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U nlversitv of New Mexico , Alb uquerque .
In Pursuit of the Future
Background In the late 1950S an d ear Iy 1960s a numbet of us advocated some funaeologists Viewed the archaeological . d amental chang es III t h e way arc h"' " and p ar tiICU Iar Iy III t h e conventIOnS then current for assigning record . " meaning to archaeological facts. Subsequently, there have been major changes in the ways archaeologists approach the archaeological record and, III turn, in the ways in which we seek 10 justify the meanings we assign to archaeological observations. What I wish 10 discuss is nor what we have done-that is a matter of record and should perhaps more appropriately be discussed by others. Instead, I want
discuss what needs
to be done. Science is a field that is dedicated to addressing our ignorance and, as such, should have built-in tactics designed 10 guide us 10 the recogninon of ignorance in need of investigation. For the generation of those who were my teachers, recognized ignorance consisted largely of rhe sites we had not dug or the places and time periods we had not investigated. Ignorance was recognized as primarily arising from a lack of observations or discoveries. I tried to cballenge this view of ignorance by pointing out that ignorance must also be recognized in the character of the knowledge and belief base that we use when interpreting our observations. This challenge arose directly from the implications that the findings
of general anthropology bave for archaeology. It was difficult 10 Ignore the teachings of anthropology, especially rhe demonstration that culture, the received knowledge and beliefs that we use 10 Vlewmg the world: ed (r) . diff d"" I ItS aod (2) IS charactenz IS di erent among 1 iverse SOCIOCU tura I sys. em ry of a given cultural sys" h hi . t , y ifferenr stages dutlng t e !SlOlIca traJec 0 b
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tern. It had to be acknowledged that scientists are not exempt from culture; they, like all other humans, are participants in culture. This means that for science to be truly successful it not only has to acknowledge ignorance about the external world but also to view its task as recognizing ignorance of a particular type, ignorance relative to the culture, the received "knowledge" and beliefs, of the scientists themselves, This is a very different view of science than that which characterized the earlier phases in the development of scientific methods, Under early, strict empiricists' views it was thought that the dedicated scientist could clear his mind of cultural bias and see reality "objectively." Anyone familiar with anthropology cannot accept such a position. We cannot operate as humans outside Our cultural milieu. The task of science is not only to sharpen and hone our culturally conditioned ideas about the external world but, in addition, to investigate the limitations of our received knowledge and beliefs about the external world. In short, the task of science is not the objective approximation of "truth" but just the opposite: the investigation of our culturally guided ignorance about reality. If we accept this goal, and the view that culture is learned, then it is clear that the enhancement of knowledge could modify our culture. If as anthropologically informed scientists we are successful in approaching our goal, then our refinement of knowledge (and thus of culture itself) will enrich our ability for dealing with reality. How well does our received knowledge allow us to deal with the world of experience? How accurate is our alleged knowledge of the world? If one adopts other perspectives or contrastive means of observation, how different does the world of experience appear? These are the questions and tactics I used in my early papers to question the utility of the traditional archaeological paradigm, Itried to demonstrate that using the normative culture concept as an exclusive explanation for archaeologically observed differences and similarities was inadequate and misleading. I tried to demonstrate that processes and forces other than the mental templates of the ancients conditioned the archaeological record as seen by archaeologists. Once this is recognized, it becomes clear that the archaeological record contains information of relevance to the interesting problem of understanding cultural differences themselves. This was an attempt to enrich our archaeological knowledge. At the same time it was a critical evaluation of the inadequacy of traditional archaeological concept of culture to guide us to an understanding of the past and, more importantly, of cultural processes themselves.
Two Responses to the New Archaeologv , , , he exclusive explanation for the The shift from believing In culture as t h d irs contain inforrna., that t e eposl archaeological record to recogruzmg h ture of culture itself ' 'II ligh ten u s as to t Ieveryfna tion that will potentia yen I 'nnocence, For many, id CI ar k e ( 197 3) as our ith hIssI of innocence an d ass a is described by Davi the state of innocence was a secure 0ne . W,t rne roty What do we do? , , they found themse Ives in a, sea of uncerram ,. In this SItuatIOn ' " security ' hat i ducrive strategy, , How do we proceed? W at IS a pro f ther fieldsof invesnists many archaeologists began to see k guidance rom auences. On the at her " iseuid garion, in many cases, t hiIS h as h ad ennchmg conseq umber of misgur ed I , hirn ar chaeo ogy a among those who WI n 'II hand there has grown up WIt ' " ing converts 'd arguments that many claim are gaml t that I feelare in nee , I' these argumen s replace the current generation. tIS, I the could well lead arch aeof review. If they are not treated SetlOUS y, Iuctive era, Iwill refer to , . anot h er b ac k w ard and nonpro (2) contextua I-SIructuralology mro still " d these arguments as (1) recons t ru ctlOlllSman t between these two ap, , f dlsagreemen hei opoism. There are many pomts a , tellectually unique, t ell Pfrh ' 'themasm preaches, and while I treat f 'I to acknowledge many ote" ffen de d by my at ure nents will surely be a , detailed claims to di iveness . I Iegacy of archaIC isnncuv b I'ntellecma I' " I consider reconstructIOnISm ta e anach with which tra di'lion ahIStS f ' ' " It IS an appro "th the groW! 0 science or stnct empmcism. d cates the posmon at b 'Id'ng an ' f ble It a vo d on UI I would be quue com orta ,', I sively depen ent up , k b brick. ndmg ISexc u I' bnc Y d knowledge and un ersta Id bout external rea Ill' 'Ill' limitf k owe ge a . 