Archaeological Inference and Inductive Confirmation

Author(s): Bruce D. Smith
Source: American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 79, No. 3 (Sep., 1977), pp. 598-617
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the American Anthropological Association
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ArchaeologicalInference
and Inductive Confirmation
BRUCED. SMITH
University of Georgia

The limitations of the hypothetico-deductive (H-D) method of inductive confirmation are described, and an alternate method, the hypothetico-analog (H-A) method
is described in detail. The H-A method can be characterized as a modified and
supplemented form of the simple H-D method, and is proposed as being more
appropriate for archaeological inference. Aspects of the H-A method that are given
particular attention include the establishment of boundary conditions for reference
classes, plausibility considerations, multiple working hypotheses, bridging arguments, and criteria for selecting alternative hypotheses. [scientific method,

archaeologicalinference,hypothetico-analogmethod, inductiveconfirmation]
INTRODUCTION

PREHISTORICARCHAEOLOGYover the last fifteen years has been suffering through
many of the symptoms of paradigmcrisis described by Thomas Kuhn. Such periods of
theoretical retooling are characterized not only by the borrowing of theoretical and
methodological models from other fields in the search for a new paradigm,but also by a
recourseto philosophy (Kuhn 1970:88).
It is specifically to the philosophy of science that a growingnumber of archaeologists
have turned in an attempt to make their research and their results more valid. Most
archaeologists would now acknowledge the value and necessity of employing scientific
methodology in their reasoning.There is still no agreement,however, as to which variation
of the "scientificmethod" should be employed in archaeologicalreasoning.
There are a number of reasons for the present state of confusion concerning the
integration of scientific methodology into archaeologicalreasoning.The most obvious of
these reasons is that until recently formal trainingin either the philosophy of science or the
different variationsof the scientific method was not an integralpart of graduateprogramsin
anthropology.As a result, most archaeologistshave minimalexposureto or understandingof
scientific methodology, even though they may use such terms as hypothesis, confirmation,
etc., in their working vocabularies. It is not surprising, therefore, that relatively few
archaeologists have felt confident enough of their own understanding of scientific
methodology to attempt to alleviate the state of ignoranceof their colleaguesby providing
insight into how any one of the numerous variationsof the scientific method could be
employed in archaeological reasoning. It is also not surprisingthat of the attempts at
interpretationof scientific methodology that have been made by archaeologists,many have
tended to confuse the issue further ratherthan providingneeded clarificationof the role of
scientific methodology in archaeologicalreasoning(Morgan1973:259-260).
Lewis Binford is generally associated with the first attempts at making archaeological
reasoningmore scientific, although one could trace the beginningsof this trend back through
Taylor (1948) to the late 1800s. Binford'sconcern with explanationin archaeologyis clearly
598

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39 on Tue. Rather they have directed their comments toward the numerous more recent attempts to claim that this method of inference must in fact be viewed as part of the CL model of explanation: "The new archaeologistswould have their colleaguesbelievethat the new trends in theory and methodology. In a number of his articles Binford also discusses the need for implementation of a "logicodeductive" (1972:70) or "rigorous hypotheticodeductive" (1972:96) method of confirmation in archaeology.Finally. methods of scientific inference(Morgan1973:271-272. has strongly supported a deductive approach without polemically belaboringthe role of the Hempeliandeductive-nomologicalmodel" (Sabloff. which they have helped to develop in the past decade. and Morgan (1973) replied in detail to the discussion of the CL model presented in the book of Watson. then. I would at this time like to pursue an interestingquestion that may at first seem rather unimportant:Why were these criticismsso long (six years) in coming?The answerto this question in large measure has to do with the fact that Binford was apparentlynot so much concerned with either stressing the importance of employing the CL model or explainingin detail the structureof the HD method as he was with analyzingthe structureof archaeologicalreasoning: "However.they are still recognizedby philosophersas reasonable. I concluded that from a practical-sciencepoint of view. 1965) were the most useful" (Binford 1972:18). and Redman. and Redman 1971) attempted both to describeHempel'sCL model of explanation and to demonstratethe need for its acceptance and employment by archaeologists. Hill. Binford has recently been criticized by Sabloff.Levin (1973) respondedto the article by Fritz and Plog. Beale. in fact. as is his selection of the covering law (CL) model of explanation proposed by Carl Hempel: "After surveying most of the argumentativedebate in the literatureon the philosophy of science. and Kurland 1973:108). judging from the very limited coveragegiven to these topics in his articles. This has interesting implications. Philosophersand other interested individualshave as a result not focused their criticism so much at the method of scientific inference proposed by Binford. the argumentsof Karl [sic] Hempel (see particularlyHempel.if incomplete.The responseby philosophersto these two publicationswas both rapid and devastating.148. conform to the hypothetico-deductive framework. and (3) presenting specific archaeologicalexamples that do not conform either to the CL model of explanation or to the hypothetico-deductivemethod of confirmation(1973:111).Smith ] INFERENCE AND INDUCTIVE CONFIRMATION 599 evident in many of his articles of the 1960s (see the collected essays in Binford 1972). the guiding light of the new archaeology. it is noteworthy that Lewis R. 4 Nov 2014 13:17:59 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Salmon 1976:379). Beale. and Kurland1973:108). M. (2) organizinghis argumentsin terms of a simple hypotheticodeductive structurewhile paying "polemicallip serviceto Hempel'sCL model" (1973:110). Beale. Longacre. Binfordalso presentsa numberof specific examplesof the way in which such a hypothetico-deductive(H-D) method of confirmation could be applied to an archaeologicalsituation. Watson. Two publications in particular (Fritz and Plog 1970. 1972:47-48) as hypotheticodeductiveand demonstratingin detail its relationshipto Hempel'sCL model were apparently of secondary concern.they do not appearto have eliminated all support for the This content downloaded from 201. Binford was primarily interested. which they espouse" (Sabloff. do not. LeBlanc. While these criticismsappearto be justified. The most detailed of the specific examples given by Binford is his discussionof smudgepits and hide smoking(see Binford 1972:33-58). because while Binford's logical method of inference. as well as another complementarymethod appliedto archaeologicalsituationsby Longacre (1970) and Hill (1968). Binford. and Kurlandfor (1) advocatingthe CL model of explanation (1973:108). and others.LeBlanc. and will be discussedin more detail later in this article.81. Labeling the method he outlined (see especially Binford. are inextricably linked to positivist philosophy and the deductive-nomological(CL) model of explanation. in presenting a rigorouslogical method of confirmationthat archaeologistscould employ in their reasoning. While these detailed criticismsby Levin and Morganhave apparently done severe damage to the image of the CL model of explanation within archaeology.

