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PHILOSOPHY FROM THE GROUND UP: EVIDENTIAL REASONING IN ARCHAEOLOGY

Alison Wylie Barnard College, Columbia University Making Society, Knowing Society University of California, San Diego DRAFT: DO NOT QUOTE OR CIRCULATE We know a great deal about the human cultural past: about its time depth, about the trajectories by which humans dispersed across the globe, about the processes by which they responded to and transformed the environments in which they found themselves, and about the dynamics of interaction and internal evolution by which social and cultural forms have proliferated. And for the vast majority of human life on earth this body of knowledge is based entirely on archaeological data. This is something of a paradox when you consider how tenuous the archaeological database is, and how epistemically fraught the enterprise of archaeological inquiry. As one philosophically minded practitioner recently put it: archaeology is at once the hardest as well as the most important study of all (a modest advocate for his field), not just because of the inherent complexity of the human systems it studies, but because it uses evidence that is remote from and uncertainly coupled to the systems it seeks to study (Chippindale 2002: 606). The questions I address here and elsewhere arise directly from this conundrum: how do we come to know (anything) about the cultural past?; what confidence should we have in our best available methods for producing and adjudicating archaeological knowledge claims? I begin with some background on how these questions have been addressed, by philosophers and by archaeologists, and then outline my answer to them in the form of a model of evidential reasoning. What I present here is an overview of the analysis developed in a series of case and issue-specific essays that appear together in Thinking from Things: Essays in the Philosophy of Archaeology (2002): the historical analysis that follows is elaborated in Section II, How New is the New Archaeology; the analysis of the interpretive dilemma is developed in Section III, Interpretive Dilemmas: Crisis Arguments in the New Archaeology; and details of the model of evidential reasoning are to be found in chapters 13, 14, and 15, in Section III (Bootstrapping in the Un-Natural Sciences; The Constitution of Archaeological Evidence; Rethinking Unity as a Working Hypothesis for Philosophy of Science: How Archaeologists Exploit the Disunities of Science).

Philosophical Questions in and about Archaeology Periodically epistemic questions raised by and about archaeology have attracted the attention of philosophers. Hempel considers the tacit dependence of archaeological inference on laws in dating archaeological materials at the end of The Function of General Laws in History (1942: 48) and philosophers of the life and earth sciencesspecially those concerned with evolutionary theorizingperiodically consider the structure and limitations of historical inference based on the archaeological record: e.g., Toulmin and Goodfield on the formation of contemporary horizons of geological and historical time in Discovery of Time (1965); Wimsatts recent work on models of generative systems; Tuckers consideration of biological and historical patterns of inference in Our Knowledge of the Past (2004). Examples of more systematic analysis of archaeological inquiry include, in 1

the 19th century, Whewells treatment of the strategies of inference typical of comparative archaeology, which he took to be an example of the palaetiological sciences: the sciences which deal with objects that are descended from a more ancient condition, from which the present is derived by intelligible causes (Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences 1967 [1840]: 637). And in the interwar period, mid-20th century, Collingwood frequently relied on examples of archaeological inference in analysis of the logic of historical (question-and-answer) reasoning in The Idea of History (1946: Epilogomena), and he makes explicit a number of philosophical lessons that he attributes to archaeological field experience in An Autobiography (1939). Most dramatically, since the 1970s, analytic philosophy of archaeology (M. Salmon) or meta-archaeology (Embree) has become something of a cottage industry, spurred by the philosophical provocations of the New Archaeology. More of this shortly. For archaeologists, anxiety about the proxy status of material evidencequestions about how archaeological data can (best) be used as evidence of a cultural pasthas been a matter of intense and perennial concern from the time the field began to professionalize and take root in museums and universities in the late 19th century. The underlying issues here are manifestly philosophical and, indeed, archaeologists have periodically turned to philosophy for epistemic insight and reassuranceespecially when engaged in crisis debates that have erupted, by my estimation, every 20 to 30 years since the early 20th century. At the core of these recurrent debates is a worry that the fragmentary, enigmatic nature of the material record generates an interpretive dilemma that imposes absolute limits on archaeological inquiry. This dilemma arises from the pessimistic appraisal that interesting claims about the cultural past inevitably extend beyond what can be securely established on the basis of the archaeological record. If this premise is accepted, so the argument goes, archaeologists have just two options. If they are committed to ideals of epistemic responsibility, they must confine themselves to the pursuit of narrowly descriptive goals, documenting the contents of the archaeological record: this is the narrow empiricist horn of the dilemma. But if they are committed to anthropological, historical goals, they must be prepared to embrace the speculative horn of the dilemma; archaeological narratives may be captivating and richly grounded in archaeological data but they are, at best, forms of aesthetic appreciation and, at worst, projections of our own expectations and preoccupations in the form of just-so stories. Those who treat these options as mutually exclusive and exhaustiveas genuinely dilemmictypically rely on two further presuppositions: that the connections between surviving material evidence and antecedent events or conditions are (all equally / extremely) tenuous; and that the bar for epistemic responsibility in a field like archaeology should be set extremely high. The locus classicus for such an argument is a widely cited discussion note published in the British Archaeological Newsletter in 1955 by a field archaeologist, M.A. Smith. She insisted that there is no logical relation between the social, cultural past and its surviving record, by which she seems to mean no relation of deductive entailment; archaeological interpretation incorporates an irreducible element of conjecture which cannot be tested (e.g., Smith 1955: 4-5). Consequently, the Diogenes problem, as she describes it, is inescapable: archaeologists may find the tub but altogether miss Diogenes (1955: 1-2), and may have no way of ever knowing what theyre missing. What begins as a problem of contingent underdetermination is thus generalized; the potential for pervasive and undetectable error is inferred from specific instances of error fortuitously detected or counterfactually projected. A domain-wide (if not wholesale) skepticism is thus inescapable; the only alternative to irresponsible speculation is an archaeology defined by severely curtailed ambitions.

