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Culture Contact Studies: Redefining the Relationship between Prehistoric and Historical Archaeology

  • Kent G. Lightfoot (a1)
Abstract

Archaeology is poised to play a pivotal role in the reconfiguration of historical anthropology. Archaeology provides not only a temporal baseline that spans both prehistory and history, but the means to study the material remains of ethnic laborers in pluralistic colonial communities who are poorly represented in written accounts. Taken together, archaeology is ideally suited for examining the multicultural roots of modern América. But before archaeology’s full potential to contribute to culture contact studies can be realized, we must address several systemic problems resulting from the separation of “prehistoric” and “historical” archaeology into distinct subfields. In this paper, I examine the implications of increasing temporal/regional specialization in archaeology on (1) the use of historical documents in archaeological research, (2) the study of long-term culture change, and (3) the implementation of pan-regional comparative analyses.

Resumen

La arqueología está destinada a jugar un papel vital en la reconfiguración de la antropologίa histórica. La arqueología provee no solamente un marco de referencia temporal que cubre tanto la prehistoria como la historia, sino también un medio de estudio de los restos materiales de los trabajadores étnicos en comunidades coloniales pluralistas, quienes estń prbremente representados en documentos históricos. Vista en conjunto, la arqueología es ideal para examinar las raίces multiculturales de la América moderna. Sin embargo, antes de podamos tomar ventaja del potencial de la arqueología para el estudio de contacto cultural, debemos resolver muchos problemas sistémicos que resultan de la separación de la arqueología en dos compos distintos, “prehistórica” e “histórica.” En este artίculo examino las implicaciones de una mayor especialización temporal/regional en la arqueología con relación a (1) el uso de documentos históricos en la investigación arqueológica, (2) el estudio de cambio cultural a largo plazo, y (3) la implementación de análisis comparativos pan-regionales.

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