600 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [79.Ratherthey were employing. roughly comparable to a method of inductive inference described in a number of publicationsby WesleySalmon (1963. was focused on the more important and more pressing problem of successful articulation of the H-D method of confirmation to archaeologicalsituations. 1967). not bad. in fact.Whileit is understandablethat many archaeologistsare perhaps not concerned with the issue of archaeologicalreasoning.The true issues need a clearand vigorousairingin print. a philosopher with a research interest in archaeological confirmation. and Redman 1974). (5) The method of logical confirmationemployed by many archaeologistsis. This debate within archaeology in the early 1970s over the relative merits of the CL model of explanation unfortunatelytended to divertattention from an articleby JamesHill (1972) which presenteda comprehensivedescriptionof the hypothetico-deductivemethod of confirmation as well as providing a discussion of how it could be employed in archaeologicalreasoning. I strongly agree with Sabloff. This is because the H-D method is an oversimplified and incomplete account of scientific reasoning. a more sophisticatedmethod of inductiveinference. and Kurland(1973:118) that: "It cannot be ignoredby a thinking member of the profession.a number of logical points raised by M. even if they think that they do. surprising. 4 Nov 2014 13:17:59 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .39 on Tue. Thus in 1976 many archaeologists find themselves in a situation that is puzzling. which is concerned specifically with confirmationin archaeology. Watson.and at the same time encouraging. archaeologistscould at least employ the hypotheticodeductive method of confirmationin their reasoning.in an admittedlyincomplete way. MerrileeSalmon begins the final paragraphof her 1975 articlewith this statement: "It is my hope in presentingsome of these issues and suggestingalternativemodels. For a few years after the appearanceof Hill's 1972 article it appeared that even if the issue of the identity of an appropriatemodel of explanation in archaeology remained unresolved. they find that the H-D method is not only inductive rather than deductive. and is inadequate for employment in archaeologicalinference. or do not feel knowledgeableenough on the subject to offer an opinion. ratherthan addressing the issue of explanation in archaeology.81.These points are elaborated upon in a short initial section of this article.It is important to stress that Hill's article. LeBlanc. is good. (2) Archaeologistsdo not employ the H-D method in their reasoning." In the present article. Salmon will be pursued. Beale. or perhaps are not too excited about sticking their heads up out of the trench. The following much longer section will be This content downloaded from 201. (3) The fact that archaeologistsdo not employ the H-D method in their reasoning. the argument revolves around the place of scientific models in archaeologicalresearch. includingthe following: (1) The hypothetico-deductivemethod is an inductiveratherthan a deductivemethod of confirmation(1976: 377). Although ratherbrief. (4) The inductive method of logical confirmationemployed by many archaeologistsis far more sophisticatedthan the H-D method. that fruitful discussionsof confirmation and explanationin archaeologywill ensue" (1975:464).even if they believe and state that they do (1975:464. Salmon's articles contain a number of very important points. 1977 positivist philosophy of Carl Hempel (see Watson 1974. with which it is often confused. She has indeed presenteda numberof pertinentobservationsand suggestionsconcerningarchaeological confirmationthat deserveserious considerationby all interested archaeologists.148. This situation changed abruptly with the publication of two short articles in 1975 and 1976 by Merrilee Salmon.Although they have thought of themselvesas employing an impressivelydeductive method of logical confirmation(H-D). 1976:378). but further that they were neveractually employing the H-D method in their reasoning.

in the hypothetico-deductivemethod.Thus. a deductive type of argumentis one in which the conclusion must logically follow from the premises:"If all of the premisesare true. In this final step of the hypothetico-deductive method. but differs from it in a number of important ways: "It seems undeniable that science uses a type of inference at least loosely akin to the hypothetico-deductivemethod" (W. If the observationalpredictionsare true. The hypothetico-deductivemethod begins with the formulationof a hypothesis. make it easier for many archaeologists to accept the otherwise disturbing fact that they have not been employing the hypothetico-deductive method of confirmation. consisting of a hypothesis and initial conditions as premises and a test implicationas conclusion must. see also W. Salmon (1963:76-88) and Copi (1972:422-468). Salmon 1967:18-20.it will be referredto as the Hypothetico-Analog(H-A) method of inductiveconfirmation. At the same time it will.and any necessaryinitial conditions are stated. which are often termed test implicationsor observational predictions. Salmon 1976:377). This argument.Salmon 1967:18). The type of inference that many archaeologists. the conclusion must be true" (W. observational predictions and the hypothesis once again comprise an argument. 4 Nov 2014 13:17:59 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . however.148. Salmon and suggested to archaeologistsby M. The loss will not seem so serious if the hypothetico-deductive method is only inductiveafter all (assumingit is possible to lose somethingyou only thought you had). constitute a logical argument.The fact that the hypotheticodeductive method is not a deductive form of confirmation may be disconcertingto any archaeologistswho hope to prove once and for all the absolute truth of their hypotheses.when combinedwith the hypothesis and any stated initial conditions. differencebetween the H-D method and the method of confirmationemployed in archaeologicalinferencehas to do with the way in This content downloaded from 201.This argumentof confirmationcan be seen to be inductive rather than deductive for the simple reason that even if all of the premises (observational predictions) of the argument are demonstratedto be true.Salmon 1963:77). but not the most important. for it is logically possible for the implications to be true while the hypothesis is false" (M. althoughthe H-Dmethod employs deductive logic in one step. the next step in the H-D method involves deducinglogical consequencesfrom the hypothesis. A more comprehensivetreatmentof the H-D method can be found in W.because it also includesan inductiveargument. Many of the people who believe the H-D method to be thoroughlydeductivein characterwould be correctif the method consisted only of deducingtest implicationsfrom a hypothesis.39 on Tue. This involves comparingthe deduced observationalpredictionswith reality to see if in fact they are true.in orderthat its logical consequencescan be examined and comparedwith facts that can be ascertainedby observation"(W. To facilitate discussion of this generalmethod as it specificallyapplies to archaeologicalinference. THE HYPOTHETICO-DEDUCTIVE METHODOF INDUCTIVECONFIRMATION The H-D method of confirmation will be briefly described prior to presentinga more detailed discussionof some of its inherent limitations. it must be viewed in total as an inductive method of confirmation. C. The most obvious. Salmon 1963:14.but the hypothesis is now the conclusion and the observationalpredictionsare the premises. which can be defined as a statement that "is taken as a premise. But the H-D method includes a final step of confirmation.81. Once the hypothesis has been formulated. the hypothesis is confirmedto some extent. the conclusion (hypothesis) might still be false: "To arguethat true implicationsconfirm a hypothesis is to argue inductively.Smith ] INFERENCE AND INDUCTIVE CONFIRMATION 601 concerned with the method of inductive confirmation presented by W. see also M.as well as most of the membersof the larger scientific community. be a deductive rather than an inductive type of argument. employ resembles the H-D method. 108-110). Salmon as an alternativeto the H-D method. Such consequences. Salmon 1976:377.By definition. This point will be discussedin greaterdetail later in this article.

