In This Chapter

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Chapter Summary

  • The history of archaeology is both the history of ideas and ways of looking at the past, and the history of employing those ideas and investigating questions.
  • Humans have always speculated about their past, but it was not until 1784 that Thomas Jefferson undertook the first scientific excavation in the history of archaeology. The discipline of archaeology became firmly established in the 19th century when three great advances, namely the acceptance of the antiquity of humankind, the concept of evolution, and the development of the Three Age System, offered a framework for studying and asking intelligent questions about the past.
  • The "classificatory-historical period" of archaeology lasted from the mid-19th century until around 1960 and its chief concern was the development and study of chronologies. During this time there were rapid advances in scientific aids for archaeology, particularly in the field of dating.
  • The 1960s marked a turning point in archaeology, and dissatisfaction with the classificatory-historical approach led to the birth of the New Archaeology. Also known as processual archaeology, its advocates sought to explain the past rather than simply describe it. To do this, New Archaeologists largely turned away from historical approaches in favor of science.
  • New thinking in the 1980s and 1990s, some of it postmodernist, led to the development of interpretive or postprocessual archaeology. Advocates believed that there is no single correct way to undertake archaeological inference and that objectivity in research is impossible. Interpretive archaeologies place emphasis on the varied perspectives of different social groups, arguing that not everyone experiences the past in the same way.
  • In the post-colonial world, archaeology plays a significant role in the establishment of national and ethnic identity, and heritage tourism is a profitable business.

Key Concepts and People

Speculative Phase

William Stukeley, p.22
Thomas Jefferson, p.23

Beginning of Modern Archaeology

James Hutton, p.26
Uniformitarianism, p.26
Charles Lyell, p.26

Antiquity of Humankind

Jacques Boucher de Perthes, p.26

The Concept of Evolution

Evolution, p.26

Evolution: Darwin's Great Idea

Charles Darwin, pp.26–27
Lewis Henry Morgan, pp.27, 29
Historical particularism, p.27
Cultural evolutionism, p.27

Three Age System

Three Age system, p.26, p.28
C.J. Thomsen, p.28
Typology, p.28

Discovering the Early Civilizations

Rosetta Stone, p.29
Stephens and Catherwood, p.29
Heinrich Schliemann, p.32

North American Archaeological Pioneers

Ephraim Squier, p.30
Samuel Haven, p.30
John Wesley Powell, p.31
William Henry Holmes, p.31

The Development of Field Techniques

Lieutenant-General Pitt-Rivers, p.33
Sir William Flinders Petrie, p.34
Sir Mortimer Wheeler, p.34
Julio Tello, p.35
Alfred Kidder, p.35

Classification and Consolidation

Gordon Willey, p.32
V. Gordon Childe, pp.32, 36
Classification, p.36

The Ecological Approach

Julian Steward, p.36
Grahame Clarke, pp.36–37
Cultural ecology, p.36

The Rise of Archaeological Science

Willard Libby, p.37
Radiocarbon dating, p.37

Women Pioneers of Archaeology

Kathleen Kenyon, p.38
Tatiana Proskouriakoff, p.39
Mary Leakey, p.39

A Turning Point in Archaeology

The New Archaeology, p.40
Culture, p.40

World Archaeology

The Leakey Family, p.42
Archaeology and living societies, pp.42–43
Postprocessual archaeology, p.43
Ian Hodder, p.43
Feminist archaeology, p.45
Heritage, p.45

Çatalhöyük: Interpretive Archaeologies in Action

Çatalhöyük, pp.46–47