), while explanation
uses connections and meanings suggested by theory
and carries them onto reality and embodies in itself
the power of theory, its authority.
For the activity of theory in a puried environ-
ment, for instance in physical science, symmetry of
both projections is implied: if predictions are re-
alised and they are identical to expectations of a
theory, then the theory is true. Even in physics
symmetry falls under doubt, but only from one
side: not every explanative inference provides expla-
nation (Pechenkin 1973). In archaeology prediction
about the past is extremely asymmetric to expla-
nation. Even when a cultural-historical law and
some conditions of its realisation are known, we are
nevertheless unable to render the result of its im-
pact unambiguously if we do not know all the con-
ditions of realisation. The historian and the archae-
ologist must always take into account interaction of
86 Acta Archaeologica
many factors and reckon with the role of contin-
gency as sometimes very productive.
Such are the weak points of the E-test in general
and in archaeology in particular. In many disciplines
a T-test is included in verication that checks concur-
rence with previous theories on the basis of Bohrs
principle of correspondence. The new theory
should not contradict old theories already proved for
their sphere of competence and must include them as
limiting cases into its own body. This is the demand
behind which belief in the unity of laws of the world
is hidden. It becomes a criterion of reliability of a new
theory (Kuznecov 1948). Such a criterion can only
strengthen the respectability and prospects of a
theory, it raises its creditability so to say, but cannot
provide complete condence needed in every case.
The less reliable the checking by the E-test, the
greater the signicance of the T-test for checking by
means of theory.
Archaeology is accustomed to discarding fashion-
able theories rather easily and this ckleness is used
by some authors both in the substantiation of theory
and in the advocacy of freedom from theory. Some
archaeologists describe the failures of theoreticians
and enthusiastically collect facts that have destroyed
beautiful theories. When a theory is veried on the
basis of some multiple facts in one sphere and turns
out to be a asco in adjacent arrays of material, it
does not necessarily mean that the theory is wrong at
all. A new, competing theory may explain the facts
which had troubled a previous explanation but may
not necessarily include all the other facts explained
by the old theory it simply leaves them aside. But if
the new theory is to be stronger then it is able to
include the old theory as well. In natural sciences this
is considered the grand road of the development of
In social sciences the development is more fre-
quently directed another way. Here the confronting
social forces, while taking opposite and extreme posi-
tions, often defend one-sided views, strive to maintain
the universality of their own theory and try to refute
and crush all the others. However, the grand road
mentioned is not contradicted for these disciplines
either. In the search of that grand road for theoretical
archaeology there is perhaps a tendency to think of a
theory that could include invention, migration, dif-
fusion and other causes for the interchange of cultures
as particular cases (see Klejn 1972b; 1981c).
87 Metaarchaeology
9. Functions of archaeological theory
In his article The philosophy of archaeology, antici-
pating the posthumous collection of David Clarkes
papers, Glynn Isaac (1979, 15) addressed both those
scholars who are interested in theory and those who
ask: Why do we need to bother with theory?. Until
now did we really live badly without theory?, asked
Jakov Sher in his preface to the Russian edition of J.-
C. Gardins Theoretical archaeology. He asks this
question from the position of an imagined empirical
archaeologist, although there are many who ask this
question quite seriously. Well, the last question could
immediately be answered with reference to Clarke.
In his Analytical archaeology Clarke (1968, XIII)
demonstrated that it has long been the case that Ar-
chaeologists do not agree upon central theory,
nevertheless regardless of place, period, and culture,
they employ similar tacit models and procedures
based upon similar and distinctive entities the attri-
butes, artefacts, types, assemblages, cultures and cul-
ture groups. Later Clarke (1970, 29) stated: the cen-
tral theory uniting archaeology is implicit in what ar-
chaeologists do and constitutes a real central theory
however weak and inadequate any written account of
it may prove to be. But this latent theoretical con-
ception inevitably appears dim, incomplete, insuf-
ciently elaborated, and weakly grounded. An explicit
presentation of theory allows us to use its merits more
effectively and to detect its shortcomings at an earlier
However the question set out by Isaac and implied
by Sher still remains. Both authors stress that they do
not share the scepticism of their imagined opponents.
The use of theory in archaeology seems, to them, be-
yond doubt, and they see the ready answer in the
works of Clarke and Gardin. Meanwhile, these
scholars themselves regretted the fact that it was still
impossible to answer this question positively and
popularly. Having divided archaeologists into those
who accept theory as necessary for archaeology and
those who think theory is a hash, Clarke (1968, 22)
declared that his Analytical archaeology was writ-
ten for the rst group whereas the latter will doubt-
less continue to ... blinker themselves to narrow as-
pects of narrow problems. Theoretical archaeology
has still not proved its necessity, noted Gardin (1983,
There is, in his words, an understanding that argu-
ments are to be expected from theoretical archaeol-
ogy. If one approaches this task from the position of
a theoretician, it is evident that the utility of theory
must be demonstrated not by examples of a useful
application of several theories (because however
multiple these examples may be, there will always be
counter-examples which can be adduced), but rather
by strict logic, that is, in the framework of method-
ology. The question of the use of theory in archaeol-
ogy, as translated into the language of methodological
analysis, turns into the question of the functions of
archaeological theory. Works devoted to this issue are
nearly absent in archaeological literature. Non-Rus-
sian works of this kind are simply not known to me.
Among works in Russian two may be mentioned: the
short article of V. V. Radililovskij (1985) and a chap-
ter in V. F. Genings book The structure of archae-
ological cognition (1989b, 156193). Both authors
have transferred schemes from Soviet philosophical
literature mainly for the exact and natural sciences
onto archaeology (Pechenkin 1972; Bazhenov 1973;
Ruzavin 1978). These elaborations, in turn, rest upon
works of well-known non-Russain specialists in the
philosophy and logic of science.
In Radililovskijs list, which he has borrowed from
Bazhenov, there are four functions of archaeological
theory: descriptive, explanatory, predictive, and syn-
thesising. Gening retains only two of them, descriptive
and explanatory, but adds another one, systematising,
which he has taken from Ruzavin. Both archaeol-
ogists try to nd arguments for likening archaeologi-
cal theory to physical, chemical, and sociological
theory: archaeologists must have all the traits of these
subjects laws, and systematisation, and expla-
nations, and predictions. Proceeding from an under-
standing of the concerns and nature of archaeology
and from different notions on theory, it seems to me
sensible to consider (consecutively) various stages of
archaeological inquiry in order to detect whether, in
each of them, archaeological theory plays any role,
and if it does, what role. It is also worth evaluating
88 Acta Archaeologica
traditional general scientic notions of the functions
of theory how signicant are they in archaeology,
and to what extent are they incorporated in it?
In such an approach, one function which is absent in
the general reasoning of philosophers, the identic-
ative function, must be included in the list. The allo-
cation of the eld for archaeological study is itself es-
tablished in the theoretical sphere. Consequently, so
too is the general delimitation of appropriate ma-
terials for the study, as well as the attitude to be taken
to them in brief, the determination of the sphere
of archaeology. What we consider as the object of
archaeology, what constitutes (pace purists of the
Queens English) archaeologicality is determined by
theory. If there is no clear theory, then the direct
consequence is a confusion in attribution of some ob-
jects to the competence of archaeologists. Hence, de-
bates on applicability of its methods to those objects
Archaeology has long been established as a study
of material antiquities, of ancient things. Under things,
objects of material culture are understood, the ma-
terial products of humanity. Thus, archaeologicality (it
sounds better in Russian!) is dened by two character-
istics: belonging to material culture and antiquity.
Neither concept is as simple as it may seem. Both
demand empirical substantiation and theoretical elab-
The characteristic of belonging to material culture is as-
certained by the presence of attributes of human
treatment, as understood on the empirical basis of
generalised results of experience and observation. But
culture presupposes, if not a purposeful, then at least
an expedient treatment in accordance with certain
cultural norms and traditions. This means that theor-
etical analysis of the concept of culture and its subdi-
vision, material culture, is needed, as well as of its
components norms and traditions.
Antiquity is ascertained by empirical analysis too, by
the selection of attributes derived from the long ex-
perience of the discipline. However, such empirical
generalisations do not dictate what date an object
must be for it to be recognised as an archaeological ob-
ject, how ancient must a thing be to be archaeologi-
cal. Here, also, a theoretical analysis of the problem
is needed.
Speaking about studying historical objects in gen-
eral, G. A. Antipov (1987, 49f) enumerates possible
errors of identication and accompanies his list with
archaeological examples. It appears, from his selec-
tion, that two possible errors may occur in each of
the two characteristics of the archaeologicality (an-
tiquity and the belonging to the material culture)
over-estimation (when non-archaeological objects are
considered as archaeological ones) and under-esti-
mation (when some archaeological objects are omit-
ted). In sum, there are four categories of mistakes:
mistakes of modernisation, archaisation, sociologis-
ation (when natural phenomena are taken for cul-
tural ones), and naturalisation (when cultural objects
are not recognised, they are taken for natural ones).
Examples are, correspondingly: the pictured pebbles
from Mas-dAsil, int parts of modern threshers, and
eoliths. Antipov did not nd an example for the
fourth kind of mistake, but one can easily adduce such
an example: the ancient pots which, in Poland, were
initially taken for naturally produced objects. Thus,
the determination of archaeologicality is founded on
theory and at the same time this is an established
initial task for archaeological studies. According to
differently formulated theories this task will be solved
When archaeological theory, diffuse and unclear
though it was, was considered by archaeologists as a
part of geography (and there was such a time), then
sites were considered as archaeological objects they
included barrows, hillforts, citadels, and temples.
When archaeological theory developed in art history,
it was mainly monuments of ancient art that were
added to the range of archaeological objects. The
orientation of the discipline towards history gave birth
to the notion of the archaeological source or archae-
ological record and prompted archaeologists to study
all antiquities, not only aesthetically expressive ones.
Despite this, merely the unique, spectacular, or espe-
cially eloquent monuments were taken into account
seriously. For mass material (pottery, int akes, etc.)
to be included in the archaeologists scope, it ap-
peared necessary to realise the importance of the his-
tory of culture and, as the French historians use to
say, the history of structures. Then not only proper
89 Metaarchaeology
things to study became the object of archaeological
study, but all material trace of human activity.
Debates about the extreme chronological limits of
archaeology how far its competence stretches and
at what point it begins usually display an abstract
nature. Too great an exactness was not usually de-
manded. In such discussions another matter of debate
is the material origins of archaeological data to what
extent and in which cases should natural objects not
produced by people (i.e. wood, bones, pollen etc.) be
considered archaeological data. Such debates are
more important, for they concern issues of the delimi-
tation of the discipline and of the integration of these
materials into it. These are issues of professional
specialisation and of the approximate scope for each
All these problems are connected to the key ques-
tion of how archaeology recognises its own material,
that is, with the ascertaining of the archaeologicality
of objects the establishment of the concerns and
limits of archaeology.
This function follows on from the preceding aspect,
in the sense that it relates to the same material, is
based on the same statements, and is also connected
with the processes by which the concerns of archaeol-
ogy are formed. The unity of archaeology is the ques-
tion here.
Archaeology originated in many countries and not
as one discipline. Its branches appeared to be inde-
pendent disciplines, even belonging to different
groups of disciplines. This is shown in the fact that
special institutions, journals, university chairs, and so-
cieties were created. So, classical archaeology was,
and is, developed in nearly the whole of Europe sep-
arately from primordial (prehistoric) archaeology.
The rst was shaped in the wake of art-studies and
philology, the second, however, established itself as a
part of biology. In Germany it was guided during
some decades by the palaeo-pathologist Virchow with
his collaborators, who were also physicians. In Russia
prehistoric antiquities were collected initially by Baer
in the course of his study of human anatomy, whereas
museums were allotted to classical archaeology. In the
USA, prehistoric archaeology is part of the anthropo-
logical complex of sciences (parallel with physical and
cultural anthropology, ethnography and linguistics),
while classical archaeology is not; it is, in general, re-
lated to the humanities, not to the sciences. In Ger-
many and USA these branches of archaeology are
even named differently: the term archaeology is
used only for classical archaeology, while primordial
archaeology is named simply prehistory (Vorgeschich-
te, Urgeschichte). Oriental archaeology was de-
veloped in some places together with classical archae-
ology, in others separately from it. Medieval archaeol-
ogy was always linked to history. Sometimes outside
of the Mediterranean area mediaeval archaeology
was combined with prehistoric archaeology to form a
local archaeology which was seen as opposite of the
classical sort. In Germany, about a century ago, the
division between these branches was intensied by the
competition and mutual hostility of these two
branches to such a level that it produced a schism in
the discipline.
Some scholars are trying to substantiate this sharp
division Kubler (1961) among the classicists and
Chang (1967b) among prehistorians. So deep-rooted
and entrenched in history is the division of archaeol-
ogy, he writes (1967b, 137f), and the tradition has
already carried so much momentum, that the status
quo is inviolable, its rationalisation futile, and any
grand design of confederating these rival approaches
into a single master discipline of archaeology is fool-
hardy. Chang is aware of the possibility to search
for common ground: The question is real, however,
about whether a common methodology underlies all
archaeological schools. Or, less ambitiously, are some
of their concepts, methods, and terminological struc-
tures essentially interchangeable lenses for the same
master camera?. He answers this question nega-
Hawkes (1954), in England, and Rogachev (1975;
1978), in Russia, suggested that the absence of written
sources was the principal distinction of prehistoric ar-
chaeology from historical archaeology, as Rogach-
ev called all the other branches. Hawkes not only di-
vided archaeology into text-aided and text-free,
but also introduced subdivisions into the former: pro-
tohistory, parahistory, and telehistory. These subdivi-
sions and terms suggested by Hawkes did not catch
on (except the rst one which already existed). But
90 Acta Archaeologica
can presence or absence of written sources inuence
the content and specicity of archaeological studies
and their opportunities?, asks Zakharuk (1978, 25).
The experience of Russia is very interesting in this
respect: here archaeology is traditionally one disci-
pline. It is remarkable that in a number of countries
the term archaeology is kept in the names of both
halves of archaeology. All workers in these disciplines
are archaeologists, and they all use principally the
same methods and main concepts. All these branches
have, of course, one and the same theoretical basis.
Childe (1956, VI) meant just this, when he declared
archaeology is one. More than that, Childe ob-
served that prehistoric archaeology outstripped classi-
cal and mediaeval archaeology, up to his own time,
in terms of the development of concepts and methods.
So he remarked: If Romanists and medievalists
could be persuaded to adopt the techniques and the
categories elaborated for older periods, many prob-
lems in history might be resolved.
This problem also has another aspect. As soon as
theoretical thinking is commonly connected with
ideology, it is held that the ideological differences of
scholarly schools in archaeology, of national schools,
and so on, must lead to a sharp divergence in general
archaeological theories, and hence of archaeologies
in general. Pointing out the disintergration of New
Archaeology, which pretended to be a Kuhnian para-
digm for archaeology, B. Myhre (1961, 161) stated:
There is not one archaeology or one prehistory any
more, but many, depending on the philosophical or
political theory of the archaeologist.
The ideologies of Soviet archaeology were espe-
cially efcient in this schismatic activity. In the Soviet
Union the belief was imposed in every way possible
that Marxist archaeology was an absolutely new, quite
different science as compared to all other archaeol-
ogy, which in Soviet parlance was called bourgeois.
It was said that it had different theory, different con-
cepts, and different methods. The question was dis-
cussed whether such a science should retain the old
term with its new content (Ravdonikas 1930, 20). A
replacement of archaeology by the term history of
material culture was considered, and for a short time
this became practise. The old term survived, but the
Soviet archaeological establishment long continued to
assure everybody, and itself, that Soviet archaeology
fundamentally differed from the rest of the archae-
ological world: the comprehension of the Marxist-
Leninist scientic outlook and the development in the
conditions of a socialist state created, as a matter of
fact, a completely new discipline which has taken an
honourable place in the ranks of other sections of his-
torical knowledge ... (Rybakov 1967, 583).
All this was instilled into the conscience of Marxist
orthodox archaeologists to such an extent that the
leading theoreticians of the establishment con-
sidered it possible to publish works on theoretical ar-
chaeology without using any foreign literature. This
was not because using foreign works was forbidden
(to some extent it was always allowed) and not only
because they did not speak foreign languages (al-
though admittedly most did not), but because they
believed that, abroad, archaeology was another disci-
pline, which had not reached the level of a proper
science. There was no point in concerning oneself
with it, may be simply to unmask and expose its folly.
Western archaeologists often responded in the
same way. Americans, in their archaeological works,
ignored not only Russian but also German archae-
ological literature, though on essentially different
grounds. Their next turn in direction aspired to be
considered as the New Archaeology. These were not
Changs rival archaeologies, these were hostile ar-
chaeologies, ghting with each other. But they still
argued on the same basis, and often in the same
scholarly language. As a rule, the more a school up-
holds its uniqueness, its monopoly on the right to be
held as science (or scholarship), the more it is isolated
and the more it falls into decay.
No doubt archaeologists have plenty of philosophi-
cal and political orientations there always were plenty
of these. But when some people, observing discord,
speak of many archaeologies, it is useful to consider how
deep a level of divergence of interests can condition
preferences in the choice of facts and methods, as well
as certain probabilities of error. All have to select out of
one and the same set of methods, and use the same
facts. Dissimilar in their convictions, archaeologists try
to ll their concepts with different contents, but these
are concepts derived from one system and contents
from one world, and this difference in meanings is not
so signicant as to prevent archaeologists from under-
standing what the thing is all about.
91 Metaarchaeology
The theory of archaeology must allow archaeol-
ogists to see this situation clearly and must help them,
despite all the differences, to keep their discipline in-
tact, to keep the connections within its framework. It
is not by chance that there are no special theoretical
works applicable only to prehistoric archaeology.
When a theoretical book by an archaeologist is pub-
lished, whether on specicity of sources, or on classi-
catory concepts, or on ways of interpretation, it is
sought with equal interest by archaeologists from all
branches of the discipline.
This function appears to follow directly from the id-
enticative one: after identifying the archaeological
materials the choice and selection of which to use in
each study is made according to the theoretical line
to be adopted. If a zero theory (the principle of
empiricism) is accepted, in other words, if there is no
theory, then any material can be tted in indiscrimi-
nately, but in essence unwittingly on the part of the
researcher, for it is selected according to his or her
taste and other biases. However, it is usually held de-
sirable to gather more data in order to provide a
wider base for generalisations. Underlying this view
is the idea that any material must provide something
new. In general empiricists suppose that one has to
strive for maximal recovery, ideally to collect all of
the material.
If a theory exists and the principles of statistics are
included in it, then one can make do with represen-
tative samples. If theory is guided by hypothetico-
deductive logic and accordingly the inquiry is aimed
at the checking of a hypothesis, then the collection of
material appears narrowly directed: only that is gath-
ered which can conrm or refute the hypothesis. Of
course, such an attitude is dangerous, especially in
excavations. Since excavations destroy part of, or all
of, the monument, some or all of its other material
which is unnecessary for the inquirer at the moment
will simply perish with all the potential information it
contains. Finally, if one assumes, like Clarke, that
there is a general theory, some set of principles, con-
cepts, methods and procedures, common to all the
subdivisions of archaeology, then it is reasonable to
conclude that there is also a standard set of problems
and tasks. We need to supply these with materials,
and information, as if for a questionnaire. It is sens-
ible to gather information according to a broad set of
In recent decades the methodology of collecting
evidence was intensively elaborated as a theoretical
problem (sampling theory) in American and British
archaeology (e.g. Binford 1964; Mueller 1975; Cherry
et al. 1978). There is no need to prove that the selec-
tion of evidence depends on the special problem
being studied. This problem either results directly
from the dominant theory, or is due to contradictory
information which, itself, produced the problem.
