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~----------~---------438 American Archaeologv Past and Future Patty Jo Watson Washington University; St. Louis
439 per read at the third Theoretical Archaeology Group Conference, Reading, U.K. Tilley, Christopher J982 Social Formation, Social Structures and Social Change. In Symbolic and Structural Archaeology, edited by Ian Hodder, pages 26-38, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 1984 Ideology and the Legitimation of Power in the Middle Neolithic of Southern Sweden, In Ideology, Power and Prehistory, edited by Daniel Miller and Christopher Tilley, pages II 1-'46, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Trigger, Bruce 19843 Alternative Archaeologies: Nationalist, Colonialist, Imperialist. Man 19(3l:335-37°' 1984b Archaeology at the Crossroads: What's New? Annual Review of AnthropologY13:275-300, Wallerstein, I. 1976 A World-System Perspective on the Social Sciences. British Journal of Sociology 27:343-352. Wobst, H. Martin, and Arthur S. Keene 1983 Archaeological Explanation as Political Economy, In The Socio-politics of Archaeology, edited by Joan M. Gero, David M. Lacy, Michael L. Blakey. University of Massachusetts, Department of Anthropology, Research Report 23:79-88. Amherst, Wylie, Alison 1981 Epistemological Issues Raised by a Structuralist Archaeology, In Symbolic and Structural Archaeology, edited by Ian Hodder, pages 39-46. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 1985 The Reaction against Analogy, In Advances in Archaeological Method and Theory, edited by Michael B. Schiffer, 8:63-II I. Academic Press, New York. In press Putting Shakertown Back Together: Critical Theory in Archaeology. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology.

Archaeological Interpretation, 1985

' an d en I' h tenmg a b ou t current archaeological ig 1 b ' I' ' nt . Neverthe ess, two 0 mterpretation is a very chal engmg assignme acut together a summary vious alternatives presenr themse t ves: ()I to p indi what cat'II y orgarnze d , perhaps-m dIcatlOgat present . COUnt, or fact-sheer-s-topica . cred egories of laboratory and field research ale beI~g cfion current trends nUt , ) 0 define Sign' ca _ and wah what results; or (2 to try t Th I rrer alternative IS , . f the future e a together with their imp Iicanons or , h I have chosen to follow, riskier but more interesting, and that IS the pat , _ line vary from one " . goals III a d ISCIp , ' To say something truthful , "

At anyone nrne, mrerpreuve . nrucon to insriruncn , ' th r and from ins 1 In individual practitioner to ana e h i rirutes for example). , , ' nd researc lOSI, h 1_ (among uruversmes, museums, a. h di ciplinary level as sc 0 e IS d h roug h time at t 'decline, terpretive goals also vary t and fa e away . t or dommant, J n arly schools rise, become prorrunen hi er I define what mea , ' th chools- In t ISpap to be Or are assimilated into a er s ib d discuss what seem " 'on desw d e an d then relate th ese to past by archaeological InterpretatI, . ti e mo es, an I .t have the currently dominant mterpre IV -r; 0 other alchaeo ogrs s ible f uture d ev,dopments. rw Dunnell 198 4, an d Bruce trends and possible (R bert overvrewe 0 ive reference d re It recently publishe evan 'h t I make comparat! f appropnate tad 'J e d account 0Trigger 1984) so a seems . e1atively etai , I Dunnell's IS a r ., . a more gento them in several paces, ( 98)) whereas Tngger s IS decades " . gle year 'o·on and of the rwo to three I' cused primarily on a sin era] assessment 0 f t h e p resent srrua antecedent to it.


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Archaeological Interpretation
In this paper I take interpretation to mean what the archaeologist does to or with archaeological data to make sense of them, both particularistically (explaining a specific piece of a specific site) and generally (explaining the past). That part of an archaeological site report labelled "interpretation" is the crowning achievement of the project. It is the final chapter in which everything is tied together into one coherent-although always partly or largely conjectural-whole. Of course one's interpretive orientation is also present in everything one does as an archaeologist. The word conveys "what it all means" not just at the formal wrap-up level, but also at every other level of archaeological endeavor: from the initial conception of the research question through the design of field work and analysis to the presentation of specific results and of their theoretical and methodological significance. One of the most wholesome emphases of new archaeology was on making explicit one's problem, the means chosen to solve it, and the degree of success in reaching a solution. Yet, as noted by David Clarke \ (1973), this is also a very threatening procedure, and indeed it induced a \ variety of skeptical crises among archaeologists. These emerged during the later 1970S and into the 1980S. The more immediate result, however, in the 1960S and early 1970s, was a heady euphoria about the information potential of the archaeological record. For a while it seemed that with sufficient ingenuity, an emphasis on d¢uGti:v.e....infea;.nce,and use of new-fangled equipment and techniques (computers, magnetometers, trace-element analyses, flotation devices, pollen spectra) wielded by inrerdisciplinary teams (geoarchaeologisrs, zooarc'haeologists, archaeobotanists), we could say something interesting, significant, and true about any part of the archaeological recOld to which we turned our attention. That situation is captured, with only very slight exaggeration, by Derek Roe's (1984) description of the Very Model of a Modern [Archaeologist], I have taken some liberties with Roe's rendering-itself, of course, an adaptation of the original Gilbert and Sullivan libretto-as indicated by brackets: I am the very model of a modern [Archaeologist]: A geoethnoarchaeoeconomobiologist. I've seventeen research degrees, from fifteen different colleges, Mostly in America, where all the