's traglca accurate structure on, mp[etely wrong, It I ho think ' thIS IS not co he ones w While in a StrIct sense I dge that we are r ( did the ' , ay acknow e II assumes as ing. Its practllloners m, yet it operationa Y d 1 ssumes that Iwar! . t a Id f xpenence, about the war a e h 'des in the externa 'I f mation pro, ' ) h t trut reS! ch 10gICa or archaic sClennsts tanding of ar aeo ,,, bserver-we te understa th " bJ'ectlve a , by gaining an accura h Id be clear to e a b' tively Thus, Crttcesses-processes that s ~u haeological record a Jec f a~empring to can, by force of will, see t, e a~cequently takes the form abiases of "this h h' int of vIew r , tales, t e f the icism from t IS po . and cautlonary "e~ nature 0 strallon , the tru th' point out, by reman h eologist from seemg 'us statemenr on 15 world" that keep the arc a , ford 1983 for a prevlO B , archaeologica I reco rd (see m , 'ntellectual, m that , d to be anll-' J owth Issue). rructionism ten s f borh canceptua gr In addition, recons, the importance a , advocates fall to appreclate
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Binford / In Pursuit of the Future
and change. New ideas that are not perceived as simple, self-evident extensions of "direct-empirical" experience are disparaged (e.g., Schiffer's [r985:192) concept of personal gear and Gould's [1985:640-641J discussion of the same issue). In such discussions the demand is made that the warrant the empirical for an idea of potentially credentials great importance notion must rest with and conthat out of which the reconstructionists expect it to that theory generalized from experience! to experiences
the inferential individuals
target is the on-going behavioral who participated in the cornmumty
events of the once-living responsible
for the archaeological remains. Presumahly, if we couJd ac'. this we could t hen narti " cornplish en participate as peers w ith ethnologists in their discussions of behavioral variability. In the early days of the new archaeology
have arisen. Here we see the old, discredited cepts must be directly and seeking a more useful set of intellectual all new tools be justified ner consistent one only elaborates with respect
If one is evaluating
cognized in a man-
tools and one demands
with the old tools, then one never changes the old one. New approaches not by reference
the paradigm; to old ideas or admonish without culture
come from new ideas.
Their utility must be tested in the future, to the credentials of their origins. Nevertheless, at the observational of archaeological what we want us to build brick by brick a solid structure ing about the processes addressing or seeking the important to understand
level reconstructionists of knowledge formational to know dynamics,
issue of evaluating
in new ways. We are us from seeing "realif we would only
a number of arguments were mounted to demonstrate t h at cu Itura I sys terns were internally dif-I " d to resu It in the differentia ferentiated and, as such, could be expecte , , , spatial partitioning 0 f disti isnncnve cu Itura I remains within and among , . b h world would devastate sites. If true this ontological assertion a out t e hi' I ' , , l' m led the arc aeo ogrca the ways in which traditional archaeo ogrsts sa p , d h basic assumptIOnS un errecord and would successfully c h a IIenge t e If h w arguments were accurate, lying their interpretive arguments. t ese ne d diff nces among ibl ider measure I ere it would no longer be POSSI e to consl, es of cultural 'J I s as direct measur casually collected archaeologica sarnp e , ' Th arguments called 'I I f amzatlOn, ese differentiation at the et h mc eve a org, J" order to demonh ological rea uy In for a restudy of the nature a f arc ae I ' adequate and rhus , strate that the archaeologica Iconcept a f cu ture was In . . ff views of the past. I had a distorting e ect on our d onstrate that cultura . . b 'mportant to em In this context, It ecame I, 'd ganizationally so that a . fact i 11 differentiate or 'J be taken as a srmp J e . systems were In act mterna Y Id not necessan Y difference in cultural content cou ,. h been sustained by every .' (This posinon as 8 measure of ethnic dIfference. '[ Binford 1976, t97 , desi d to evaluate It e.g., 8 ]) major piece of research esigne 8t. Weissner t9 J . 8 b· Longacre t9 , . r979, 1980, t982; Hod d er 19 2, as to demonsttate that orgamzaThe focus in this intellectual context w Id produce different forms , hi Irural systems cou h pantional conditions Wit 10 cu , 'I in different cultures at t e of archaeological remams Without ImP Y hg meaning of interassemblage . level. Th ere was diSCUSSIOn f 't t'eon of sites IUtOac livity areas, 0 " systerruc , . al differenlla I d ' of srarus variability study of the mtern "from the stan poml , h n ' . I diff nnatto , blty m t e and exploration of SOCIa I ere, h ight affect valla J I , ' h' SOClenes t at m and social groupmgs WIt 10 Id for 'I d f h xternaJ wor archaeologlca recor. 'd an exploration 0 t, e e d bout that o This was a tesnng pen "I' of the assumptIOnS rna de a degree I 'g the ull Ity d '1IClZe t he the purpose of eva uann I' ts It exposed an erl alistic or world by traditional archaeo ~g~st~tprerive devices were unreguided by to which certain conventlOnah Iwn rld of experience but. wa • a tactical o s a on t e 'h's If ocus ed Id Instead of viewmg t I, SituatIOn simply wrong. t . seem III have new ideas about that war . . the reconstructlODlsts wt h of a SCIence, phase in the gro
of alleged biases that could prevent to reconstructionist strategies, processes through we could
ity" clearly. According and rigorous archaeological
open our eyes to the lessons of nature observational formation
the use of more detailed empirically understand truth. archaeological
I recently read a paper by two behavioral archaeologists who list all the "distorting" events that might stand between the archaeological record as observed and the systemic is supposed context as it might have existed in a past system. The paper had recognized that intervened different to be an object lesson to archaeoloabout past systems before they events record all the behavioral life as it existed The distortions,
gists who would seek to make statements and correctively to render the organization
"transformed" of on-going regarding
of the archaeological the limitations
from the organization argument is central
in the past. and the real-
The old empiricists' logical record
of the archaeo-
to these positions.