This function is mentioned both by archaeologists
writing on the functions of theory and by some philos-
ophers. Archaeologists, however, in the main merely
explain the place of description in archaeological
studies and how it is to be conducted. The task here
is different: to reveal whether it or some aspects of it
are a function of archaeological theory, and if they
are, to show this connection.
The connection does exist. Description is nothing
but the translation of information about material into
the sign system for xating, storing, processing and
transmitting it. Language serves as such a sign system
for description. But the initial point at which descrip-
tion is supported by theory is before the moment
scholarly description begins, because the language for
it must already exist. It existed beforehand, and exist-
ed with all of its concepts with which it is able to
mirror the material, its components, properties, meas-
urements, connections, changes, movements, etc.
That is to say, a sufciently developed categorisation
must be established beforehand.
Description and even primary systematisation are
dependent on language, on pre-exising categories. As
Caws (1965, 33) remarked, mastering a certain lan-
guage can result in characteristics for its division and
segmentation of what is immediately perceived. In-
deed, to English-speaking archaeologists camp-sites
are distinguished from settlements in that the rst
were populated only for a short time, while the latter
were places long inhabitated. Russian archaeologists
traditionally distinguish stojanki (camp-sites or
92 Acta Archaeologica
stands) as Stone Age settlements from selishcha
(remains of villages) as settlements of the early
Metal Ages even if the rst were inhabited for longer
periods than the latter. Only the date of the site is
taken into account, not the duration of its life. Be-
sides, both categories are included in the Russian ter-
minology into poselenija the general category settle-
ment, including hillforts and towns.
Categorisation exists in articulated language from
the very beginning. It grows and evolves spon-
taneously. However, archaeological material has its
own claim to categorisation. Firstly, many archae-
ological objects are things not existing in daily life and
therefore have no correspondence in the actual sys-
tem of categories. Secondly, nearly all archaeological
objects have suffered from the effects of time and
natural processes. Hence they have a peculiar appear-
ance not met with in usual practice. Thirdly, archae-
ology is interested in properties and connections
which usually do not attract attention outside of ar-
chaeology (for example, presence of patina, striking
bulb, stratication, and so on). In the development of
a discipline (in particular of archaeology) the language
of scholarship is, therefore, being perfected all the
time. This perfection consists mainly of the enrich-
ment and renement of categories, in the ordering of
their totality, and in replenishment of it with abstrac-
tions, setting out the interrelationship of categories
more precisely, and organising them into a more and
more strict, balanced and rich system. This is, of
course, the business of theory.
Our usual language is lled with theories, Pop-
per (1965, 59) has said; observation is always obser-
vation in the light of some theory. There are philos-
ophers who reduce theory to the language of science.
Although this is an exaggeration, an extreme view,
the elaboration of the scholarly language, particularly
the language of description is undoubtedly one of the
tasks of theory, and such language is one of its compo-
Change in the leading theoretical concepts (the
-isms of archaeology) introduced into everyday prac-
tice newer and newer concepts and terms of descrip-
tive language. So, since the time of the earliest adher-
ents of the concept of the Three Ages, other con-
cepts have entered the language of archaeological
description such as assemblage, in situ, and
layer. The partisans of Diffusionism (including Mi-
grationism) could not do without the concepts local-
isation, site, and area. Ecologists began speak-
ing of the environment and niche. Taxonomists
elaborated the concepts of attribute. Understand-
ing of the basic objects of archaeology also changed
initially it was antiquity, then monuments and
relics, now artefacts and the archaeological rec-
ord (or archaeological source).
First and foremost, natural language appears in the
role of the language of science. Phenomena become
described with everyday words and expressions,
usually without any indication of quantitative charac-
teristics for the aims of comparative analysis of styles
(the direction was evidently theoretical!). Winckel-
mann set out some rules for scholarly description of
ancient arts by means of natural language, and these
rules completeness of description, attention to small
points, personal survey (to describe de visu) etc. are
still in use, and not only applied to monuments of the
arts. However, for all its force and exibility, natural
language displays a number of shortcomings when
playing this role it is too unspecic, diffuse, redun-
dant, and emotionally coloured. Special branches of
language, therefore, come into existence, a sort of
scientic or scholarly slang.
One of their peculiarities is the presence of special
terms for scholarly concepts, including concepts in-
tended for scholarly description. Ideally, these terms
must be inter-coordinated and compose a united sys-
tem, at least within the framework of a given study,
but preferably within the frame of the entire range of
sciences or humanities. Terms become conventional
and if theory is well considered they are specic and
clearcut, supplied by full denitions. The other pecu-
liarity of a special scholarly language is the dry, strict,
laconic, and neutral style, which avoids every ambi-
guity, or latent metaphoric meanings, and substitution
of emotions for argumentation. The third peculiarity
is the use of abbreviations instead of often listing
words, terms and expressions. The fourth peculiarity
is the application of formulae for showing relation-
ships and ties, especially in the cases where quantitat-
ive measurements and calculations are possible.
In archaeology such style of description was elabor-
ated gradually, beginning with the records of collec-
tors and travellers, but was fully established only in
93 Metaarchaeology
the second half of the nineteenth century in museum
catalogues and eld journals of expeditions. It began
to be applied in published expedition reports, too. In
Russia Gorodcov in the early twentieth century ap-
plied the tabular form of data presentation. As a uni-
ed language of description in the discipline it is still
absent in the second half of the twentieth century,
large archaeological works are often supplied with ter-
minological glossaries containing denitions of the
main special terms (e.g. see Klejn 1980, 104; 1991a,
Finally, in the recent times, under the pressure of
computerisation, specic languages have been formed
especially for the aim of scholarly description descrip-
tive (document, informational) languages which are dis-
tinguished by extreme formalisation, explicitness and
structured organisation. A reduction of description to
its simplest operations forms their basis. Description
is here conducted with special symbols according to
an expanded code.
To some extent this is the logical continuation of the
preceding function because, in the process of categ-
orisation, every description not generalises (this is an
empirical operation) but also covers the material with
categories created within a certain ordering system,
no matter how it orders material, and even if only
primitively. Strict intercoordination and subordi-
nation of these categories in accordance with the
specicity of the material and with the tasks of the
study builds the scholarly scheme of ordering.
If on the basis of similarities and differences the
material is distributed into strictly delineated cells,
covered by standard categories, a scheme of classi-
cation results. If the material is clustered around con-
cepts on which the centres of such categories are x-
ed, a scheme of typology is built. How to organise the
totality of classicatory or typological concepts in due
accordance with the specicity of the material, and
with the tasks of the study, are of course decided by
that system of propositions, that program of actions,
which properly is theory. To the extent to which this
theory regulates these actions, it is called theory of ar-
chaeological classication (cf. Kolpakov 1992) or theory of
archaeological typology (Klejn 1991).
The following must be stipulated: the distribution
of empirical material into cells of classication or its
grouping around ideals being called types and
styles are empirical operations ascertaining simi-
larities and differences, identication, and generalis-
ation. But the organisation of the system of concepts
itself, allotting them to hierarchical levels, delimi-
tation and intercoordination, as well as their subordi-
nation to the general tasks of the study all of these
are theoretical actions. There are a number of dif-
cult questions here. Is it possible to combine the tasks
of classication and those of typology in a single
scheme? To what extent are the cells, the grouping,
or the borderlines which we ascertain in the archae-
ological material inherent to that material itself, and
to what extent do they depend on the arbitrariness of
the inquirer? Do they mirror connections and delimi-
tations that really existed in the past, in the once-
living culture? One might cite further questions.
Quite a number of these questions have been ex-
tracted by Chang from Kluckhohns article on ty-
pology (Kluckhohn 1960; Chang 1967b, 83), and
some more can be seen in other works (cf. Hill and
Evans 1973, 231, 268; Klejn 1991a, 13, 31f). All of
these are theoretical questions.
Classications were made by collectors of antiqui-
ties in the Renaissance and even in classical antiquity.
Even then, many of their classications sorted things
by their functional purpose, according to analogies
with things that existed in daily life weapons, tools,
and ornaments as seemed appropriate. To this,
Winckelmann added classication on stylistic prin-
ciples. In the time of Evolutionism, distribution by
supposed functions became the main kind of classi-
cation. At the same time typologies began to appear,
where the material was grouped by stylistic and, in
general, formal similarities and differences only
within categories separated by the supposed functional
purpose of things (and only for such categories was
the term category used in Russian archaeology).
That there is a hypothetical basis of this categorisation
indicates the involvement of theory. The point is not
the future of every hypothesis. Indeed, after being
conrmed, some go on to become fact. Hypotheses
about function are of this sort. The process of ascer-
taining the functional purpose of things is based on
notions of the functional organisation of an ancient
94 Acta Archaeologica
culture and the means of its cognition. This is theory.
In culture, the connection of function with form is
not determined rigidly. Usually there is a certain free-
dom of choice in selecting a form for a given function.
We archaeologists are forced to ascertain forgotten
functions from the present excavated forms. The task
in every case is extremely difcult. We have to search
for the key in the system of forms of the given culture
itself and in the supposed system of functions corre-
sponding logically to this. We must already have some
general notion on the given culture, some expec-
tations about it in respect to functions which were
performed in it. This means that the discovery of an-
cient cultural structures of our archaeological ma-
terials by means of purely empirical procedures is im-
possible. This was noted rst by Taylor (1948) and
this is the central idea of my work on typology (Klejn
1977c; 1982; 1991a). To this observation concerning
the dependence of the earlier stages on the further
stages in an inquiry (a sort of a paradox of outstrip-
ping), one can add that, by becoming standard, the
classicational cells soon move into the professional
language of description. Then there is no need in de-
scription to enumerate the attributes of a thing a
whole permanently repeated complex can be replaced
by the simple attribution of a type that was formerly
determined. Formerly determined here is the clue
to the paradox of outstripping the initial steps of
an inquiry, resting on a later stage of the study, draw
information from the results of earlier steps of general
inquiry more advanced than the earlier stages of the
special study being undertaken.
Systematisation is inherent in theory by its nature,
by denition so to speak. For in some essential as-
pects theory is just a system of laws, concepts and
conclusions. Theory systematises not merely concepts,
but also empirical regularities or laws, trying to estab-
lish relations of intercoordination and inference be-
tween them. The most organisational perfection in
theory is reached when it is able to derive all its laws
from one single general principle. To do this they
must all be connected with this principle by logical
subordination, that is, they must be explained by it.
In other words, this level of systematisation is unat-
tainable without explanation (again the phenomenon
of outstripping!) and, properly speaking, it appears to
be an aspect of the explanative function.
This function is present in the lists compiled by both
archaeologists and, even more commonly, philos-
ophers. It receives the most attention from all of these
scholars, whether archaeologists or philosophers, and
is regarded as the main function. The connection of
explanation with theory is difcult to deny if one
holds that explanation directly appeals to laws, then
laws are the kernel of theory. If, however, one under-
stands explanation more broadly and questions the
equation of history with sociology by their shared in-
terest with laws, then the problem becomes more
The essence of explanation as exposed by the most
rigourous, most neo-positivist wing of the American
archaeology (cf. Spaulding 1968; Fritz and Plog 1970;
Watson et al. 1971) followed the philosophers Hempel
and Oppenheim: there must be at least one scientic
law by which the facts to be explained (the explanadum)
can be covered. Explanation through law is called
nomological or deductive-nomological. The posi-
tion of Deductivists has been subjected to a devastat-
ing critique (e.g. by Schuyler 1973; Morgan 1973; Le-
vin 1973). Three main types of explanation are men-
tioned in the literature causal (in terms of cause
and effect), structural-functional (nding the place
in the structure and ascertaining the functions), and
genetic (ascertaining the origin). Refusing absolute
determinism in culture, one group of researchers in-
clines toward the idea that in archaeology structural-
functional explanation is applicable (M. Salmon
1982a; Renfrew 1982), the other part persists in
causal explanation as a special kind of probabilistic
explanation most appropriate to the historical discip-
lines, including archaeology (W. Salmon 1982; Smith
1982; Eggert 1982; Mellor 1982; Trigger 1982).
But what is liable to explanation in archaeology?
Binford, who was among the rst to introduce the
deductive-nomological principle into archaeology,
thought initially that it was events and processes in
socio-cultural systems of the past that were to be ex-
plained. Later he thought that, before one begins to
study the cultural process through the sources, one
has to explain the sources themselves. But as he still
considered that one had to explain them through the
events and processes of the past, then the problem
95 Metaarchaeology
appears to be a vicious circle. Binford came to the
conclusion that a special discipline for the study of
archaeological sources is needed, and a corresponding
theory of archaeological record (Binford 1982). For
him both of these steps of cognition the cognition
of sources and the cognition of the past itself are
steps within archaeology, but to me, as to Rouse
(Rouse 1972; Klejn 1976; 1978b; 1991c, 1993) they
must be separated. Archaeology is a discipline study-
ing material antiquities as sources of information
about the distant past, whereas the study of the past
itself, of its events and processes, on the basis of pro-
cessed and prepared sources is palaeohistory (prehis-
tory and most ancient history). In establishing itself as
a mature discipline, archaeology learnt to study not
only each individual artefact, but the entirety of ma-
terial culture. Archaeology studies the sources for the
understanding of the cultural-historical process.
It is not difcult to observe that for the time being
debates in the archaeological literature are about the
nature of explanation in palaeohistory, not in archaeol-
ogy. Explanation has been concentrated into only a
part of the range of understanding of the past on
the peripheries of cultural-historical process. As soon
as archaeology appears a special source-studying
discipline, the question of the nature of explanation
must be considered anew.
At this rst stage in understanding the past we are
interested to know what an object that we have dis-
covered was, what its functional purpose in an ancient
culture was, and of which ancient events and pro-
cesses does it give evidence. These questions are ap-
plicable to any amount of material whether a single
artefact, or many similar artefacts, whether an assem-
blage or a group of uniform assemblages. In the re-
search design of archaeology this is the task of cultural-
historical interpretation, a task which is akin to the tasks
of translation from one language into another, and
also to the tasks of a detective. But it is not at all the
task of a historian! Thus, in application to archaeol-
ogy proper, the explanative function appears the in-
terpretative one, and this puts archaeology outside of
the historical disciplines in respect to its immediate
tasks and methods, and its methodological nature, al-
though not of its ultimate aim.
What, then, is the nature of explanation in archaeol-
ogy? That is to say, what is the mechanism of interpreta-
tion? Since events and processes that we were able to
explain the appearance and content of archaeological
sources occurred in the distant past and are inaccess-
ible to direct observation, the main type of expla-
nation in archaeology must be explanation by analogy
that is, by using a model. Analogies in archaeology (in-
cluding ethnographic ones) have received less atten-
tion than they deserve (cf. Ascher 1961; Smolla 1964;
Morwood 1975; among others). With some exagger-
ation, but not without grounds, Chang (1967b, 107)
declared: archaeology as a whole is analogy. De-
spite the enormous number of archaeological books
and articles with the word model in the title (Klejn
1973, 7577), still less has been written on models
proper. From the works of philosophers, and of
methodologists of science, it is known that expla-
nation by analogy belongs to the group of inductive,
probabilistic methods (Nikitin 1970; Popov 1972,
Besides explanation by a model, other approaches
are also applied in archaeology. As soon as one has
to ascertain the functional purpose of artefacts and
features, one cannot do without functional-structural ex-
planation. It is also produced, in the main, inductively.
As soon as archaeological objects come to rest in a
condition or in a place that was not typical of them
in the past (when they were working in the culture)
one has to do some explaining. In order to compre-
hend their functions one must mentally move from
their present state and place to their past state and
place; one must reveal what has led them to their
present place and state, why they occur where they
do, and so on. This requires causal explanation. The
causal form belongs to the deductive group, although
it does not immediately require a universal law, or
necessarily presuppose absolute determinism.
Now, it is possible to ascertain whether such expla-
nation is the function of theory, that is, to decide what
the role of theory in archaeological explanation is,
and of which theory. As it is known, theory presup-
poses the presence of a strong law or a block of laws.
Let us begin with causal explanation. Behind every
cause some regularity, even if probabilistic, is hidden
(Kon 1969), and every scholar seeks to strengthen the
probability of their explanation being correct. So, in
the end, behind the cause looms an absolute law
(Mellor 1982) as an unreachable ideal. The causal
96 Acta Archaeologica
explanation presupposes laws of dynamics, whereas
the structural-functional one presupposes laws of the
static aspect of structure. Finally, explanation by ana-
logy as it appeals to particular occurrence, seems to
avoid law. Behind the object and its model, some set
of similarities besides those which underlie the ap-
proximation are presupposed. Consequently, analogy
presupposes that both objects are encompassed by a
regularity that determined their resemblance. Of
course, one seldom appeals to this regularity directly:
it is merely implied. In an obvious way other regular-
ities are acting here, more general ones. They are
probabilistic, guiding the choice of the model for the
specic object or site and, in general, relations be-
tween every object, site, and model.
It is already evident that the basis for all these ex-
planations forms a theory: a theory of archaeological record
(of archaeological sources) and, more broadly, a theory of
interpretation. This leans upon empirical generalisations
from experimental archaeology, ethnoarchaeology
and ethnography, as well as upon that theory of syn-
thesis which lies behind historical reconstruction and
unites all the source-studying disciplines as a founda-
tion of history.
Philosophers dene the predictive, or prognostic,
function as the most important function of every
really scientic theory (Ruzavin 1978, 23). Only the
presence of the predictive function, elucidates Bazh-
enov (1973, 416), prevents theory from being self-
containing, closed in itself, and lets it become practi-
cally useful. Apparently, there is some difculty for
the realisation of this function in archaeology. This
difculty probably results from the fact that prediction
is directed to the future whereas, according to Trig-
gers (1970) apt expression, the future of archaeology
is the past. How then can predictions be made, when
prediction belongs to the past?
Some scholars (for example, Rakitov 1982, 289),
striving to retain the function of prediction intact for
historical and archaeological theory (since each de-
cent theory must have a predictive function!), modi-
ed the past. They retained from it only some hints,
and substituted the future for it. They say one can
predict new archaeological discoveries, the places of
new nds, and their appearance. But, rstly, such spe-
cic predictions (they are called heuristic) rest more
upon empirical generalisations than upon theory and
general laws. These are simply inductions,
broadening a generalised fact. Secondly, it is clear
that while these new nds belong to the future, it is
not their past appearance which is to be predicted (it
is already known), but new discoveries. This means
that not the past of the nds is predicted, but the
future of the study.
Other scholars (for example Nikitin 1966; 1970;
Binford 1972, 333f; Trigger 1973, 105; Onoprienko
1976) have chosen an opposite approach in order
to retain the past as the point of the function, they
sacriced prediction as a form of action appealing to
the future and speak instead on retrodiction, or postdic-
tion, inferences appealing to the past. Binford (1972,
334) explains: The only way ... contemporary obser-
vations are converted into statements about the past
is through our ability to retrodict to establish on the
basis of present evidence what were the conditions in
the past which produced the contemporary obser-
vations .... But how do these inferences differ from
usual explanations of the past?
Many rely on the propinquity of the prediction, or
retrodiction, and explanation (Dray 1957, 2; Hempel
1965, 176; Nikitin 1970, 222238; Trigger 1973,
105). Their logical structure is identical; both are in-
ferencesa and both hypothetical ones. Explanative hy-
pothesis is to be checked through confronting the ex-
pectations inferred from it with independent facts.
Further, what is expectation? This is just prediction
(or retrodiction) with a stressed uncertainty (Zubrow
1973, 246). On the other hand, prediction or re-
trodiction, made merely on the basis of analogy or
correlation (that is, an empirical way) remains vague.
