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Recent information obtained from a questionnaire sent to a sample of archaeologists interested in method and theory identifies topics of specialization, important research frontiers and issues, and documents a differentiation of method and theory under the guidance of specialists. Implications of the analysis are drawn for curriculum design and the organization of information flow in archaeology.
The recent research activity of contract archaeology is reviewed from the perspective of research design and its essential features. Some of the difficulties currently encountered in contract research are attributed to vague notions of research design, lack of general models and methods in the science of archaeology, and ineffective research organizations. It is argued that American contract research offers an unprecedented opportunity to test theories of human behavior, provided the profession can make the necessary organizational shifts in research orientation and structure. Some examples of various applied research designs are examined to indicate the kinds of successful adaptations being made in the contract sphere, as well as outright scientific contributions to the discipline. We conclude that contract archaeology has already provided at least three benefits to the profession (1) by forcing researchers to cope theoretically and methodologically with heretofore unexplored and unexplained archaeological remains, (2) by promoting a scientific merging of historical and prehistoric archaeology, and (3) by stimulating archaeologists to probe the resource base in new and explicit ways for all possible dimensions of significance.
This paper examines the relevance of systems theory to archaeology. General Systems Theory and Mathematical Systems Theory are considered. Although it is important for archaeologists to look at the materials they study as components of a larger cultural and ecological context, neither version of systems theory can offer archaeologists much help in constructing archaeological theories or in providing models of archaeological explanation.
Archaeology‘s relationship to anthropology in the United States has been one of a natural and beneficial alliance. Archaeologists are currently showing more of an interest in formal models drawn from outside anthropology, but the classification of American archaeology as a subdiscipline in anthropology generally remains unquestioned. We argue that at the present time archaeological research is being hindered by its institutionalized relationship to anthropology and its uncritical use of models from other disciplines. Archaeologists will make the greatest theoretical progress if they view their discipline as an autonomous technique with no a priori ties to sociocultural anthropology. Archaeology as a technique makes possible a truly interdisciplinary research base, but requires in turn a reorganization of research and training procedure as well as an academic restructuring.
Our understanding of the archaeological record has been developed under the culture history paradigm. Its fundamental structure is shown to be stylistic; this characteristic, coupled with historical factors, is seen as the major reason why evolutionary processes have not been extensively employed in explaining cultural change. Consideration of an evolutionary approach suggests that such processes as natural selection have considerable explanatory potential, but it is also suggested that a substantial segment of the archaeological record is not best understood in terms of adaptation. The potential of an evolutionary approach cannot be realized without making a fundamental distinction between functions, accountable in terms of evolutionary processes, and style, accountable in terms of stochastic processes.
The problem of discontinuity in the behavior of culture systems-the last stronghold of the anti-processualists-is discussed. Abrupt change in behavior can now be described in terms of smooth changes in the underlying causative factors by means of Rene Thom"s Theory of Elementary Catastrophes. The theory suggests insights not only into discontinuities with respect to time ("sudden" changes) but into the differentiation of forms as the result of bifurcations (morphogenesis). Although existing applications of the Theory in the social sciences lack quantitative precision, they offer a deeper understanding of crucial mechanisms of social evolution and, it is suggested, go far toward solving the discontinuity problem in archaeology.
The process of pattern recognition using data from historic sites is illustrated with data from the British colonial system. The Brunswick Pattern of Refuse Disposal monitors eighteenth century refuse disposal behavior patterns. The Carolina Pattern monitors artifact relationships from domestic occupation. The Frontier Pattern is seen on frontier sites as well as the area inside domestic ruins, and is characterized by a high architecture to kitchen artifact relationship. The formula concept of pattern recognition demonstrated by the Mean Ceramic Date Formula is a tool based on the recognition of highly regular patterns of variation in the popularity of ceramics through time. Such pattern recognition is foundational for historic site data to contribute to the explanation of culture processes. Historical archaeology has an as yet unrealized potential for contributing to method-refinement and theory building in archaeology generally. This is the exciting promise historical archaeology holds for the future.
