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A-1090-Ethnography and Archaeology Gary Urton

Fall, 2006 Peabody Museum 59B

Tuesday 6:30-9:00 pm, Peabody 52H gurton@fas.../ 617-496-8534


It is fairly uncontroversial to claim that the past is relevant to the present, if for no other
reason than (as is well known) if we fail to take heed of the past, we may be doomed to repeat it.
However, the claim that the present is relevant for the past is a considerably more controversial
claim to make, particularly for some present-day archaeologists. This course addresses a broad
set of issues that center around, but are not restricted to, the use of ethnographic information and
analogies for interpreting the archaeological record. During the semester, we will address such
questions as the following. Does archaeology need the insights of ethnography in formulating
explanations of the archaeological record? If so, how are ethnographic inferences to be
formulated and brought into relationship with archaeological data? If the archaeologist rejects
the use of archaeological analogies in developing interpretations of his/her field material, upon
what body or bodies of knowledge can he/she draw in analyzing and interpreting the
archaeological record? And what does archaeology, with its focus on the study of material
objects excavated from the ground, have to offer to the practice of ethnography, especially in the
postmodern era when social anthropology has largely traded in its earlier focus on local,
community-based studies for studies of fluid, contested identities continually reformulated in the
context of shifting, transcultural and global “communities?” This course will explore these and
other issues in the long and often productive -- but just as often strained -- relationship between
Ethnography and Archaeology.

Texts: The following are the required texts for the course and are available at the COOP:
Appadurai, Arjun (ed.), The Social Life of Things (1988).
Edgeworth, Matt (ed.), Ethnographies of Archaeological Practice (2006).
Gosden, Chris, Anthropology and Archaeology (2005).
Herzfeld, Michael, The Body Impolitic (2004)
Salomon, Frank, The Cord Keepers (2004)
Fowler, Chris, The Archaeology of Personhood (2004)

Additional readings that appear throughout the syllabus (next pg.) will be found in digital
format on the course website.

One-half (50%) of your grade will be determined on the basis of class participation; the other
half will be determined on the basis of a research paper (minimum 15pp for undergraduates;
minimum 20 pp. for graduate students). One-fourth of the grade for the research paper will be
determined on the basis of my evaluation of your presentation to the class of your research

The schedule of topics and readings for the course begins on the next page.

Schedule of Topics and Readings

Sept. 19 - Introduction - What’s the problem?

Sept. 26 - Steward, “The Direct Historical Approach to Archaeology” (1942); pp. 337-341.

- Ascher, “Analogy in Archaeological Interpretation” (1961); pp. 317-324.

- Binford, “Smudge Pits and Hide Smoking: The Use of Analogy in Archaeological
Reasoning” (1967); pp. 1-10.

- Orme, “Twentieth-Century Prehistorians and the Idea of Ethnographic Parallels”

(1974); pp. 199-211.

- Wylie, “The Reaction against Analogy” (1985); pp. 63-107.

[Background reading: Gosden, Anthropology and Archaeology (text); pp. 1-61]

Oct. 3 - Stahl, “Concepts of Time and Approaches to Analogical Reasoning in Historical

Perspective” (1993); pp. 235-253

- van Gijn & Raemaekers, “Tool Use and Society in the Dutch Neolithic: The
Inevitability of Ethnographic Analogies” (1999); pp. 43-50.

- Friesen, “Analogues at Iqaluktuuq” (2002); pp. 330-342.

[Background reading: Gosden, Anthropology and Archaeology (text); pp. 62-116]

Oct. 10 - Salomon, The Cord Keepers (text); pp. 3-22, 41-76, 137-167, 185-236

Oct. 17 - Kamp, “From Village to Tell: Household Ethnoarchaeology in Syria” (200); pp. 84-92.

- Stiles, “Ethnoarchaeology: A Discussion of Methods and Applications” (1977); pp. 88-

- Roux, “Ethnoarchaeology and the Generation of Referential Models: The Case of
Harappan Carnelian Beads” (1999); pp. 153-166

- Gosden, Anthropology and Archaeology (text); pp. 123-151.

- Porr, “Archaeology, Analogy, Material Culture, Society: An Exploration” (1999);

pp. 3-11.

- Bourdieu, “Structures and the Habitus,” Outline of a Theory of Practice (1979);

pp. 72-95.

Oct. 24 - Gosden, Anthropology and Archaeology (text); pp. 152-178.

- Watson & Fotiadis, “The Razor’s Edge: Symbolic-Structuralist Archeology and the
Expansion of Archeological Inference” (1990); pp. 613-626.

- Leone, “Some Opinions about Recovering Mind” (1982); pp. 742-757.

- Appadurai, in Appadurai, The Social Life of Things (text); pp. 3-58.

Oct. 31 - Kopytoff, in Appadurai, The Social Life of Things (text); pp. 64-90.

- Davenport, in Appadurai, The Social Life of Things (text); pp. 95-108.

- Renfrew, in Appadurai, The Social Life of Things (text); pp. 141-164.

- Geary, in Appadurai, The Social Life of Things (text); pp. 169-190.

Nov. 7 - Fowler, The Archaeology of Personhood (text); pp. 1-161.

- Gilchrist, “Archaeology and the Life Course: A Time and Age for Gender” ( );
pp. 142-156

Nov.14 - Herzfeld, The Body Impolitic (text); pp. 1-210.

Nov. 21 - Fotiadis, “Modernity and the Past-Still-Present: Politics of Time in the Birth of
Regional Archaeological Projects in Greece” (1995); pp. 59-78.

- Chance, “Mesoamerica’s Ethnographic Past” (1996); pp. 379-396.

Nov. 28 - Murray, “Archaeology and the Threat of the Past: Sir Henry Rider Haggard and the
Acquisition of Time” (1993); pp. 175-184

Roth, “Foucault’s ‘History of the Present’” (1981); pp. 32-46.

- Edgeworth, Ethnographies of Archaeological Practice (text); pp. 1-125.


Dec. 5 - Edgeworth, Ethnographies of Archaeological Practice (text); pp. 126-183.

- Thomas, “The Great Dark Book: Archaeology, Experience, and Interpretation” ( );

pp. 21-34.

- Wallis, “Queer Shamans:Autoarchaeology and Neo-Shamanism” (2000); pp. 252-260.

Dec. 12 - Hodder, “An Archaeology of the Four-Field Approach in Anthropology in the United
States,” from I. Hodder, Archaeology beyond Dialogue (2003); pp. 93-98.

- Taylor, “The ‘Two Cultures’ in American Anthropological Archaeology,” from The

Review of Archaeology Spring, 2003; pp. 1-11.

Dec. 19 - Paper Presentations