It becomes strong only if the basis receives expla-
nation from law, from theory.
Retrodiction and explanation do not coincide. The
distinction consists of the fact that explanation pre-
supposes the linking an object with many other ob-
jects, whereas retrodiction, undertakes to describe,
even if only approximately, supposed objects of the
past (or of the future).
But what does it mean to describe supposed objects
of the past on the basis of its modied remains, frag-
97 Metaarchaeology
ments and traces in the present to describe it as
such as it looked in the past? This means carrying out
its mental reconstruction. However in many cases, when
fragments are small and there are few of them, a great
freedom of choice arises. In piecing them together
one can compose them differently, and the traces can
be differently interpreted. This, in turn, means that
besides facts, imagination and ideas participate in re-
construction. If they are strictly organised and sub-
stantiated, then this is theory. Thus, in archaeology
the predictive function appears to be a reconstructive
The specicity of history, to which archaeology re-
lates, means that it cannot abstract itself too far from
reality, it cannot refuse detail altogether. It is directed
not to revealing the general laws, but to establishing
specic facts of the past in their causal connection
(Dray 1957; Trigger 1973). Consequently, historical re-
construction proper is possible only in rare cases
when it concerns the recent past, very specic situ-
ations, and those well provided with sources. In the ma-
jority of cases, in history, not properly historical but so-
ciological or anthropological (culturological) recon-
structions occur. As for archaeological reconstructions,
these do not usually pursue the task of exactly and mi-
nutely restoring individual aspects. Even as applied to
single artefacts they content themselves with restoring
type-characteristics. So, in archaeology reconctruc-
tions are quite real, but the degree of their complete-
ness, and adequacy, is inversely proportional to their
connection with purely historical tasks.
Under this term I mean the transformation of theory
into method. The history of science, or of scholarship,
teaches that theory is akin to method: driving its oper-
ational apparatus to the level where it becomes
stereotyped, theory turns into method (Ovchinnikov
1968, 20f). In not one list have I found this function.
Yet, it serves to bring theory into practice.
So, proceeding from the theory (or, pre-theory)
which correlated style with epoch, Winckelmann and
Gerhardt elaborated fundamentals of the compara-
tive-stylistic method. The Danish progressionists
Thomsen and Worsaae, turned their scheme of the
Three Ages into the method of correlating artefact
forms with epoch and came to the stratigraphic
method. The theory of stadiality encouraged interest
in productive forces and, having fought against the
formal things-study (a translation of an ironic Rus-
sian term for artefactology or potology), produced
Semenovs functional-traceological method. Pro-
cessual archaeology, with its interest in a systemic ap-
proach and models, introduced multivariate
methods and computer simulation. Behavioural ar-
chaeology gave rise to branches (including ethnoar-
chaeology and experimental archaeology) specially
aimed at the elaboration of interpretative methods.
Kaplan (1964, 268, 302), an American philosopher
and a specialist in the logic of science, writes: Every
theory serves, in part, as a research directive; theory
guides the collection of data and their subsequent
analysis, by showing us beforehand where the data are
to be tted, and what we are to make of them when we
get them ... Theory functions throughout inquiry ... it
guides the search for data and the search for the laws
encompassing them. Archaeologists also note some-
thing of the sort. In their statements some heuristic di-
rections are mentioned. The rst one is, so to speak, in-
trinsic, in the frame of the chosen theory. The main
purpose of a theoretical model, writes Redman (1973,
20), is to help the researcher to select relevant vari-
ables and signicant hypotheses from a large number
of possibilities. Mainly this is work in the existing
paradigm, following the terminology of Kuhn.
The other direction is the external one. It is a
search for new ideas, for new theories. In his enter-
taining article on the interaction of typical gures in
archaeology during the formation of every next para-
digm, Schwartz (1978) has separated a gure,
Searcher, who initiates the whole affair by nding
new, unexpected data, not predicted by the current
theories. Thereafter the results come to the main g-
ure, Genius, who creates new ideas, new expla-
nations, new theory, and who thereby sets into mo-
tion the entire team-Systematiser, Advocate, Con-
tributor, Teacher, and Eclectic. The scheme is
very nice, but the beginning is not quite aptly pic-
tured. Nobody can deny the value of new data, new
facts, especially if they are unexpected, but experience
98 Acta Archaeologica
teaches us that their signicance, at least in archaeol-
ogy, is rather in checking the old theory in order to
correct it, to modify it, to limit it, or even to disprove
it. Its opponents are not necessarily innovators, they
can be the partisans of one of the old theories. This
is quite understandable: the unpredicted fact exerts a
negative inuence it denies and refutes but, by itself,
it is not a positive contribution to theory it does not
create new ideas, it does not provide new expla-
nations. A new theory usually originates in another
way (for theoretical analysis of this problem see the
preceding chapter and Klejn 1980). The principal
new ideas for a new theory must come from outside
the discipline, or be produced inside by a creative
individual able to combine and process a lot of infor-
mation, often alien to the discipline, but sometimes
produced inside this time arising from the confron-
tation of existing theories.
Let us look closely at the examples with which
Schwartz has illustrated his Genius gure Taylor
and Binford. Lewis Binford is the obvious example
of an apparent paradigm-maker in recent American
archaeology. His work has attached many young
scholars, to the extent that they think of themselves
as the school of new archaeologists. His role has
stimulated new work by others ... (Schwartz 1978,
158). However, I have not found in the article an
example of Searcher who supplied Binford with un-
predicted facts from the very beginning, nor have I
found there indications of such facts themselves.
Moreover, I have not found them elsewhere. Appar-
ently, they did not exist. More than that, it appears
that in the initial creative phase, Genius was
oriented, in general, not towards new facts but to-
wards old ideas. Yet, how new are his ideas?, asks
Schwartz (1978: 158) about Binford. They certainly
were foreshadowed at least by Steward and Setzler
(1938), Kluckhohn (1948), Steward (1949) and
Caldwell (1958). Binford (1972, 219) himself points
to Walter Taylor, Albert Spaulding, and Leslie White
as the sources of inspiration for his ideas and he de-
scribes very picturesquely how he used these inu-
ences in creating his innovative programme. One
may add to his antecedents Neo-positivistic philos-
ophers, notably Hempel and Nagel. I do not want to
say that Binford was not mentally independent or that
he created nothing new. Far from it. I wish only to
stress that all of his new ideas grew from processing
old ideas and old theories.
If we turn to Walter Taylor, we nd behind him the
gure of his teacher Clyde Kluckhohn. Kluckhohn
supervised the writing of his well-known book when
it was still a dissertation. Many scholars borrowed
ideas from Taylor, not only among Processual archae-
ologists but also their opponents, Contextualists like
Chang and Trigger, or the new opponents, the Post-
Processualists, such as Hodder. David Clarke had his
own intellectual antecedents in archaeology and out-
side of it Childe, the philosopher Wittgenstein, new
geographers, numerical taxonomy, and systems
Thus, to a very great extent theory gives birth to
theory. A new theory results from the processing of
old theories. As Steward (1949, 25) has put it, theor-
ies are not destroyed by facts they are replaced by
new theories which better explain the facts. This is
so partly due to the addition of new ideas from other
disciplines and from life in society, and partly because
the growth of the discipline, the development of its
concepts has its own logic. Their succession and
change are not fully fortuitous. Evolutionary typologi-
cal series themselves drew on the theory of catas-
trophe as applied to archaeology. So each existing
theory has got much potential to condition new theor-
ies. One must only know the theories and be able to
work with them. On this heuristic aspect Randsborg
(1982, 425) draws a general conclusion: he proposes
to proceed inductively using various theories as indi-
cators of possible further directions of research and to
form approaches rather than dogmatic, static frame-
To advance dogmatic, static frameworks is also a
task of every new theory and one cannot escape this.
The point is not in creation of a paradigm for nor-
mal science, following Kuhn, this being a conse-
quence of other tasks. The thing is that every scientic
(scholarly) law is more absolute or, if it concerns pro-
babilistic laws, the stronger (i.e. the probability of it
being correct is the higher), the more limited is its
sphere of application. Laws not only dictate or, if pro-
babilistic ones, permit, but also forbid.
99 Metaarchaeology
The limiting role of a law inuences essentially
its predictive functions and is most manifest itself in
theory, writes the philosopher Vinogradov (Popov
1972, 189). And he continues: besides classes of as-
sumed phenomena theory sets a class of forbidden
phenomena ... A theory in which nothing is forbidden
can neither describe nor predict anything. Therefore
the process multiplying the principles of interdiction
in theory is connected with broadening the class of
phenomena being described, explained, and pre-
If, nevertheless, a fact is reliably conrmed, then it
forms the basis of revision of the theory which for-
bade it a basis for a limitation or abolition of the
theory. So the conrmation of the Palaeolithic age
of cave art essentially undermined the authority of
Evolutionism, which believed in the gradual progress
of the human mind and so forbade the existence of
too early art. Evolutionists therefore declared it a
forgery. However, unless condence in the theory is
not undermined, and while its basis remains broad
and stable, it serves as the criterion for verication of
new facts and new laws.
Thus, theory appears a criterion of the scholarly
range of new discoveries and directions in archaeol-
ogy. More than that, however, theories, although they
contradict each other, nevertheless form some theor-
etical fund consisting of contributions from various
theories into the theoretical picture of the world, by
correspondence with which we evaluate new dis-
coveries. Only very stable (and the most reliable) con-
tributions from various theories go into the theoretical
picture of the world principles, concepts, and
methods of verication. This is why we reject with
clear and calm conscience all claims for the abomin-
able Snowman, Atlantis, ancient astronauts, and so
on. What rests behind this calm condence is our
knowledge of the theoretical (or scholarly) picture of
the world, the knowledge that we have to correct and
replenish, and this also goes into the control function
of archaeological theory.
Any theory synthesises the material it condenses
the empirical information and simplies its mosaic.
The trend to principal simplicity is expressed in
that theory seeks to explain as wide as possible a
range of appearances on the basis of as few as poss-
ible premises. Therefore, a trend to expansion is in-
herent in any theory: theory begins penetrating into
the area of competence of other theories and
disciplines. It is especially noticeable when this
trend is realised by the rise of new theories: each
new one has to show its validity by being able to
explain also those phenomena that the previous one
could not.
However, the factor of retaining results acts here
too. As Regirer (1966, 95) wrote, it is only in prelimi-
nary stages that one simply throws out the existing
theories in order to free a place for the new ones.
When theory has been conrmed by experience of
facts, usually it is modied, so that it is included into
the new, bigger theoretical conception as a particular
case, with all its results conrmed by the experience.
When a success is reached in the explanation of facts,
passing on to another theory appears possible only if
the number of the facts explained does not decrease,
but quite the reverse, if it increases: the attained ex-
planations do not get so easily rejected by science (or
I have always been amused by the vehemence with
which adherents and enemies of migrations or inde-
pendent development advocated their own expla-
nations as a principle and rejected fully the competing
explanation. Whereas all that was actually needed
was to determine the conditions under which one or
another explanation appears correct.
Inuences and borrowings on the one hand, and
migrations on the other, long competed with each
other as explanations of the sudden multiple appear-
ance of new elements in culture. Albeit from the very
beginning some researchers used one or the other of
these explanations at choice, as if equal both
phenomena are, as a matter of fact, alternative kinds
of diffusion. However, diffusion too, is merely one
among many possible explanations of culture
change evolution, cultural and social revolutions,
environmental effects, and others. They might be
considered as potential parts of a more general theory
of culture change (or theory of the change of cultures).
This theory, in its turn, may be viewed as a part of a
still more general theory of archaeological interpreta-
tion, and so on.
100 Acta Archaeologica
The last, but not least, function of archaeological
theory is to enlighten. None of the scholars cited be-
fore mentioned this function, probably because it is
the most evident. As one scientist (Regirer 1966, 101)
said, theory is like a light-tower on which oodlights
are mounted to illuminate a building site.
Indeed, without theory, however experienced ar-
chaeologists may be, have either to subordinate com-
pletely to tradition, or to search by trial and error (in
Russian we say by the method bustling about).
Theory evolves before their very eyes as a scheme of
interrelations in their material and an ordering
scheme for their set of instruments, it determines their
aims and tasks. Of course, both schemes are incom-
plete, in some respects distorting the picture. But from
eld experience we know that it is better to use imper-
fect maps than to have nothing and to travel without
maps at all. The more so as that nothing often
means the blind condence in a chance guide.
101 Metaarchaeology
10. Archaeological fact
What constitutes an archaeological fact?, three
modern archaeologists, including Binford, ask and re-
ply: We maintain that in reality the record contains
no facts, if we take this term to mean given empirical
truths (Sabloff et al. 1987, 203). They imply the
known motto of new philosophers that fact is laden
with theory. Even such avowed empiricists as Sir
Mortimer Wheeler (1960, 199) understood that there
must be an element of theory there, if our facts should
mean something. This shows that the problem of archae-
ological fact is not as simple as it was once thought.
In the early 19th century the British excavator Sir
Richard Hoare (1812) was proud of having not re-
sorted to theory. We speak from facts, not from
theory, he wrote in the introduction to his book. Fact
had long been contrasted with theory as true and
solid reality had with speculation. Later, as theories
received weight in science, fact became considered as
a necessary base of any theory, then as their touch-
stone, as a criterion of proof.
However there is little in the way of theoretical
works on this problem in archaeology. The rst ar-
ticles on archaeological fact appeared in the West in the
30s of this century (Strong 1936; Steward and Setzler
1938), and in the USSR in the middle of the 70s
(Viktorova 1975a; Zacharuk 1977; Sher 1985). His-
torians realised much earlier than archaeologists the
complexity of the problem of scientic fact. Their
understanding of fact undoubtedly inuenced the no-
tions of archaeologists. For a long time archaeological
fact (AF) was seen by archaeologists as something
simple, hard and self-evident. Archaeology, like his-
tory, began with na ve empiricism but lingered at
this stage longer than history. The Curator of the
Ashmolean Museum, J. H. Parker, said, archaeology
is ... history taught with eyes, by showing a series of
tangible objects (Parker 1870, 9). In this, V. A.
Gorodcov wrote on stratigraphic data, one needs no
subjective intervention of the investigator because
each phenomenon, each thing should speak for itself
... (Gorodcov 1908, 11).
The accumulation of errors and fakes showed ar-
chaeologists that the obviousness of an AF could be
deceptive (Munro 1905; Arnau 1959 or 1961; Paul
1962; a.o.). There was nothing for it but to establish
methods of checking the authenticity of archaeologi-
cal objects. Although these methods were in unques-
tionable relation to the external criticism of written
sources, archaeologists called it simply source criti-
cism (for instance Jacob-Friesen 1928, 98; Kruglov i
Podgaeckij 1935, 1431). Any other criticism of the
sources was not thought of as necessary. According to
the classication of historical sources, written ones fell
into the bracket of tradition and were held as inten-
tional and tendentious, while archaeological records
were included in the category of remains and were
considered objective and incidental (for a survey and
critic of these views see Pronshtejn 1971, 17, 2325).
H.-J. Eggers was one of the rst who noted that
information contained even in genuine material an-
tiquities is not completely adequate to reect the
events of the past because not all data are maintained.
Eggers noted the intentional nature attached to spe-
cially selected articles laid into graves with the dead
(Eggers 195, 52). Eggers found three phases in the
process of converting information: living material cul-
ture dying material culture long ago defunct, mu-
seum material culture (Eggers 1959, 262270). In
general Eggers and other archaeologists of the BRD
(E. Wahle, R. Hachmann) while revealing the limits
of the cognitive possibilities of archaeology (Wahle
1941; Hachmann, Kossack and Kuhn 1962, 1628)
refer to the distortions of the information that take
place during the course of the dead culture. Ameri-
can and British archaeologists also noted the ltering
of information that occurs in the rst and last stages
of the process.
What are the rst effects of ltering in the process?
From W. Taylors viewpoint culture consists of
102 Acta Archaeologica
ideas, an ethnographer observes objectication of
behaviour while an archaeologist is left with only the
tangible remains of this behaviour (Taylor 1948, 97
115). Thus after Taylor AF is the third step from the
essence of culture and in each step shifts of meaning
and loss of information are possible. Childe (1954,
739) noted that many deeds (gestures, words etc.) do
not pass into fossil state and do not leave durable
results after them. Neither language, social relations
nor ideology are deposited in archaeological ma-
terials, and this, G. Daniel writes, is the funda-
mental limitation of prehistory (Daniel 1962, 127f).
J. Grifn used to say he never saw anybody who was
lucky to excavate the kinship system (Binford 1972,
8). Ideas are objectied differently: much depends on
the subjective factor the free will of personalities,
which is alien to regular rules.
How is the ow of information discussed in British
and American studies? Here modern critics exagger-
ate the subjective contribution of an investigator. Yet
not before long Childe believed: Cultures are ob-
served facts (Childe 1936, 3) until Daniel challenged:
Cultures of the modern archaeologist ... are only in-
strumental concepts (Daniel 1950, 319). Once again
Krieger and Spaulding maintained the idea that,
types are discovered in the material and characterise
the state of facts (Krieger 1944; Spaulding 1953). J.
Brew and J. Ford challenge this: types are constructed
by the investigator and are imposed onto the material
(Brew 1946; Ford 1954b; 1962a,b). David Clarke
summarises these sceptical views as follows: In ar-
chaeology the only facts are artefacts (Clarke 1968,
41). However one cannot describe artefacts without
covering them with the set of concepts held in the
mind of the investigator. Clarke notes: These facts
appear observations in which the nature of the ob-
server and his intentions play a great role ... (Clarke
1968, 21). In such case there are no facts at all in
archaeology, or one has to admit all its facts are to a
large extent constructions of the investigator and, in
this new sense, artefacts. These will not merely be
ancient artefacts but modern ones too, our artefacts,
not in the sense of being hand-made but in the sense
of being articial.
Clarkes sympathy for these sceptical views was not
accidental. They reected a climate that reigned in
New Archaeology. The neo-positivist and post-posit-
ivist philosophy of New Archaeology caused it to ad-
vance against empiricism and produced some ignor-
ance of facts to the advantage of theory. Facts do
not speak for themselves, taught Binford. From the
very beginning facts are laden with theory, they do
not exist by themselves outside the theoretical ap-
proach, sampling and processing. The main basis for
the New Archaeologists custom to neglect a single
fact is their anthropological and sociological training,
their hunt for universal laws of the socio-cultural pro-
cess. This is why facts are frequently interchangeable
for them and important only so far as on their basis
it is possible to infer some law. They are important
only until such a law is inferred. Thereafter facts lose
their meaning. They are selected with the special aim
of solving some problem there is simply no need in
other facts. With their interest in theory and aiming
for laws the New Archaeologists were distinguished in
this respect from Taylors direct followers, the Con-
textualists. The latter also admit the cognitive inertia
of facts, their dependence on interpretation and their
theory-ladenness. Yet they respect every single fact;
for them the array of facts forms not the basis for
universal law but a unique context.
P. Courbin, an antagonist of New Archaeology,
sees with irony that as a counter to the old, traditional
archaeology, New Archaeology declares there are no
raw, neutral, objective facts, there are no
basic data, no unstructured samples, no data
which could speak for themselves. Facts emerge
only in the system of connection, in the approach
system explicitly given previously ... everyone has and
had always a system of connection ... (Courbin
1988, 119). Well, this is somewhat exaggerated. As
we have seen, there were other approaches too. Even
Courbin himself after disclosing New Archaeologists
secret condence in facts obtained by traditional ar-
chaeology, concludes: In essence, although it is
wrong in reality, is it not simpler to admit (from prac-
tical considerations only) that facts exist indepen-
dently of the exact attitude to problems? (Courbin
1988, 119).