ity that all events are not equally visible archaeologically, are boringly repeated to caution archaeologists not to think beyond their data (Gould -t 1980:1-28, 1985; Schiffer 1985:192). The message is clear. We must build up generalizations about past systemic contexts by the laborious "transformation" into descriptive of contemporary statements about data past in its archaeological context behavior. This reconstructionist
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tossed out the "testing of ideas" aspects and focused on the external world as the direct source of knowledge. They saw knowledge as flowing to us from "discoveries" in the world of experience (Gould 1985). Our ideas were tacitly seen as potential "distortions" of rhe true reality, a reality that could be known directly through insightful, observational "purification" and accurate measurement. This purification has been extended to include skepticism regarding the "borrowing" of ideas from other fields (Schiffer 1981:9°1-904), a failure to see value in concept and theory development (Schiffer 1981:9°5), and, recently, the open advocacy of a return to empiricism (Gould 1985). The tactical research focus on behavior by new archaeologists, which occurred in the Context of idea evaluation, has been strangely misinterpreted as a denial of the importance of culture itself. Some have even advocated the scrapping of the culture concept in favor of a focus on behavior (see Flannery 198:> for a reaction to this trend). For them, the goal of archaeology should be the accurate reconstruction of past dynamics in the proximate or behavioral sense, which will eventually lead to an "ethnographic" picture of the past. The final goal is seen as uncovering, in the empiricist's sense, laws of human behavior. The challenge offered by new archaeologists and the tactics appropriate to that challenge were proposed as an evaluarion of the intellectual tools of archaeology and paradigmatic growth. Reconstructionists, however, were led to redirect the goals of archaeological inference (i.e., describing past behaviors particularistically rather than past cultures organizationally) and adopted a reactionary idea of science. At the same time that reconstructionism was building in the literature, another important and very different reaction to the new archaeology was taking place. This response was guided not from an attempt to return to outdated methods of science, but from what was thought to be a "new" view that challenged the very utility of science itself. I refer to this reaction as contextual-structuralism. The recognition that we cannot achieve "objectivity" in the manner conceived by archaic scientists became a popular point for endless reiteration. The recognition of the importance of culture, standing as a filter between us and "reality," was emphasized. During the era of the growth of the new archaeology the writings of Thomas Kuhn (1970) were read widely by the new generation of archaeologists. Kuhn makes important points regarding objectivity that are directed toward philosophers of science. When read from a nonscientific perspective, however, these arguments appear to cripple the approach to learning that many readers
naively believe to be the scientific method: the archaic view of science. The result has been exactly the opposite of the response by the reconstructionists. Where the reconstructionists have adopted a "reactionary" view of science by returning to a strict empiricism, the contextualstructuralists have largely rejected all science. Wbete some reconstructionists essentially reject the concept of culture, the contextualstructuralists embrace it not only as the explanation for the archaeological record (Hodder 198:>a) but the explanation fat the behavior of scientists (Landau 1981: Perper and Schrier 1977). They espouse the view that science is incapable of producing knowledge, instead, it is thought to be capable only of projecting subjective, culture-bound views onto the external world. From this perspective the new archaeologists are labeled out-of-date archaic scientist/empiricists or "ditty" positivists, while at the same time the demand is made for a return to the traditional "cultural" approach for the interpretation of archaeological remains. This , ' " posture leads to crippling sk epncrsrn. I d's t eme that we can evaluate the . utility of our own Ideas an d t hit' we can ana y IC ally understand culture; at in short, it denies that science can help us to learn. We might be able to see the I'ast more clearly between our misinterpretatl?nbs Iand [Leon/ and Palkovich realistically, there IS no surra e met a 1985:430].