latest knowledge is; I can calibrate chronologies, with all the latest jargon, Using isotopes of oxygen, uranium,
or argon; ...

I can quantify regression lines, in terms of their obliquity, And publish them in [Science] when rejected by [American AntIqUIty], If you're into symbiosis at [Cahokia] or at [Chaco], I'm The colleague to consult before you promulgate your paradigm. I've hired a taphonomer and fired my typologist: I am the very model of a modern [Arch aeologisr 1, . . d ides read response to the urgThe 19605 phase of enthusiastic an w P e faithfully re. B' ford ISeven mar . ings of revolutionaries led by Lewis m l ti n in Archeologywnt.. ' fleeted in our book (Watson er aI. 197 I) Expana. 10f called a pOSitiVISt lifies what JS0 ten L ten in 1969-197°. The book exernp [ . . t) an approach rnat . '1 h prehistoric pas , . L approach to the past (primari y t e . d by others In tne enand reJecte I was modified in various ways b y some sessment: Watsonet a _ n recent reas Suing decade and a half (see our ow 8 ) . h 70Sthat have 19 4 . d eaction m t e r9 Tri It is these varieties of response an .B rh Dunnell (1984) and ng. . a . terpret/vegrran ds in some . produced the mterprenve rren dsofI985these current In markable ger (1984) enumerate an d treat f that seemmost re h t k s upon the tWO acts archaeology,the onslaug rdetail, but neither remar L ew f" . dafter me n a pas to me' (I) Before, during, an d the siren songs h I • L logy an .' rc aeo oaf CRM and contract arcnaeo '.. f Amencamst a h vast malonty 0 .' li e have gone ptocessualist" approaches, reI . stream of the dlSCIP , f cultural In " . h b h viora main "e form 0 gists representing tee a IIth real past, VJasam f Amer;canright on pursuing what I shall ca h fierst rime in the history a ( ) who do B t for teL 10gIStsa materialist strategy. (2 ) U, f practicing arc/laeo " somewhat " now a ew " " there IS a tst archaeology, there are ible In addition, . with or has .s accesS' . cern [S I past' not believe the rea . whose primary con hi cond (though h ologlstS Th s t is se I larger number 0f arc ae h the real past. u.' . ludes severa · thert an I gIstS InC become (b) somet h mg 0 t'cing archaeo a hose primary ng prac' f' those w . I minority) category amO d" . uish at least our. () some materia . h J n !Stmg I past: a Subgroups, of wh[c ca other than the rea concern is with somethIng

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culture analysts, and (b) some critical theorists; and among those who do not believe the real past is accessible: (c) all very narrow empiricists, and (d) some practitioners of actualistic studies. Hence, there are grounds for markedly divergent opinions in 1985 about whether the discipline is on the verge of serious factionalization, or whether it is on its way to synthesis and rebirth. I discuss the archaeological majority first, and then turn to a consideration of the various minority positions including that of the extreme archaeological skeptics. Because my concern in this paper is with the minority positions and their possible significance, I give rather short shrift to the archaeological majority, Fortunately, the excellent yearly summaries by Dunnell in the American Journal of Archaeology (Dunnell 1984 being the seventh in the series), as well as Trigger's recent account (1984), and the yearly appearance of review articles in Advances in Archaeological Method and Theory (Michael Schiffer, editor) make access to the current literature relatively easy.