the predictedpatternof cultural debris must be observedduringexcavation.It is apparentthat not only is the H-D method incorrectly characterizedas being a deductive form of logical inference. be tested indirectly. however. that if the hypotheses are true then it is highly probable that the "implication" is true. or is it the result of any one of a numberof other humanactivity patterns?" If one were to employ the H-D method strictly. all of the logically possiblehypotheses that This content downloaded from 201. it will be recognized as a familiar problem by many archaeologists:"Whatare the chances that a specific pattern of cultural debrisis the result of the specific causativehumanactivity I have hypothesized. Rarely if ever are such arguments deductive in form.But one cannot argueotherwiseand still be employing the hypothetico-deductive method of confirmation. The "implication"was not deduced from the hypotheses. Salmonstates: . poor preservation.Whilethe method presented is incorrectly identified as the H-D method. This is in large part due to the inherent nature of archaeologicalinference. but was inferredwith high probabilityon the basisof a correct inductiveargument[1976:378]. 1977 which observationalpredictions are shown to follow logically from hypotheses. Similarly:"Whilethey [test implications] are presumedto be likely consequencesof a given hypothesis. W.148. The observational predictions of such hypotheses about human behavior take the form of statements concerning predicted patterning of cultural debris in archaeologicalsites. however..81."We can say. This statement by Hill is especially interestingbecause throughouthis paper he refers to the method being presentedas being deductive... The first seriouslimitation of the H-D method has to do with the relationshipbetween an observationalprediction and the variety of alternativehypotheses that could account for it. we can now consider a number of other. but rarely if ever could it be demonstratedthat such an observationalprediction must be true if the hypothesis is true.or poor recovery of cultural debris.39 on Tue. but that the method Hill presents is not. These differences can most accurately be viewed as representingserious limitations of the H-D method. Few archaeologistswould arguethat if their hypothesis concerningprehistorichumanbehavioris correct.602 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [79. They can. 4 Nov 2014 13:17:59 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . It is logically impossible to deduce such observationalpredictionsbecause of the problemsof disturbance..and more specifically being the hypothetico-deductivemethod of confirmation. They are not deducedfrom a hypothesis in the sense that there is a strict formal logical connection between the hypothesis and its test implication" (Hill 1972:83-84). the point here is a logical one-that there is no deductiverelation of the sort required by the H-D method between the hypotheses and the "implication. the hypothetico-deductive method. Hypotheses formulatedin archaeologicalinference invariablyhave to do with various aspects of prehistorichuman behavior (Hill 1972:101) and as a result cannot be tested directly.. it is none the less a solid method of inductive confirmation. Probablythe most important point to be made concerningthese inconsistenciesin Hill's paper is that they can to a greatextent be remediedby changinga few terms. and that they in no way detract from the substance of his presentation. In discussing an archaeologicalhypothesis concerninghumanbehaviorM. in fact. more important differencesbetween the H-D method and the method of inductive confirmation actually employed by many archaeologists. Salmon poses this problem of unlimited alternativehypotheses in the following way: "Whatare the chances that the deduced prediction would be true if the hypothesis we are testing is false and some other hypothesis is true? The same question may be reformulated: Are there other hypotheses which would be strongly confirmed by the same outcome?" (1963:82). The truth of an observational prediction (conclusion) is often arguedto be highly probableif an archaeologicalhypothesis (premise) is true. they do not follow of necessity from it. When this question is rephrasedin terms of archaeologicalinference. Having demonstrated that archaeologistsare not in fact employing the H-D method because their observational predictions are not deduced from hypotheses.

Salmon further suggests calling such observational predictionsor test implications"inductiveimplications"(1976: 378). One of the most obvious differences between the H-D and the H-A method is that in the latter method observationalpredictionsdo not have to be deduced from a hypothesis and initial conditions. Whilethe H-A method can be viewed as an expansion and refinement of the more generalmodel describedby W. either in terms of those hypotheses considered as possible candidatesfor the same specific observationalpredictions. with argumentby analogy playingan importantrole. The whole question of how it might be logically possible to limit the numberof possible hypotheses to be considered as being responsiblefor a specific single observational This content downloaded from 201. Salmon 1967:115-116 ].Salmon or M. The hypothetico-deductive method is therefore. The term hypothetico-analoghas been applied to the method to be discussed simply to facilitate reference to the method and to indicate that it is inductivein form. or it could be said that they are extending or supplementingthe H-D method. Somethingmust be done to improveit [W.. More importantly. Salmon as other archaeologists have managedto do to the work of CarlHempel.althoughit is to be hoped that this will not be the case.Salmon in an attempt to make it specifically applicable to archaeologicalproblems. An observationalprediction in the H-A method is "inferred with high probability" (M. and therefore are filling this logical gap in the H-D method.. This problemtoo will be discussedin the next section of this article. The ways in which archaeologists narrow the range of hypotheses to be considered for any observational prediction or set of observationalpredictions will be discussedin the next section of this article.. hopelessly inconclusive for determining the acceptability of scientific hypotheses on the basis of empirical data. Salmon 1976:378). it is also clearthat the method that they do employ is in fact logically superiorto the H-D method. All of these hypotheses are equally adequate to the availabledata from the standpoint of the pure hypothetico-deductive framework.Salmon (1967. 1973) and which has recently been brieflydescribedas being applicableto archaeologicalsituations by M. Salmonnor does it ensure by association the logical correctnessof the H-A model. the H-A model addresses the problem of unlimited alternative hypotheses. Obviously archaeologistsdo. or in terms of alternativehypothesis for different sets of observationalpredictions being tested at a later point in the confirmationprocess. in fact. THE HYPOTHETICO-ANALOG METHODOF INDUCTIVECONFIRMATION It should initially be emphasized that the method of confirmation referredto in this article as the hypothetico-analog (H-A) method is best characterized as a variety of supplemented H-D method that is similar in form to the generalmethod of confirmation presentedby W. Each is confirmed in precisely the same manner by the same evidence.81. 4 Nov 2014 13:17:59 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .39 on Tue. Salmon (1976). It is possiblethat this attempt will do as much damageto the generalmethod describedby W.Smith ] INFERENCE AND INDUCTIVE CONFIRMATION 603 could have been used to deduce the observationalprediction would have to be considered because the H-D method providesno guidelinesfor reducingthe class of all logical possible hypotheses to a smallergroupof more likely hypotheses: The basic trouble with the hypothetico-deductiveinference in that it always leaves us with an embarrassingsuperabundanceof hypotheses. this neither entails the endorsementof the attempt by either W.148. The second shortcomingor limitation of the H-D method is that it does not provideany clear set of universallyapplicableguidelinesor proceduresfor choosing between alternative hypotheses. initially reduce the number of alternativehypotheses they are going to consider. Whileit is clear that those archaeologistswho do employ scientific methodologyin their reasoningdo not employ the hypothetico-deductivemethod. and avoidsmany of its shortcomings.

