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.
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