Archaeological Responses to the Interpretive Dilemma This interpretive dilemma has generated three recurrent strategies of response, three methodological stances that have taken shape in response to crisis debate within archaeology: sequent stage, constructivist, and integrationist approaches to inquiry. Sequent stage approaches. These were embraced by optimistic conservatives who insist that epistemically responsible archaeologists must eschew any form of (premature) theoretical speculation about the cultural past. Their first priority should be to explore the archaeological record, to collect and systematize archaeological data which they see, not as an end in itself, but as a necessary first stepa matter of establishing a secure empirical foundation before venturing historical or anthropological hypotheses. As one sardonic pair of commentators observed, theorizing is thus deferred until a future Darwin of Anthropology appears on the scene who can interpret the great historical scheme that will have been erected(Steward and Setlzer 1938: 3) Initially, in the WWI era, advocates of this epistemic stance argued that that archaeologists should just get on with the discovery and documentation of the archaeological record. Systematic empirical research and theorizing are starkly opposed. Indeed, a preoccupation with the latter (which includes interpretive inference about the cultural past as well as reflexive debate about archaeological practice), threatens to induce a methodological paralysis: a Hamletic state of mind not wholesome in pushing on active research work as Dixon put it in 1913 (p. 577). The epistemic rationale for this deferral of theory was articulated a decade later, when Taylor (from whom I get the term sequent stage) argued that archaeology is no more than a method or set of specialized techniques for the gathering of cultural information; its purpose is to establish the foundation for a roughly...sequential series of stages, beginning with data collection, analysis and chronological synthesis, then moving on to chronological and ethnographic reconstruction, finally culminating in the anthropological study of culture as such (its dynamics and statics, nature and workings; Taylor 1948). Constructivism. From the early 20th century (1908-1917) critics of sequent stage approaches have objected that no interpretively or theoretically innocent investigation of the record is possible, either as a necessary preliminary or as an end in itself. Inevitably, the identification of material as archaeological, much less the construction of chronological sequences and regional/cultural typological schemes, requires substantial interpretive inference beyond description of the material contents of the record. And even if interpretively neutral description of the contents of the archaeological record was possible, it could not be counted on to yield the kinds of data base that archaeologists will require when they turn to anthropological and historical questions about the cultural past. One response to such arguments was to circumscribe this threat of insecurity. British contemporaries of Smiths argued that the intractable ambiguities she notes chiefly afflict inferences concerning belief systems, religious convictions, abstract social norms. In fact, archaeologists can quite reliably reconstruct technology and physical environment, some aspects of subsistence practice, perhaps some limited dimensions of social organization (as necessary conditions for technology/subsistence); they should focus on these dimensions of the cultural past and eschew speculation about the rest. The result was a schematic ladder of inference advocated in the 1950s by Hawkes and Piggott (1954). A quite different, explicitly pragmatist and in some cases subjectivist response took the form of arguments that archaeologists should give up the quest for interest and problem-neutral empirical foundations, acknowledge the inherent limitations of archaeological inquiry and make explicit its 3