and providesan additionalexampleto makeher point. M. or first thinking of a hypothesis. Salmon does not attempt any detailed discussionof plausibilityconsiderationsas they apply to archaeological inference. [Longacredoes in fact mention alternativehypotheses. that scientists. so no other hypothesis is so strongly confirmedby the data [1976:378-379. 1968. including archaeologists. 4 Nov 2014 13:17:59 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .39 on Tue. as will be seen shortly. Salmon goes on to say that plausibilityconsiderationsare not alwaysso easily resolved as in the Longacreexample. there are also practicaldifficulties that must be dealt with.. that is. she does not provide any detailed discussion of how plausibility considerationsshould be carriedout. see 1970:34] No other hypothesis which fits the data uncovered by Longacre has as high prior probability as his hypothesis.they are an indispensablepart of it" (W. The alternativehypotheses which could account for the observedphenomena were so initially implausiblethat they were not even mentioned. but it is also the most crucialstep involvedin the H-A method of archaeologicalinference. Salmon states the following: An important feature of Longacre'sexample is that his hypothesis was a plausibleone. it had significant prior probability. Salmon describesthis step as involving"plausibility considerations"(1967:114). but initially distinguish between those that are reasonableand those that are not. Whilesome scientists and philosopherswould argue that there is no mechanismfor thinkingup hypotheses-that hypothesis formulationis a psychologicalratherthan a logical process-others think it may be possibleto develop such methods (Simon 1973). Such plausibilityconsiderationsare: "not only admissableinto the logic of justification. This step of plausibilityconsiderationof alternativehypotheses is. archaeologists. Salmon 1967:118). 1970) involving the proposed causal link between a hypothesized pattern of matrilocal residence and an inductively inferred observational prediction of nonrandom (aggregated) distribution of ceramic style elements. then. In discussing the now well known case study by William Longacre (1963. are used to determine the prior probability of an hypothesis . Why weren't any other hypotheses with the same implications considered here?. however. if not all. and prior to the decision of whether the hypothesis should be seriously entertained and tested: "At this stage we are trying to determine whether the hypothesis deservesto be seriously entertainedand tested or whetherir should be cast aside without further ceremony" (1967:113). it is not surprisingthat M. Although M. Salmon arguesthat there is a step in the logical sequence of confirminghypotheses that comes after discovery.81. W.and clearlynecessitatescarefulconsideration. do not consider all logically possible hypotheses.148. .The priorprobabilityof a hypothesismay be taken as a measureof its likelihood. It is at the same time clear.The most obvious reason will be recognized by many. Not only are a number of the theoretical issues concerning plausibility considerations being actively debated.and has to do with the basis on which archaeologistsevaluate propositions concerningprehistorichuman behaviorthat are put forth by other membersof the profession.. emphasisin original].. not only an essentialpart of the logic of confirmation.including ethnographic analogies. Plausibility Considerations Perhaps the first point that should be made clear in consideringthe process by which scientists in general and archaeologists in particular assess the relative plausibility of alternative hypotheses is that it is not an area of logically solid ground. The detailed discussion of plausibility considerations that will be presented below is clearly necessary for a number of reasons. It has alreadybeen noted that for any specific observationalpredictionor set This content downloaded from 201. In light of these inherent theoretical and practical difficulties. 1977 prediction or set of observationalpredictionshas been an issue of much debate within the philosophy of science for a number of years. Variouskinds of backgroundinformation. independentof any testing of it throughcheckingits deductive or inductive implications.AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST 604 [79.

The procedure outlined and described in detail by Lewis Binford in the article "SmudgePits and Hide Smoking: The Use of Analogy in ArchaeologicalReasoning"(1967.148. will in particularbe seen to be in very close agreementwith the more generallogical model.. It is clear. would serve to confirm any one of the alternativehypotheses.how does one judge the relative plausibilityof the hypothesis that was. Salmon (1967:113-131). and they involve direct consideration of whether the hypothesis is of a type likely to be successful" (W. archaeologicalinference will not be a logically complete method of inductiveconfirmation.a numberof points need to be reiterated. First. Unlessthis is done. and at the same time refer to the specific application of plausibility considerationto archaeologicalsituationsby severalarchaeologists. how can other archaeologistsassess the reasonablenessor correctnessof the determination?How could one know if the archaeologist. It has already been established that such plausibility considerationsare an integral part of the confirmation process. Such means must be considerablymore rigorousthan evaluating an author's propositions by judging his professionalcompetence or intellectual honesty" (1972:90). Salmon. be the most appropriateto employ in all archaeologicalsituations. plausibilityconsiderationsare logically separatefrom and prior to the actual testing of a hypothesis: "Plausibilityargumentsembody considerationsrelevant to the evaluation of prior probabilities. and does not provide any discussion of the inherent theoretical problems involved. Before going further with a discussionof plausibilityconsiderations. This content downloaded from 201. In terms of archaeologicalinference this could be rephrased:There is an abundance of logically possible (not necessarily probable) human activity patterns that would result in archaeologicallyidentical patterns of cultural debris.I think it will become clear as the discussion progressesthat some archaeologistsemploy a method of plausibility considerationthat is very comparableto the abstractdescriptionprovidedby W.Hypotheses must not only be subjected to testing once formally stated. that this demand for explicit objectivityshould be extended to include plausibility considerations. I think. Binford 1972:52-58). 4 Nov 2014 13:17:59 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . he does. valid argumentsmust be tested to determine their accuracy"(Binford 1972:57). In describingthe plausibilityconsiderationprocessI outline the generalmethod described by W.They are logically prior to the confirmatorydata emerging from the H-D schema. Although Binforddoes not employ the same terminology as W. and different variationsof plausibilityconsiderationsin archaeologicalinferencewill thereforealso be discussed. reprinted1972:33-51. Invalid arguments may be dismissed. If an archaeologist simply states a formal hypothesis rather than presenting alternativehypotheses and explicitly stating the procedureby which they were rejected as being less plausible. Similarly: "This particular situation demonstrates the necessity of examining the validity of arguments presentedbefore consideringthem seriously and proceedingto the testing of their accuracy.Smith ] INFERENCE AND INDUCTIVE CONFIRMATION 605 of related observationalpredictions there is an abundanceof logically possible alternative hypotheses. if subsequently shown to be true. selected a hypothesis for subsequent testing that was not in fact the most plausiblechoice? The only criteria that could be employed in such a situation would be those of competence and intellectual honesty of the author. selected for formal statement and testing? If the procedure by which an archaeologistdeterminesthe prior probability of a hypothesis is not explicitly stated. see also. The observational predictions. The decision as to which of these equally confirmablealternative hypotheses concerninga causalhuman behaviorpatternwill actually be formallystated (and perhaps confirmed) is reached through plausibility considerations. in fact. Consider the following statement by Lewis Binford: ".81. Salmon 1967:118). providea logically sophisticatedexample of plausibilityconsiderationin archaeologicalinference. Binford'smethod would riot.. The main point of our argumentis that independent means of testing propositions about the past must be developed.39 on Tue. but the plausibilityconsiderationsthat resultedin the selection of the hypothesis (or hypotheses) to be tested must be explicitly stated. however. either by design or through ignorance. in fact. Salmon.