As to the secret condence of New Archaeologists
to facts, he denitely caught sight of it. It was con-
ditioned by the following circumstance: New Archae-
ologys relation to facts depends rst and foremost on
its theoretical orientation on the systemic approach. The
103 Metaarchaeology
New Archaeology sees in culture a system where all
components are closely interconnected and interde-
pendent. So for an archaeologist armed with the sys-
tem analysis method it is no grief that facts of archae-
ology are laden with theory and contain elements of
interpretation. Due to the correlation of facts in the
system, this interpretation is hard and potentially un-
ambiguous. An early stage Binford sorted artefacts
into technomic, sociotechnic and ideotechnic, according to
self-evident treatment of their content (Binford 1962).
Later he admitted himself that this division was
somewhat silly (Binford 1972, 17). Other New Ar-
chaeologists started searching for narrower deter-
mined correlates (Hill 1970, 63; Schiffer 1976, 12f).
The depth of facts here is theoretically admitted but
in practice the face of the fact appears at. Facts as
before do speak for themselves though under their
breath, in the investigators ear.
Archaeological systems as they were outlined from
the direct generalisation of facts were, in the New Ar-
chaeology, equal to cultural systems of the past as they
had lived. Tracing these archaeological systems (by
extrapolation and interpolation) through subsequent
stratigraphical planes through time proles was
considered as the true development. Any system
changes along the way were assumed to be changes
of cultures of the past, changes that demanded causes
to be found in the past such as impact of the natural
environment, of neighbouring cultures, or the activity
of intrinsic factors. Meanwhile some of these changes
in archaeological systems were not at all reections of
phenomena of past cultural systems. Instead they
were merely distortions introduced in these systems,
post-mortem so to say, when they were purely ar-
chaeological systems: some whole fractions of ma-
terial are lost because of unequal erosion of different
materials. Unequal studies also lead to differences in
results, etc.
However a new approach was forming in the rst
half of the 1970s, and more decisively in the second
half, on the basis of the New Archaeology. This ap-
proach was called Behavioral Archaeology. It moved
the centre of gravity from the study of cultural and
historical process to the study of archaeological source
formation. The essence was in realising the depth of
archaeological fact. In the very rst scheme M. Schiffer
pictures the passage of materials from living contexts
(he calls it systemic) to archaeological context: ob-
taining the raw material production use dis-
carding deposal in rubbish (Schiffer 1972). Later
the scheme became more detailed and elaborated on
particular examples (Fig. 12 Schiffer 1976, g. 4.3).
S. G. H. Daniels from Nigeria suggested the most
multistage scheme of AF (Fig. 13 Daniels 1972, g.
5.1). His scheme follows the idea stated by Montelius
long ago about the losses of information in archae-
ological cognition. Montelius (1888, 5) wrote: Only
a small part of what once existed [1] was buried in
the ground [2]; only a part of what was buried has
escaped the destroying hand of time [3]; of this part
all has not yet come to light again [4]; and we know
only too well how little of what has come to light has
been of service for our science [5]. Almost all of the
nds of past centuries have disappeared without a
trace, and even much of what has been discovered in
the present century has been destroyed. Thus
Montelius envisaged 5 stages of losses of factual ma-
terial, indicated in the above passage with the ad-
dition of brackets. Danielss model of origins (or of con-
ditioning) of archaeological information was formulated as
applied to a single site and shows 7 levels:
(1) Potential population of artefacts suggested by the
cultural matrix;
(2) Actually deposited population;
(3) Its preserved part;
(4) Part in the excavated unit;
(5) Discovered artefacts;
(6) Data taken into consideration;
(7) Published data.
Perhaps not without inuence from this work, which
was given to Clarke for publication, he elaborated on
his scheme of information movement in the levels of
AF from the predepositional situation through to posi-
tional one and postdepositional to the situation of dis-
covery and then to analysis and interpretation (Clarke
1973, 15f). In this setting Binford presents a scheme
of relations more complicated than he did in the late
1980s, where this time he places fact, phenom-
enon, event, data, although not completely
itemising every one of these concepts:
In the science the term fact relates to aspects of
actual appearing of the phenomenon. More import-
104 Acta Archaeologica
Fig. 12. Flow of information in archaeology (after Schiffer 1976).
ant is that scientists give the status of the fact to rec-
ognisable single event that was realised in a certain
time. Fact exists in the event ..., which occurred once
and then is gone forever, while data are presentation
of the fact by means of relatively stable established
documentation. If we admit the equalisation of facts
with events then we must conclude that archaeologists
can never work with the facts of the past. However
archaeologists produce much data as the result of
their study and of observation on the archaeological
record... What events do archaeologists describe
when they produce data? They x events of the obser-
vation in which they participate ... These observation
records reported as data of archaeology belong to
modern facts to modern events of observation. No
historical facts (past events) are accessible to archae-
ological observation. Archaeologists produce data
from the facts of contemporary observations on
Observations on one sherd or arrowpoint are
treated as one event and consequently as the source
of the fact. When the archaeological event is dis-
covered in archaeological context ..., it seems prob-
able that artefacts must belong to past events ...
Nevertheless we cannot muddle implications with
facts, There are no historical facts that remained
for us in order that we have seen them and recorded
(Binford 1989, 5557).
Events proceeded in the past and became the prop-
erty of history, or historical facts. Archaeological re-
mains, artefacts, sources (or records) are preserved
from them. Observations on these sources are events,
105 Metaarchaeology
but they are modern ones, or modern facts. Record-
ings of these events are data produced by archaeol-
ogists. On the basis of data we judge about past
events, but data in archaeology are for us not facts
but merely implications or inferences. In Binfords
scheme, fact of archaeology has been laminated in
the historical, an event of the past, and in the modern,
as an act of archaeological observation in the present.
In this situation there are two more stages in the
movement of information, two more steps of fact,
both reecting an event in material form. One is
artefact (or source), the other is data (record of obser-
vation of the source). These last two steps are not
called facts because only event deserves the status of
fact after Binford (although in Latin, factum, literally
means made or done). Binford notes four steps in
the ow of information.
Taking into account that events of the past do not
exist, likening facts to events allows Binford to allot
the status of fact with observation and to place obser-
vation over real objects. This is a neo-positivist line.
In theoretical considerations by the New Archaeol-
ogists it is the last stage of the ow that features most
strongly, that is, the data, as opposed to facts. The data
is the only reality that exists for us while facts are
merely implications of data. Binford carried the term
data into the title of the article quoted above. He also
used this term much earlier (a chapter from his book
in 1972 was entitled Method of data collection), but
it did not receive a place in the general scheme until
the 1980s. The term is borrowed from mathematics
and was initially coloured in a statistical hue. The
statistician and archaeologist Daniels (1978, 31) even
remarked about his archaeological work that: I use
the term information rather than data, since data
tends to suggest only tables of gures, and I am inten-
tionally including ... apparently nonquantitative infor-
mation. Gardin (1974, 18) considered the denition
of the term data (donne e) without such overtones. To
him data implies an indication of individual object in
a community and a distinctive trait of this object, the
trait being intrinsic (morphologic, technical etc.) or
extrinsic (origine, context, date etc.). So, Binford had
a justication in retaining the term data for the last
step of the transformation of fact.
This stress did not pass unobserved. R. Gould,
whom Binford accused for his empiricism, noted an-
Fig. 13. Research design model (after Daniels 1972: 5.1).
other exciting idea by Binford that has failed because
it lacks a reliable empirical basis (Gould 1985, 641).
Binford rejoined: Gould is forced to infer that state-
ments on the past are impossible so far as no empiri-
cal data remained for us which we could see. He
notes: The past is gone, Richard. There are only
modern statistical data. It is our task to understand so
these modern facts that reliably reconstruct (to infer,
if you like) the real world of the past. To insist that
the real world of the past is the same real world
that is present in archaeological records is a sheer
nonsense (Binford 1989, 116). Nevertheless due to
the belief in strict systemic organisation of culture and
in the existence of laws (laws of cultural process and
106 Acta Archaeologica
those governing the archaeologisation of materials),
Binford is convinced that it is quite possible to infer
reliably the real world of the past from archaeologi-
cal records. He considers methods worked out by him
and by other New Archaeologists as adequate and
reliable means for such inference.
In the 1980s however, the ideology of the next gen-
eration began setting the tone in archaeology, at least
in British archaeology. They had lost faith in systemic
order and with this faith the Neo-Positivist optimism
as well. The main theoretician of this new direction,
Ian Hodder, summarised in his book Reading the
past all the inferences of the New Archaeologists and
their predecessors on the facts laden with theory
and the dependence of facts on it, on the non-exist-
ence of pure facts and so on. The bare bones that
are left, he summarised, are the facts in the real
world which we can never observe (Hodder 1986,
here 1991, 16).
He rejected Binfords assurance of the reliability of
his methods as independent instrument able to
measure relations between ancient society and mod-
ern archaeological material. This is not true, declared
Hodder, because many measurements depend on our
perception and our categorisation, and they are very
weakly connected with the material. Over and above
there is no independent measuring instrument at
ones disposal: the methods themselves are dependent
on theory. There can be neither checking of theory
with data nor independent measuring installation nor
valid knowledge on the past. Hodder stresses the
destroying effect of his inferences: ... the whole
fabric of archaeology as a scientic discipline ... is
threatened (Hodder 1991, 18). If the basis of facts
of archaeology is so unreliable and inaccessible, from
where does an archaeologist obtains his knowledge on
the past? As a result, the theories one espouses about
the past depend very much on ones own social and
cultural context ... In other words, the data-theory
relationship is conceived and manipulated within cul-
tural and historical contexts (Hodder 1991, 17f).
Thus, if in the beginning AF was perceived as
something even more simple and evident than fact of
history, in the end AF appeared in front of investi-
gators as something far more complicated and deep.
Having regarded AF as something simple archaeol-
ogists once saw its objective side as absolute, while
modern western archaeologists who recognised the
cognitive multistage nature of AF saw the absoluteness
of its subjective side.
Comparing schemes of Daniels and Clarke, A. Sul-
livan elects Clarke as his preference. Daniels proceeds
by counting artefacts, which is treated simultaneously
both as a channel of information communicating to
an archaeologist and as the communication (or mess-
age) itself which has to be processed. Clarke analyses
traces (in the wide sense), and these are the message,
while artefacts are merely the channel through which
the message is communicated to an archaeologist
(Sullivan 1978, 193f). Sullivan does not use the terms
clearly here and does not clearly differentiate the con-
cepts. In the same survey he differentiates evidence
or data from material remains: archaeologists obtain
evidences (or data) from material remains (Sullivan
1978, 189). Evidence has been frequently translated
as information and fact, while the term material re-
mains is used here because, in English, the term
source, which is more suitable here is not used. The
term record is usually applied instead which does not
t the designation a channel or reservoir: it means
written information, and this is imprinted and xed. Fact
and sources are more exact designations of those sides
of the relation which are presented here by Sullivan
as traces and artefacts.
In his article Archaeology: the loss of innocence
(1973) David Clarke considers archaeological re-
search as information processing (or elaboration),
where information enters through archaeological
channels. The information may be extracted from
complex, integrated relationships encapsulated within
... sites ... from data (Clarke 1973: 13). He holds this
elaboration of information as part of the general
theory of archaeology it is just these ... steps which
underlie the critical leaps in archaeological reasoning.
Without such a body of theory these critical leaps do
indeed take-off and become a free-ight of creative
fancy an irresponsible art form (Clarke 1973: 16).
Clarke was indeed impressed by Daniels article in
Clarkes collective volume Models in archaeology,
which was printed the year before The loss of inno-
107 Metaarchaeology
cence. This can be seen in Clarkes choice of particu-
lar levels being separated in any archaeological
interpretation, namely:
1) Hominid activity patterns as well as social and en-
vironmental processes that once existed;
2) The sample and traces of these patterns, deposited
contemporaneously with (1);
3) The part of that sample which survived and is re-
4) The part of the sample in (3) which was recovered
by excavation or collection.
Clarke suggested theoretical conceptions concerning
the transition from each level to the next one:
(a) Predepositional and depositional theory (12),
(b) Postdepositional theory (23),
(c) Retrieval theory (34),
(d) Analytical theory analysis of the circumstances
discovered which became data.
The theory consists of joining the data by means of
models preserved in archaeology. To that Clarke
(e) Interpretative theory which, fromall these analysed
data, concludes that the structures and processes
are unobservable directly (Clarke 1973, 16f).
Although Clarke has employed Daniels treatment, he
remained with his four-level structure of archaeologi-
cal information (he does not apply the term fact
here). However, it traces clearly the ow of infor-
mation from processes of the past through archae-
ological monuments and to the written report of an
archaeologist. The full process of information conver-
sion is the cognitive basis and logical structure of the
archaeological procedure, as Clarke calls the archaeologi-
cal research design. This conversion process leads
from factual material (objects of archaeology) to its
interpretation in terms of history. This is what united
the sequence that lies at the basis of certain research
design models: inductivist, deductivist and problem
design. The selection of these schemes is determined
by the philosophical and methodological position of
the investigator. However, what conditions the struc-
ture of the subject itself the overall quantity of
stages, their content and sequence? How is this struc-
ture connected with the philosophy of science?
It can be shown that these characteristics are con-
ditioned by the understanding of AF. If the fact is
simple and may be reduced to what is seen on the
surface, then merely collection, description and gen-
eralisation are necessary. If the fact is complex and
contains not only information which we search for,
and beside it there is much other information and
that which we search for is distorted, then the elabor-
ation must be more sophisticated and extensive. Cri-
tique, clarication and replenishing are needed.
Archaeology studies material antiquities (both
artefact and non-artefact ones) and relations between
them. The necessary postulate of archaeology is to
admit that its objects are traces and remains of the
past, i.e. results of historical events and sociocultural
phenomena. These traces and remains are considered
to be information on and produced by the events and
phenomena that once occurred. Information went
through several transformations before it was de-
posited as facts of archaeology. Thus, it is not initial
information but a transformed type. It now reects
not only events, processes and phenomena of the past
but changes in the reection too. Not only a history
of a society is deposited in this information, but also
its own history. AF is not simple or at, it has depth.
This second history is not merely extra complication.
To cognise it is necessary in order to rebuild the rst
history. In order to establish what is initial infor-
mation, one must recognise all the transformations in
the information. In the essence the analyses made by
us that the material is exposed to is not direct trans-
formation of the information but the reverse one. It
is not the conversion, but the reconversion, not the
divergence from the past reality but an attempt to
return to return to it. Clarke indicated that his in-
terpretative theory connects [levels] 41 (Clarke 1973,
17), that is, it traces information in the reverse direc-
tion into the archaeological material.
Optimally, the researcher would strive for accurate
reconversion and the separation of subjective and ob-
jective elements in AF as completely as is possible. It
108 Acta Archaeologica
is necessary for this sake that the scheme of the cogni-
tive multistage structure of the AF appreciates the
levels of the AF (i.e. stages of the conversion and its
ltering) as well as it can. Most schemes manage this
only for a few levels, but as there were many such
proposed schemes, even a simple generalisation of
them is able to aid a more complete examination of
AF. The authors of these schemes spent their entire
investigation efforts mainly on attempting to mentally
picture the material culture by issuing from archae-
ological remains. Rouse and Taylor aimed to establish
what is hidden behind things and their relationships.
Behind things and relations these archaeologists saw
customs, stereotypes, and idioms of behaviour, and
still deeper, behind those, they saw social norms and
individual motives, that is, ideas (Rouse 1939; Taylor
1948, 97124). Theoreticians in the West concerned
with the concept of AF and the problem of archae-
ological research design did not venture further than
this. It is understandable by itself: sharp criticism can
be made of the objective idealism in the basis of the
methodology because it is reducible to the notion of
ideas as prime causes.
Not only is idealism presented in the methodolog-
ical fundamentals of modern archaeology in the West
but materialism is too. Soviet Marxists used to con-
sider this materialism at, non-consecutive, and
supercial, since it is full of neopositivist ideas and
thus is akin to subjective idealism. As applied to the
cognition of AF this is clearly expressed by the line of
the New Archaeology to limit the culture concept
within behaviour and its material results, and to elim-
inate ideas from this concept since they are not ob-
servable directly (Binford 1965; Watson, LeBlanc and
Redman 1971, 6365). Yet the concept of culture (in
such limits) appears fundamental for the conception
of cultural process, and the cognition of cultural
process and its laws are considered as the main aim
of archaeology (Binford 1968; Watson et al. 1971, 22f).
In other words, in reconversion the New Archaeology
theoreticians envisage advancing only to the level of
behaviour actions, not deeper. In their notion AF ap-
pears atter than in the notion of their idealistically
disposed predecessors.
The orthodox Marxism affected archaeology in a
similar way to refuse seeing ideas in the basis. It
concentrated its attention on tools, objects, and pro-
duction. In the early 1930s A. V. Kiparisov (Kiparisov
1933, 79) and K. R. Megrelidze (Megrelidze 1935,
7181) suggested holding the principle of object-prac-
tical activity as a leading idea in Marxist archaeology.
In the 1970s this was caught up by V. D. Viktorova
(Viktorova 1975b; 1989, 16f, 6578). V. F. Gening
considers AF as the result of objectication and puts
objectication theory on the foreground in archaeol-
ogy. Objectication of what? Of particular ideas? Not
at all, objectication of some very abstract forces of
human essence, of social live activity in general
(Gening 1989, 64f). From the object-technological
reconstructions (OTR) he leads the investigator
(Gening 1989, 224270) to socio-technological the-
oretical model (STTM) and so on, and from there
directly to the end target, to socio-economic forma-
tions, which as it is known are exactly ve in number
(the phraseology of Bulgakovs Voland ts well here).
In my opinion, to be a Materialist does not mean re-
fusing the role of ideas in the conditioning of behav-
iour, and does not mean sticking to the tangible, visible
behaviour and to boggle over revealing ideal motives
of behaviour. It is just the reverse, to be a rational and
consecutive materialist means, after passing through all
the levels of cognition, to see behind the ideas and rec-
ognise those stimuli by which these ideas are produced
in the conscience of people. Not to shrink back one step
but to advance a step further.
Ideas are conditioned by the being, by the entire
social and personal practice of people by pro-
ductive, economical, political, ideological, everyday
life activity etc. Within this practice, the stimuli of
creation of social norms, standards, and mental tem-
plates emerge and are rooted to ideas. The prob-
lem of conscience, the Soviet philosopher E. S. Mar-
karjan noted (Markarjan 1969, 43, also 3742, 44f),
is rst of all the problem of the stimuli of its forma-
tion. It is these stimuli that were contained in the ma-
terial-production practice. Behind the matrix of
ideas one has to see the matrix of stimuli. These
stimuli have to be considered as the last, the deepest
level of AF. They provide the passage to the causal
machinery and sociocultural or historical regularities,
i.e. output off the limits of the AF, into theory.
The approach to these last levels of the AF and to
their separation was difcult. These difculties resided
in the double relationships of practical activity with
109 Metaarchaeology
ideas. Must we place this activity on a level higher or
a level lower than the ideas? It seemed that there were
grounds for both cases. In theoretical works of Soviet
authors concerning this problem, a more general ap-
proach was taken: the activity was related not to ideas
but directly to the material results indeed, these are
undoubtedly its derivatives (Zacharuk 1970, 13f;
1973, 44f). The root of the difculty was lurking in
the double essence of the very concept of practical
activity. One thing is the particular operations, dy-
namic actions of people, and components of behav-
iour. They can be considered as realisation of the
ideas. Quite another thing is the total aggregate prac-
tice of the society, situations which the activity brings
people into, and the characters that result.