, irion h ve only nihilistic anWhat can we do? Advocates of this poSltfIOn afi methodology in the " nny" 0 SClentl c swers. We should aban don e tyrarmr n society since "our ), . f relevance In our ow , favor of "important ISsues a "(M e and Keene 1983:4' I context oor research is a result a f our SOCia h learn from our inter'need t at we can II). For those of us who are convi b ill chauvinistic suggestions. ,. ' th se appear to e 51 y, . ' acnon WIth expenence, e I" and reconstCllCtlonJsm, ar, 'h t tual-structura ISm In contending Wit con ex d bl b' d" 'lll"ouem. chaeology is clearly in an mte ecrua
A Theoretical Response to the Issues ixed with misguided ggets a f rru th m Id As in many contlicts there are nu h t I cannot use knowledge a " ite true t a h e thought. For instance, It IS qui think with ideas I do not ave. not have. It is equally true that I cann:~ent that we are limited by reThus the contextual-strucrura!tst arg I tools available in our time IS , d b the conceptus ceived knowledge an y
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demonstrably correct. Demonstrating that the ideas with which we work are consistent with the culrure of which we are a part is trivial. Do we really expect scientists to be "outside" their culture? That, of course, is impossible. Pointing such things our, however, does not mean that we are intellectually determined. Just because scientists are culture-bearing animals does not mean that they are intellectually shackled by culture and doomed to the ignorance and subjectivity of their time. Similarly, demonstrating a consistency between what we think at anyone time and the broader cultural matrix in which we participate does not provide an evaluation of the utility and accuracy of those ideas, regardless of their ongin. The reconstructionist position contains equally limiting ideas. The most restricting, in my opinion, is the strict empiricist approach to learning. The reconstructionist tendency is to view empirical generalizations as the primary goal of research; to attempt the inductive elevation of such descriptive statements to "lawlike" status; and in turn to believe that this empirically grounded description of the world will somehow allow us to gain an understanding of the world (Raab and Goodyear 1984; Salmon 1982; Schiffer 1976:4; Smith 1982). The positive aspects of this "empirically grounded" posture are that a focus on description can lead to more accurate recording, to the recognition of complexity (such as many of the so-called distortions that may stand between the static record and the dynamics of the past), and to a greater appreciation for the character of the empirical domain that we study: the archaeological record. Accurate description and justified inference are crucial to science, but as Hugh Mellor (1982:60) has pointed out: Explanation is not a kind of inference. Just because the phenomenon to be explained would be more safely predictable if it were more probable doesn't mean it would therefore also be better explained. When the strict empiricist approach to understanding is followed there is a disdain for the use of imagination and for inventive thought, and a cry for grounded empirical relevance for every idea introduced (Gould 1985:641). Bur the search for understanding-explanation-is an intellectual activity and not strictly a synthesis of observations. Thus, the empiricist approach ensures that understanding will not be forthcoming, only that we will have a more accurate description of the world as it appears when we are guided by our particular cognitive framework. If
I I I I
one accepts this damning criticism of empiricism, then the consequence will be that empiricists in fact only describe the world "subjectively,"and the growth of knowledge will be tragically curtailed. The defenders of empiricism could note with justification that "discoveries" are possible, that we can encounter experiences for which we have no prior cognitive devices for accommodation, and that we can thereby expose the limitations of our ideas. Although this is certainly correct, the presence of anomalies does not ensure their recogrunon. As most cultural anthropologists would be quick to point out, we have the remarkable capacity to accommodate the world of experience to what we already believe about that world. I would argue that dis~overiesare not simply the intrusion of the external world on our cogrnnve framework. Instead, they come about largely from a skeptical posture on the part of the scientists, who search for the inadequaCIes 10 their reeel,ved wisdom and thereby prompt their most valuable asset (th~1[irnagmations) to develop and invent new and more appropriate cogrunve devices and theories, Such things come from us, not from experIence. , The empiricist approach seeks to ground empirically o~r experrences in conventionally made and synthesized observatIOns.!liIS en5~re~ that we will never see challenges to our conventions, A Strict empmca approach tends to reinforce the false view that our contemporary cogmd at the same time suppresses tive tools and knowledge are ad equate an, ' there I'S , ' ' The Important pOlO our most valuable asset, our ImagInatIOns. , nces An apdi f h we use our expene . to have a clear understan mg 0 ow d d description in conproach that seeks empirical generalIzatIons ernan s oach to learning is h hand the correct appr h ventional terms. On teat er nanu, the limitations of our f ience to expose dependent upon the use a expen ," I'S clearly limited. ' t tegy empIrICIsm conventions, As a Iearrnng s raregy, li t a roaches may appear to Although the contextual or structura s, pp an be argued in ways , 'If of these posItIons c , challenge SCience itse , many h f science, For mstance, ib the growt a our that could well contn ute to hi k thoughtS that we ., that we cannot t In strong dedication to the posItIOn, 'I ble to US is crucial. Aeid e that IS unavar a d do not have or use k nowe g If' nee as I have presente ,. I'd the goa SO sere , I ceptance of this posItIon va I ares f cognitive and theoretIca , I ist st c ourown I' ' them namely, the skeptIca rrus ru, the exposure of their mura, , ' , dedIcatIon to d tools and hence the sCIentIsts , fawn culrure-boun perspectrauon 0 our .' " hat rions, The continuous demons, f "f will" and "objectIVIty t if the old claIm a ree I in human tives clearly faIsi es, d traditional attempts to exp a plagued both archaIC SCIencean
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behavior. The limitations of the contextual-structuralist position appear when there is a failure to acknowledge that the enhancement of scientifically guided learning strategies can result in the growth of knowledge. The anti-science posture derives not from recognizing the role of culture in our daily lives but from the acceptance of a "generative" model of culture change, which is characteristic of the contextual-structuralist position. A generative view assumes that an inner core serves as the organizing feature for surficial behavior or action. This organizing feature is manifest by the actions of participant/actors who are programmed to this core of belief, meaning, or symbolic structure (for a clear example of this view, see Glassie 1975 and Deetz 1982). As Ernest Gellner (1982:II6) has insightfully argued, however, the point about the symbol tokens used by systems such as is that they are cheap .... Sounds, marks on the paper, gestures, all cost virtually nothing .... Because this is so, because this is so ... we can expect symbolic systems to their full inner potential. language symboltc but only play out
I I I I
Unfortunately, as Gellner (1982:II6) also points out, adherents to this "generative" view fail to appreciate a fundamental point, namely, that there are extensive aspects of human life, alas including those that seem essential to survival, whose actual sequence of events is determined not merely by the free play of some underlying core mechanism (if it indeed exists at all), bur by the blind constraints and shortages and competitions and pressures of the real extraneous environment.