other bioturbatory

. I mechamsms to a II' uviar, co lIuviaI, and eolian deposi-

tion; erosion; and remodeling. , ind d they Although the methods and techniques used are vaned- m ee , 'ted h . . . ners are nevert e less, un I are often seen as conflicting-theu practmo , ibl if at b lieved to be accessi e, I n I past, ed' by a common interest in the rea f ce from the f 'I ' htforwar m eren directly then indirectly, throug h air y stralg, I d CRM and contract archaeological record. This characterization inc u es all cultural hisarchaeologists, as well as t h ose war ki on large or sm mg torical questions. ', re those archaeolo' I mamstream a Other members of the b eh aviora d b bout theory and . rns are e ates a d gists among whose pnmary conce , ' ' s that characterize , ion of f the actlVlUe method in a continuation a some a Ex pies include most f i movement, am I d early days in the new arc h aeo ogy II' d Hodder's; Kel ey an , ir-nrions an Binford's publications and many of Dunne s an Renfrew 1982; SaIrnon 8 . , 8 b: Marquardt 19 5, 8 b This Hanen in press; Leone 19 I" 8 . Wylie 1985", 19 5 : 1982.' Schiffer 198r; Watson et al, 19 4, , t'velychatactenzesas , (I 82) pelora , ib group includes those whom Flannery 9 I y (1 do not subsen e doers of archaeo og critics and observers rather t h an , to Flannery's categorically negative VIew), , ' aJ information on red' um of empltlC 'I rnIn an attempt to get a mo IC iahr illuminate my IOpIC, exa , h search or professiona I' mteres ts that rrug esented at tel 974 , 1982, ts of papers pr , gs are deined the Programs an d Ab st rae . at these meeun I 1983, and 1984 SAA meetings. The secshsa'~::terizing archraedologirnca the " f dtoas )b ey rscernvoted to the topics Just re erre (discussed below ar nJ ' 'ubgroups here 0 Y rw majority with the mmonty s h nd there, t ere w . m ' I ers ere a 8 sympos," ible. Other than a few, one pap, 'I'ty category: one 19 2 he 108) . igh Ii ' a the mmO h logy at t , sessions that rnr t t mt symboliC arc sec , b roupsh nd one on ' otItY SU g on critical approac es, a "licance of these mm d ho peoples , ' meetmgs. Wh at t h en 's the SIgn' f ecenr meetings-an w I . h rogIamS 0 r virtually invisible m t e p them?


The Archaeological


The archaeological majority comprises those who use the archaeological record to pursue time-space systematics (more or less the same as Taylor's "chronicle"; Taylor 1948), culture history ("historiography" in Taylor's terms, "reconstructing prehistoric lifeways" in Binford's terms; Binford 1962), and/or culture process (roughly corresponding to Taylor's "archaeology as cultural anthropology," and to other authors' "archaeology as social science"; Watson et al. 1971:159-163). Topics of consuming concern to this majority group include ecological-environmental approaches (Butzer 1982); enthnoarchaeological studies (Binford 1978; Gould 1980; Hayden and Cannon 1984; Kent 1984); interest in relined dating techniques and materials analysis (Browman 1981; Farquhar and Fletcher 1984); investigation of site formation processes (Binford 1981; SteIn 1983; Stein and Farrand 1985); use of geographic, biological, and many other models (Jochim 1983; Johnson 1977; Runnels 1981; Sabloff 1981); and research on paleo-belief systems (Hall 1977). , The archaeological majority thus includes purveyors of optimal foragIng, theory, central place theory, information theory, spatial analysis, and SIte catchment analysis, as well as seekers after prehistoric ideologicalor cognitive systems. Prominently present are those tracking site formation processes of all descriptions from the effects of earthworms and


Thl!! Archaeological Antecedents




, includes work srimurent majority groupmgberanr claimsof 1960s As already nored, the CU[rheI970S when rhe e;:ford (1983C) refers to lated by skeptical cnses 0 , home to rOOSf. b an comIng new archaeology eg

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this I970S period as a generation gap; I recently called it a secondary loss of innocence (Warson 1982). I was harking back to David Clarke's 1973 discussion of the new archaeology which he viewed as representing the loss of innocence characteristic of traditional archaeology with its almost wholly intuitive goals. Clarke called for disciplinary selfconsciousness among archaeologists, but predicted that this might be painful, or at least that confusion would be engendered by it (Clarkel 1973:8; see also Wylie 1982; Pinsky and Wylie in prep.), The prediction came true. Although much of the new archaeology was adopted and indeed is now central to the field, revisionist moves of various sorts soon emerged, chief among them a rapidly burgeoning concern with site formation processes approached via ethnoarchaeology, geoarchaeology, and experimental archaeology. Many archaeologists are happily and productively employed in these and related areas, but others have experienced still deeper skeptical crises, which have led some of them to (or toward) the minority positions now to be discussed.