Issuing from these considerations we can present the
full scheme of the multi-step cognitive structure of AF
as follows (the levels are enumerated according to the
conversion of information):
(1) Stimuli social and personal practice of people
(production, economical and political relation-
ships, ideology or mentality, everyday life etc.).
(2) Ideas social norms, customs, standards, indi-
vidual motives (already rooted here are plans of
behaviour and the potential population of
artefacts, i.e. the cultural matrix).
(3) Actions operations, deeds, events, i.e. that
which realises the customs, stereotypes and id-
ioms of behaviour.
(4) Incorporations (embodiments) things, artefacts,
marks and traces on them, material objects as
well as their interrelationships in the living cul-
ture. Their total population is present. This is
the objectication of behaviour, or, indirectly,
objectied ideas.
(5) Deposits things, fragments of them, traces on
them and left from them, as well as interrelation-
ships of all of them in the dead culture. Not the
total population of things but only its deposited
(6) Remains the same in the archaeological ma-
terial in situ in or on the earth by the time of
excavation (or of sampling, surveying or the like).
This is the preserved fraction.
(7) Destructions displacement of a part of the ma-
terial by non-professional collectors.
(8) Observable that which is in the archaeological
material which was in the space under research
(in the dig, the section, the prole, the collection
etc.). This is what an archaeologist is able to look
at directly.
(9) Discoveries things, traces and their inter-
relationships discovered, noted by researchers in
the eld or in collections. This is the fraction that
is seen by an archaeologist.
(10) Samples things, traces and their interrelation-
ships recorded and liable to registration (visual,
written, and other descriptions) or taken from
the eld. This is the fraction selected in the eld
or in collections.
(11) Filtrates the same objects less the discarded
ones, i.e. objects (and their relations) accounted
erroneously: pseudo-artefacts, non-genuine
traces, fakes, counterfeits, forgeries. This is the
puried fraction.
(12) Descriptions reection of the information from
the previous level with the means of a special
elementary alphabet and by comparison with
concepts of analytical classication.
(13) Compacts (generalisations) the result of infor-
mation having been compressed by separating
out its essentials by means of taxonomic classi-
cation, type and systematisation.
(14) Evidences information from one of the pre-
vious two levels (or from both of them) reported
in a publication or in a lodged work (eld report,
dissertation etc.), in les or in computer memory
as well as in personal archives and at the worst,
in the researchers own memory.
Of these 14 levels of AF, the rst three deal with po-
tentials, the next eight (from 4 to 11) with material,
and the last three with reections.
Between these levels there are lters or oodgates in
which information is transformed: some passes
110 Acta Archaeologica
Fig. 14. C- and N-transforms in archaeological information ow
(after Schiffer 1976: 2.1).
through but some is lost, distorted, or a kind of pollut-
ing enters (Klejn 1975b; Sullivan 1978, 193). What
factors affect the information at these oodgates?
(Daniels 1972, 204209; Collins 1975) M. Schiffer di-
vides them into cultural (C-transforms) and natural
(N-transforms) (Fig. 14 Schiffer 1976, 14f). In order
to investigate the sequence the direction outlined by
Daniels and Clarke is more convenient along the
steps of information ow. Let us consider them in the
same order of information conversion. For the sake
of convenience in comparing, ordinal designations of
oodgates are given.
Crystallisation of stimuli (01)
Led to by sociocultural-historical regularities and
causal machinery. The situation is complicated by the
fact that many of these regularities act only as trends
and provide merely probabilistic (not rigid dynamic)
determination, while some of the causal mechanisms
do not produce unambiguous causal connections:
under the impact of different conditions, frequently
random ones, similar causes can lead to different ef-
fects, and behind similar effects different causes can
be hidden (the phenomenon of plural causality).
Realisation of stimuli (12)
This process is also determined and therefore customs
of the peoples having no contacts often appear similar
(the phenomenon of convergence) but the segment of
probability determination here is much bigger. Even
Marxists admit, at least in theory, the relative inde-
pendence of ideology (here meaning the world of
ideas). In the nal appearance of ideas, the individual
peculiarities of people are represented. Thus customs
of peoples are very diverse.
Incorporation of ideas in behaviour (23)
Here the mark of various obstacles are met: natural
disasters, conict of ideas, conicts between people
and between groups of people, and between person-
ality and society. Social norms are less rigid than the
biological program of behaviour. Personalities and
human populations dispose freedom of will, freedom
of choice, and this freedom is not limitless but not
ctional either. So the realisation of ideas in behav-
iour and with it the behaviour itself are predictable,
but not strictly predictable.
Objectication of behavioural acts (34)
The New Archaeology as well as orthodox Marxists
established here clear relations. Schiffer retained this
notion when he placed correlates before his distorting
C- and N-transforms (Schiffer 1976: 1214). This is
correlation between objects (artefacts) and ideas. In
fact there are no unambiguous correlations, there are
only ideals weakly realisable in behaviour. It is clear
that behaviour intervenes between ideas and objects
(artefacts), behaviour that leads from ideas to objects,
and it usually does not realise the ideas exactly. Be-
sides, a gap always exists between the behaviour and
its objectied results (artefacts) (Krause and Thorne
1971). A simple difference of materials will condition
different results even in equal series of actions di-
rected on these materials. Things of different appear-
ance will emerge. However, it is not only the ma-
terials that are different, but the conditions of actions
too. H. Obermeier, with a group of French archaeol-
ogists, arranged experiments of throwing int into
stone crushers in order to show that int is split dif-
ferently in warm conditions and in frost and that it
can lead to different sets of int industry (Obermajer
1913: 468). Therefore ideals are ideal, manufacture
111 Metaarchaeology
does not coincide with template, or realisation with
model, or imitation with original.
The rst act of archaeologisation (45)
This is predepositional: death, becoming defunct,
departing, deposition on, and later, in the earth. In
this way the selection proceeds, one may say, depo-
sitional selection) the bearers of culture them-
selves accomplish it having in mind peculiarities of
situations and things (Eggers 1959, 264268, see
also 276294). People themselves selected what to
discard, and what to keep. They determined in
which situations the worn-out, obsolete, damaged,
or broken things go, in a natural way, to depo-
sition, and in which situations this way is open to
fresh, intact, sometimes specially made things,
necessarily in an articial way. In comparison with
living culture, here proportions are changed as well
as appearance. The make-up of the living is not re-
peated in the summary distribution of the bone
fragments of animal species in the occupation layer.
Age composition of the once living community is
not reected in a cemetery as in a mirror: during
the life of one mature generation several gener-
ations of children could have lived. Some compo-
nents of the living material culture are simply lost
(usually organic parts) while components absent in
the living culture have entered into the dead cul-
ture, for instance, specially manufactured ornaments
with gold foil and ceramic models of things.
Many sub-systems in the material culture are
open they do end up as compact deposits and are
frequently not covered by other distinct layers. This
is why in several cases elements that were separated
by enormous time intervals in the living culture co-
incide and are mixed together (compression, Ju. N.
Zakharuk 1975).
Second act of the archaeologisation (56)
This is postdepositional. The rst group of factors is
contained in fossilisation. The changes that take place
make the orginal use of an object no longer possible.
The other aspect of fossilisation is the belonging to
extinct species. The nal appearance of the objects is
a consequence of natural forces and of time de-
composition of organic materials, corrosion of metals,
and so on. The position of remains is changed by
redepositing under the action of natural forces. All
this increases the compression effect.
The second group of factors is ancient articial de-
struction. During the post-depositional period the
subsequent generation of people also had an impact
on deposits through activities such as piling up the
habitation layer, robbing the graves, secondary dig-
ging and destruction of monuments. They disturb the
structure of assemblages and change the composition
of material. This also increases the compression effect.
Both groups of factors acted in parallel ways, without
strict alternation in time.
Modern articial destruction (67)
The activity of non-professionals, obtaining things
without recording nd conditions or falsifying them,
which displaces a part of the material from assem-
blages. It is at this stage that the majority of fakes
arise in the material.
The choice of unit for investigation (78)
Archaeologists are forced to limit the area of sampling
and mapping. It is clear that this will inuence the
amount and content of the information received. This
will depend on many circumstances the aims of re-
search, nancing, equipment available, accessibility
The detection of information bearers (89)
The detection of artefacts, traces, and relations by re-
searchers in the space outlined. It is insufcient to
look at the objects one has to see them. What the
investigator will be lucky enough to see depends on a
number of factors: the competence of archaeologists,
the methods applied, the technical outt of the pro-
ject, the level of the development of science at the
time, conditions of work etc.
Selection of the necessary information (910)
Everything worth recording and preserving is necess-
ary to select. There is usually too much observed in-
formation. To record it in totality is practically im-
possible, not to speak of the total amount of ceramics,
all the bones, the content of the graves and the entire
content of the occupation layers. Transfer to a mu-
seum of all the relationships of artefacts with the en-
vironment is in general impossible in principle, so
112 Acta Archaeologica
selection is unavoidable. Technical constraints of the
project will affect the selection. Notions of the re-
searchers on the comparative importance of different
parts of the information discovered forms another
group of factors conditioning the selection. These no-
tions rest on aims set by the given project and on
general evidence on an estimated set of data for the
project. Again, the competence of the researchers and
the general level of science development will be rel-
evant. Subjective intentions and views of the re-
searchers also play an important role.
Selection of genuine information (1011)
One must recognise young, often even modern
artefacts, traces and relations mistaken for ancient
ones, and natural objects mistaken for human made
objects. In this oodgate distortions are possible too:
the loss of some information and relations or the loss
of unwanted, corrupting information.
Recording of the discovered and selected (1112)
Recording of artefacts, traces and relations is a rule
of every professional expedition. The monument is
lost to a certain extent and to excavate it a second
time would be impossible. Recording should rescue
the maximum possible quantity of information and
grant adequate access of the collected information to
any user distant in space and time.
Written description is the reection of real things by
means of not only natural but also a special conven-
tional language with an elementary alphabet, vo-
cabulary and grammar (scientic terminology, ab-
breviations, formulas, tables, indexes, codes etc.). Such
desription implies comparison with the concepts of
analytical classication. All these means must provide
maximum and exact transmission of information. The
character of the transmission depends on the set of con-
cepts and terms in which the material is described, the
richness of language, its exibility and adequacy for the
material, and its terminological clarity.
Graphic xation also implies a certain convention-
ality, the transmission of three-dimensional reality
with plane projections, reduction of the light and
shade relations with linear contours, and often de-
tachment from colour. This is also a language and its
rules imply quantity and choice of projections, the
degree of generalisation, sign conventions, and scale.
Generalisation or minimisation (1213)
This is the comprehension of information for the sake
of convenient record keeping and use. In the basis of
this process is separation of the essential by means
of taxonomic classication, type and systematisation.
Several kinds of connections are revealed: type, as-
semblage, culture etc. Taxonomic classication im-
plies hierarchy of attributes, estimation of compara-
tive importance of various object parameters. Such
estimation has objective footholds in the material.
However, culture is a complex and multi-sided sys-
tem, and the interests of observers are broad and do
not coincide on many points. So the choice of the
essential and the estimation of parameter importance
are not rigid. Some divergence of solutions is deter-
mined by difference of approaches by systems of
views, and by interests.
Narrative (1314)
This is guration and objectication of the elaborated
information by special means of storage and distri-
bution in publications, papers and les, in computer
memory as well as in natural memory, notes of re-
searches themselves, in museum exhibitions etc. Pub-
lications, electronic and printed, occupy the main
place among these reservoirs and distributors of infor-
mation. In preparing for publication the last distor-
tions of information are possible editing, changes to
drawings and photos, editorial additions and changes
in accentuation, and uncorrected mistakes.
Having traced the course of archaeological infor-
mation transformations from beginning to end, we
can hardly wonder there are errors and divergences
in archaeology. How strong are the regularities and
sense connections between events and their traces, if
indeed after this entire cascade of transformations
they do still show through the mosaic of descriptions
and interpretations? And how sophisticated must the
researcher be to catch them, to reveal and to repro-
duce them in a state similar to their initial one?
To consider in such details the conversion of infor-
mation, the process offering multistageness and depth
113 Metaarchaeology
to AF, was necessary in order to present clearly the
full course of reconversion. Since it is reconversion
that lays in the basis of archaeological research de-
sign, the planned succession of steps in archaeological
inquiry is intended. The point is not to repeat the list
of stages of conversion in reverse order. Reconversion
does not simply mean the mirroring of the conver-
sion. One has to trace its full course anew. It is necess-
ary to consider all the stages of reconversion com-
pletely and consecutively, because at every stage the
task of reconversion is to restore and reconstruct the
state of information on the preceding level, while each
time taking into account what occurred in the ltering
oodgate what is lost, added and distorted.
Conversion was the movement of information in
the formation of an archaeological record, the form-
ing of the archaeological facts, where objective processes
of culture acted. Reconversion is the revealing of in-
formation, the tracing of the ow of information, the
advancement of archaeological thought into the
depth of AF. The research of this process is reection:
self-checking, self-proving, self-control and self-cri-
tique by the researcher as an abstract person, as a
researcher in general. With respect to particular
people it can not be a self-criticism at all, but simply
a critique. Indeed, different features of this abstract
person can be realised in various scholars. This is also
the analysis of the portions of information being re-
ceived about the traced sections of reconversion. This
procedure is called source criticism and is usually
limited to a particular step or a few steps of the entire
ow. Here it is understood in the broadest sense.
Practically the whole inquiry can be understood as
source criticism. No wonder then, that archaeology is
considered as a source-studying discipline.
By moving the reverse way through the preceding
survey, towards the information, let us designate the
stages of reconversion or criticism with a different nu-
meration, this time with Roman numerals and corre-
lated with the previous list in brackets.
I. Textological criticism (1413)
This is proof of the adequacy of narrative exposition.
It relies on the inner logic of the narrative. Other
aids are the comparison of various realisations and
versions of exposition, and verication of the expo-
sition with the preserved parts of information from
the preceding levels. The outer characteristics of the
narrative (accuracy, detail etc.) are taken into ac-
count, too, as well as general ndings of the authors
personality and on the process of the exposition.
II. Critique of concepts (1312)
This is the reliability proof of generalisation and it can
be executed in two ways. The rst consists of repeating
(even if only partially by sampling) the work done and
including an analysis of the methodological foundation
of classication, and analysing the attempts of its appli-
cation to the same material. This route is convenient
since it does not demand any output beyond the bor-
ders of the material studied, but it is not attractive be-
cause it entails twice the amount of work.
The second way is to ascertain from outside
whether the given system of generalised concepts is
realistic. This means comparing it with other anal-
ogous systems, to apply it to a broader circle of ma-
terials and to clear up whether it works whether
the new materials t it and whether its concepts cor-
relate with other concepts. This way is more interest-
ing, but it leaves the researcher unsure whether all
the particular errors were revealed.
III. Critique of description (1211)
Critique means foremost proof of the completeness
and accuracy of description. This proof includes esti-
mation of possibilities and limits of every method of
description applied and testing of the accuracy of
their application. This allows us, if not to restore un-
recorded details, then at least to establish where and
what kinds of omissions one can assume.
IV. Critique of authenticity (1110)
The proof of the original information selection, in-
cluding estimation of the applied methods of selec-
tion. The rest is reduced to repeating the selection
because the checking of methods application co-
incides with the selection due to the critical character
of the very operation of selection.
V. Setting critique (109)
This is the proof of the selection of information
needed. This proof concerns criteria and conditions
of this selection, demands to characterise the person-
ality of the researcher and the level of scientic devel-
114 Acta Archaeologica
opment at the time of research. It is not always poss-
ible to make the selection again. What was discarded
in the eld is mostly lost beyond hope. One can only
establish which cases do not exclude objects of a cer-
tain kind in the space studied.
VI. Critique of observation (98)
This is proof of the completeness of objects discovered
in the area under study. This proof must assess the
methods of survey, equipment of the project, com-
petence of researchers, take into consideration the
level of scientic development and the conditions of
work, and the intensity of study if carried out over a
large area. As a control, it is of course possible to
make a second study but only if the excavation of the
object or of its given part is still proceeding. After-
wards it only remains to infer undiscovered details
from the above estimations and by comparison with
analogous assemblages.
VII. Critique of limits (87)
The analysis of the choice and limitation of the space
in which the research is done. For this it is sufcient
to estimate the size of the area and its content of ar-
chaeological materials in comparison with other
areas. Factors which determined this are considered
by historiography. For critical proof they are interest-
ing only in the case data on the choice and on the
limitation of the area.
VIII. Museum critique (76)
This is an estimation of the scope and consequences
of the modern destruction and separation of the infor-
mation. It is essential to assume what information
may have been contained in the lost parts. The main
foothold in this selection is museum and eld docu-
mentation. The comparison is suggested by itself. If
the eld documentation is absent, the only hope is in
analogies and various evidence from elsewhere.
IX. Critique of remains (65)
This is an estimation of the scope and consequences
of ancient destruction natural (fossilisation) and arti-
cial. However, strictly speaking, one can only esti-
mate the consequences of destructive processes when
it is known what existed before the destruction. But
this is not known, and it is the reason the estimation
is necessary: in order to reconstruct the rst destruc-
tion. In many cases, remains that survived after de-
struction are unambiguous or have little meaning
they allow only one or a few certain varieties of recon-
struction. Secondly, in several cases, the causes of de-
struction are known, so one can establish what de-
posits would have been distorted (and thus possibly
had existed) and what would have survived. Thirdly,
analogous objects that are better preserved can serve
as models for such a reconstruction.
Thus critical work on reconstruction at this stage is
reduced to three series of operations: 1) counting of
degrees of freedom in reconstruction from remains of
various kinds, b) estimation of destructive factors that
once acted and estimation of their impact, c) con-
sidering objects under study against a background of
better preserved objects of the same kind.
X. Critique of deposits (54)
An estimation of the changes that occurred when ob-
jects passed from the living culture to the dead one.
This estimation has to embrace depositional selec-
tion of the bearers of ancient culture, necro trans-
formations (changes of proportions etc. in the dead
culture in comparison with the living), and com-
pression effects. It is here, in these operations, that the
centre of gravity lies in the estimation of cognitive
opportunities of various kinds of archaeological
XI. Critique of things (32)
This is an estimation of the difculties met in the ob-
jectication of behavioural acts. Problems of objecti-
cation embrace connection of work and artefact,
process and result, actions and traces. What dif-
culties can be expected here? Establish regular corre-
spondences, trace regularities, calculate correlations
and its all over but the shouting. The network of
universal correlates will appear and the only task re-
maining is to formulate the rules of correspondence
and apply them.
This is not quite the case however (Klejn 1981a).
Culture is polysemic. There are no stable correspon-
dences in it, there are only more or less noticeable
preferences, usually local, temporal and each specially
conditioned. Each case has to be considered individu-
ally. It is necessary to uncover in which cases equal
115 Metaarchaeology
actions led to different results. This is important in
order not to overestimate the differences and not to
overestimate their meaning. It is also necessary to un-
ravel situations, fortunately not so frequently, where
different actions have led to equal results (Adams
1968; 1973). Critical estimation of complexity orients
the investigator in search of decisive details, for in-
stance, stratigraphic traces of secondary burial. It ori-
ents the researcher too, in considering the object
under study in a broader system for example, a
comparison with analogous tombs where the second
half of the tomb space prepared for the second corpse
remains unlled (Itina 1954).
Modern behavioural archaeology does not want to
go further than this level of cognition. It is afraid of
shaky ground on the route ahead, but are further
areas really impracticable?