Generative approaches fail to explain cultural systems because of their stubborn denial that we are dealing with thermodynamic systems, not simply with cost-free symbolic codes. Cultural systems are organizations with essential dynamics that are dependent upon the flow of energy through them. Energy is captured by such systems in nature, not by human participants thinking or codifying costless symbolic dreams abour this very concrete materialist process. In turn, the trajectory of a culturally organized thermodynamic system is not determined by what the bearers think about the process. Instead, it is determined by the behavioral and organizational ways in which the system articulates with energy sources and with internal and external competitors. Understanding patterning in the history of past cultural systems derives from an
understanding of these processes, not from some imaginative characterization of a stable and internally closed symbolic system capable only of "acceptable" rearrangement of its finite components. The structuralist position is inappropriate to sociocultural systems, and more importantly, it is wrong. The falsity of this posture is demonstrable by the fact that a paradox is inherent in its arguments. For instance, we acknowledge, as contextual-structuralists have that we cannot use ideas we do not have or reason with information we do not possess. The paradox arises when this proposition is linked with the false generative idea of sociocultural . . dynamics descnbe d a bove. Wh en t hiISIS done, ,'t I'S commonly suggested that we cannot know the past except by seeking to understand the parI Id ticular symbolic codes or systems 0f th ough t he. hy ancient. peoples. We . mIg h t reasona bl y as,k h ow wou Id this aid us 11 those ancienr peoples, I . like us could neither think Ideas t hey did not have nor accumu ate I I f ' . th sked? For examp e, rom knowledge relevant to quesnons ey never a· bl k . h I gist J might reasona Y as , my retrospective viewpoint as an arc aeo 0 P I I' hi , If I could Middl Upper a eo it Ie. what caused the transition from I e to .' . ith a popula, ime f th aphic mrervrew WI magically go back in time or an e nogr 'I fi d hat (r) they would tion of late Neanderthals, I would most certahm n ttl'on and (2) they y duri g sue a rransr , I,' not know that they were ivmg unng susses both condition if that major proce would have little 1 any awareness 'of their culture his. e the trajectory their lives and at the same nrne mov nima.inable to them. . .' f f life unknown or u "..... . . tory In the direction 0 a way 0 ., of the partiCIpants m b h fs or oplmons How can the thou gh ts, e Ie,. blern that arises from a . id . solvmg a pro . ancient cultural systems ar me m 'hat the ancients could nei. erspecnve t ,N totally different perspecnve-r-s P I d they did not have. 0 . b t with know e ge bl ther experience nor reason a ou. I" solutions to pro ems Id VIde rea isnc Neanderthal would or cou pro f my vastly differentper., 'the context 0 h . . t arc Posed by me , problems arrsing in oral V1ewpom As a modernth aed . . t spective knowledge base, an temp, know somethmg of e pas ologist have the wonderful opportumty to , 'pants in any intellecrually . lly invisible to partlCJ . fast paron a temporal scale vrrtua "1 f the perspeCtlve P 0 ,. I I tern Slmtlar y, rom . aginabIe to unspecialized cu tura sys . f h . future in ways unrm thing a t err f lilYthat was ticipants I can know some . . . hts into an order 0 rea , rh I them. I can quite literally gam msig Irural systems. Demanding diat , ' . anClent cu I ff 82 for a sunknown to partiCIpants In , B' ford and Sab 0 r9 .. , ectlve (see 1n adopt a particIpant s persp I r ty makes about as much sense as .' ) theonyrea' cussion of thIS Issue as
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demanding that we not look through microscopes, since the "true" reality is that which is available only to the naked eye! Archaeology is not served by acceptance of a false ontological assumption. We cannot understand the past through the eyes of the ancients. Similarly, we cannot know the past or the present by simply accepting one form of subjective view as correct on the basis of asserted privileged insight (e.g., binary oppositions). We must seek to know the past accurately through, and not in spite of, the use of our perspective. It follows that we must accept responsibility for the character of the intellectual tools we use, and we must continuously seek to improve and modify them in terms of the knowledge available to us and the opportunities for learning open to us. At the same time we accept this responsibility, we must realize that both our knowledge base and the conceptual tools with which we approach the archaeological record may be limited and/or inappropriate. As suggested earlier, our job is quite literally the evaluation of our own cultural tools-the tools that we use in seeking to describe and understand the external world, which for us is simply the archaeological record. Most contemporary archaeologists, except the strict empiricists, acknowledge that we cannot know reality in terms of itself, but only through the cognitive and explanatory devices that we use. We further acknowledge that these devices may be wrong and are part of a broader tradition of received "knowledge" within which we participate (in other words, our own culture). Many may reasonably ask, how can we know the past? Frequently, the answer is that we cannot. We should, therefore, abandon our self-deceiving exercises and address ourselves to a critical understanding of our own culture-bound ideas from the perspective of internal criticism, since the external world is thought to be denied us by virtue of Our subjectivity (see Hodder I984). This position has been well stated by Mary Hesse. She concludes that we must adopt a position denying "that there is a fundamental distinction between theoretical and observation predicates and statements" (Hesse I974:33). The nature of the external world is denied to us by virtue of the assumed fact that our cognitive system molds experience so that the external world is not permitted to intrude on its internal integrity. At first blush this sounds reasonable; it even appears consistent with many of the points I have advocated here. In addition, on one level it is good advice. Certainly, the more aware we are of the context of our ideas, the less likely we would be to accept such received ideas as "true" (Leone I982). In denying a scientific method for evaluating ideas, how-