subsistence. In attempting to define a suitable reference class. Choosing a reference class is referredto as establishing boundary conditions by Ascher: "In effect. The first step in plausibility consideration involves defining the attribute class to be considered. or only some? One possible way to approachthis problemis to include all such similarethnographically documented populations within the reference class.restrictedto a considerationof ethnographicsituations in determiningthe prior probabilityof hypotheses.. the amount of statisticalevidence available.606 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [79. of course. M.Archaeologistsare not. the new analogy consists of boundary conditions for the choice of suitable analogs" (1961:319). The second. Once partitioning of the reference class has been accomplished.then. plausibility considerations involve analysis of prior documented situations where either or both the observational prediction(s) (patterns of cultural debris) and alternative causative hypotheses (patterns of human behavior)might have occurred. and which are not going to be considered. As a general rule archaeologistshave tended to employ the suggested criteria of similarity of environmentand similarity of subsistence adaptationin defining the boundariesof a referenceclass: "In summary. no clear-cut set of rules for defining the boundariesof a reference class: "The choice of a reference class is an extremely practicalaffair. the cost involved in getting more data. however. 1977 Secondly. In an archaeologicalcontext choosing a referenceclass would involve decidingwhich ethnographic situations are going to be consideredin assessingpriorprobabilityof alternativehypotheses. however.. The way in which the reference class is partitioned would vary..81. There is. while M. it does not provide an answer to the question: Should all ethnographic descriptions of human populations that have a similar subsistence pattern and are located within a similar environmental situation as the prehistoricpopulationin question be includedin the referenceclass. archaeologistsare almost invariably confronted with the twin problems of insufficient data and possibly biaseddata. we want our reference class to contain other relevantcases. cultural.the subgroupthat is most similarto the prehistorichumanpopulationin question could be surveyed to assess the prior probability (relative plausibility) that This content downloaded from 201. for if we do we will not have enough evidenceupon which to base our inference.Salmon 1967:90-91) and in an archaeologicalcontext consists of explicitly defining the alternativebehaviorpatternsand the pattern of cultural debristhat are under consideration(Binford1972:37-38. depending upon the type of human behaviorcultural debris relationship being considered.This is a simple matter (W. as will be seen later in this article.Thus we do not want to try to refer single cases to classes that are too narrow. Salmon clearly expresses the problems confronting archaeologistswho are attempting to establishan appropriatereferenceclass: .39 on Tue. Salmon 1967:92). At the same time. or environmentalcriteria (see W. not irrelevantones [1967:91].In an archaeologicalcontext this assessmentof the priorprobabilityof hypothesizedrelationships of human activity to cultural debris usually involves consideration of documented ethnographic and ethnohistoric situations where the behavior pattern and/or pattern of cultural debris is described. Salmon 1967:91-92. While this is certainly good advice. Salmon 1975:460-461). In order to ascertain the probability we must have enough instances to be able to make an inductive generalization. 4 Nov 2014 13:17:59 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . in which we must balance a number of factors such as the size of the class." (W. . W. 45).148. and then partition the reference class into subgroupson the basis of geographical. and much more difficult step involves the choice of a reference class. This often forces archaeologiststo define a reference class that is larger than appropriatein that it contains irrelevantcases. the difficulty in effecting a relevant subdivision. Salmon employs the term "domain of applicability"(1975:461) to refer to a referenceclass. the canon is: seek analogies in cultures which manipulatesimilar environmentsin similarways" (Ascher 1961:319).

such plausibilityconsiderationsin archaeologicalinference invariablytake the form of argumentby analogy (Binford 1967). Salmon 1967:76). the Plains. Argument by analogy is familiar to most people because it plays an important role in most everyday reasoning. Thirdly. Thus Longacre was able to restrict his plausibility consideration to a small subgroup. including ethnographic descriptions from the Great Lakes region. If in the initial subgroup there were accurate. 53-55). the WesternPueblos (Longacre 1970:28). Binford. on the other hand. In archaeological plausibility considerations the situations to be comparedconsist of the archaeologicalsituation on the one hand.The numberof subgroupsthat would be eventually considered would depend both upon the quality of the ethnographicdescriptionsavailable within each subgroup. detailed descriptions of the cultural debris and the causal behaviorpattern was always the same.39 on Tue. and the alternative hypotheses (causal patterns of human behavior) are the unknown but inferredattribute. and Asch 1972. This content downloaded from 201. The archaeologicalobservationalpredictions (specific statements concerningpatterns of cultural debris) are the shared attributes that will be compared with reference class situations.and the apparentlack of more than one hypothesis with nonnegligibleprior probability. and to know the criteria establishedfor determiningthe strengthof such arguments.the historical-culturalcontinuity in the area.and the relativedifficulty encounteredin decidingbetween alternative hypotheses.81. it would not appearto be necessaryto consider any other subgroups.Throughsuch an understanding. Smith 1975) are being successfully employed in determining the prior probability of alternative hypotheses.If. see also Binford1972:34-36). 4 Nov 2014 13:17:59 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Although W. Geographicreference classes (G. Similar guidelines to the ones just put forth for ethnographic referenceclassesalso apply to such nonethnographicreferenceclasses(Smith 1976a). archaeological arguments by analogy can be improved. The archaeologist.in attemptingto determinethe prior probabilityof alternativeinferred behavior patterns should employ the seven nonquantitativecriterialisted below. which are describedin greaterdetail in Copi (1972:358-362. Salmon outlines an all-inclusiveclassification of considerations that can serve as a basis for plausibilityjudgments(1967:125-130). Since arguments by analogy play such an important role in plausibility judgments. data were lacking. on the other hand. and on the other hand all of the ethnographicsituationsincludedin the reference class. Johnson 1972. Ford.Smith ] INFERENCE AND INDUCTIVE CONFIRMATION 607 alternative behavior patterns would have resulted in the pattern of cultural debris under consideration. it is obviously important to understand their general structure. and the southeast United States (Binford 1972:42-44.furthersubgroups would have to be considered. Before turning to a consideration of how the relative prior probability of alternative hypotheses is actually determined.they will probably agree in yet other respects" (Neilson 1956:94).there is an increasingeffort by archaeologiststo recognizeand employ reference classes other than ethnographicones. two final points should be made concerningreference classes.148. archaeologistsshould explicitly define the referenceclassesthey are employing in plausibility considerations. or there was more than one hypothesis with nonnegligiblepriorprobability. W. then subgroupswith a lesser degree of similarity could be considered.If considerationof this initial highly similarsubgroupdid not yield sufficient data to ascertainthe priorprobabilityof alternativehypotheses.It can be briefly defined as: "A form of inference in which it is reasonedthat if two or more things agreewith one anotherin one or more respects. considereda much larger percentage of the cases in the total possible reference class. and the overall archaeological reasoningprocesscan be strengthened. Pearson1976) as well as reference classes concerning plant and animal populations (Asch. of the total possible referenceclass becauseof the excellent quality of the ethnographicinformation.Secondly. First. archaeologistsshould considerall of the available ethnographiccases included within those referenceclasses ratherthan selecting only some cases for comparison(requirementof total evidence.

