Human societies have a long history of incorporating elements of the past into the present; never has this been the case more than today. For centuries, if not millennia, creative artists and writers, architects and fashion designers, publicists and advertisers, have borrowed freely from the tangible and intangible heritage of other times and places (Figure 11.1). There is plentiful evidence of how fundamentally human achievement has depended on the transmission of knowledge across cultures. The technologies that shape our world are a case in point. Consider just one example: concrete, a technology we think of as distinctively modern – literally the building block of twenty-first-century society – was developed by both the Egyptians and the Romans thousands of years ago. In the context of increasingly rapid and global diffusion of tradition-specific images, ideas, and material culture, it is often a default assumption that ancient objects and images are elements of a shared legacy of humanity.
In this spirit, a growing contingent of scholars and activists aggressively defends the free flow of ideas, images, and knowledge – within and between societies, ancient and modern – on grounds that this is essential to innovation and creativity. Proponents of the Open Access and A2K (Access to Knowledge) movements speak of the importance of sharing the world's vast knowledge, whereas scholars such as Laurence Lessig, James Boyle, and Kembow McLeod (among others) point to the stifling effects of restrictions on open exchange. Frequently, the advocates of open access draw attention to benefits that flow to the source communities and cultures (or their descendants), as well as to the recipients who draw inspiration from the cultural heritage of others. Even if economic benefits don't flow equitably, so the argument goes, the open exchange of tradition-specific objects, practices, ideas, and knowledge may play an ambassadorial role, fostering cross-cultural understanding and respect.
Archaeological facts have a perplexing character. They are often seen as tangible, less likely to “lie” and more likely to bear impartial witness to actual actions, events, and conditions of life than do, for example, the memories reported by witnesses or participants. At the same time, however, they are notoriously enigmatic and incomplete; they are sometimes described by critical archaeologists as inherently multivocal and malleable (Habu, Fawcett, and Matsunaga 2008). The anxiety that haunts archaeological interpretation, surfacing at regular intervals in sharply skeptical internal critique, is that the tangible, surviving facts of the record so radically underdetermine any interesting claims archaeologists might want to make that archaeologically based “facts of the past” are inescapably entangled with fictional narratives of contemporary sense-making. And yet, these same internal critics make effective use of the recalcitrance of archaeological facts (of the record) to unsettle entrenched convictions that have given presumptive facts of the past purchase, that have allowed them to travel unchallenged.
This jointly solid and uncertain character of archaeological facts is the source of epistemic hopes and anxieties that are by no means unique to archaeology and that have everything to do with the ways in which archaeological facts travel. I consider here a set of cases, drawn from longstanding traditions of archaeological investigation of the earthen mound sites of the central river systems in North America, that illustrate strategies by which contemporary archaeologists appraise the integrity of archaeological facts in terms of what can usefully be described as their trajectories of travel. In the process I disentangle several different senses of “fact” that figure in these appraisals.
Feminist philosophy of science is situated at the intersection between feminist interests in science and philosophical studies of science as these have developed in the last twenty years. Feminists have long regarded the sciences as a key resource for understanding the conditions that affect women's lives and, in this connection, they have pursued a number of highly productive programmes of research, especially in the social and life sciences. At the same time, however, feminists see the sciences as an important locus of gender inequality and as a key source of legitimation for this inequality; feminists both within and outside the sciences have developed close critical analyses of the androcentrism they find inherent in the institutions, practices and content of science. Both kinds of feminist engagement with science - constructive and critical - raise epistemological questions about ideals of objectivity, the status of evidence and the role of orienting (often unacknowledged) contextual values.
Skepticism about the archaeological past
Archaeologists have debated a remarkably consistent core of issues since the turn of the century. In 1913, for example, Roland B. Dixon inveighed against research that showed “too little indication of a reasoned formulation of definite problems” and an inexcusable “neglect of saner and more truly scientific methods” (1913: 563); “the time is past,” he insisted, “when our major interest was in the specimen … We are today concerned with the relations of things, with the whens and the whys and the hows” (1913: 565). The problems he recommended for archaeologists' consideration had to do with “the development of culture in general,” with what he described as cultural processes, and the scientific methods he recommended were explicitly those of hypothesis testing: archaeologists should proceed by formulating “a working hypothesis, or several hypotheses” and then seeking material that might fill available gaps and “prove or disprove” them (1913: 564). Four years later, Wissler advocated a very similar (problem–oriented, hypothesis–testing) program, and explicitly aligned it with anthropology; he described it as “the real, or new archaeology” (the article was entitled “The New Archaeology”).
Insofar as the material residues of interest to archaeologists are cultural and, as such, have specifically symbolic significance, it is argued that archaeology must employ some form of structuralist analysis (i.e. as specifically concerned with this aspect of the material). Wylie examines the prevalent notion that such analysis is inevitably ‘unscientific’ because it deals with a dimension of material culture which is inaccessible of any direct, empirical investigation, and argues that this rests on an entrenched misconception of science; it assumes that scientific enquiry must be restricted to observables. It is clear, as realist critics of this view have argued, that scientific (explanatory) understanding depends fundamentally on theoretical extensions beyond observables; extensions which bring into view underlying and inaccessible causal structures or mechanisms responsible for the manifest phenomena through a procedure of analogical model construction. In consideration of realist models of these procedures and of the potential of linguistic modes of analysis for archaeology, it is proposed that archaeologists might (and, in fact, often do) effectively grasp the symbolic, structural order of surviving material culture through analysis governed by a rigorous and controlled use of ethnographic analogy. It is claimed, moreover, that the archaeological record can provide empirical bases for evaluating these theoretical constructs if a procedure of recursive and systematic testing is adopted in research, but the standard hypothetico-deductive model is seriously flawed as an account of an ideal for this procedure. Glassie's analysis of Middle Virginian folk housing is an example of research along these lines which illustrates the potential for a rigorous structuralist alternative.
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