ever, the position moves so as to transform archaeology into moral philosophy. We can accept the fact that we can neither reason with knowledge we do not have nor think with cognitive devices unknown to us, and we can also acknowledge the fact that we commonly accommodate the world of experience to our own belief system of the moment. We can support the view that an awareness of how our ideas of the moment came into being could constructively sharpen our skepticism. We can subscribe to the position that we should be both moral and ethical m our t search for knowle d ge, We may su bsenibeo, the view that our choices of . ' , to th e needs for knowledge within research problems shou Id b e sensmve , ', our own society. None 0 f t h ese positrons, however' demands that we , . to learn an d 10 turn to rna dify the limiting effects that ' deny our ability , , our culture places on our understanding of external reality,
A Practical Response to the Issues
, Wh scientists hope to accomplish is Science is a strategy for [earning. at I arid so that they , ' in the externa w to perfect ways of seeking expenences , I d Put another way, " lleged know e ge. will implicate inadequacies 10 our a ,. f hei Ilegedknowledge by , , d [iability o twa sciennsts study the accuracy an re ,,' 'the body of ideas icned ose "maanons 10 seeking experiences designe to exp, Th seek to put rheir ideas and beliefs with which they begin their quest. ey creationist might be , . k th m more secure, as a in Jeopardy, not to rna e e h di very of "truth" or to , d di ted to t e rsco prone to do. Science IS not e lea . .« . hr." , b d of ideas IS rig . the demonstration that a given 0 Y I h f the new archaeology.Ir , d h centra trust 0 These ideas constitute t e k transform ignorance edure that see s to advocated attention to t h e proc . b ddressed are whether we ea . into knowledge. The Importan t1ssuesto wz do not learn by flld Y ea se if we can, how we learn. we rge ourselvesa f' ignor ance can learn and, I . h ki g that we can pu , d not ceiving ourselves Into t 10 10 for instruction. SimIlarly,we a and "obJ'ectively" approach nature ibl F' IJv we do nor learn by . sposs1 e. inauj, . J learn by denying that learn10g I , if tion for adopting a parttcu ar editing an alleged past to serve as jusn cha Ipresent. Welearn by expJor" I I posture 10 t e 'h ds that value-laden polmca or mora , ing with sciennfic mer a , , b expetlmennn Id of expenr ing learning strategIes, Y " d relative to the wo ideas 10 )eopar y continuously PIace our , al record that was ence, d there is an archaeoJogIc There was a past, an
Past and Future
Binford lin Pursuit of the Future 473
created in the past. Although we may be capable of fooling ourselves for a time about both of these realities, a learning procedure that continuously compares our ideas with our experiences cannot help but reveal situations in which our ideas are inadequate. In short, ambiguities deriving from inadequacies in our cognitive and intellectual tools will be exposed. I am suggesting that, like sociocultural systems, intellectual systems can also be open systems, although at times they may appear to be dosed and internally "generative." This is particularly true for archaeologists, since the target of our search for knowledge no longer exists. The past cannot speak back or object; in short, there is little cost and hence little risk of being wrong that does not derive from our own competitive social matrix. The openness of our intellectual structure must be provided by our methods and procedures. We must ensure that the past "gets a say," that it can object and guide our growth toward understanding. The opportunity that opens this important door, that gives the past a chance to object, occurs when ambiguity arises in our own thoughts relative to external experiences we have had. Ambiguity exists relative to some experience when two or more lines of reasoning would lead us to rwo or more incompatible conclusions. In this situation we are in a deductive posture aimed at evaluating our ideas. (This is quite different from Gould's [1985J demand for inductive justification for ideas.) In such a situation we can be sure that there are inadequacies in one or more of our lines of reasoning. This is the flag, the signal, that we must examine in detail. When this signal is given we must research both our intellectual tools and the cognitive tools with which we assimilate experiences (Binford in press). At the same time we must use our most powerful tool, our imagination, to generate new cognitive devices and intellectual tools that will resolve the ambiguity. This is how we learn and how we grow: by placing our intellectual tools in interaction with one another in the context of experience. Given such a posture, what realities do we address? Where do we seek experience? I have already suggested that archaeology is the science of the archaeological record. Pessimists, and particularly empiricists, endlessly point to aspects of the past about which we cannot learn, even given our increasing ability to understand the archaeological record and the conditions in the past that brought it into being. This pessimistic attitude is incorrect; we will not know what these limitations on understanding the past might be until we completely understand all facets of the archaeological record, a condition that we have not yet achieved. On