The archaeology of the past two decades has become increasingly quantitative, computerized, statistical, and this is as it should be. All right-thinking archaeologists begin with samples and attempt to generalize about the populations from which their samples were drawn. Statistical theory has evolved to assist investigators in making just this important inferential step and archaeologists have increasingly turned to statistics to square their research with the canons of Science. But the statistical revolution in archaeology is not without its price. We must now face the fact that all applications of statistics to archaeology can no longer be applauded. The archaeological literature is badly polluted with misuses and outright abuses of statistical method and theory. This paper discusses some of these faulty applications and makes some recommendations which, if heeded, should improve the quality of quantitative methods in archaeology.
It is proposed that individual motor-performance variability in the manufacture of artifacts may permit archaeologists to discover which artifacts were made by which specific prehistoric individuals; this, in turn, may provide a new approach to the description of various aspects of social organization, as well as increased understanding of one aspect of the nature of formal variability in artifacts. Experimental results employing ceramic and hand-writing data demonstrate the potential feasibility of the approach, although more research is needed before it can be used confidently with prehistoric data.
Optimal choices of locations for settlement are made with reference to a simplified model of the environment. Since archaeological site locations reflect the outcomes of choice, a simplified model of the environment can be described, with the aid of multidimensional scaling, by considering the relationships among site locations and critical resources in terms of the costs in obtaining resources. Optimal location strategies can be assessed using the decision criteria of uncertainty, reformulated as propositions about strategies for different classes of site diversity and function. An example application using data from Folsom sites in the Rio Grande valley, New Mexico (Judge 1973), demonstrates the utility of this model for describing the location component of prehistoric cultural adaptation.
Accurate interpretation of archaeological remains requires the explication of cultural formation processes, the activities responsible for forming the archaeological record. Loss is one of several processes by which materials may be transformed from systemic context to archeological context. Conditional probability theory provides a basis for conceptualizing how loss operates as an S-A process. Laws of loss, expressed as c-transforms, can be formulated to relate the systemic context event, loss, to variability in the archaeological record.
A quantitative model of discard is presented. It is directed toward resolving the difficulty in relating frequency of archaeologically observed material objects to occurrences of past behavior. Schiffer’s (1976) Pathway Model is revised and expanded as the basis of this analysis. Mathematical expressions are developed relating frequency of cultural deposition to past behavior. The pathways of deposition considered are use-related discard, accidental loss, and deterioration during storage. Application of these relations to specific archaeological problems will require estimates of certain variables that should be based on ethnographic and experimental data.
Some of the conclusions reached by Mueller (1974) in his study of sampling techniques for archaeological surveys must be disregarded because of the use of inappropriate formulas. In addition, his use of the concept of economy in comparing sampling techniques is questioned, as is his suggestion that the utility of probability sampling in archaeology must be tested.
The reuse of certain categories of artifacts combined with natural site formation processes, such as sedimentation and erosion, is suggested to result in the disproportionate occurrence of “large” artifacts on the surface of sites. This phenomenon, known as the size effect, is investigated with artifact assemblage data from several stratified Eastern North American sites.
Citations analysis, which has become a standard research tool in a growing number of scientific fields, provides the basis for a study of changes in research orientations in Americanist archaeology. In a preliminary report, several trends recognizable in citations from American Antiquity are indicated. Especially apparent are those studies that deal with processual issues.
Many of the constructs of space, time and behavior in the ethnographic literature on hunter-gatherers may be partly determined by the severe constraints on ethnographic fieldwork. This paper discusses the genesis of some of these constructs, points out that the anthropological theory consumed by archaeologists is often based on, or developed for these constructs, and suggests that some of these constructs may be insensitive to deal with behavioral variability expressed in the archeological record, even though they can be made to fit any data. Their application to the archaeological record may merely be ethnography with a shovel in which the form and the structure of the ethnographic record are reproduced in the archaeological one.