presuppositions. In this spirit archaeologists working the U.S. American southeast argued (initially with reference to ceramic typologies) that classificatory systems are merely tools, tools of analysis, manufactured and employed by students (Brew 1946); they do not capture culturally meaningful reality but rather serve specific purposes, e.g., establishing chronological control (Ford 1954). In a more explicitly subjectivist version of this argument, an archaeologist working in the U.S. southwest (evidently influenced by Dewey) argued that ascriptions of function to archaeological material depend on analogical comparisons that incorporate an irreducibly subjective element. Ultimately, assessments of the epistemic credibility of interpretive inference depends on judgements of professional competence; archaeologists have no alternative but to invoke a convergence of trained and expert intuition (e.g., Thompson 1956). Integrationist approaches. A third strategy of response is evident in recurrent demands for a new departure, for a New Archaeology, motivated by concern that sequent stage and constructivist options typically revert to one or the other horn of the original interpetive dilemma. By mid-century (1930s1950s) anthropological archaeologists had accumulated enormous stores of data and were constructing an elaborate edifice of chronological sequences and typological schemes but, impatient critics objected, this increasingly rich and finely systematized empirical foundation showed little promise of delivering any significant historical or anthropological understanding of the cultural past. The constructivist and pragmatist responses of the 1950s offer little more than capitulation to the speculative horn of the dilemma; all that constrains speculation is a reliance on convention, on now made explicit in procedures that critics vilified as a matter of pooling practitioners. Although the underlying epistemological argument is almost never explicit, the conviction that there must be a third way, an alternative that escapes the dilemma, derives from an intuition that it should be possible to integrate in archaeological inquiry the theorizing necessary to identify and interpret archaeological data as evidence, and to make it empirically and conceptually accountable. The earliest call for a New Archaeology, in 1907-1918, was intended to displace the woefully haphazard and uncoordinated practices of antequarianism (Dixon 1913). For these advocates of a newly professional archaeology, the chief characteristic of self-consciously anthropological and scientific practice is an interest not in specimens but rather in the relations of things, with the whens and the whys and the hows (Dixon 1913: 565). Most important, they insisted that these ambitious goals could not be deferred if they were ever to be realized: the mere collecting of curious and expensive objects once used by man is impotent to answer the...questions we are all interested in, viz., anthropological, historical questions proper to the science of man (Wissler 1917: 100). What is required, Wissler declared in 1917, is a real, new archaeology: an archaeology informed by a reasoned formulation of definite problems and predicated on commitment to saner more truly scientific methods (1913: 563). These Dixon described in quite generic terms, invoking Chamberlins (1890) discussion of the method of multiple working hypotheses: If there are gaps in the evidence, why not make a systematic attempt to fill them? On the basis of evidence at hand a working hypothesis or several alternative hypotheses may be framed, and material sought which shall either prove or disprove them. (Dixon 1913: 564) By the 1930s-1940s the target of criticism was not so much non-archaeological (antequarian) forms of practice, but an established tradition of professional archaeology characterized by commitment to a sequent stage approach. In the era of the WPA, anthropological archaeologists were chiefly concerned with bringing some order to the immense body of data generated by large scale, multi-year excavation projects on some of the richest sites in North America. At this point a philosophical rationale was articulated for insisting that historical and anthropological theorizing could not be deferred, as a series of epistemic arguments for problem-oriented research, as it was later described. In an article that appeared in 4

Philosophy of Science in 1939, Kluckhohn objected to the influence in archaeology of what he identifies as a narrow empiricism: a simpliste mechanistic-positivistic philosophy (1940: 46) according to which some form of empirical datum is presumed to be the source and foundation of all legitimate knowledge, to exhaust its cognitive content. This, he argues, makes a mockery of physics and other theoretically sophisticated forms of natural science, and cannot be a reasonable guide to archaeological practice. Anticipating Kuhn and Hanson by two decades, Kluckhohn argues that archaeologists do not have the option of establishing the archaeological facts first, before they venture interpretive/explanatory hypotheses: no fact has meaning except in the context of a conceptual scheme (1940: 47), a theme elaborated a few years later by Bennett in the context of an archaeological debate about typological schemes. No sense can be made of the notion of 'fact' [as] a phenomenological datum, Bennett argued (1946: 198); what constitutes a fact or a classification is a relative affair determined entirely by the problem at hand (1946: 200). Consequently, attempts at systematization that purport to be empirically driven and interpretively neutral should be viewed with suspicion. They are abstractions...really bundles of testable hypotheses about the nature of correspondence of cultural objects to the dynamic culture-historical pattern which bore them (Bennett 1946: 200); as such, they depend on rich, problemspecific presuppositions that are simply unacknowledged. As Kluckhohn put this point, The alternative is not...between theory and no theory or a minimum of theory, but between adequate and inadequate theories, and, even more important, between theories, the postulates and propositions of which are conscious and hence lend themselves to systematic criticism, and theories the premises of which have not been examined even by their formulators. (1939: 330) In the same period, in the context of British archaeology/philosophy of history, Collingwood made parallel case for problem-oriented, theoretically informed research: Long practice in excavation had taught me that one conditionindeed the most important conditionof success was that the person responsible for any piece of digging, however small and however large, should know exactly what he wants to find out, and then decide what kind of digging will show it to him. This was the central principle of my logic of question and answer as applied to archaeology. (1978 [1946]: 121-122) The most strident and ambitious of these New Archaeologies burst on the scene in 1960s and 1970s, its advocates arguing strenuously against the bankruptcy, not just of an antequarian preoccupation with collecting archaeological material, or a typological preoccupation with systematizing archaeological data, but of culture history: a preoccupation with reconstructive goals in the form of covert systematization, or cautious interpretive reconstruction of the material aspects of the cultural past (in the spirit of the Hawkes/Piggott ladder of inference). They argued that the limitations of traditional archaeology lie, not in the archaeological record, but in what archaeologists bring to inquiry by way of interpretive resources, and they rejected the presupposition, underlying both sequent stage and constructivist approaches, that archaeologists can only proceed inductively, generating interpretive hypotheses after the fact, as (speculative) conclusions. The alternative they proposed was that archaeologists should make the most ambitious anthropological problems the primary and immediate focus of their research, and the problems to which they gave prioritythe problems appropriate to a properly scientific archaeologywere broadly processual: cultural systems should be understood in adaptationist, eco-materialist terms, with the aim of establishing universal (nomological) laws of cultural process (the interdependence of system components; patterns of response to environmental conditions; dynamics of internal evolution). To realize these processual goals, the New Archaeologists argued for a rigorously problem-oriented form of practice: theorizing about culture process should be the point of departure for inquiry, rather than a deferred later stage, and all aspects of archaeological inquiry should be designed as a matter of testing explanatory, interpretive hypotheses against the archaeological record. They invoked Hempels hypothetico-deductive (H-D) of confirmation and insisted that the insecurity of venturing claims about the 5