laid here is Robert Dunnell whose d ogge d an d d0 grnatic empiricism is8 80, 19 4a, out in a number of pu bli , icanons (0unne II 1971 , 1978, 19hi" I984b). He is near or at the " arn if act p hvsics" horn of the arcf aeo agist s ysics h disdilemma described by DeBoer an d Lat h rap II 97,9'103' , see urr er IS cuss ion of this dilemma in Wylie in prep.): , ractirioner of an overEither [the archa~ologls.t] b~comh~ch Past cultural behavior is extended umformltanarnsm In w nt e~ltural behavior, or he [or "read" from our knowledge of prese derstanding behavmmitment to un in she] must eschew hiIS [or h]~r aki d of "artifact physics" In whi h w IC n, al by.products are measured ior altogether and engage In a the form and distribution of be aVlofr 'I' quandary of choosing in a behavioral vacuum. Thi IS th ami iar method or one whi h IS ' de f lty IC between a significant pursuit bas,e, au rpose [DeBoerand Lathis methodologically sound but rnvra In pu rap 1979:103]. logy from its close .h parate arch aeo 'I d Dunnell apparently WIS es to se b that relationship has e relationship with culrura Iant h rop ology ecause faIlacious approac h to d , Iy flawe or II to what he regards as a very senous tionist school (Dunne , the reconstruc in whi h the archaeological interpretatu'I'! , the common one In w IC , 1980:77-83, 87-88). This approach IS ted as most archaeolOgists d , or reconstruc mation and ethnographic past is inferentially constructe , inf , f h raphic In or '1 rd on speak of it, on the baSIS0 et ~og f the archaeologlea reco .' analogy. Dunnell insists on a dllect use a He believes t hat evolutJOnary , , ' hi indIrect use. I rion as It IS its own terms rather th an t IS I lution but to eva u d cultura evo , J 'cal recor ' theory (not with reference to I' d to the archaeo ogl h Id be app Ie understood in biology) s ou , '6 whether evoluhat urport to be SClentl d measurable in n The units in any theory t Prl'callyidennfiableda 'n the "behavt be empi b 'c uaw If' tionary or not, m~s rd This is the aSI, school",. I ."t the phenomenological recof the reconsrrucnoOlst 't must be rewrltioral correlates" nOll?n 0be used in archa~oJOgy'd,e rchaeological a [evolutionary theory] IS~O irical representanonw'lll have to be can: ten in terms that ha~e e~olutiOnary thfeorylutiOnary theory as e~ record. Archaeol?19ca nse uences a eva hic data for artlstructed by dedUCIng~:~~pplfcable, to et~~~~r:~, some as!,eclSwill ployed in bIOlogy a~ d distribunons. b'ect to seleerlOn, ] facts their frequenCIeS~nthose not directly ;;;JnnellI980:87-89 . the a~chaeological recortrl~ctlYultural terms c I 'OnIn s I ' reCrequire exp Ianall f the archaeo o19ca f orne aspects a h cannot be en· Thus, although he allow~e~:t~er than function) t at esent sty ord (those that repr



Classification of the Archaeological


As noted, I am aware of four minority subgroups: (a) some material culture analysts (Leone 1973:136-150, '98Ia, I981b; Rathje 1978:50, 1981), (b) some critical theorists (Leone 1973:128-136, 198Ia, 198Ib; Tilley in prep.; Conkey and Spector 1984; Cere 1985; Hall 1984; Kennedy 1979), (c) all very narrow empiricists (Dunnell 1978a, 1980), (d) some practitioners of actualistic studies (Binford 1981:21-30; Binford and Sabloff 1982; Hodder I982b:212). Subcategories (a) and (b) are rather readily comprehensible, and examples are easily available. Some of these archaeologists are not concerned with the past at all, but rather with the way material culture, viewed at least in part as archaeologists view it, can instruct us about our own society (Leone '973; Rathje 1978, 1981). Others are concerned with the real past, but believe for very good and sufficient reasons that a focus on critical approaches is essential because the real past is inaccessible unless we can analyze adequately, and then neutralize or circumvent, the social and political ideologies that bias and shape our understanding of it (Conkey and Spector 1984; Cero 1985; Hall 1984; Kennedy 1979). The third subgroup (very narrow empiricists) is the most interesting for the present analysis, and also the most disquieting, A central figure