the other hand, optimists commonly identify goals for learning that do not derive from an understanding of the archaeological record hut anse instead from their limited experiences and from the politicallmoral biases of our contemporary world. ", Pessimists decry attempts to develop learning strategies regardmg aspects of the past for w hi h t h ey see no concre t e, "empirical" remnants IC in the archaeological record, but they fail to,realize that all statements about the past are inferences. On the other hand, optimists seek to learn things for which there are no understood methods for knowing, The pes, " " ioti stmtsttc situation resuI' In d uII d escnp 100 of the archaeological record ts . . hil he overIy oprirnisric situation results m in contemporary terms, wet , wild speculative just-so stones. A rchaeologi rs must face the fact that aeo ogts " 'Wh h y study is the archae-r they do not study the past, they create It. at t e di ' I correct as the understan mg ological record. The create d past ISon Yas h 'I at Iogica reco rd , and the processes, r II of the properties of the arc h aeo , ' bei Th development of theorellca Y brought those propertIes into emg. e 'hi h i h k t the inferentIal pro em. guided middle-range researc ISt e ey a th f the ' ' ti on between e aspects a Another problem concerns t he d isnnc I , h h logfast reality that r e arc aeo past we seek to know and th e aspects a p th h eological record is ' I recor d In d'rcates. S orne would say that e arc a ica iah behavior as we underf cti ns rhar is urnan the simple resu Ito h uman a 10 , ,,' , lrural system, Othti as partiCIpants 10 a cu stand it, given our perspec ive h I 'cal record is a mauit that the arc aeo ogi ld ers, as discusse d a b ave, asser 'I d f am the energetic war ion a ideari ate , r crions of indivi uaIs ivid festation of a core I eatIona I structure IOSU , I h h the free creative a of life and changing on y t roug h '" distorted fragmented, at ' F S tt'II at h er s suggest tdb It IS a (Leaf '979:336). lone past reality. rom if there ha een on y , limited record of t h e past, as I esr that all these views are . d POlOt I would like to sugg archaeologist can knoW an ontological stan d h h este t at t e 'f inaccurate. I have a Irea d Y su gg fast p cultural mam esta' something of both the past and the fulUre a aant s Clearly, then, the ar'd h partlClP . f tion knowledge that was d enle t e 'f ation vastly different rom , s WIt hIn orID I chaeological record presents u " t within past systems. n turn, that which was available to the parllcIIPb~nust guide what we seek to ~ . that 1Saval a e the type of in formatIOn , al duratIOns or know 0f t h e past. I d monstrates tempor , d oJ The archaeological record a so e different from that perceIve a tempo of chronological changeth~~: ::::s of culture change for mo't by persons who participated In It. ch slower thaD the rates of gener:~ , II k wn era, are mU This faa must archaeolog1ca y no . ' 'n tho,e system'. artiCIpants I tional replacement for P
474 American Archaeology Past and Future Binford lin Pursuit of the Future 475
appreciated in two ways. First, the beliefs and perceptions of the past participants could not have been germane to a reality of which they could not have been aware, the macrotemporal scale of systems change and the factors that were conditioning it. Second, the observations by ethnographers and historical figures, while perhaps documenting something of the internal dynamics of cultural systems, cannot be expected to be necessarily germane to an understanding of a much slower and larger-scale process of change and modification. Thus, the reality with which we deal is one that living, breathing persons have in fact never directly experienced. lt is true that their cumulative participation provides the energy base upon which the macroforces of change operate; yet they never experienced such impersonal forces. The archaeologist, seated in the present, is outside history in the participant sense. We have a chance to understand humankind in a way that no participant, or no social scientist addressing the quick-time events of direct social experience, could ever imagine. To fail to recognize this potential, to fail to grasp a new understanding of humankind from this different perspective-the perspective of the macroforces that condition and modify lifeways in contexts unappreciated by the participants within complex thermodynamic systems-is quite literally to "abandon our birthright." It is true that archaeology is anthropology in that it seeks to understand humankind. Yet it is simply wrong to attempt to force our unique data and our ability to appreciate dynamics on a macroscale, in the or/ganizational sense of the term, into the limiting experiences and frameworks developed for treating the quick-time events of the human participants in history. We are not ethnographers of the past, we are not sociologists, we are not historians in the humanistic sense of the term; .. we are scientists dedicated to an understanding of the archaeological record. Its patterning and character strongly suggests that the common social science perspectives on humankind are inappropriate to our archaeological view of humanity. Although we may, in Pompeii-like situations, sometimes reconstruct quick-time events and situations, it is equally true that we have the opportunity to view these human-scale events simultaneously in terms of other observational properties indicative of the organizational contexts in which they were conducted. In this opportunity we can learn something of the properties of the systems within which past persons participated but did not necessarily cognize. For a long time archaeologists have had an inferiority complex relative to ethnologists and cultural anthropologists. We were convinced that the participant perspective and its personalized scale of experience
was the only reality. The archaeological record was viewed as a poor, distorted reflection of this assumed unitary reality. Surely we need to develop links between the varying scales of perception suggested above; bur more importantly we must realize that we have the opportunity to study scales of reality that are experientially denied to the ethnographer. The appropriate action for us is not to lament the "limitations" of the archaeological record bur to appreciate the limitations of the ethnographic experience and the records and ideas that arise in the ethnographer's brief touch with a circumscribed reality. The archaeological record documents a broader and potentially more fascinating reality.