cultural past could be eliminated only if their credibility was assessed, not in terms of inductive support generated in the process of their formulation (in a context of discovery) but, rather, in terms of their success surviving rigorous archaeological testing (in a context of verification). They particularly objected to reliance on analogical reasoning and were confident, more generally, that a systematic process of deductive testing could supplant reliance on all forms of inductive speculation. When they considered the vagaries of establishing what Fritz refers to as observations of the past (1972)the empirical basis for testing presumptive laws and hypothesesthey turn again to Hempel for inspiration. The significance of archaeological data as material traces of specific past conditions was to be established by law-governed retrodiction, on the model of covering-law (D-N) explanation. The reaction against this self-consciously positivist rhetoric and research program was swift and deeply factionalizing. Both internal archaeological critics and external philosophical commentators invoked arguments from postpositivist philosophy of scienceunderdetermination, holism and, most prominently, the theory-ladenness of evidenceto make the case that the insecurities of inference that gave rise to worries about post-hoc reconstructive inference equally afflict the use of archaeological data as test evidence; deductive certainty is almost never realized in drawing test implications, let alone in the confirming or disconfirming inferences by which archaeological data are brought to bear on a test hypothesis. Biconditional laws establish secure linkages in a vanishingly few cases: although Peircean references never figure in these debates, the point here is that archaeological inference is a matter of abduction (not induction in the narrow sense, and certainly not deduction) The most outspoken post- or anti-processual critics of the New Archaeology advocated a stance of ironic dissociation from the enterprise as a whole. Some insisted that an uncrompomising constructivism is inescapable, now reframed in explicitly social (and political) terms. In this spirit, Hodder argues that the ascription of significance to archaeological data depends on interpretive principles that are nothing but disciplinary conventions. Archaeologists must therefore be understood to "create facts" (1983b: 6; see also 1984a); there is "literally nothing independent of theory or propositions to test against" (Shanks and Tilley 1987: 111). By extension of such arguments, some post-processual archaeologists have been prepared to embrace what they idenitify as a radical pluralism according to which "any interpretation of the past is multiple and constantly open to change, to re-evaluation, as stance described by one sympathetic critic as a self-defeating hyperrelativism (Trigger 1989). In elaborating these arguments, post-processuals have turned to philosophical hermeneutics, phenomenology, the frank ethnocentrism of Rorty-style pragmatism, and the deconstructive, postmodern descendants of these traditions for inspiration in articulating a resolutely humanistic, anti-scientific counter-tradition of interpretive archaeology (Hodder 1991, 1999). This broadly pluralist, constructivist epistemic stance was reinforced by challenges to the explanatory commitments of the new Archaeology. Post-processual critics rallied compelling ethnohistoric and archaeological evidence that the most inscrutable dimensions of the pastthe cultural lifeworld and all the beliefs and intentions, power dynamics and exercises of agency that make it upcannot be set aside as causally, explanatorily irrelevant, in preference for analysis of eco-system dynamics. Hodder was particularly influential in arguing that it is imperative for archaeologists to attend to the insides of action (invoking Collingwood; Hodder 1982a,b; 1983a); these less tangible dimensions of cultural life can be consequential in shaping the large-scale structure of cultural systems and the long-term processes by which they adapt to or transform their material environments. Post-processuals also add to these joint epistemic and ontological considerations a further normative, political argument: that, in a world riven by increasingly stark inequalities and structured by deeply entrenched systems of oppression, in a world in which strategic manipulation of the past frequently serves the purpose of legitimating the claims of the elites that benefit from these conditions, archaeologists should tell the stories (about the past) that need to 6

be told (e.g., Hodder 1983b). With the formulation of this antithesis to the positivism of the New Archaeologya position which struck even sympathetic their critics as a reductio of postprocessualismthe dynamic of the interpretive dilemma reasserted itself in particularly stark terms. Frustrated by seemingly intractable and increasingly polarized debate, and fed up with philosophy-heavy programmatic arguments that had little bearing on the actual doing of archaeology, a great many practitioners backed away from both extremes, declaring a plague on both houses and sometimes a plague on philosophy. In the early to mid-1980s, when the lines of debate were most sharply drawn, a number of ironic, sharply critical commentaries appeared with titles like Is a Little Philosophy (Science?) a Dangerous Thing? (Plog 1982) and Plumbing, Philosophy, and Poetry (Fitting 1973). One especially influential example of the genre, Flannerys Golden Marshalltown (1982), offered a sharply satirical caricature in which the philosophizing classes in archaeology are vilified as a species of self-satisfied sports commentator who has long since lost touch with the gritty realities of the play. In the last ten to fifteen years, however, most archaeological practitioners have been quietly exploring hybrid modes of inquiry that embody the most promising, practicable aspects of processual testing procedures, now applied to the range of interpretive problems endorsed by postprocessuals; Hegmon describes them as a loose-knit cluster of research programs that she characterizes as processual+ archaeology (2003). Although disengaged from theoretical, philosophical debate, these archaeologists are mindful of the uncertainties of the forms of inference on which they rely but are unconvinced that this entails anything like the scope or degree of disabling circularity required to establish that the speculative horn of the dilemma is inescapable. This stance seems informed by a practical appreciation that the archaeological record routinely demonstrates a capacity to subvert expectations, to impose empirical constraints on archaeological theorizing, despite being thoroughly a construct. And, in fact, archaeologists of all philosophical stripesprocessual and postprocessual alikevery effectively deploy these constraints, relying on localized strategies for building and adjudicating evidential claims that warrant epistemic confidence even if they rarely deliver the kinds of certainty for which archaeological skeptics and reformers have periodically hankered. In this, I would argue, archaeologists often escape the horns of the interpretive dilemma even if epistemic insights embodied in the know-how that makes this possible are rarely explicit.