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compassed by a scientific evolutionary approach, his concern is with the evolutionarily significant portion of the record that can, he believes, be so encompassed (Dunnell r978a). Description and understanding of that portion will not COmevia reconstruction of the past, but via analysis of "the hard phenomena of the archaeological record" themselves (Dunnell 1978b: 19 5). There are a number of difficulties with Dunnell's argument (Watson et al. 1984:251-256). Perhaps the greatest for me is understanding how one can say anything about the archaeological record without covertly if not overtly employing a reconstructionist approach to some nontrivial degree. What, exactly, are the hard phenomena of the archaeological record, "the empirical data themselves" (Dunnell 198o:78)? How can they even be comprehended in the absence of constructionist or reconstructionist inference based on knowledge of relevant contemporary phenomena? Secondarily, how can the differential distribution (diachronic and synchronic) of stylistic vs, functional artifacts and attributes be detected and documented in the absence of reconstructionist reasoning? That is, how can One distinguish stylistic traits from functional ones without relying on reconstructionist inference? It is, however, simply Dunnell's insistence on a totally empirical approach to the archaeological record that causes me to place him in the camp of extreme skepticism about access to the real past. Dunnell's position is one node of an extreme skeptical syndrome, but there are at least two other nodes, defined by highly influential people: Lewis Binford and Ian Hodder. These two archaeologists are prominent exemplars of those who have temporarily undertaken fulltime research in actualistic contexts to enable, eventually, more adequate and accurate understanding of archaeological site formation and of the nature and functioning of past societies. This is the endeavor Binford and others call "middle range theory." Middle range theory is widely regarded as the best-perhaps the only-means of achieving extensive, detailed, and accurate information about the real past. Binford's brilliant ethnoarchaeological forays into Nunamiut lifeways are internationally known, admired, and emulated. As Dunnell (r984:50r) observes, Binford's work program is most comprehensively and comprehensibly displayed in his book /n Pursuit of the Past (Binford I983b), which is a clear, compelling account of how the basic position he represented twenty years ago has matured and evolved through many years of thought and effOrl. Yet in some of his recent publications (Binford

r981'2r-30Binford and Sabloff r982; and see Wylie in prep.), Binford .,to take a skeptical posmon a b out access to the real past. He says: -. seems " f II inferential arguments, There is an important charactensoc "d a anner from premises to Simply that we can never reason 10 a va I m h which we start. This a conclusion that contradicts the prermses Wit, _ , - I' for archaeologIsts, fact has Important Imp icanons , fences relative to obI. All our statements about the past ar~ 10 ~rgical record. servations made on the contemporalry arc aeotoonsof the past is di'f na construe I , 2. The accuracy 0 f our 10 eren f he assumptions or premises rectly dependent on the accuracyo r , f inf ntial arguments. h serving as the baSIS 0 our 10 ere is th nnor use either r e ' . IUSlOn we mus.t draw IS t at we ca our premises or The cone ast to test archaeological record or the mffrred ble means for knowing the assumptions ... how do we deve op re ia research which zonsrsts 10 mIddle-range for the ~elationship beI Past). .. . we must . engageisned contro I of acrualistic studies designe to b t which one seeks know tween dynamic properties of the past a c~r;.,monto the past and the edge and the static material propertH; -in short, the characteristics "eternal objects ay be made, those things Present , Whitehead's -' . 'sumptlons m hi proabout which umformltanan as st These common I mgs , which the present shares WIth '::e ~vents from different times rn vide the basis for a companson 0 t h ' fence rat er the past. d of the past on in er di The dependence of our knowle gerelationship between para gi than direct observation renders thi and theory (the conceptfalbt~~ (the conceptual 1001 of descnptl°dn the "independence" a a s d: . .t also ren ers d manly stan of explanation) vague,. I uently suspect an com of "convations from explanatlOh~ fr~~rebY committing th~ fall:~ford and ing in a built to relatIOns Ip, _ f d 98r'29' see a so J " [Bm or I . , firming the consequent Sabloff I982:r49]· ,' One is pointed our by bl ms with this pOSItIon. She notes that There are two pro e I d cited (Wylie in prep.ldependent . I' - h paper a rea Y d" nd theory Alison Wy ie on t e _ "aradigm-boun a b' results or -, de Just as p d sO t elf actnalIsnc stu les ar b eological recor , - s on tbe of tbe arc a l observatIOn as are interpretations 'nferences lfom I erable as are 1 conclusions are as vu n , ~ welld 0 obtam ve., archaeological recor . 'tbat even were we t I reSin presently The second problem IS about bebavioral correia middle-level d gulanoes II "abso ute confirmed laws an r~bat Trigger (r984) ca sin as! societieswithout observed SOCleoest be used to expla Pd I bels as afhlnJlUg . " these canno Binfor a generalizanons great as tbe one making an inferential leap as