XII. Critique of behaviour (32)
This is an estimation of the divergence between ideas
and their realisation in behaviour. In essence this is a
psychological task to conjecture and grasp ideas
from behaviour. This psychological task is very dif-
cult even with living people, whose feelings, thoughts
and intentions we understand better than the psy-
chology of people more distant by culture and time.
Nevertheless, in these cases, when it depends on fam-
iliarity, we can rely on plenty of minute details, im-
agine ourselves in the same situation and make stipu-
lations based on discerning Other from Us. All of
these fail almost completely when we advance ideas
from archaeological remains.
In order to restore an individual idea in such a situ-
ation one has to nd a more adequate realisation of the
same idea the imitation of an original artefact for in-
stance. The methods of determining the direction in
the typological series (after typological rudiments) and
the direction of the inuence (after separate modes) are
the keys to such a riddle. Shared ideas, or social
norms, can be restored more reliably: if there is much
deviation from the ideal but they show a normal distri-
bution, then revealing the ideal is not difcult. A ques-
tion emerges however of whether the deviations from
ideal always conform to the law of normal distribution.
Can systemic shifts not emerge under the impact of
equal vector forces? This should establish the critical
estimation of the whole situation.
XIII. Critique of ideas (21)
The task of this stage is to judge the extent to which
life phenomena, those that stimulated certain behav-
iour, were reected in particular ideas of ancient
people. The critique of ideas lies at the core of the
reconstruction of life of the past, reconstruction after
ideas deposited in things, after archaeological facts in
general. How did people react to phenomena in their
lives, and how did they perceive them? Is it possible
to restore their ideas through their reactions and then
to make judgements based on these phenomena? This
estimation has to appreciate not only realisations of
individual chance divergences, not only local differ-
ences connected with race, ethnicity, gender, age,
class, estate, caste, etc., but also the specicity of the
prehistoric and ancient consciences. Since things like
mythology played a large role in the thinking of
people, it does not coincide with the thinking of mod-
ern man. Even the actions of medieval people will
remain completely incomprehensible to us if we im-
agine them as sheer rational agents, and we reason
strictly logically about them, soundly calculating their
interests and the historic situation.
We often are inclined to judge situations in the pre-
historic and ancient world after ideas and actions of
ancient people and forget these traps, seeking naive
rationalistic explanations for ancient ideas and actions
with the help of modern common sense and patchy
data on the past. These explanations participate ac-
tively in our system of evidences on past life, and so
condition the formation of a false historical picture.
A critique of ideas attempts to prevent this deviation.
How prehistoric people thought and felt, and how
they cognised about their life and themselves, we
learn from ancient pictorial and symbolic monu-
ments, from ethnographic and psychological studies,
and from theoretical reconstructions. It is signicant
that in recent decades researchers of prehistoric eco-
nomics venture more and more into these themes.
XIV. Critique of stimuli (10)
We have to estimate to what degree particular stimuli
(historical phenomena, events, and circumstances)
were necessary and unavoidable in the conditioning
of the behaviour of ancient people. This is connected
with revealing the limits and possibilities of the proba-
bilistic determination in each case where such deter-
116 Acta Archaeologica
mination took place. This is also connected with cases
of pluricausality. From this denition it is evident that
if the critique of ideas means reconstruction of stimuli,
the critique of stimuli leads to reconstruction of his-
torical process, of causal relations, and needs analysis
of very broad historical prospects. This analysis is
hardly feasible on the basis of archaeological records
alone. Consequently, critique of stimuli goes beyond
the limits of archaeology proper. Archaeological re-
search in the proper sense is limited to the preceding
The analysis undertaken of AF is distinguishable from
preceding attempts by one circumstance. Other
analyses have concentrated on the philosophical as-
pect of the theme. They revealed the interrelationship
between objectivity and subjectivity in AF, and their
aim was to show how signicant the subjective factor
was, and to show this against over-condent opti-
mism. They focus very much on terminological hair-
splitting subtleties in order that philosophical argu-
ments are stated clearly enough. European archaeol-
ogists, mostly British ones, gave more attention to the
practical operations of cognition.
It seems to me that in continuing the European
line I was lucky in revealing the connection between
structure of AF and archaeological research design.
The complexity of AF is for me not a reason for pessi-
mism but rather the stimulation to work to enlarge
the archaeological research design in scope, and to
the elaboration of its new stages and operations. It is
not to philosophical speculations that this study leads
us, but to methods of work.
Modern researchers arrived at inferences of AF
with four-levels, which would correspond to a four-
stage procedure, or four-stage archaeological research
design. Only Daniels from Nigeria suggested a seven-
stage procedure (without any connection with AF).
David Clarke wrote in 1973 on four levels of fact and
5 stages of the research design when he divided the
general theory of archaeology into consecutive steps
in his well-known article Archaeology: the loss of
innocence. In 1975 I suggested a 14-stage research
design (Klejn 1975b); substantiation of this procedure
was my understanding of the multi-stage nature of
The parcelling of procedure and scrupulous itemis-
ation of its stages acquires special attention as con-
nected with the prospective computer elaboration of
archaeological facts on the basis of articial intelligence.
Computers demand maximum parcelling of oper-
ations. Today it is insufcient to know that AF is com-
plex, one has to know how many levels there are. The
innocence of archaeology was lost long ago. Now the
issue is not in stating contriteness, doubt or satisfac-
tion, but for this event to lead to a strong and healthy
117 Metaarchaeology
11. Archaeological research design
S. G. H. Daniels, an archaeologist from Ahmadu
Bello University, Nigeria, recognised a stimulating
paradox connected with the processing of archae-
ological information: From the earliest stages of our
aquaintance with the academic world, he stated, we
are taught that knowledge is desirable, and that ignor-
ance is a condition to be remedied as soon as possible
and even at great cost. [Archaeological research] de-
sign on the other hand states unequivocally that in
matters of classication ignorance is a paramount vir-
tue and one which, as innocence used to be, is irre-
placeable if lost (Daniels 1978). He understood
classication here in a very broad sense, embracing
both selection and measurement.
It is not common opinion that the loss of innocence
in archaeology is worth the sorrow. David Clarke did
not think so when he wrote his article Archaeology:
the loss of innocence, and Christopher Hawkes sup-
posed that it is even possible to return to this state
he wrote a responce to Clarke with Innocence re-
trieval in archaeology, as he did not want to know
of the new, analytical, archaeology.
Due to his mathematical orientation, Daniels, who
works at a statistical centre, was one of the rst
scholars to escape the sometimes idle philosophical
talks on the depth of archaeological fact, and began
speaking instead on the cascade ow of information
from the past events to the analysis of archaeological
records. So he linked the two previously unconnected
problems: the epistemological structure of archae-
ological fact and the normative research design the
normative succession of the stages of archaeological
inquiry. The course of information is his main inter-
est, and to understand its movement in the most com-
plete way possible and its results as objectively as
possible are his main concerns.
By the 1970s, two decades had already passed since
the beginning of the talks on the subjectivity of infer-
ences in archaeology (since Smith 1955; Thompson
1956), although the critical theory, just emerging in
western Marxism, did not enter archaeology in full un-
til the 1980s. Daniels stepped into this line of interest
when he made the challenge of subjectivity the main
concern of his studies. He was dealing with the ow of
information from the past and, correspondingly, with
the reverse proceeding of cognition from the present.
He had in mind a modern researchers cognition of the
past the scheme, the plan, and the design of the in-
quiry process. The struggle with biases troubles him
most: At the heart of the research design problem, he
wrote (Daniels 1978, 29), lies bias, and the way in
which it enters, or can be prevented fromentering, into
the data during the research activities of selection,
measurement and classication. Since preconceived
ideas are usually oriented against some views and facts,
the implementation of bias by the researcher presup-
poses preliminary knowledge of the material under
study if the material contains odious things against
which bias can act, suppressing or refusing them. So
the means to prevent bias from doing this is to grant
the researcher the benet of not knowing too early the
material on which research operations are to be di-
rected. Such measures are usually applied in the activ-
ity of experts the material must be unknown to him
before the results of examination are declared.
The strange insistence of the researcher on this ig-
norance is explained by the belief in this measure.
However, despite his belief bias is not the only sig-
nicant problem in achieving objectivity, perhaps not
even the main one, and ignorance is not the only
means to reach a validity of results, and perhaps not
the best means either. In addition to the subjectivity
of a researcher, there are objective factors in play
such as the fragmentary state of the artefacts, large
gaps in the materials, the polisemic nature of cultural
things, and often an absence of relations between
parts found and parts lost. As for resorting to ignor-
ance it is not a logic tool, but part of the psychology
of research strategy. Overcoming ones own bias does
not necessarily demand such measures, much can be
done with the help of randomisation as well as strict
rules and limitations elaborated for methods.
This was more broadly considered in the earlier
work of Daniels. In his 1972 work he placed a scheme
of a 7-step information ow from the past events to
the present remains (see Fig. 13). In the oodgates
between the information states in his scheme, factors
118 Acta Archaeologica
Fig. 15. Model of archaeological procedure (after Clarke 1968: 2).
which make an impact on information are included.
They are inserted from two sides: from the left of the
scheme factors which can be controlled by the investi-
gator are shown, for instance, the selection of the ex-
cavation location, and from the right, uncontrollable fac-
tors like redisposition. According to the position on
the way the information ows, these factors are di-
vided into three groups: historical, postdepositional (from
deposition in the earth until the excavation) and meth-
odical. In the article, main kinds of errors on these
levels are considered in detail: noise, non-system-
atic mistakes, and prejudgement. Correspondingly
measures aimed to dispose them are indicated: for-
malisation of the procedures, introduction of redun-
dancy, and randomisation. (In Daniels scheme 5.3
one should change the places of normalisation of
procedures and randomisation: the last one sup-
presses the noise rather than bias.). Post-depo-
sitional factors are shown on the right, and it is said
hereof: The most that can be done is to estimate
their effects and to try somehow to allot them a place
(Daniels 1972, 202).
It is difcult to say why Daniels later narrowed his
view on the means of obtaining objectivity. May be
by this time, approaching the 1980s, the advent of
critical theory with its preoccupation with biases was
already felt. Both articles by Daniels contain the term
research design in their titles, a term that implies the
normative scheme of archaeological inquiry.
Archaeology is a scholarly discipline, in continental
Europe it is even called science, since linguistically
humanities are there not distinguished from sciences.
Since it is a discipline or a science (in the general
meaning of this word), the main process of its func-
tioning should be a disciplined activity subjected to
certain substantiated rules. It is divided into stages
or levels, and their organisation, that is their set and
succession or the procedure of archaeological re-
search, is not arbitrary. Clarke calls this normative
scheme a model for archaeological procedure and
presents it as one of the three parts of the general
theory of archaeology (Fig. 15). Since Clarke, the
term procedure has come to stay in Russian ar-
chaeological literature as the designation of this suc-
cession of steps. Rouse calls such a scheme strategy
of archaeological and prehistoric researches, while he
tolerates exceptions from it as tactics (Fig. 16). B.
C. Swartz exposes this scheme as the logical suc-
cession of archaeological aims, L. Binford, J. Fritz
and F. Plog as archaeological research design, and
V. S. Bochkarev as structure of archaeological re-
search (Clarke 1968, 34f, g. 2; Rouse 1972, VII-X,
27f, 62ff, g. 8; Swartz 1967, 487497; Binford 1964;
Fritz and Plog 1970, 409411; Bochkarev 1973, 59).
The term archaeological research design is now
usually applied in Anglophone archaeology.
It is possible to formalise some parts of this scheme
and transform them into an unambiguous succession
of commands, leading to a rigidly determined chain
119 Metaarchaeology
Fig. 16. Strategy and tactics in the logical procedure of archaeology (after Rouse 1972: 6).
of operations. Such succession becomes an algorithm
(Sher 1970, 923, g. 1). It is often impossible to
reach such a grade of strictness within so many stages,
and every one of these stages can be freely dismem-
bered into elementary actions. Yet interrelationships
between the stages perceived as whole blocks are
rather denite. Bochkarev (1973, 59) insists that the
procedure has a hard structure that does not permit
omissions of levels or their displacement. As we have
seen in the previous chapter, the archaeological fact is
practically the long course of information from the
past events and phenomena. Along this course the
information squeezes through several oodgates
where parts of information are distorted and lost. This
conversion of information is xed as a series of states,
which are levels of the archaeological fact (AF).
With the cognition of those remote events and
phenomena as the target, an archaeologist by the very
nature of things executes reconversion of information.
The temptation to make this reconversion a one-act
performance is great to pass in one stroke from AF
to historical-sociological meaning, presuming it lies
somewhere under the very surface of AF. This would
be so simple, so convenient! Even if we know that
there are many levels to the fact, with many ltering
oodgates, why not consider the changes of infor-
mation all together or grouped morphologically (e.g.
after Schiffers classication: C-transforms, N-trans-
forms), and not according to their natural succession?
There are factors that push archaeologists to attempts
of such a simplied, or reduced, reconversion. These
are now daft attempts, dogmatic adherence to a par-
ticular rigid scheme of unambiguous interpretations
with a ready set of labels. V. S. Bochkarev (Bochkarev
1973, 59) is right: one should not skip over stages of
the research design.
In each rendering the ow of information runs
through a cascade of qualitative and quantitative
transformations (objectication, mortication, idealis-
ation etc.). It seems as if it passes through lters and
at each one incurs a loss and suffers distortions. It is
desirable to control, correct and compensate for these
losses. So, the conversion of information consists of
phases separated by oodgates that have a ltering effect.
120 Acta Archaeologica
In each oodgate every transformation changes the
appearance of information and serves as a spring-
board for the next transformation. Only adjacent
phases are connected with each other directly as ini-
tial and derived. And quite often some remains, after
which one could judge the initial appearance, are
kept only in the derived phase. So we make judge-
ments on the initial appearance by issuing from the
previous one. If while doing this we skip over some
phases, perhaps some essential changes in infor-
mation will be lost, and distortions of the past reality
will be unobserved. As a result we come to false re-
construction. Hence the importance to account for all
the phases of the conversion, all the oodgates. This
must become the basis for working out the full scheme
of the archaeological research design.
There is an additional complication to this prob-
lem. The action of these oodgates is two-way: The
same lter that stipulates materialisation in one direc-
tion, stipulates idealisation in the contrary direction.
The mischief of it is however that the losses in these
transformations are asymmetrical and often irretriev-
able. If while objectifying an idea (say, the plan of the
dwelling), a person could not realise some part of the
idea, and in a hurry did not install an oven required
by the usual plan, then an archaeologist, while idealis-
ing his observations on this (and only this) excavated
dwelling, could not reconstruct this part of the plan
and will come to new and completely different losses.
The archaeologist will lose data on an entrance as
soon as it was cut by a later pit-dwelling and will
receive false data on the content of storage pits if to-
gether with it some materials have been found of the
pit-dwelling cut in. So the losses do not let the saved
information compensate for them, but they are
pooled and not only add to each other but become
more complicated too.
This means that the rules of interrelation in archae-
ological theories cannot do with simple correspon-
dences but should envisage a procedure, much more
complex than in other disciplines. One should envisage
an organisation and permanent attraction of external
information not contained in the regulated ow.
Why it is necessary to provide such conversion sub-
sequently, without omissions? If we omit a oodgate
those changes that occurred to the information at this
oodgate may not be identied, and consequently
they will be ascribed to earlier causes. The initial state
of the information will be reconstructed wrongly: in
the original picture factors will be supposed which in
fact were not existent. This is why all the oodgates
should be revealed, the full course of the conversion
traced, and the strict succession of the reconversion
back through the oodgates respected. Discredited
long ago were naive notions that did not suspect a
multi-step nature to the archaeological fact, and did
not conceive how dangerous it is to jump from ar-
chaeological facts directly to events and social
phenomena of the historical past. Archaeological cog-
nition is digging, not jumping.
In my scheme of information ow 14 stages were pre-
sented. This list of conversion phases (and corre-
spondingly reconversion) is divided in two parts. As
concerns the conversion, the rst 7 acts present build-
ing (14) and death (57) of the material culture. The
result of this part of conversion is an archaeological
record, or in Russian terminology, an archaeological
source. The next 7 steps present its initial, presumably
empirical cognition (survey, excavation, recording
etc.). The research procedure executing this cognition
mainly follows the reconversion but with some stipu-
lations. This connection is realised in two varieties.
If the investigator builds a study on original
sources, his or her procedure coincides with conver-
sion embracing the stages 814 and includes the outer
criticism of archaeological records (stage 11). The re-
sult of this investigation is the transfer of an archae-
ological record from material form into generalised
concept form, applicable for operating in scholarly
knowledge (or in science in the broad sense of the
word). The continuation of the study is usually an
interpretation study, and its procedure follows recon-
version through the stages 71. The core of this study
is the inner criticism of the archaeological record (esti-
mation of information change at each oodgate), and
the result is the creation of a new record, or new
source, a historical one.
When an investigator works not with original
sources but with literary data, the entire procedure
follows the full course of reconversion through all the
stages 141, and the outer criticism is widened cover-
121 Metaarchaeology
ing all the rst 7 stages (148), since it is necessary to
check transformations in each of these oodgates too.
Only when reconversion (141) having terminated
does the historical, sociological or culture investiga-
tion begin. In fact the realisation of this procedure is
even more complicated because this straight logical
scheme of information processing is only a basis on
which different approaches to the material are built.
These different approaches are connected with differ-
ent understandings of the interrelationships between
fact and inference, with different placing of generalis-
ation, hypothesis and problem. In the research prac-
tice, the normative scheme of the archaeological research
design (hereafter ARD) is realised only as a trend, and
deviations from the strategy frequently go far be-
yond the borders of any rational tactics. In im-
plementing the ARD, confusion dominates. Two cir-
cumstances support this situation in the discipline.
Firstly, the schemes of ARD usually appear more di-
rective than normative: they are advanced by theor-
eticians without serious substantiation or merely with
general philosophical substantiation, and not inter-
related with the specicity of the archaeological ma-
terial. Secondly there is disaccord in the notions of
theoreticians themselves with respect to this issue: in-
stead of receiving a single normative scheme, practi-
cal archaeologists are supplied with an amount of
schemes differing both in quantity and in the set of
the stages, as well as in their succession.
Nevertheless these schemes can be grouped accord-
ing to the New Archaeology in two main varieties
(their own and the opposite), or possibly in three vari-
eties in all. Every one of these varieties changed with
time, new blocks of operations were introduced in
them, and the connections between the blocks be-
came more complicated. Blocks were grouped dif-
ferently now closed inside one discipline (archaeol-
ogy, or prehistory, or palaeohistory), and now the en-
tire succession was more or less radically divided in
two parts archaeological and historical (or sociologi-
cal, or anthropological). Yet behind all these vari-
ations one can distinguish three main patterns.
One of these patterns was formed in the nineteenth
century. This is the scheme which was followed by
many scholars, both scientists and humanists, without
musing upon its explication. The rst to clearly for-
mulate it among archaeologists was Sophus Mller
(1896, 292307). He described the order of archae-
ological research as follows:
(1) Collection of materials;
(2) Observation or inspection of materials;
(3) Inferences on details;
(4) Generalisation inferences on the rules (establish-
ing of types, combinations, styles, cultural groups);
(5) Their conrmation by covering with common hu-
man rules (in particular connected to modern
(6) Turning to the causes of discovered phenomena
elucidation of them by comparison and by con-
clusion with analogies, setting up and proving the
The nal objective is the cognition of causal depend-
ence; through gradual generalisation, induction leads
an investigator from the material to this nal objec-
tive. The proper method of archaeology is ... the safe
induction (Mller 1896, 298f).