through consideration of the reference class situations. however. The extent to which these criteria have to be employed will.such differencesmay allow a selection of one of the alternativehypotheses duringtesting. etc. for example. as I previously suggested(Binford. alternativehypothesized causal behaviorpatterns with nonnegligible prior probability are not similar. of course. in many cases. This has allowed longer and more detailed observationalprediction sets to be developed.148. roastingpits. It is important to rememberthat the function of plausibilityconsiderationsis not necessarily to select the single hypothesis with the highest prior probabilityfor formal statement and testing. it is important to attempt to ascertain. 4 Nov 2014 13:17:59 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .In this case the more generalinclusiveproposition would be that the observed archaeologicalfeatures were smudge pits as distinct from lightingfires.one solution is to incorporateboth into a single.they should be formally stated and subjectedto testing.. Improved recovery techniques such as flotation (Struever1968) have greatly increasedthe amount and the variety of data being recovered from archaeologicalcontexts. 1977 (1) The numberof situationsshown to sharethe attributesin question. there is obviously no need to apply all of the seven criteria listed above. (3) The numberof sharedattributes.39 on Tue.608 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [79. one may then be forced. There has also been increased interest in attempting to extract more information from the material remainsthemselves(Semenov 1964. (6) The specificity of inferredattributes. Archaeologistswould. Salmon is referringto when she discussesemploying ethnographiccases from dissimilar subgroupsof the referenceclass (1975:461). has resulted in a much greater ability on the part of archaeologiststo recognize and describe accurately the existing patterning of cultural debris in archaeologicalsituations. allowing longer and more detailed observationalprediction sets to be developed for archaeological situations. but ratherto reject those hypotheses with low prior probability.This is what M. 1967 p. Binford'sargumentconcerningsmudgepits and hide smoking (1967). This increased accuracy in recovery and recording. (4) The numberof inferredattributes. if there are differencesamong the patterns of cultural debris caused by each humanactivity.If more than one alternativehypothesis is formally stated for testing. The patterning of material remains in archaeologicalcontexts is being observed and analyzed with much greater accuracy and in much greater detail now than formerly.less specific hypothesis priorto testing: . (5) The significanceof the sharedattributes. combined with the development of sophisticated analytical techniques. The situation becomes more difficult.] If. If observed. 8). if more than one hypothesisis shown to have nonnegligible prior probability. (2) The dissimilarityof the situations shown to share the attributes. to offer a more generaland inclusiveproposition. There has also been a correspondingincreasein the accuracyof the recordingand describing of the context of material remains.81.Archaeologistsare attemptingto deal with this problemin a numberof ways.It is a much more common situation for an ethnographic reference class to yield very little. This content downloaded from 201. on the other hand. [Binford 1972:57. would be a strongerargumentif it were not so specific as to the exact function of the pit (Munson1969). information concerning human behavior-culturaldebris relationships. If in such a situation the competing hypothesized human behaviorpatterns with nonnegligibleprior probabilityare similar. be pleased to be confronted with the problem of more than one hypothesis with nonnegligibleprior probability. depend upon the relative prior probabilitiesof variousalternativehypotheses that emerge duringplausibility consideration.If only one of the hypothesizedcausalbehaviorpatternsis even mentionedin the reference class situations. (7) The numberof points of differencebetween situations.. Wilmsen1970). if any.

as well as critically analyzing the numerous ways in which archaeologists are prone to misinterpretpatternedmaterialremains. Cranstone 1971. Million1975.the analog situations. Heider 1967. with a few exceptions. 4 Nov 2014 13:17:59 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . the H-A method should be carried out within a largerproblem oriented framework.Alternativehypotheses that were considered but rejected due to low priorprobabilityshould also be listed at this point. Archaeologistshave also been literally taking things into their own hands and carryingout imitative experiments with material objects in a manner designedto simulate past human activity patterns(Ascher 1961. Formulation of Alternative Hypotheses Once hypotheses with high prior probability are explicitly stated. on the other hand. and has been explicitly stated prior to being tested. This content downloaded from 201. incidentally. the format of the H-Dmethod. All of these efforts are oriented toward providingmore detailed and more accurate attribute lists for specific humanbehavior-culturaldebrisanalogsituations. and the prior probabilityof alternative hypothesized causal behavior patterns for a specific observational prediction or set of observationalpredictionshas been determined. If the archaeologist is primarily interestedin pursuingthe strengthor reliabilityof the hypothesizedhumanbehavior-cultural debris relationship(s). If. At this point in the employmentof the hypothetico-analogmethod. Investigations of analog situations have not.the next step in the H-A method is to state explicitly those hypotheses with nonnegligiblepriorprobability. Numerousindividualshave oriented their researchtoward detailed study and analysis of the cause and effect relationshipsexisting between human behavior and patterned material remains in a great variety of specific. 1971. Once plausibility considerationsare completed. contemporary ethnographic analog situations (Bonnichsen 1973. David 1971. the H-A method follows. Cross-culturalsurveys employing published ethnographicreports are also being carried out to determinewhat kinds of relationshipsof human behaviorto materialremainscan be observed in a large number of diverseethnographicanalog situations (Naroll 1962. Friedrich 1970. Archaeologists are at the same time working on strengthening the other side of plausibility considerations. This concern with accuracy and detailed descriptionsstems from the realization that the ability to identify and to differentiate between the cultural debris patterns produced by alternativehypothesized behaviorpatterns depends to a greatextent upon the length and quality of sharedattributelists for archaeologicalsituations. subsequent testing of the hypothesis (hypotheses) would involve either consideringa different set of relevantattributeswithin the originalreferenceclass. however.148. A recent article by Murdock and Provost (1973). Gould 1968. North 1975.The familiarstatement that archaeologymust be problem oriented simply means that any researchproject should be oriented toward providinganswersto a number of explicitly stated generalproblemsor researchquestions. White and Thomas 1972). been restricted to the study of present day human populations or to the analysis of published ethnographic reports. the archaeologistis consideringhuman behavior-culturaldebris relationships within the context of an archaeological research project. or consulting either a previously unconsidered subset of the original reference class or an entirely new referenceclass. Spears1975). it is to be hoped that at least one (and perhaps more) hypothesized causal human activity pattern(s) has been found to have high prior probabilityof causing a specific set of observationalpredictions.81. employing the originalattribute class (Binford 1972:46).39 on Tue. Ember 1973). Longacreand Ayres 1968. gives an excellent example of partitioningof an ethnographicreferenceclass into subgroups.Smith ] INFERENCE AND INDUCTIVE CONFIRMATION 609 All of these efforts have been directed toward providing more accurate and more complete detailed descriptions of patterned material remains observed in archaeological contexts.

4 Nov 2014 13:17:59 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Nor does formulationof multiple working hypotheses assure a reasonable solution to the problem area being considered. For any defined problem area it is advisable. I delimited a series of five general problem areas.148. Formulatingmultiple working hypotheses does not. for a number of reasons. There is no single.tentative solutions to this problem were developedas a result of separateplausibilityconsiderationsand were then explicitly stated: H1: The site was occupied throughoutthe annualcycle. but only a choice as to which of a numberof tentativesolutions is supported by the data availableat any one time: This observed reality can be describedby models which are neither more or less "true" nor more or less "real. with one of these being seasonality of occupation of the site (Smith 1976b). Additional problem areas may be identified as the researchprogresses. This content downloaded from 201.By formulatinga seriesof alternative"multipleworkinghypotheses"ratherthan workingwith a single hypothesis.tentative solutions seems most correct (Hill 1972:83). Workingwith a number of conflicting alternate hypotheses is also clearly necessarybecause in archaeologicalreasoningthe issue is not and can not be one of establishingor confirmingthe strength of a single hypothesis. Observational Predictions and Bridging Arguments Once a series of alternativehypotheses for a designatedproblemareahas been explicitly stated. Once general problem areasand relevanthypotheses are formulated.more inclusivestatement that incorporatesa varietyof more specific hypotheses concerningthe seasonalityof occupationof the site.duringthe fall and winter.610 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [79. H3: The site was occupied seasonally. It is important to note that each of the hypotheses would result in quite different sets of observationalpredictions (these three sets of conflicting observationalpredictions will be outlined below). the researcheris much less likely to form bonds of intellectual affection that would compromise his or her ability to measure the relative value of the tentative solutions objectively (Chamberlain1965).duringthe springand summer." but are simply abstractionswhich account for the observed phenomena more or less satisfactorily in the minds of one or more observers[Bayard 1969:382]. for example. 1977 Priorto the excavation of a small Middle Mississippisite duringthe summerof 1974. These sets of observationalpredictionswould consist of the attribute classes defined at the beginningof each plausibilityconsideration. It is always possible that the availabledata will be so limited or so equivocalthat a clear choice between alternativesolutions is not possible. Actually. It is clearlypossibleto formulate a series of multiple working hypotheses in such a way that a favored tentative solution is found to provide the best fit with the availabledata.as well as any relevant additional observational predictions that were uncovered during subsequent considerationof the referenceclass.39 on Tue.to formulatea series of such alternativehypotheses (having different sets of observationalpredictions). totally accurate solution to any archaeological problem area. guaranteeinsulation against intellectual paternalismnor is it a substitute for intellectualhonesty.they are of course subject to continual change and review throughout the total researchprocess.and some initial problem areas may be droppeddue to lack of data. H2: The site was occupied seasonally. Three alternative.81.but rather attempting to demonstratewhich of a numberof alternative. each of these three hypotheses representsa generalized. the next step in the H-A method involvesexplicit statement of a set of observational predictions for each hypothesis. however. Each hypothesis was explicitly stated after separateplausibilityconsiderations showed each to have the highest prior probabilityof resultingin the three conflicting sets of observational predictions.