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the consequent and hence as unacceptable procedure. How can one decide, with the certainty he apparently requires, which things "the present shares with the past" and which things are not so shared? We must always affirm the consequent if we are to do any meaningful interpretation at all, but we do it explicitly and as a calculated way, not of achieving dead certainty-even in the heyday of Explanation in Archaeology we denied that was possible (Watson et al. 1971:4, 22-23)-but rather of reducing uncertainty. Hence, I think that Binford would be well advised not to tread this extreme skeptical ground but rather to continue refining approaches to archaeological inference as he has been doing in such papers as "The Archaeology of Place" (Binford 1982) and "Historical Archaeology" (Binford r977), as well as other publications flowing from his Nunamiut research (Binford 1983a, 1983b; see also the analyses by Wylie 1985b, and in prep.). Ian Hodder has taken a different path toward skepticism about access to the real past. His skeptical attitude is implicit in Symbols in Action (1982a) and rather clearly revealed in The Present Past (1982b). When he began his ethnoarchaeological research in Africa in the late 1960S, he apparently did so for the same reason that motivated Binford: to strengthen archaeological inference, or at any rate to improve certain types of inferences made from the archaeological record. However, unlike Binford who has-with a few exceptions such as those just discussed-steadfastly pursued that aim, Hodder seems to have lost, or perhaps deliberately abandoned, his way in the fascinatingly intricate world of cognitive, or symbolidstructuralist studies and critical approaches. In the introduction to Symbols in Action (1982a:1) he says: The initial aim of the research was to see what material "cultures" (geographical areas with recurring associations of artifacts) represented and were related to in a living context. The concern was to shed some light on the analysis and interpretation of cultures in prehlstonc archaeology .... When do ethnic units identify themselves in material culture? What is the spatial patterning that results? What happens at material culture boundaries? In The Present Past (1982b:2I2) he states "as much as the past informs the present, so the present informs the past," and indeed throughout the book he maintains this critical or skeptical stance toward archaeological interpretation so strongly that in one place he concludes that the proper purpose of archaeology may be to aid attainment of critical selfawareness by members of Our modern industrialized society.

In our attempts to become aware of the preconceptions th~t .he might impose on the past, we must "live" archaeology, not in t e sense of Gould's ... "living archaeology," but m the mlodr~adhlcahl r . . . sense of gauung know Ied ge an d experience from the wor if m w IC I . .' . we hve our dally hves. Th ere IS a danger, though , that I weI on. y · 'ty b . own look at ourselves we may be b IIIId to t hi' atrvi of our db' ogre. ere I . tame y socia d wit h t he resuIts 0 I Contrasts with other cultures an I bi s The frown ell tura 13. anthropologists encourage awareness 0 au ib t to this critical proper purpose of archaeology may be to contn u e self-awareness [Hodder 1982b:2I2]. y or validity of social h d Hodder does not attempt to assess tea equac . I th I_ k 'h w he rhinks SOCIa an ropo anthropological data, so I do. not now. 0 ic and the preconceptions ogisrs have escaped the relativity of rheir 10 gI h bserve in living . they may have Impose d upon events or processes t ey 0 but undeniably alien cultures. ith ard to the past, how. WI dd er 's Sk eptica I stance h b reg in a discussion of a To return to Ho k ever, near the end of the last chapter of t e 00 ects of material cul. . I I h numerates nme asp .' SCience of materia cu ture, e e bi it and uncertamty mtc . II' oduces am igui Y .h ture each of which potentia Ymtr . d This litany, together WIt . . f h h eologlcal recor. I b li the mterpretatIon ate arc a k behavior and sym ousm the subsequent account of contempora~ ~~~hhis stress throughout the in Britain (Hodder 1982b:21S-2I6) .an hist rical contexts, leaves the iznifi hook on the deep sigrn cance a f uruque dIS 0 "berately means to d) . h OW,! · Hodder eu th f aarchaeological reader (as I b eIieve . I' dismay about e e f 'on or Just p am a sense of bewilderment, can USl, nOon . . " lca I'trpreta sihility of adequate archaeolog me. with (although-at least in In other words, I think Hodder IS toymg ) a fundamental skepnrdly advocating ducnve these publications-not outwa Id be quite counterpro d th past that wou 0 he one han , cism abour know Ied ge 0f e haeologists. n t id d among arc "kng us more were it to become WI esprea I a useful role 10 rna I h . . and can p ay "n rhe or er his analyses are fasClnatmg " interpretatIOns; a I hi . ated rn our d ro ru e out sensitive and more sop IStlC I' they waul seem hand followed to their logical conc USl~~~th abour tbe real past. f ,be ' h' f substance or d least pa't a hope of saying anyt mg a f b time and Binfor ,a' h chaeology d much 0 t e, b t w at ar In sum, Ho d er, I t their innocence a au h e lost ,heir . I have as h em ro av time, seem not on y to do but also t ey se 1 st Because is and what archaeologists can d' as a guide to the rea Pha· simarion · . t Ia glcal recor d cha,ismatlc figures, I' , s faith in the arc h aeo . .' ductlve, an f h disclp lne. both are vigorouS, pro h future well being ate I sr who rakes a might seem alarming for t e ect is afforded the ana Y 'ng prosp An even more aIarmt