Evidential Reasoning in Archaeology My aim has been to develop a model of evidential reasoning that captures the principles implicit in the hybrid strategies of inference that taken shape in archaeological practice below the threshold of philosophical debate. That is to say, I am concerned to articulate the epistemic rationale for a discerning confidence in judgements of evidential significance that reduce neither to an untenable narrow empiricism nor to mere speculation. The central intuition embodied in this practice is that evidential reasoning in archaeology is differentially insecure. More specifically, the types and degrees of insecurity with which archaeologists grapple are a function of characteristics of the inferences linking surviving traces to antecedent conditions; they are not determined by characteristics of the target domain; they do not necessarily track the domain-specific categories of epistemic risk set out in inference schemes like the Hawkes/Piggott ladder. The key to understanding nuanced judgements of differential security/insecurity in archaeological inference is, first, to disambiguate what counts as the theory (or theorizing) that is said to laden, overreach, or render insecure any use of archaeological data as evidence. Virtually any belief or 7

knowledge claim can mediate archaeological inference, from the most narrowly specified empirical fact through to the most expansive explanatory schema, from the convictions of common sense to esoteric insights of nuclear physics, from claims established within archaeology to those supplied not only by its closest neighbor disciplines but also by an expansive range of social, life, and natural sciences. Whether a given claim is theory in the sense of theorizing about the cultural past, or theory in the mediating sense of middle range theory (which is to say, linking principles, auxiliary hypotheses, gap-crossers), is determined not by its content or its target but by the role it plays in the specific inference at hand. Second, the threat of vicious circularity arises only if an implausibly seamless holism is assumed. In practice, the many different kinds of theory that play functionally different roles in archaeological inference are often disjoint in epistemically consequential ways. Third is a point I will not develop here but that informs my analysis of evidential reasoning; I recommend a shift in the focus of philosophical analysis from theorizing to modeling, along lines of that proposed more generally by Morgan and Morrison (1999). What archaeologists build and test are typically models, not isolated factual claims or systems of logically interdependent laws/law-like propositions. In some cases these are models of particular past activities or events that could have produced, or likely did produce, specific elements of the archaeological record; in other cases they are models of large-scale and long-term socio-cultural dynamics. Archaeologists use models at one scale, or models of one dimension of a cultural system, to test models pitched at other scales/other dimensions. Claims about evidential significance are typically claims about the credibility of a model component, itself a narrowly specified model of some aspect of the past cultural context or process or system under study. Focusing on the first two points, here are three sets of principles that underpin the ways in which archaeologists exploit disjunctions between the various kinds of theory they deploy, to good epistemic effect. Vertical independence. The worry informing constructivist challenges, from Thompsons subjectivism to the hyperrelativism associated with post-processual critics of the New Archaeology, is that the middle range theory on which archaeologists rely to interpret their data as evidence simply mediates an imposition on these data of the expectations of their test hypotheses. Under what conditions is such a threat of circularity realized? The classic case, considered in some detail by Glymour in connection with his bootstrapping account of confirmation, is one in which the target hyptheses and the mediating auxiliary hypotheses are integrated into a single coherent theoretical framework. But even in this case, he argues, vicious circularity is not inevitable. Evidence can bootstrap-confirm a theory if, using the theory, we can deduce from the evidence an instance of hypothesis...and the deduction is such that it does not guarantee that we would have gotten an instance of the hypothesis regardless of what the evidence might have been (1980:127). What distinguishes virtuous from vicious circularity is the structure of relations that hold between the components of the encompassing theory, not the fact that they are both components of this theory. If the internal structure of the theory is such that the mediating hypothesis provides an algorithm for interpreting experimental results but does not determine that they will confirm to the expectations of the test hypothesisit may well be possible to use one component of an overarching theory to interpret data as evidence that provides a genuine test of another component of the theory. In practice, however, archaeologists rarely have available to them a theory so comprehensive that it provides all the resources they need both to generate and to test hypotheses about the cultural past. Typically they draw interpretive resources from widely disparate fields, many of which have little to do with the sources that inform their thinking about the social structures and cultural dynamics of the past cultures they investigate. In short, the theory that ladens their data is very often unconnected to the 8