My message in pursuit of the future has been made up of several components. First, I have argued that cultural systems are not closed Ideological structures. They are thermodynamic systems open to mfluence a.nd even determinancy from the broader thermodynamic forces with which they must articulate. Second, I have suggested that since there IS an ex., ternal world our scientific cu Iture nee db' not e vie wed as a closed ,system ' , 'f hange Weas SCIentistS that is subject only to internal generative types 0 cnanxe" ' r received and subjective have the opportunity to learn by p Iacmg ou , I ki externa b Y see mg experiences JD the F' Ily I views of the world in jeopar d y, id h , ' rions of our leas. rna • world that are designed to expose t e Imnra I , h 1, ' '1 domain rhat arc aeo 0 have suggested that the particular expenentla dd 'of 'I d d merits a scale an omam gists study, the archaeologica recor, ocu d b dJ continues to op- .., , , hast and un ou te y process that was operative rn t e P, d k wledgethis pro,' d I fe span an no erate today, but because 0 f our 1 urute " , II ' t d by partiCIpants. cess IS genera y not apprecia e h II ' task 01 seeking to ith face d WIt the c a engmg ne of UShave ever Archaeologists are h ki d f henomena t at no understand at least two rn sop , ortant the long-term , If and more Imp , experienced directly: the past itse . I' d documents. ArchaeolohaeologlCa recor ind d macroprocesses t h at t h e arc d ding 01 humankm an , t gain an un erstan J • • , d b ost social ,c,enllstS. gists have the opportuntty 0 . ' I appreCIate Y m , hits transformations not prevIOuSy .' archaeologIStssee t em I hostm J practICIog I think it is fair to say t at f "di t archaeology" and re egate , " at the leve 0 rr ' depenselves as strict empmclSts b d for inference to an ID the fundamental debates regarding met rhar is considered to be largely dent domain of theoretical dISCUSSIOn response stem, from the fact This , d day actIVIlles. irrelevant to their ay-to-
American Archaeology Past and Future
Binford lin Pursuit of the Future 477
that at least one of the messages central to the "new archaeology" has not been received: namely, the view that our ideas directly condition how we meaningfully organize and assimilate experience at the very point of observation. On the other hand, unquestioning acceptance of this same proposition has led to the belief that we cannot learn from experience; hence, nihilism and skepticism permeate many "theoretical discussions." In turn, the "dirt archaeologists," correctly convinced that they can learn from experience, relegate such discussions to the stratosphere of speculative, irrelevant side issues. Many return to the sterile posture of particularism, as exemplified by traditional culture-historical approaches, even though this posture has long since been demonstrated to be inadequate. Our success in the future depends upon our thoughtful attention to this impasse. I suggest that there are solutions. I also believe that our future depends not only upon our successful response to the "dirt archaeologist's" view of the problem but upon a shift in the character of archaeological education as well. If the young persons entering our field are not educated to the character of the very real intellectual issues that archaeologists must solve, and if education continues to be in the hands of "dirt archaeologists" who largely do not understand the nature of our intellectual problems, archaeology will stagnate in the dead end of strict empiricism and particularism. On the other hand, if theoretical discussion remains in the hands of those who are skeptical about our abilities to learn, "dirt archaeologists" are correct in rejecting theory as being irrelevant. In my opinion, many of our problems stem from adopting the arguments of ethnologists as if they somehow had a more "direct" understanding of reality. Similarly, the skeptical attitude of many "dirt archaeologists" regarding theory is probably rooted in a realistic appreciation of what the archaeological record is. It is not the same reality that ethnologists study. We need to devote our energies to the development of archaeological science, which means the building of theory appropriate to our world of experience as guided by scientifically rooted learning strategies. In the future we must' pursue increased sophistication in scientific learning strategies, increased dedication to understanding the archaeological record, and importantly, the development of knowledge regarding the operation of processes that transcend the quick-time events and experiences of participants in systems. Pursuit of these goals will realize for us a potential understanding of humankind that is uniquely offered to archaeologists.
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