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developmental or evolutionary view of these recent events. One can conceive of the following sequence of phases or stages: Phase I (Age of Innocence, prc-rysos). The archaeological record is ~viewed as a direct reflection of the past, limited in some ways because of !,obvious preservarion problems, but otherwise comprising priceless eljcs --\of the.human.pasr, ; Phase II (First Burst of the New Archaeology, 1962-1972). It is believed that with the application of sufficient ingenuity and the use of new techniques and methods, the archaeological record will yield a great wealth of information about prehistoric -human social and cultural beh~r.'---- Phase III (Loss of Innocence, Stage I, '972-midllate 1970S). It is realized that interpreting the archaeological record is rather problematic because of interference by natural and cultural site formation processes. These must be studied mainly in the present and hence mainly by actualistic techniques (geoarchaeological, ethnoarchaeological, and replicative [experimental archaeological]) so that the distorting effects can be neutralized in interpretation. Phase IV (Loss of Innocence, Stage 2, late 1970s-1980s). It is believed that neutralization of distorting influences is an inadequate and possibly even an erroneous way to arrive at interpretation of the archaeological record. The only hope for achieving genuine advances in archaeological theory (and hence in archaeological interpretation) is by means of acrualistic studies. Phase V (Terminal Skeptical Crisis, possibly late 1980s-1990?). Knowledge gained through ethnography is impossible to apply to the past. Human behavior is too complicated, too intricate, too intangible to be captured and preserved in material remains, and too idiosyncratic and particular to be understood even if it were somehow so preserved. Moreover, contemporary sociopolitical forces inevitably warp and distort our perceptions of all alien social processes, present or past. And, finally, the archaeological record-far from being static-is so dynamic a playground for all manner of bio- and geoturbatory factors, that there is no hope of retrieving past human behavior from it. QED: Archaeology is impossible. There is no real past, or at any
rate no access to it.


firmly directed at the real past. Even our most penetrating critics admit that when we get down in our trenches or up on our tab stools we generally know what we are doing even if we are not always highly articulate . '(S about why we are doing It a Iman 197 6 ,1 982'49 77'" WylIe '98"d ., '985a, '985b). For purposes of maximizing the archaeological re~o~ , however we must strive to be explicitly thoughtful about goals, met a s, and techniques, and we must justify Out inferences about the past. . y, AIl practicing archaeologists behave in fundamentally the sahme wha , di I between w at t ey they work back and forth in a continuous 18 og h ' h ches ' cones, un cexpect or think or hope IS correct (ii.e., hypotheses ' t hi' I . f ' n of the arc aeo ogtca re about the correct interpretation a a portio I '12-16 d i If (Watson er a 1971. , ord), and the archaeologic. al recor ltSe" h' osr fruitful 'I ating rn this way, t e m b '14-12'; Wylie 1985). Wh ue oper 1 f whar they h h re most clear y aware a results are obtained by t ose w a a 1" I hose significant rather are doing and why, because they will eXPlllc'lt c pOpropriatedata recovY . . . . er and WI se ect a . than trivial questions to answ , b d t e1evantinformation. ery methods best calculated to produce a undan,' ~owledge is rornor, I I ware that to ays They will also be most c ear y a di f the evidence are con. , h hei r understan ings a d row's ignorance; i.e., t at t er . sk the record an new , irnrmo rrew , tinually changing, necessnanng ne quesnons to a f understandmg the , Thus the process 0 d techniques for gettmg answers. , 'nd also thoroughly eis archaeological record IS th oroug hl Y dynamIC, igns intellIgently app I' d t hd a re I d - d researc es , I I k lifies rhis more c ear y Pendent upon intelligent y evrse 's war exemp 'd to a piece of that record. N a one f h time both practices an - f d ho most ate, 83 ' than does that of Bin or , w '. B' f d 198P:389-394, 19 b . , d escribed ( indor dented preaches the procedure Just -srand the well- ocurn chapters 4,5,8,9). It was his atrempt;~ ~:atedrove him from the ethn~' g variability in Mousterian assemhbla td work explicitly designed ro a d' fi b graphic literature to et h no grap IC_ e He then returne d to r at and ord anne I . I questIOns. swer specific archaeo oglCa _ d arJypost_Pleistocenerec d fro ' f h PaleolIthiC an e _ work 10 an other portions 0 t e _ h and contInues to with the results of actualisnc researc( , d only) possible means to 0 1 'the best an between the twO rea IDSIll ding of the real past, achieve d d un d erstan f but we can relatively well· foun e will never be per ect, __ I and persis. he Our knowledge of tth paspterfections by dever, en.nca,'record with I ver e Jln h e%glca f significant contro a b ations on the arc a b orne degree a ' of a serv h lhere e s tent coor d matIon . "mportant t at _ orrarH that ·. lly It IS J sk but it 's even 'more Imp those made acrua I Isnca . th' . . out IS ra , skepticism m carrymg