The more frustrating task of establishing a logical link or "bridge" between a hypothesis and an observationalprediction is often referredto as establishinga bridgingargumentor argument of relevance. Ford. and the more frustrating task of attempting to demonstrate the existence of a strong cause and effect relationship between the hypothesis and each observationalprediction. with the positive p's becomingnegativeand the negativep's becomingpositive.but also in terms of his or her ability to inductively infer observational predictions from hypotheses. are outlined below. p3 Mandiblesof deer and other mammalsrecovered will indicate a fall-winter period of death (Smith 1975). 4 Nov 2014 13:17:59 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . and are established during plausibility considerations. is a creative process: "Finding implications. for example. p7 Remains of domestic crops recovered will indicate a fall-winterharvestand storage. p8 Remains of domestic crops recoveredwill not indicate a spring-summerutilization. because such hoes are viewed as being strongly associated with both the springpreparationand the summermaintenanceof garden plots. Thus the relative creative ability of an archaeologistas a problemsolver can be measured not only in his or her ability to recognize worthwhile problemsand to formulate alternativehypotheses that are relevantto the problems. like finding hypotheses. like discovering hypotheses. H2 Fall-Winteroccupation Fish scales recoveredwill indicate a fall-winterperiod of death (Yerkes1973. There is no set of procedures or guidelines for identifying or discovering any or all of the observational predictions of a specific hypothesis.148.It is often more appropriate. take the logical form of argument by analogy. Inferringsuch observationalpredictions involves two interrelated tasks: actually identifying and stating them. H3 Spring-Summeroccupation p's The same observationalpredictionsas listed under H2. Such bridging arguments in the H-A method.81. p2 Fish scales recoveredwill not indicate a spring-summerperiodof death. to present such bridging This content downloaded from 201. Salmon 1975:462). As has already been discussed. pl Casteel 1975). both positive and negative. Discovering test implications.Smith ] INFERENCE AND INDUCTIVE CONFIRMATION 611 The most obvious test implications that could be inductively inferred for each of the seasonality hypotheses outlined above would involvethe predictionof the occurrenceat the site in question of various plant and animal remainsthat could potentially yield seasonality information. and Asch 1972). such observational predictions would be inductively inferred ratherthan deduced from each hypothesis. A number of such observationalpredictions(p's). A number of other less obvious test implications having to do with seasonal subsistence activities might also be inductively inferred. could be suggested as a positive observationalpredictionfor H1 and H3 and as a negative prediction for H2. p4 Mandiblesof deer and other mammals recoveredwill not indicate a springsummerperiod of death.however. which have already been discussed. p6 Remains of wild species of plantsrecoveredwill not indicate a spring-summer period of availability/collection. p5 Remains of wild species of plants recoveredwill indicate a fall-winterperiod of availability/collection(Asch. is a problem located in the context of discovery rather than the context of justification" (M. The presence of large chert hoes and/or hoe flakes at the site.39 on Tue. H1 Yearround occupation p's All the positive p's listed below underH2 and H3.

the bridging argument establishinga cause and effect relationshipbetween a fall-winter occupation (hypothesis) and fish scales indicatinga fall-winterseason of death (observationalprediction)involvesnot only an argumentby analogy. 1977 argumentsat the same time as the observationalpredictionsare stated. which was not necessarilythe same as the season of occupation of the site. for example. but also necessitatesan auxiliaryhypothesis. In the seasonality example presented above. that an observationalprediction is shown to be empiricallyfalse does not necessarilymean that the hypothesis in question is also false." Such additional premises are a necessary part of many bridging arguments. it is possible to determinethe approximatoseason of death of a fish by examiningthe outside edge of its scales (Casteel1975. and the subsequent comparisonof this observeddata base with the specific observationalpredictions inductively inferred from each alternativehypothesis. Thus it is possible that the hypothesis most supported by the data may in actuality not be a very accuratedescription of reality. be a number of other hypotheses that would providea more accuratefit with reality that were not identified and considered in the reasoning process." the fact Because such auxiliary hypotheses are often a necessarypart of bridgingargaUthents. that the site was occupied duringthe spring and summer(H3).612 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [79. for instance. It is logically possible. Archaeologicalreasoning quite often involves not a series of single alternativehypothtses. Establishingbridgingargumentsalso invariablyinvolves stating one or more additional premises(Copi 1972:451-452) or auxiliaryhypotheses (M. but ratherremainas "hiddetiassumptions. but ratherthat either H2 or the auxiliaryhypothesis (Al) was fMlse. some of which may remain hidden. It is unfortunate that supported This content downloaded from 201. In temperate of wide climatic situations the annual growth cycle of fish results in the depositi•h spring-summergrowth bands interspersed with narrow winter bands. it is necessaryto state an auxiliaryhypothesis: (Al) "Fish scales recovered from the site in question are from fish that were killed while the site was occupied. p2 under H2 was shown to be false (scales of spring-summerkilled fish were in fact recovered). When one of a series of alternativehypotheses is found to provide a better predictionof the data than the others this simply indicatesthat of the alternativehypotheses formulated. Hill 1972:83).148. Even if a high prior probability was established for the cause and effect relationship between seasonality of death and fish scale characteristics. but ratherto determinewhich hypothesis. it provides the most correct fit with reality. It is clearly necessary for such hidden assumptions to be recognizedand explicitly stated if the overallstrength of archaeological reasoningis to be improved.it would not necessarily mean that H2 was false. If. Salrhin 1975:460). unrecognized.the argument would link fish scale characteristicsand the season of death of the fish. althoughit is better than the other hypotheses considered. for example. with each groupconsistingof a single explicitly stated hypothesis. To cover this possibility. As a r?sult of this annual deposition of growth bands. Determiningthe RelativeStrengthof AlternativeHypotheses The final step of the hypothetico-analogmethod simply involves the identification and collection of all archaeological data pertinent to the problem being considered. The argumentby analogy would involve comparing the archaeological situation with a ref'rence class consisting of studies done on seasonal growth characteristicsof fish scales.39 on Tue. and that fall-winterkilled fish were preserved and broughtto the site when it was occupied in the spring. in fact. if any. but rather a series of groupsof alternativehypotheses. Yerkes1i73).There could. 4 Nov 2014 13:17:59 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . and unstated. It should be stressedthat this last step is not intended to demonstratethe absolute truth or total accuracy of any hypothesis. ratherthan in the discussionof plausibilityconsiderations.81. is best supportedby the data (Copi 1972:431. as well as a numberof auxiliaryhypotheses. although they are often not explicitly stated.

