Archaeological Theory in Practice  book cover
2nd Edition

Archaeological Theory in Practice

ISBN 9781138202801
Published February 6, 2019 by Routledge
384 Pages 12 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Many students view archaeological theory as a subject distinct from field research.  This division is reinforced by the way theory is taught, often in stand-alone courses that focus more on logic and reasoning than on the application of ideas to fieldwork. Divorcing thought from action does not convey how archaeologists go about understanding the past.

This book bridges the gap between theory and practice by looking in detail at how the authors and their colleagues used theory to interpret what they found while conducting research in northwest Honduras. This is not a linear narrative. Rather, the book highlights the open-ended nature of archaeological investigations in which theories guide research whose findings may challenge these initial interpretations and lead in unexpected directions. Pursuing those novel investigations requires new theories that are themselves subject to refutation by newly gathered data. The central case study is the writers’ work in Honduras. The interrelations of fieldwork, data, theory, and interpretation are also illustrated with two long-running archaeological debates, the emergence of inequality in southern Mesopotamia and inferring the ancient meanings of Stonehenge. 

The book is of special interest to undergraduate Anthropology/Archaeology majors and first- and second-year graduate students, along with anyone interested in how archaeologists convert the static materials we find into dynamic histories of long-vanished people. 

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Explanation, Theory, and the Social Sciences

Chapter 2: The Naco Valley and Us

Chapter 3: Culture History

Chapter 4: Processualism

Chapter 5: Marxism I: Trade and Power

Chapter 6: Marxism II: Prestige Goods Theory

Chapter 7: Practicing Power over Time

Chapter 8: Identity

Chapter 9: Looking at Meaning: Semiotics

Chapter 10: Phenomenology and Experience

Chapter 11: New Materiality

Chapter 12: Taking on the State in Southern Mesopotamia

Chapter 13: Multiple Views of Stonehenge

Chapter 14: Conclusions

Suggested Readings


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Pat first fell in love with Archaeology when neighbors gifted her a book about Mesopotamia. She went on to study Anthropology and Archaeology at Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania. She has been directing research in Honduras since 1975 where she has pursued her love of ancient ceramics, making maps, excavating, and theory dealing with structuration, inequality, the state, and craft production. Due to her parents’ move to Panama and her teaching responsibilities for more than three decades at Kenyon, she has also studied Mexican and Central American ethnography and history from the European arrival to the present day.

Ed’s interest in Archaeology was sparked by his first dig in Winchester, England in 1970. Graduating with a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania, Ed has been directing with Pat Urban and other colleagues, research in northwestern Honduras since 1983. Ed has taught Anthropology and Archaeology at Kenyon College since 1981 and continues to pursue research interests that include social network analyses, the roots of inequality, and interregional interaction.