Iam not unduly upset Or pessimistic about all this, however, at least not as an abstract possibility. The first reason for my relative equanimity IS that I know most field archaeologists have very solid inruitions very


American Archaeology

Past and Future

Watson / Archaeological Interpretation, 1985 453

the original goal of reliable access to the real past neither be mired in a slough of skeptical despond, nor abandoned altogether for seemingly greener actualistic fields. The second reason for my relatively tranquil state of mind is that I know the pull of the archaeological heard and-the real past-to be extremely powerful, not just to the professionals who read the latest technicalliterature and hear the electrifying papers read at meetings, but also to avoca tiona I archaeologists and the general public who do not. These people-amateurs, avocationals, and the informed or just simply the interested lay public-are fascinated by all aspects of the real human past. A substantial number of professional archaeologists are, in fact, reformed pothunters or relic collectors, hence have entered the profession from the ranks of this same interested lay public. And, of course, most current funding for prehistoric archaeology in the United States is public money. Therefore, in a certain fundamentally important sense, nearly all of us who call ourselves archaeologists as well as those who support our work are particularists: We want to know what happened and why, not only in history, but also in prehistory. Only archaeologists can attain historical and social scientific understanding of the real, human, prehistoric past, and they have the strongest possible mandate to do so. I find that in spite of skeptical skirmishes and many differences in specific goals, methods, and techniques, "Archaeological Interpretation, 1985" displays the same central tendency as "Archaeological Interpretation, 1935": describing and explaining the real past. I cannot close, however, without interjecting, a final and less optimistic comment about the real world of the present. I believe as strongly as ever that it is vitally important to think about what we are doing and why we are doing it, and to discuss these issues in a variety of different contexts. But, at least in the continental United States, we do not have the luxury of unlimited time for these discussions. At the present rate, by the year 2.000, if not before, virtually all the prehistoric archaeological record here will be gone. In other words, contemporary Americanist archaeology is, in a very immediate sense, a gigantic conservation and salvage operation. This means that we simply cannot afford a major diverSIO~ in debates about archaeological theory from our first order of busmess: describing and explaining the human past. Hence, although I remam calm about the abstract possibility, for practical and logistical reasons, I do view with alarm contemporary moves toward denial of the real past or of access to it. Rather we must redouble our efforts to con-

serve wherever possible, and where not, to extract from the archaeological record the maximum amount of information about that real past. This commitment necessitates greater attention to significantarchaeological problems and to research designs appropriate to solve them within all forms of field archaeology. , " So I conclude with respect ro "Archaeological Interpretation, 1985 ' ' been that explicit attention to t h eory IS more impor rant than it has ,everM , , a f arc h aeo logy in America. Iost in the 100 years since forma Iizanon ion to t critical of all is relentless attention to th e conservano' n of the archaeo ogk h ' , ion ical record and to the mtegrauon of th eory with the field wor t at IS a d ' , I ' being destroye so rapapplied to that record. Archaeologica sires are hi t to the real pre istonc pas idly that in the very near future our access 'II have as data " ow Soon we WI will be even more attenuate d t h an It IS n . , b t a tiny cirnens representing u only excavation reports an d museum spe ible rheory of recov'I d The best POSSI fraction of the archaeo I ogica recor . d t make irretrievable , ery and recording IS essentia' I to assu re that we 0 no more of the prehistoric past t h an has a rea dy been lost. as al

. discussions with Alison WyThis paper was heavily influenced by many I ith Mary Kennedy,neilie over the past three years, an d more recent y WI Without Mary''e word wor h crual content. h for tea ther of whom is to blame , uld certainly not ave isec h the manuscnpt wo th d processing expertise, nwever, 'I rateful to her for at an ne a~ gFinally,I am thankful to been ready in final form by the deadli for help in assembling the LlteraturMeI,te 'for astute editorial sugges. d to DaVId J. e rzer RIChard A. Watson an d h f al manuscript, , "fi nons that srgrn cant I I y 'mprove ten



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