theory that informs the reconstructive/explanatory hypotheses they are intent on testing. Consider a hypothetical example that figured in the debate between New Archaeologists and their imagined adversaries, traditional archaeologists: a case in which an archaeologist posits an hypothesis about trade between two distant and otherwise distinct cultural groups, separated by a wide geographical margin in which no evidence of a common record has been found (Binfords Allchin hypothesis; 1968: 18-19). Perhaps this hypothesis is inspired by structuralist analysis of the grammar of design traditions evident in the burial goods and elite ceramics characteristic of these two prehistoric communities. An archaeologist might rely on radiocarbon dating and various types of materials analysis to determine whether it is possible that the artifacts thought to have been traded into one context could have originated in the other: whether it is contemporaneous and whether it is made of materials or by means of technologies possessed by the source culture. Although each of these lines of evidence is liable to error of various kinds, these are not likely to be a function of nepotism; there is no obvious (or likely) interdependence between the chemistry and the physics required to establish the source and the dates of the archaeological material, on one hand, and the linguistics and socio-cultural anthropology presupposed by the test hypothesis, on the other. Security. These lines of evidence vary greatly in degree of security and are each individually subject to empirical and conceptual constraint. Contra Hodders most extreme constructivist claims (or, indeed, Thompsons subjectivism), the linking principles on which archaeologists typically rely are by no means strictly conventional (subjective) heuristics. In fact, archaeologists put a great deal of emphasis on adjudicating the credibility and the relevance of the linking principles on which they rely, and they do this on several dimensions: the credibility of these principles in their source contexts; the degree to which they establish deterministic linkages between surviving archaeological traces and the past conditions or events of which they are taken to be evidence; and the overall length and complexity of the inferential chains in which specific inferential links are embedded (Kosso 2001). Because external sources do not offer the requisite linking principles in many key areas, archaeologists have developed research programs designed to identify the kinds of archaeological signature associated with specific human activities or social arrangements (ethnoarchaeology), to establish the forms of practice, technical knowledge, and resources required to produce specific kinds of archaeological material (experimental archaeology), and to characterize the patterns of differential survival and/or disturbance that can be expected under specific kinds of geological and other conditions of preservation. The New Archaeologists have been especially strong advocates of systematic, empirical source-side research along these lines, but with the aim of establishing a body of middle range theory that approximates the Hempelian ideal of covering laws, capable of supporting deductive retrodictions from the surviving record to past events and conditions. This requires not only nomological but biconditional laws (absolute security in the first and second sense), applicable without recourse to any other auxiliary assumptions (minimizing the length and complexity of inferential chains)a standard that is almost never met in practice. The most promising examples are methods of absolute dating (e.g., radiocarbon dating), geological sourcing, the use of non-radioactive isotope analysis to determine lifetime dietary profile. But even in these best cases, of which radiocarbon dating was expected to be the paradigm, the vagaries of confounding factors are legendary. The linking principles drawn from the physics may be unimpeachable and may meet the requirement of determinism, establishing a unique causal event that must have obtained for the trace to have been produced. But the causal chains are long and complex, as reflected in the risks of contamination in the preservation and recovery of samples, the complications introduced by carbon sinks and differential rates of carbon fixing that establish proportion of radioactive C14 to stable C12 and C13 in the original production of the trace, and the impact of fossil fuel and bomb effects on the baseline ratios of C14 to C12 and C13 in the atmosphere. Moreover, even with significant refinements in the background knowledge of these physical processes, the difficulty remains that the auxiliaries drawn from 9

physics and biochemistry typically establish archaeologically relevant facts about the cultural past only given inferences and assumptions about a number of other aspects of the archaeological context. They may allow archaeologists to determine the cutting date of a piece of building timber but determining a construction sequence from a dated sample depends on collateral evidence that rules our (or indicates) practices of curation or reuse; it may be possible to determine the chemical composition of bone recovered from a burial, but reconstructing diet from these isotope values requires paleobotanical information about the resources actually available, and evidence of subsistence practices that specifies which resources were exploited by an archaeological population. Typically assessments of security do not and, indeed, cannot proceed on a trace-by-trace, auxiliary-byauxiliary basis. Rather, they depend on a complex process of evaluating multiply connected (relational) analogical arguments in which insights from diverse sources are integrated into a model (or multiple models) of the archaeological context. I have argued that the strength of analogical inference can be assessed on two dimensions (1985; Chapter 9, 2002): in terms of the completeness of fit between source and subject, or by appeal to the persistence of association between a limited subset of attributes across sources that differ in other respects. In both cases empirical investigation of the sources of a proposed analog is required; supporting evidenceof comprehensive similarity or of robust correlationsuggests that the association between observed and inferred attributes is non-accidental, the consequence of a determining structure that may be causal, functional, intentional, symbolic (to use terminology from Weitzenfeld 1984). And in both cases the strength of the analogy requires, as well, subject-side investigation to determine whether the interdependence between analogically linked attributes could have obtained, or the mechanism of production posited for a specific trace could have been instantiated, in a particular archaeological subject. Ironically, although the New Archaeologists staunchly opposed reliance on analogical inference in any capacity other than as a creative source of hypotheses, their own practice illustrates with particular clarity how this process of adjudicating security proceeds with respect to analogical inference, on both the source and the subject side of the inferential equation. Hills and Longacres research at Carter Ranch and Broken K pueblos in the 1970s was designed to test hypotheses about the dynamics of population decrease and aggregation that led to widespread abandonment of pueblos after AD 1300 (Hill 1966, 1970; Longacre 1964, 1970). They hypothesized that, in the pre-abandonment period, the population of formerly distinct pueblos that aggregated in the few viable pueblos (near reliable water sources) would have retained their social distinctness, and they suggested that this should be evident in stylistically distinct ceramic traditions associated with enclaves of affiliated households. They drew on ethnohistoric accounts of post-contact pueblo social organization for a model of the functions served by four distinct types of pueblo room they found clustered in what they hypothesized were distinct households, and for a model of ceramic production by women in generationally stable, matrilocal kin groups that they thought might be associated with socially distinct groups occupying these spatially segregated clusters of rooms. The first of thesethe model of room functionsdepends on an argument from completeness of mapping, and the second on appeal to a binding mechanism of social interaction that, if it obtained, would account for a persistent association of distinctive design elements. They tested the room function hypothesis by checking for evidence (not initially considered in distinguishing the room types) that should be present if the formally distinct rooms were, in fact, used differentially for storage, food processing and general living activities, and ritual practice. And they tested the implication that spatially distinct clusters of these rooms were associated with distinct social groups by analyzing the spatial distribution and correlation of design elements. Their tests of the room function hypothesis generated not just corroboration of the posited functions, but also intriguing points of divergence from the ethnographic model of, for example, storage uses and food 10