The actual process of determiningwhich of a number of alternativehypotheses is best supported by the data observed involves evaluation of each hypothesis according to a numberof criteria. This is perhapsthe single most importantcriterionin assessingthe relativemerit of alternativehypotheses.81. the hypothesis that is simpler or more "natural" is preferred (Copi 1972:434-435). Some empirically true observational predictions may be trivial. Thus if each of two hypotheses have the same number of observationalpredictionsshown to be empiricallytrue. Salmon 1975:459-460). (1) The number of observationalpredictions shown to be empiricallytrue (M. The This content downloaded from 201.." (M. the question of significanceis a deep and difficult one. Whether a hypothesis is confirmed depends not only on the number of true I's [observational predictions] and the variety of the confirming data. concerningthe rejectionof a hypothesis on the basisof a false observationalprediction. "Like the question of relevant variety. but also on the significance of the I's. IrvingCopi refers to this criterionas the relative"predictiveor explanatory power" of alternativehypotheses: "If one of two testable hypotheses has a greaternumber of observable facts deducible from it than from the other. . the hypothesis with empirically true observationalpredictions that shows a greater degree of independence. (3) The significanceof the observationalpredictionsshown to be empiricallytrue.poor recovery. Those hypotheses for which test implications have been inductively inferred that are subsequently shown to be false would be less preferable than those hypotheses that have no such false observational predictions. It is clearly not only the number and variety of supported observationalpredictionsthat should be taken into consideration. 4 Nov 2014 13:17:59 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .148. others significant. essentialto the problemof confirmation . because a single false observationalpredictioncan seriouslyaffect the standing of a hypothesis..Smith ] INFERENCE AND INDUCTIVE CONFIRMATION 613 hypotheses are sometimes viewed as universaltruths or totally accurate explanations of reality rather than as temporaryaccounts of reality that appearto have advantagesover the other tentative solutions chosen for consideration. however. If two hypotheses are comparablein terms of the number. Salmon 1975:461). (2) The variety of independence of observationalpredictions shown to be empirically true (Hill 1972:83. Salmon 1975:460-461). but also the relative importance of the observational predictions. variety. Once again the problem arises as to the difficulties involved in objectively identifying and quantifying the degree of significanceof variousobservationalpredictions. (4) Simplicity. then it is said to have greater predictive or explanatory power" (Copi 1972:433-434). of course. (5) Observationalpredictionsshown to be empiricallyfalse. is preferred.. Thus if all of the observational predictions of two alternativehypotheses are shown to be empiricallytrue. Salmon 1975:461]. First. Rather it would indicate that either the hypothesis or an auxiliary hypothesis (or both) was probably false. While simplicity is very difficult to define or measure. or the importance of the data represented by the true I's [M. one way in which this criterion might be implementedin archaeologicalreasoning is in terms of the number and strength of the additional premises needed undereach hypothesis. Secondly. etc. the difficulty involved in objectively identifying and quantifying the degree of independence between observationalpredictions(M. due to the possibility of poor preservation. Two important points should be kept in mind. and significanceof observationalpredictionsshown to be empiricallytrue. any empirically false observationalprediction would not necessarilyindicate that the hypothesis in question was false and should be rejected. the failure of a positive observational prediction to be observed would not mean that the observational predictionis empiricallyfalse. The obvious problem with this criterion is. M.39 on Tue. the hypothesis havinga greaternumberof supportedobservationalpredictionsis preferred. Salmon 1975:459-460).a greater variety.

A number of referees providedlengthy and very detailed comments and suggestions for improvement of the initial versions of this article. it shouldbe pointed out that to facilitate descriptionof the H-A method of inductive confirmation. Rather they are nonquantifiable criteria that are open to varying interpretations.614 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [79. Salmon 1975:461). Archaeological inference is a lengthy. however. might view the relative independence and significance of test implications differently.Such a hypothesis would clearly have a greaternumberand a greatervariety of empiricallytrue test implications.for example.Such an ideal situation is rarelyencounteredin the realworld.Two archaeologists. almost all of which were incorporated in subsequent revisions.81. Ford. In an ideal situation. Asch 1972 Paleoethnobotanyof the Koster Site: The ArchaicHorizons.Illinois State Museum Reports of Investigations. if any.148. they will be able to see beyond the patternsof cultural debris to the behaviorpatterns of prehistorichuman populations. complicated. such a logical impasse is rarely encountered in the real world. In reality.What is the solution to such an impasse?"Ultimately our last court of appealin decidingbetween rivalhypotheses is experience"(Copi 1972:433. while the second archaeologist determines another hypothesis to be preferred. REFERENCESCITED Asch. This content downloaded from 201.as patterns of cultural debrisare broughtinto clearer focus. It is also clearthat when the choice between alternativehypotheses is not an obvious one. often not shared by innocent bystanders. as employed in archaeologicalinference.as well as havinga greaternumber of significanttest implicationsthan any of the other alternative hypotheses. however.the H-A method. In conclusion.It is hoped that furtherclarification and refinement of some of the ideas presentedhere will enable archaeologiststo see such patternsof prehistorichumanbehaviorwith greaterclarity. resulting in the first archaeologist determining one hypothesis to be best supported by the available data.. is a much more flexible process.Their constructivecriticismand encouragement are gratefullyacknowledged. Nancy B. however.and hypothesesas both expected and unexpected patterns of materialremainsare observedin generaloutline as the field season progresses. Because archaeologistscannot accurately predictall of the patterns of cultural debris that may be uncovered during excavation. Springfield:Illinois State Museum. and even into the final phase of writingan account of the researcheffort. 24. the criteria that will be employed are not amenableto statistical analysis. of the related hypotheses was false would depend upon the researcher'srelativeconfidence in each of them.39 on Tue. NOTES Acknowledgments. there is a continual reassessmentand adjustmentof problemareas.This process of continual reassessmentcontinues throughthe laboratoryanalysis phase of research. see also M. Usually the selection of one of a number of alternative hypotheses as being best supported by the data is possiblewith a minimumof difficulty. 4 Nov 2014 13:17:59 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . and a minimum of additional premises. I have presented it as a structured linear sequence of logically discrete steps. and often frustratingprocess that holds a fascination for archaeologists. 1977 decision as to which. This fascinationis a reflection of the firm belief held by most archaeologiststhat if they are good enough puzzle solvers and can overcome the numerousproblemsand shortcomingsof the archaeologicaldata base.No. no false test implications. RichardI. Like the ideal situation. The five criteriabriefly describedabove are generallyrecognizedas the most appropriate ones to employ in determiningwhich of a series of alternativehypotheses is best supported by the availabledata. and David L.plausibilityconsiderations. one of a seriesof alternativehypotheses would be determinedto be best supported by the availabledata accordingto all five criteria.

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