With various modications, this basically inductive
scheme is exposed by K.-H. Jacob-Friesen (where the
aim is genealogy), G. Clark (where the aim is re-
construction of the past), I. MacWhite, D. Clarke
(feedback connections are introduced), J A. Sher
(weighting of the attributes is separated into a special
step), and E. Chouraqui (methods are joined with the
technique of the research). For Rouse, archaeology
in a three-step procedure cognises the nature of the
remains and then hands the results over to history,
which in a four-step procedure terminates in reveal-
ing the causes (Jacob-Friesen 1928, 98152; Clark
1957, 9f, 1820, 169f, 174; MacWhite 1956, 37, pl.
I; Clarke 1968; Sher 1970; Chouraqui 1972, 212
228; Rouse 1972, 28; a.o.). This scheme was logically
worked out and epistemologically substantiated by in-
ductivists, philosophers of early positivism, and espe-
cially by Mill J. S. (1914). It was accepted by archae-
ologists of various philosophical orientations, perhaps
because it reected and logically executed some real
aspect of empirical research studies. This aspect re-
mains necessary even in those systems where it is not
exaggerated and is not the entire essence of the study:
induction is inherent to empirical studies and the
122 Acta Archaeologica
widening of factual basis. The introduction of new
facts into research circulation is able to produce
changeovers of old conceptions, to serve as a stimulus.
Another scheme of procedure, established long ago
as a norm in sciences, was also used in archaeology
although rather sporadically and without strict rules.
As applied to archaeology it is rst exposed in a clear-
cut form in the work of Taylor (1948, 152202, table
4). Taylors order of operations looks like this:
(A) Determination of the problem in the frames of a
(B) Working with materials:
(1) Collection of data;
(2) Criticism of their usefulness;
(3) Analysis;
(4) Interpretation (ascertaining the technique,
function etc.);
(5) Description;
(6) Exposition (in publications and the like).
(C) Building of local chronologies;
(D) Synthesis by connections in the context of dis-
(E) Comparative study of culture in statics and dy-
(F) Studying the nature of culture, its constants, laws,
and functioning;
After Taylor the stages (B) and possibly (C) are the
concern of archaeology. Further than this it passes the
baton to historiography and ethnography (D), eth-
nology (E) and anthropology (F). In setting out his
steps Swartz (1967) follows Taylor:
(1) Preparation surveying the preceding studies
and anticipation of eld problems.
(2) Acquirement of materials in the eld.
(3) Analysis placing the data in the network of
time and space.
(4) Interpretation ascertaining the technology
and functioning of artefacts.
(56) Integration (a) Reconstruction of the life of
a population, and synthesis of large cultural
units, and (b) Abstraction, the formulation of
laws or principles.
In Soviet archaeology the course of methods for his-
torical-archaeological studies at Leningrad State Uni-
versity was built into the teaching program according
to a similar but more complex scheme. The path of
the researcher was traced three times: from obser-
vations to hypotheses (logical heuristics), from data
to unknown (psychological heuristics) and espe-
cially at large from archaeological materials to histori-
cal and sociological conclusions (archaeological
methods). With establishing the problem, the second
of these advancements began, with characteristics of
observations as the rst one. Therefore neither step
was considered at the third advancement, and it be-
gan immediately with criticism of sources: (1) external
criticism, (2) inner criticism, (3) description of ma-
terials, (4) classication, (5) revealing of connections
and placing them in time and space, (6) historical re-
construction, and (7) sociological interpretation.
Preferences in this development were the linking of
ARD to general scientic aspects of research process
(to logical and psychological ones) and the introduc-
tion of H. J. Eggers demand for inner criticism of
sources in Soviet archaeology. The imperfection of
this design was that from the immediate archaeologi-
cal line of consideration, the step of selection and
sampling of materials was lost. The importance of this
step was well shown by Binford (1964, 425441),
while the general scientic characteristic of obser-
vations does not serve as an adequate substitute for
such analysis because it does not solve specic prob-
lems of an archaeologist.
A similar scheme of Bochkarev repeats this aw
(and even aggravates it by the absence of parallel lines
of considerations) and terminates the archaeological
part of the procedure with separating of fractions
and cultures. It is questionable if one can commit
the interpretation of similarities between cultures to a
historian, and the revealing of migrations, inuences,
autochthoneity etc. Taylors problem-oriented scheme
nds its philosophical substantiation with pragmatist
J. Dewey, in a work on problem situation (Dewey
1955, 104f). The general pragmatic orientation of
Taylors contextual approach makes this scheme
and even its reinforcement natural for him and his
followers. As for archaeologists with other philosophi-
cal beliefs, for them this scheme seemed acceptable,
because it reects and formalises a real and important
123 Metaarchaeology
aspect of research process in archaeology: its organic
order, emergence and presence of problems in it, and
in connection with this, a purpose to the researches,
at least to many of them.
Not long ago a scheme of procedure widely practised
in physical-chemical sciences was suggested to archae-
ologists. According to the scheme a study begins with
advancing an hypothesis from which expectations are
deduced and confronted with the material. It is in this
confrontation that the proof of the hypothesis consists.
This deductive scheme of ARD was rst exposed in L.
Binfords works of 19671972 (Binford 1972, 47f, 92f,
114121, 245260) and especially well by J. Fritz and
F. Plog (1970). In their article, the core of the pro-
cedure is the explanative hypothesis covering the fact
of archaeology with the law of anthropology; thus the
explanation is derived from theory. The list of stages
of the ARD arranged by them is as follows: (1) hypoth-
esis procurement, (2) expectations deriving from it, (3)
design of data collection, (4) acquirement of data, (5)
data analysis transforming them so as to make them
useful for verifying predictions, (6) proving the predic-
tions (establishment of connections between vari-
ables), and (7) hypothesis estimation by the results of
the proof, the estimation of the explanation.
Other American New Archaeologists follow this
model (Watson et al. 1971, 114152). The orientation
accepted by them on the proof of a certain hypothesis
runs through the entire line of research and deter-
mines not only the succession but the gure of all its
steps as well, from the collection of materials (Only
data considered to be relevant will be collected) to
the report publication (with only enough data from
the site excavated to support the argument). This
procedure is not only legitimate but also it is the life
of science (Watson et al. 1971, 14, 114, 157). Of
course, this is utter exaggeration the deductive
scheme becomes a deductivist one. This time the ar-
chaeologists themselves indicate the philosophical
source of their methodological ideas. This is the hypo-
thetico-deductive explanation scheme of K. Popper
K. Hempel T. Nagel (Popper 1935, 26f; Hempel
1942, 3548: Nagel 1961). According to this scheme
the researcher explains particular facts by covering
them with a law. This scheme was born on the basis
of logical positivism but became well developed only
in post-positivism. It was much criticised and right-
fully so, in both philosophy and archaeology for its
narrowness, limitation, simplication and exorbitant
pretensions (Dray 1957; Tuggle et al. 1972; Morgan
1973; a.o.).
However, it is shown that explanation through law
remains a very central and determining kind of expla-
nation in historical disciplines (Kon 1969), over and
above hypothesis is the necessary stage of any expla-
nation, and explanation is the core of a full study. So
to in this scheme of ARD, separating itself more and
more from its narrow law-explanative basis, it moulds
a completely real aspect of archaeological studies.
This is why in Russia as well, many studies devoted to
proving broad hypotheses follow practically the same
scheme, if not in exposition, then at least in execution.
In some respect the problem-orientation scheme of
ARD can be viewed as an interim between the two
others, as a transitional scheme: a determination of
the problem is still not advancement of a hypothesis,
but it does limit data collection and processing from
the very beginning, and stimulates internal criticism
of sources the estimation of their cognitive possibil-
ities as applied to the problem. Therefore the main
argument had run high between the partisans of the
two other eccentric conceptions of ARD, while the
presence of the middle one was simply not given
attention. The followers it did have were seen as be-
longing to one of the extreme conceptions. J. Hill
(1972), who advanced in favour of the deductivists,
considered the pleas from both of these outside
camps. Proponents of the deductivist scheme accuse
their opponents that the inductivist scheme is built on
erroneous premises:
(1) As if one can work in the eld without a priori
notions and collect all information contained in
sites (vacuum-cleaner approach, Hill 1972, 67);
(2) As if data collected this way are universal and any
investigator can later use them for solving any
(3) As if every archaeological fact is unambiguous,
124 Acta Archaeologica
and facts speak for themselves, and their simple
generalisation is sufcient for comprehending the
Treatment of the facts depends on the aspect con-
sidered, and in collecting the information one pro-
gram often technically excludes another (for instance,
you can remove a layer either horizontally or verti-
cally, but not both ways simultaneously). The in-
ductivist procedure leads one to adjust aims to the
character of the data collected, and this character is
predestined by the unobserved, unrealised readiness
of the investigator. By collecting material blindly an
archaeologist will catch a lot of details needless to
What criticisms do advocates of the inductivist
scheme have of the deductivists? That their op-
ponents force a single aspect on the material, while
ignoring the richness and diversity of information
contained in the sources, and that this will lead to
faults in the collection of data. An orientation of prov-
ing the only hypothesis will be psychologically baf-
ing it will stimulate a search for conrmation of
this hypothesis and not to search for refutations:
(1) That the deductive procedure is not relevant
namely for archaeologists because monuments
usually present surprises;
(2) That there are some projects (salvage excavations,
contract work) which are stimulated not by re-
quests of investigators but by demands of life;
(3) That archaeologists usually have no possibility of
proving hypotheses by experiment.
In fact at least a part of the mutual accusations is
correct as applied to absolutisation of these schemes
of ARD and it shows limitations of both. Situations
are possible in which the inductive scheme of ARD is
justied (for example, a study of processed materials
of salvage projects). There are studies demanding a
deductive procedure (subject studies realising an idea,
attribution of nds, polemical works). It is essential
that these accusations are mostly non-applicable to
the intermediate, problem-oriented scheme of ARD.
The problem-oriented directive can be likened to
advancing a hypothesis to the outset of the research
process, but not a narrowly specied hypothesis. In-
stead this must be some overall hypothesis compiled of
all possible hypotheses with respect to the essence of
the problem, hypotheses practically necessary and re-
alistic. A problem implicitly contains in itself such a
set of potential hypotheses something of the kind of
those multiple hypotheses of Lloyd Chamberlain or
K. Poppers theories in themselves, that were
never produced or understood by people but poten-
tially exist (Chamberlain 1944; Popper 1963, vol. 2:
237). This is like a matrix of hypotheses. Naturally, the
problem-oriented scheme of ARD, though not free
from limitations either, nevertheless possesses the very
broad applicability to studies of the three schemes.
Of course, an experienced archaeologist is able to
direct the expedition so that, among evidences found,
more of those appear which are necessary for proving
the hypothesis specied, or, for solving the problem
outlined. Yet the material will surely be richer and
will present surprises. It would be unforgivable dog-
matism to ignore this with appeal to a boundless
number of possible observation aspects and to the im-
possibility of describing everything. Plans of research
studies are like plans of battles: they are normally
thoroughly worked out only to be shoved aside as
soon as the battle has begun. However the modern
battle, though far from regular, is not a rough-and-
tumble affair. In real scholarly practice, with respect
to every potential source, a limited and not even very
large set of actual problems always exists. A similar
set of programs for the collection of evidence corre-
sponds to it.
For many sources these problems and programs
conditioned by a leading theory are common. A pool
of problems and programs comes to hand, if not uni-
versal then at least rather widely applicable. It gravi-
tates towards forming a broad but standard program
that would describe methods and could serve as a
basis for particular modications. One such pool, or
a few of them, are present in the mind of every well
prepared archaeologist, and it is these that provide
the possibility of working with alien material drawn
from outside.
All three kinds of ARD can be applied, each kind in
its corresponding conditions. The validity of this
125 Metaarchaeology
usage and the existence of the standard program of
data collection encourage the assumption that there
is some common invariant scheme that reposes in the
basis of all three schemes of ARD and contains an
objective criterion of completeness of research pro-
cess. It is like a generalised stratigraphic sequence that
is more complete than any of the initial proles. It is
not difcult to observe that the root structural differ-
ence between the generalisations considered by the
schemes of ARD lies in placing the train of operations
(one step or several steps) connected with the advanc-
ing and developing of the hypotheses.
In the inductive procedure, this train follows the
long succession of operations dealing with the wide
collection and processing of the material. So the re-
sults of the processing are considered as the premise
of the hypothesis and an object for its application.
Independent facts for its proof are to be drawn from
outside. In the problem-oriented procedure this train
of operations is dismembered and only the matrix of
hypotheses is replaced, to the forward position. In the
deductive procedure this train is moved in full to a
forward position, so that acquiring and processing of
facts is narrowly oriented on the proof of the specied
hypothesis. However, what serves as the factual prem-
ise of the hypothesis, what is the object of its appli-
cation? Apparently, according to the last analysis, it is
information on facts already known before. Thus in
all cases one and the same cycle is present. It consists
of 4 trains of operations: (a) preparation of initial
facts, (b) procuring a hypothesis, (c) engaging inde-
pendent facts, and (d) proving the hypothesis.
In the case of the inductive procedure, fresh ma-
terials are regarded as initial facts, while the results of
previous studies are taken as the engaged facts. In
other cases everything is to the contrary: results of
previous studies are the initial facts, while fresh ma-
terials are the engaged facts. The difference tells of
the character of free material processing, of the pro-
cessing of new data. In the rst case (the inductive
procedure) there is an endeavour to collect as applied
to any possible hypotheses, and to collect very widely.
The problem-oriented procedure is for a certain ma-
trix of hypothses, and in the third case, the deductive
procedure, is applied to a single specied hypothesis
(i.e. collection is narrow and selective). It is natural
that the nearer the study to the eld work, the more
dangerous is such selectivity and the more preferable
the shift to the opposite procedure.
With regard to a common basis and limitations,
in each of the three cases, two mutually independent
groups of facts are present (LeBlanc 1973). Without
fail one of them consists of fresh facts. It undergoes
elaboration in the study being proceeded, and the
elaboration is aimed at verifying the hypothesis, be it
a particular hypothesis or some total indeterminate
hypothesis. Anyhow these facts should be obtained
and processed so that it would become possible their
comparison with other systems of knowledge, and so
it would become a possible translation of the infor-
mation (through hypotheses and their proof) into
other systems of concepts: sociohistorical, anthropo-
logical or ethnological.
It is clear (the rst limitation) that all three types of
procedure are anticipated only to a particular, mainly
empirical study, but also to a theoretical interpreta-
tion study. A procedure of an archaeologists general
theoretical and methodological study is as yet not dis-
cussed. Unfortunately none of the authors mentioned
stipulated this limitation.
The second limitation is that the ideal nature of the
scheme of ARD means the overall processing of the
material, the outside transformation of the evidences
extracted from it, running the information through
all the steps of the archaeological and historical (or
sociological, or culture-anthropological) study. Yet in
research practice particular studies are completely
permissible and reasonable too, which are conven-
tionally closed in the frames of one of these disciplines
or of even one or a few levels of some of them. Ac-
cordingly, on the scale of ARD, such study will take
only a narrow cut off: one or a few steps.
The third limitation of all the schemes of ARD con-
sidered imply an archaeologists work with fresh orig-
inal sources, with material objects collected by the
archaeologist, and not elaborated previously. There
are rather many studies however that are carried out
on the basis of the so called engaged material, i.e.
alien, selected long ago and processed on the basis
of the literary data. The procedure of such investiga-
tion must envisage a regressive proof of the part of
operations made by other research workers.
Finally, it is necessary to stipulate a circumstamce:
ARD regulates the run of the research, the execution
126 Acta Archaeologica
of the research, but not necessarily its exposition. Re-
cently however, a trend is observable of approaching
the scheme of ARD with the plan of the exposition,
or at least to explain to the reader the applied scheme
of ARD as well as the other structural components of
the research. In Russia, the trend was expressed by
autoreferates (authors abstracts) of dissertations for
candidate degrees, where the free plan of exposition
(according to chronology or following the survey of
culture components) was changed and came nearer
to the conventions used in natural sciences. It became
roughly as follows: (1) The task of the investigator, (2)
The signicance of the study, (3) Methods of the
study, (4) Factual basis of the study, (5) The execution
of the study, (6) Results of the study, (7) Discussion of
the results (estimation of the results and their in-
clusion into more general systems), (8) Structure of
the exposition in the dissertation paper, and (9) Publi-
cation of the results.
Thus, what is the logical core and epistemological
basis of the full archaeological research study? It is
the process transguring the information and leading
from the factual material (the immediate objects of
archaeology) to its interpretation in terms of history,
sociology, cultural anthropology etc. This is the way
from sources of sociocultural phenomena through
their deposition as archaeological materials to their
reections in scholarly literature. Of course an ar-
chaeologist receives the information in its last stages
and converts it by going the other way round. A
single plot lies in the basis of all the three sequences:
inductive, problem-oriented and deductive. It is clear
enough that the choice of any one of these sequences
is determined by the character of the study, while
exaggeration of some of them is conditioned by the
philosophical position of the archaeologist.
Yet what is it that provides the structure of the plot
itself, the general number of the steps, their qualita-
tive set and succession, and how is all this connected
with the philosophy of science? We must not forget
that this is conditioned by our understanding of the
nature of the archaeological fact, of its epistemological
complicity, depth and multi-stage structure (Klejn
1975b, and the preceding chapter here). Beneath of
all these varieties of procedure the common base is
reposed the process of conversion and reconversion
of information through these 14 ltering oodgates.
Since this structure is as straight as a ladder, the in-
variant scheme of ARD is on no account arbitrary.
127 Metaarchaeology
12. Panorama revisited
In the rst part of this chapter I wish to sum up in
brief what has been exposed in this volume.
I evaluate theory as an important component of
archaeology, and the locus where real scientic revol-
utions take place. I argue that theoreticians are a dis-
tinct specialisation in archaeology and that they need
to receive the relevant training from an early stage.
My denition of theoretical archaeology is not par-
ticularly broad for it does not include all methods and
all ideas, but neither is it very narrow as if it were a
special logical scheme. Within this notion I embrace
all philosophical, methodological, logical, theoretical
and in part historical problems that concern the
whole of archaeology. I also make a distinction be-
tween theoretical archaeology and archaeological
theory. As to the structure of theoretical archaeology
I divide it into three parts: metaarchaeological, en-
doarchaeogical and paraarchaeological.
In dening what the subject matter of archaeology
is, I had to choose from three main points: (1) An-
tiquities exclusively as the subject matter. If so then
archaeology is merely an auxiliary discipline of his-
tory. (2) Past historical events and processes as the
subject matter, which would make archaeology a kind
of or a part of history. (3) Both of the elds, but raising
the question whether it is one integral discipline? To
me the archaeological subject matter includes ma-
terial antiquities per se, their links and relationships in
the system of culture (presumably material culture)
and the regulations and causal mechanisms in the
basis of all these links and relationships. Yet not causal
explanations of the historical events and processes
they are the business of history, while archaeology is
a source-studying discipline.
The important task of a theorist in my opinion is
to dene the specicity of archaeological sources since
the validity of separating archaeology into a special
discipline reposes on it. I hold that the specicity of
material antiquities as archaeological sources consists
of a double break between them and the past histori-
cal reality, breaks which must be restored by the ar-
chaeologist. The two breaks are 1) the break in the
coding of information (between the language of
things and ordinary language) and, 2) the break in
tradition (antiquities are things which have no links
with or in living culture). All other kinds of sources
have one of these breaks but only archaeological ones
have both.