preparation activities. They found a much greater preponderance of wild plant material relative to cultigens than had been documented for ethnohistoric pueblos, suggesting a partial reversion to foraging subsistence practices among still sedentary pueblo communities early in the volatile process of pueblo aggregation and abandonment. Although the analysis of ceramic design seemed initially to establish the existence of several socially distinct residential units, subsequent ethnohistoric research on the dynamics of apprenticeship and diffusion of design in face-to-face communities of producers who use the ceramics they produce (in the U.S., southwest and in the Philippines) called these results into question. Evidently the aspects of ceramic design that diffuse most rapidly and widely are isolated design elements; it is the integrity of the larger structure, the grammar of the design that is conserved in local working groups. In this case the posit of a binding mechanism was challenged not archaeologically, but on the basis of ethnographic and social-psychological (source-side) research designed to evaluate the background assumptions by which archaeological data was interpreted as evidence. Cases of this kind make it clear that there is much to be gained from systematic empirical evaluation of the credibility and scope of linking principles imported from diverse and sometimes distant sources. But typically security is assessed through a process of building, refining, and testing the credibility of the analogical inferences by playing constraints elicited from source contexts off against constraints elicited from the subject. And in this case the source-side considerations that play a role in developing models of the cultural pastconventionally, the context of discoverydo bear significantly on judgements about the inferential security of the resulting models; evidential support (security) does not arise exclusively (in the context of verification) from archaeological testing. Horizontal independence. These examples also draw attention to ways in which the fragmentary, incomplete nature of the material record can be a crucial epistemic resource, although it is typically seen as a crippling liability for archaeology. Even though no one line of evidence is absolutely secure, when archaeologists rely on multiple lines of evidence, in combination they can provide more than simply additive increments in empirical credibility when they converge in support of a particular model or set of claims about the cultural past. Archaeologists typically deal in cables rather than chains of inference (1989; Chapter 11, 2002). The central principles here have been articulated in a number of philosophical contexts: by Wimsatt on varieties of evidence (1987); by Shapere in reflection on what it means to say we observe events at the center of the sun (1982, 1985); by Hacking in analysis of why it is that we believe what we see through microscopes (1983). Take Hackings account as a point of departure. The credibility of indirect systems for observing entities or events that are otherwise inaccessible depends not only our ability to calibrate these systems internally (by refining background knowledge about the nature and complexity of the signal itself, how it is generated, transmitted, and detected), but also on the possibility of exploiting different causal systemsdifferent processes of signal production, transmission, detectionto produce an image of the target. The great value of the proliferation of microscopes that Hacking considerse.g., acoustic as opposed to optical microscopesis that they allow for a triangulation of signals, correcting and enhancing the information any one microscope could provide about the entities they allow us to observe. We believe what we see because it is implausible that images produced by such different means should converge as a consequence of confounding influences that generate compensating error in each distinct line of evidence. And when multiple lines of evidence fail to converge, they have a capacity to expose error that might not be detected in assessment of the security of each taken on its own (see Shapere 1982 on error detection). The closest counterpart in archaeology is, perhaps, the use of multiple dating techniques. Consider the juxtaposition of tree ring counts and measures of radio-carbon decay, magnetic orientation, and the 11