As concerns the methodological nature of the disci-
pline, archaeology as a source-studying discipline is
neither pure science nor a humanity, but an applied
science, although it is in working contact with the hu-
manities. Like history it has a task to restore historical
process and also like history it cannot reconstruct it
in particular details. Yet for history this means that
the realisation of the task is impossible without the
help of the imagination, and so every historian makes
his own narration, paint his own picture. Archaeology
reconstructs only typical features and structures, but
reconstructs them in full, reconstructs the cultural
process with exact methods, yet of course not with
such completeness as history, not to such level of par-
ticular realisation.
Like Clarke, one of my intentions was to axiomat-
ise archaeology, if not to make it into an analytical
machine. Yet having this in mind I soon discovered
that the set of principles at the basis of the whole
discipline was split in two parts, each consisting of six
principles, with both sub-sets opposing each other,
and both valid in archaeology! Each principle has its
counter-principle, which is valid too. So contradic-
tions are inherent in the discipline, hidden in its very
On turning my attention to archaeological theory
I rst tried to dene what empiricism in archaeology
is, what its main hallmarks are. Then I listed the
existing denitions of archaeological theory (the sys-
tematisation of facts, the ordered totality of concepts,
a set of methods, an imposition of philosophical
128 Acta Archaeologica
theory onto archaeological material etc.) and sug-
gested my own denition; a program for the pro-
cessing of archaeological information, a program
which is based on some fundamental explanative
idea. By transforming the mechanism of the pro-
cessing into a stereotype, theory evolves to become a
method. Components of theory build a set of oppo-
sitions where theory is an intermediate chain. For
instance, object theory metatheory, or, empirical
data theory idea, and so on.
The structure of archaeological theory in its dy-
namics, the way it functions, is rather complex. It is
based both on the theoretical and the empirical basis,
yet they serve only in the testing of theory, as hypoth-
esis. The main path of information processing does
not stem from these two premises but from the funda-
mental explanatory idea that is created in the con-
science of a researcher, and created not by deduction
or induction, but by abduction. Then a system of laws
is derived from it, and using the language of theory,
they feed into an operational apparatus and into a
mathematical apparatus of theory. The result is then
confronted with the facts and old theories etc., and
nally is transformed into conrmed knowledge and
a new method.
The functions of theory are a rare subject of theor-
etical consideration. Yet it deserves some attention
since many functions are usually ignored or wrongly
understood. So the explanative function in archaeol-
ogy, the one commonly considered most important,
is more connected with interpretation than with ex-
planation. The predictive function is closer to the re-
constructive one, for what is prediction when speak-
ing of the past?
The problem of fact has been tackled to a greater
extent in history than in archaeology. Philosophers
and historians discovered the deep structure of scien-
tic fact. In archaeology fact also has a deep struc-
ture it is structured according to the levels that in-
formation passes through going from the past through
archaeological records to the researchers mind. I
have listed 14 levels with lters between them, infor-
mation being changed in each, distorted and losing
some elements, with new additions occurring too.
The cognition that operates means reconversion of
this information occurs.
The general research design the research model,
research procedure, algorithm of the investigation
depends crucially on the understanding of this prob-
lem. It concerns the realisation of the multistage re-
conversion of information and the depth of archae-
ological fact. However, this is the nature of the gen-
eral research design. There are three competing
alternative models of research design: inductive, de-
ductive and problem-oriented, all reliable in archaeol-
ogy. All three can be reduced to the general research
My theoretical views have formed over a long period,
the main points chiey in the 1960s and 1970s, fol-
lowed by some expansion and restructuring later. I
did not aim for sensational innovations, my intention
was to obtain sound and systemic theory suitable for
practical needs and based on solid grounds. I gradu-
ally nd less to add and to change, not implying that
I believe it is perfect, but simply that I have tried to
do what I can.
When I worked out the main points of my theoreti-
cal views in the 1960s New Archaeology was in the
weather. American New Archaeology searched for
laws and archaeological methods to discover real sys-
tems of the past, while the British branch hoped to
build an analytical machine able to process archae-
ological material that would lead to the past reality as
the output of the system. Something of these goals
and convictions entered into my system, and some-
thing grew in opposition to the ambitions of the New
In the 1970s a new trend evolved in the New Ar-
chaeology, marked by the Behavioral Archaeology of
Schiffer, Middle Range Theory of Binford and by
Clarke searching for the path of information from the
past (and to the past) in his innocence trial. In fact
this was Post-Processual Archaeology since the atten-
tion to laws of the cultural and historical process was
replaced by the attention to the formation of archae-
ological sources. Independently of these events but
not independently of German comparison of archae-
ological sources with written sources I developed
along the same direction.
In the 1980s another new trend was once again the
focus of attention, in which three different traditions
129 Metaarchaeology
were oddly linked together, three traditions which
earlier had seemed incompatible: (a) Neo-Kantian
ideas and an attractive indeterminism (in the spirit of
R. Collingwood, G. Daniel and W. Taylor) as well as
contextualism (of the type of Chang) grown up on this
basis; (b) structuralism from C. Levy-Strauss; and (c)
Western university-reared Marxism issuing from G.
Lucacs, G. Markuse a.o. In this new trend, pieced to-
gether from older ones, a reliable academic wing ap-
peared, exemplied by the creation of Ian Hodder
(1982; 1986; 1987 a.o.) and a more journalistic wing, if
not purely declamative, that of Shanks and Tilley
(1987; 1989). Practically the whole of this trend was not
post-processual but post-postprocessual, yet let us not
to be too pedantic. This trend also arose mostly in the
midst of the New Archaeology, this time in its British
branch, as a reaction against its extremities such as
the belief in the possibility of full and absolutely objec-
tive reconstructions, the hopes upon strength and self-
dependence of archaeology and its theory.
The main positive contribution of this trend, I sup-
pose, is the undermining of the exorbitant enthusiasm
of the New Archaeologists for the regular linking of
material-culture elements with social and spiritual ap-
pearances of once living societies. Hodder and his fol-
lowers show that ideational systems and social systems
had and still have considerable freedom of choice
among forms for their expression in material culture
and of course not only in it and this introduces
signicant alterations into the current notions about
regularities of the cultural world.
Yet Hodders post-processual archaeology has some
problems, which have already been highlighted in
several known publications. What seems to me insuf-
ciently discussed is the dismissal of archaeology as a
unied subject with a unied theory, and the loss of
criteria of validation.
Childe said archaeology is one. But for Ian Hodder
this has turned back to front: The idea of a unied
science of archaeology, still held to in North America
and briey glimpsed in Scandinavia and Britain in
the mid 1970s, is now in total disarray in Europe. The
notion that archaeology should have unied theory,
method and aims is widely rejected (Hodder 1991a,
19). Hodder explains this diversication with social-
political enmity in the contemporary world. For post-
processualists archaeology has little means of objec-
tive cognition of the past and the investigation is
doomed to dependence on worldviews and political
views of the investigator, on its class position. This
view is the post-processual extraction from Marxism.
The New Archaeology, especially the American
family, dismissed connections of archaeology with his-
tory. In Britain however, as well as Throughout Eur-
ope, archaeologys closest intellectual ties are with his-
tory (Hodder 1991a, 10). Archaeology here is fun-
damentally historical in emphasis, is strongly Marxsist
in orientation, and is undeniably social in construc-
tion (Hodder 1991b, VIII).
Yet Hodders approach is eclectic; it manages to
join together various, hardly conformable, traditions.
Hodder writes on the self-dependence of archaeology
too, ... Over recent decades ... (archaeology) has in-
creasingly been able to dene itself as a discipline in-
dependent of history and Classical studies (Hodder
1991a, 7). And While it is argued that archaeology
should reassert its European ties with history, it is also
important to see the differences between archaeology
and history. He admits that archaeology is part of
history, but since written sources are created from
some material substance like paper and ink, it can be
added that history is part of archaeology (Hodder
1991c, 12).
Hodder recounts with sympathy Taylors expres-
sion that archaeology is neither history, nor anthro-
pology and David Clarkes statement that archaeol-
ogy is archaeology is archaeology. Yet to Hodder
there is insufcient contextualism in Taylor, while in
Clarke it is absent altogether. As to Hodder himself
archaeology is distinguished from antiquarianism by
the stress on the context of every object (1991c, 190f).
Thus, the subject matter of archaeology according to
post-processualists is things and their context. Archae-
ology is a historically oriented discipline on material
culture, while the latter is understood foremost as a
system of symbols or meanings, which one can read
like a written text. Reading the past, Hodders well-
known book, was rst published in 1986 (1991c). The
problem of the reading of material remains is more
complicated than it seems to post-processualists. Be-
sides this, their determination of the subject matter of
archaeology is realistic, although it has not actually
moved very far from its position of one hundred years
ago, the position of Sophus Mller.
130 Acta Archaeologica
Is archaeology not one? This is refuted by the very
result of the present survey. All theories and methods,
the whole of metaarchaeology, are relevant to all
branches of archaeology. And in viewing the other
aspect of the split, Triggers once astonishing state-
ment (1978, 196f) of the striking likeness between So-
viet and Western archaeological discussions, inferred
from reading my Panorama (Klejn 1977a), today
can surprise nobody. The world is no longer split into
two camps, for the ideological opposition, articial to
science including archaeology, ended in natural -
asco. And archaeology as a discipline, now as well as
then, is one. By the whole span of ideological diver-
gence, by the entire variability of its schools and
trends, it has the same problems and a shared set of
possible solutions.
As to the issue of validation criteria my position must
now be clear to the reader. Both archaeological facts
and conrmed theories are criteria of validation. The
idea is ascertained both from Binfords hypothetico-de-
ductive scheme of validation and from Hodders posi-
tion. Theory cannot be proved by means of data says
Hodder (1986, 16). He rejects the concept of Middle
Range Theory proposed by Binford as it is based on
presumably very regular correspondences between
material culture and social behaviour. The mentality of
the past people and their freedom of choice, he states,
inuenced the specimens created by craftsmen, speci-
mens to be restored in the present, and this introduced
uncertainty in their appearance. Besides, it also de-
pends on howwe restore them, on our theory and prac-
tice of research. In turn, they are determined and con-
ditioned by our own ideology, and our ideas depend on
our social interests and political orientations. So far
Hodder and his followers.
Theory in this understanding is interweaved with
practice, not only with an archaeological but also with
an ideological and political one. No talks on mutual
inuence of facts and theory will save us from the
statement that in the writings of Hodder and his ad-
herents, derived knowledge of archaeology loses its
clear dependence on facts, theory loses its dependence
on proof by facts and begins to reect simply the ideo-
logical position of the archaeologist and of his or her
social milieu. Theory turns into a simple reection of
such a position. Facts as validation criteria are
dropped, while conrmed theoretical knowledge (old
theories) is replaced by politics and political theories.
This is a dangerous directive for archaeology. Here
the followers of western Marxist intellectuals become
united with the zealous and die-hard Mohicans of
Marxist orthodoxy who still remain somewhere in
post-Soviet archaeology. As the saying goes in Russia,
we have studied this already ...
The philosophical and political preferences of an
archaeologist are reected of course in his scholarly
production. Large trends in archaeology are undoubt-
edly conditioned not only by accumulation of facts
and by the logic of scholarly discoveries, but also by
social shifts in the surroundings, which inuence ar-
chaeologists. However, scholarly cognition is dis-
tinguished from other spheres of production by the
presence of its disciplining rules of proof and self-
proof, of control and self-control, by its strict
methods, by means to reveal and eliminate the sub-
jective component and biases, be they individual or
collective ones. Theory is, of course, present in facts,
and biases stick fast in our heads, but that we are
aware of this is exactly the point. We are scholars
exactly because we are aware of this and can cope
therewith. And we are scholars to the extent that we
do cope therewith. The only necessary stipulation is
that for coping therewith we should not need to know
each bias by sight and to be able to see its roots,
which would be interesting in other respects, but we
do need to have a regular ltering mechanism which
screens any bias in general.
During a series of lectures that I gave in Turku (bo),
I wanted to confront my attitude with that of Hod-
ders. Having in mind his Reading the past, under-
stood as reading the monuments, I decided to call
my philological lecture on the Homeric epic Digging
the Text, for I applied typically archaeological
methods (typication, stratication, correlation) to the
philological analysis of the Iliad. I must admit this was
not only in opposition to Hodder but at the same time
in support of him in some respect, since a matching
between the two elds was nevertheless present. Al-
though my attitude in this case was precisely the con-
trary to Hodders.
It may seem from this discussion that my main op-
131 Metaarchaeology
ponent is Ian Hodder. The illusion is produced only
by the time aberration; his works are the closest in
time to my course of lectures that led to the publi-
cation of this book, so I should stress the differences
between us (and especially my criticism of the writings
of Shanks and Tilley). But Hodder, as well as Binford,
or Taylor, or Montelius, are in a broader sense just
as much my collaborators as they are my opponents.
This is all the more, that in my own system of theor-
etical views there are both agreements with ideas of
New archaeology, Behavioral Archaeology, Post-Pro-
cessual Archaeology, etc., as well as there are oppo-
sitions to them.
I reiterate that I am not only in opposition to
Hodder, but simultaneously in support of him, as
some ideas of his are equally important in my own
work. During a session one day I sharply criticised a
young Moldovan archaeologist for a typically post-
processual dissertation he had written, entitled Ar-
chaeology of freedom, and I suspect he had not read
Hodder before. He objected, claiming that his main
ideas were derived from me. After raking back
through my own work, I observed that there were
indeed some points in it that strongly resembled post-
processual archaeology. As early as in my Archae-
ological Typology of 1981, which means I cannot
say that I was inuenced by Hodder at that stage, the
main idea was that it was impossible to crush archae-
ological material into small particles and then, uniting
them with the help of correlation, to obtain reliable
cultural types. The ultimate step would be to arrive
at cultures. I insisted that the route must be just the
reverse: to grasp the sense of cultures rst, then to
reveal types in them, and only then to divide the types
into attributes for checking the whole picture. It was
of course a post-processual idea.
Then I came to the idea of dialectics of principles,
located at the basis of all of archaeology. Most surely
a post-processual idea. First I advanced with this idea
in my First Clarke Memorial Lecture, Cambridge
1993, which I read by invitation from Ian Hodder.
He was very kind in general and looked very happy
with the lecture. Now I realise that the content of my
lecture at the time might well have been to his liking.
Yet the post-processual ideas do not determine the
general outlook of my work. And neither do Structur-
alist or Post-Structuralist ideas, though they also are
present. I have already indicated that I borrowed
some ideas from Marxism but even early on I became
critical in my attitude to its cardinal failings. In this
sense my own position was Post-Marxist. However,
this negative term, like all post- types, indicates
nothing except the time and the departure. It does
not reect my own positive ideas, and neither does
the term Post-Processualism. For Post-Processualism
means that in its armoury one cannot suggest some
remarkable idea that is new and determining. Con-
textualism was no candidate for it had been around
earlier. Post-Processualism searched for a new and de-
termining idea but in vain.
When I wrote Attainments and Problems of So-
viet archaeology (1982, later revised as Phenom-
enon of Soviet Archaeology, 1993), I called my posi-
tion Echeloned Archaeology, with the implication
that the path of archaeological investigation must be
methodically divided into subsequent steps, none of
which can be dropped. I had in mind precocious his-
torical conclusions typical then of some Soviet archae-
ologists. This path of archaeological investigation
however is too general a feature. Now after working
on my Principles of Archaeology I am inclined to
call my system of views Dialectical Archaeology, for
inherent contradictions and paradoxes were the fea-
tures I always tried to reveal, beginning with Archae-
ological Sources, 1978. I know that there are already
some Marxist archaeologists that call their works Dia-
lectical Archaeology, but to me Marxism and Dialec-
tic are different things. Yet the label is usually coined
by adversaries or historiographers. If indeed there
were something to hang the label on!
132 Acta Archaeologica
The Commandments
The aphorisms listed here, named Commandments,
were hanging on the walls as humorist devices for
many years during Klejns seminars in Leningrad-
Petersburg, making long discussions a more joyous
occasion. Participators would copy them down from
the wall in their notebooks and eventually they were
published in 1999 by pupils of Klejns former pupils
in Chisineu in the journal Stratum, without the per-
mission or knowledge of the author. The conict was
settled however, as the publication was made with
good intentions. As the subject was already published,
the author recognised the fact and agreed to its trans-
lation and republication here.
(1) Archaeology is not history armed with a spade,
but a detective story in which the investigator
has arrived at the scene a thousand years late.
History is pronounced later by judges. So you
must decide: to go in for one or for the other.
(2) Do not be similar to the historian, for whom
work is already settled in two steps: collection of
materials and the writing of a text. Between
these two you must take the third the research.
(3) Where there is a law, there is no problem. In
every set of facts do not search for laws, but for
contradiction to law. Behind contradiction a
problem is hidden, behind the problem a dis-
(4) State the question as a question. With nomina-
tive sentences a theme is set but not a problem.
A problem is set only when it is formulated by a
question. The real question begins with who,
what, where, when, whence,
whither, how and why.
(5) The scholarly world is not a team of friends.
What is your discovery is a loss for someone else.
And this someone is usually a prominent and
powerful person. Therefore having made a dis-
covery do not expect universal delight. Be ready
for tough resistance, sudden attacks and a gruel-
ling and lingering war. A scholar needs talent
secondly and courage rst.
(6) Research is a threefold struggle with the ma-
terial, with adversaries and with oneself. The last
part is the hardest.
(7) Every scholar has a right to mistakes if he
makes mistakes correctly.
(8) If an experiment fails once, the experiment is
guilty, if it fails twice, the experimenter is guilty,
if three times, the theory.
(9) Do not check facts with your tongue, but with
your teeth; do not search for something tasty,
search for something true. Indeed what you need
to recognise is not raisins but gold.
(10) Argue skilfully and vigorously, but remember
that one does not believe your skill or your rage
but your facts.
(11) Beware of assumptions. Probability is a ladder
with rolling steps, an escalator. Before you know
it you nd yourself on the next oor. Apparent
means probably, probably means possibly, poss-
ibly means may be and may be not. But whether
it was present or absent, issue from the point that
it was absent rather than present.
(12) Forget the phrase for instance. Examples can
substantiate whatever you want. There is always
a counter-example for every example. An ex-
ample is permissible only when it represents a
(13) Classication is like a piano, do not try to strike
a chord with one nger. You need a sufcient set
of concepts and terms.
(14) Weigh pros and cons on the same scales.
(15) If the complex truth does not consist of simple
truths, it is not a truth.
(16) The scholarly position is not a chair, but re-
doubt. It is only a position when it is attacked
133 Metaarchaeology
and defended. Thereafter it is no longer a posi-
tion but a pose. Do not confuse a position with
a pose.
(17) Do not hunt for a fashionable position. In the
discipline, not every word said last is the last
word in the discipline. Contemporaneity is not
dened by the moment of a work but by the
productivity of methods, completeness of ma-
terials, and cleverness of ideas.
(18) Do not hope for chance and luck. The law of
gravitation was created in Newtons head and
not in the apple.
(19) Do not suppose anything is apparent. Collect
proofs as much as possible, then people will per-
haps understand that your idea did not need
(20) Be brief. However, rstly every one of your
terms should be dened, every concept reasoned,
every sentence grounded, every conclusion
limited, every fact accounted for, proved and
(21) When you substantiate, it is important what, still
more important with what, but most importantly
(22) The crowning proof is the one which the author
has ditched and allowed the reader himself to
(23) The golden middle between two extremes is
only the third extreme. It must be proved espe-
cially well.
(24) Do not argue until you get a frog in the throat.
You cannot out-argue your adversary, no matter
how right you may be. The task of every schol-
arly argument is not to convince your opponent
but to check yourself, to believe in yourself and
to gain supporters.
(25) Even if a gold coin rings on a copper coin, the
ring nevertheless is golden. Inequality is not a
hindrance to fruitful communication.
134 Acta Archaeologica
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