internal evolution of stylistic traditions to determine, respectively, absolute cutting, burning, and deposition dates, and tradition-specific production dates. The causal processes are distinct and the relevant technologies of detectionincluding instruments, skilled knowhow and background theoretical and empirical knowledgeare also substantially independent. It seems highly unlikely that the conditions or assumptions that might produce error in a C14 date will be the same as those that might bias a date based on counting tree rings or estimating rates of stylistic change. A more general case is made for the virtues of using multiple, independent lines of evidence when, for example, historical archaeologists claim special credibility for their field because they rely on "two independent sources of evidence (Leone and Potter 1988: 14): textual and material. A process of "analytical byplay" between documentary and archaeological data makes it possible to work "back and forth, from one to the other such that each line of evidence can be used to extend, and sometimes substantially challenge or correct, the meaning of the other" (1988: 14). On closer inspection, however, this case also raises questions about what does or should count as epistemically relevant independence between lines of evidence in archaeology. At least three kinds of (horizontal) independence at issue here: causal, conceptual, and disciplinary independence. The first (the causal), figures prominently in microscope-type examples. Independence of this kind is realized when different trace-generating causal pathways emanate from the same entity that the different microscopes are meant to detect but do not interact; triangulation is possible when it can be assumed that distortion in one channel is not likely to be transmitted by another, producing an artificial congruence in the signals they transmit. Iindependence in a second senseconceptual independenceholds between the bodies of background knowledge and technical practice that are necessary to reconstruct these distinct transmission pathways. Here it must be assumed that there is sufficient theoretical disunity between disparate source fields that a coincidence in the evidence secured by different instruments or interpretive principles is not an artifact of the instruments themselves or of the background knowledge that makes it possible to use them to observe the target. Often disciplinary independence functions as a proxy for causal and, more specifically, inferential independence. In many cases archaeologists can reasonably assume that causal, conceptual, and disciplinary independence coincide. The use of multiple dating techniques is a case in point, although in practice it is complicated by pervasive use of one technique to calibrate another (e.g., tree-ring sequences and radiocarbon dating). In the case of historical archaeology it is clear that horizontal independence of these kinds is by no means self-evident, and that none can be assumed to entail the others. For example, it may be entirely plausible that the contents of trash pits and various kinds of official documentary history are produced by such different means and for such different purposes that they can be regarded as causally independent; and it may be self-evident that historians and archaeologists have had to develop such different techniques and bodies of background knowledge to deal with these kinds of record that are, indeed, epistemically independent. But consider the possibility that in some contexts the disposal of trash may reflect the same principles of decorum as writing for the public record; that both lines of evidence may work systematically to reproduce the silences of (elitist) history that historical archaeologists mean to correct. There may well be greater causal independence between different types of documentary record, for example, between legal statutes and personal diaries, than between certain kinds of archaeological and documentary record: public architecture and speeches made by the heads of state, for example. In addition, the very formation of an historical archaeology as an interfield signals cross-disciplinary traffic that may well undermine the very assumption of conceptual independence that historical archaeologists invoke as a distinctive source of (epistemic) strength. There is no reason to believe that the politics structuring debate about how to mark the Quincentennial, for example, would have had a 12

fundamentally different impact on the historians, as opposed to the archaeologists, who study the operations of various colonial powers in the Americas. Nor is it plausible that historians would have escaped the influence of the racialist assumptions that Trigger finds deeply influential in archaeological thinking about contact period interactions between Europeans and First Nations. Trigger is as sharply critical of the romanticism that renders indigenous people non-strategic agents, bound by static convention, as he is of explicitly racist assumptions of manifest destiny essentialism that this romanticism was meant to displace (1980, 1991). Feminist critics draw attention to myriad ways in which practitioners across the social and historical sciences reproduce a common stock of gender-normative assumptions, despite using very different kinds of data bases and research tools; they consistently overlook or misinterpret aspects of their subject that are incongruous (unpalatable or unrecognizable) given a conviction that familiar binaries and role conventions capture a natural, universal fact about human society. In short, appearances of disciplinary and conceptual independence may be deceiving. Disciplinary boundaries may not cut the world at its joints where the causal production of apparently distinct traces are concerned, and may not insulate neighboring disciplines from the influence of assumptions that are capable of inducing compensatory errors even when causal independence can be assumed. This should not be taken as a counsel of (epistemic) despair, however. The vagaries of establishing epistemic independence make it clear that archaeological inference is unavoidably insecure but this does not, in itself, return us to the speculative horn of the interpretive dilemma.

Conclusions My thesis is that strategies for assessing epistemic independence are crucial in making effective use of limited evidence to establish credible claims about the cultural past that escape the narrow confines of the interpretive dilemma. And the analysis developed here suggests that two lines of inquiry are necessary determine whether epistemic independence is realized in any given case. One is a matter of first order empirical research designed to establish the extent to which the processes that generate different kinds of trace or, more broadly, lines of evidence are, in fact, causally independent of one another; this is one key component of appraisals of the security of individual lines of evidence. A second quite different line of inquiry is required to determine whether the background of technical expertise, empirical and theoretical knowledge that makes it possible to detect and interpret these traces as evidence are, in fact, conceptually independent. This is a program of second order, meta-scientific investigation, philosophical and social/historical, designed to trace confounding interactions between disciplinary traditions, systematically appraising the proxies for epistemic independence on which practitioners typically rely. This suggests that the philosophical study of science must be socially and historically naturalized. Even such a core epistemic concept as that of evidence and how it functions as a contingent platform for mediating controversy, cannot succeed without attention to the histories of disciplinary practice, their institutional settings, their patterns of interaction and communication. It also suggests that a jointly philosophical and historical/social program of science studies has an important on-going role to play within the sciences; it provides the resources to establish what Harding describes as strong objectivity. Its value is not just that it promises more sophisticated, probative philosophical understanding of the sciences but that, in the best tradition of American pragmatism, it has the potential to address forward-looking questions about how to improve our best going practices of empirical inquiry, a task for which the stakes are much larger than the purely philosophical.

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