Philosophy of Archaeology

Edited by Adrian Currie (Cambridge University, University of Exeter)
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  1. Templi Ptolemaei — A Look at the Purpose of the Serapeum at Alexandria.Jan M. van der Molen - Jan 28, 2019 - University of Groningen.
    The most discussed of architectural marvels tend to be the Temple of Zeus at Olympia, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus or the Parthenon at Athens, supposedly because they are the ones we happen to have nominated ‘world wonders’; but that doesn’t mean all the rest of temple-type sites to be found across the greater Mediterranean area have less wonder about them. On the contrary; when wanting to explore and explain the role temples played in the lives of their ‘subscribers’ and a (...)
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  2. Bones Without Flesh and (Trans)Gender Without Bodies: Querying Desires for Trans Historicity.Avery Everhart - forthcoming - Hypatia.
    In 2011 a 5000 year old 'male' skeleton buried in a 'female' way was discovered by an archaeological team just outside of modern-day Prague. This paper queries the impulse to name such a discovery as evidence of transgender identity, and bodies, in an increasingly ancient past. To do so, it takes up the work of Denise Ferreira da Silva, Sylvia Wynters, and Hortense Spillers as a means to push back against the impetus of naming such discoveries as transgender in order (...)
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  3. How WEIRD is Cognitive Archaeology? Engaging with the Challenge of Cultural Variation and Sample Diversity.Anton Killin & Ross Pain - forthcoming - Review of Philosophy and Psychology:1-25.
    In their landmark 2010 paper, “The weirdest people in the world?”, Henrich, Heine, and Norenzayan outlined a serious methodological problem for the psychological and behavioural sciences. Most of the studies produced in the field use people from Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich and Democratic societies, yet inferences are often drawn to the species as a whole. In drawing such inferences, researchers implicitly assume that either there is little variation across human populations, or that WEIRD populations are generally representative of the species. (...)
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  4. Book Review: Neanderthal Language: Demystifying the Linguistic Powers of Our Extinct Cousins. [REVIEW]Petar Gabrić - 2021 - Frontiers in Psychology 12:702361.
    Recently, we have witnessed an explosion of studies and discussions claiming that Neanderthals engaged in a range of “symbolic” behaviors, including personal ornament use (Radovčić et al., 2015), funerary practices (Balzeau et al., 2020), visual arts (Hoffmann et al., 2018), body aesthetics (Roebroeks et al., 2012), etc. In Paleolithic archaeology, it has become mainstream to axiomatically infer from these putative behaviors that Neanderthals engaged in symbol use and that Neanderthals thus possessed some form of language. Rudolf Botha's bombastic title "Neanderthal (...)
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  5. Violence and Climate Change in the Jomon Period, Japan.Hisashi Nakao - 2020 - In Gwen Robbins Schug (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of the Bioarchaeology of Climate and Environmental Change. New York:
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  6. 弥生時代中期における戦争:人骨と人口動態の関係から(Prehistoric Warfare in the Middle Phase of the Yayoi Period in Japan : Human Skeletal Remains and Demography).Tomomi Nakagawa, Hisashi Nakao, Kohei Tamura, Yuji Yamaguchi, Naoko Matsumoto & Takehiko Matsugi - 2019 - Journal of Computer Archaeology 1 (24):10-29.
    It has been commonly claimed that prehistoric warfare in Japan began in the Yayoi period. Population increases due to the introduction of agriculture from the Korean Peninsula to Japan resulted in the lack of land for cultivation and resources for the population, eventually triggering competition over land. This hypothesis has been supported by the demographic data inferred from historical changes in Kamekan, a burial system used especially in the Kyushu area in the Yayoi period. The present study aims to examine (...)
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  7. La influencia epistemológica del modelo cartesiano de la mente en arqueología cognitiva.Alfredo Robles Zamora - 2019 - Límite: Revista de Filosofía y Psicología 14 (14).
    The aim of this work is to expose the Cartesian Model of the mind in Cognitive Archaeology and point out how it relates to the questions behind this branch of archaeology. Based on this, some of the premises assumed by the Cartesian Model and how they influence the formulation to the problem of epistemological relativism in the branch are explained. According to this problem, since there is no way to evaluate hypotheses in this research area, the investigations on cognition, based (...)
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  8. A Quantitative History of Japanese Archaeology and Natural Science.Hisashi Nakao - 2018 - Japanese Journal of Archaeology 6 (1):3-22.
    This study examines the relationship between Japanese archaeology and natural science through a quantitative analysis of the two most authoritative archaeological journals and two other relevant journals in Japan. First, although previous studies have emphasized the impact of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Tokyo on the scientific aspects of Japanese archaeology, results of the present study suggest that its impact has been more limited than previously assumed. Second, while previous studies claimed that research funding by the Japanese (...)
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  9. Violence and Warfare in Prehistoric Japan.Tomomi Nakagawa, Hisashi Nakao, Kohei Tamura, Yui Arimatsu, Naoko Matsumoto & Takehiko Matsugi - 2017 - Letters on Evolutionary and Behavioral Science 8 (1):8-11.
    The origins and consequences of warfare or largescale intergroup violence have been subject of long debate. Based on exhaustive surveys of skeletal remains for prehistoric hunter-gatherers and agriculturists in Japan, the present study examines levels of inferred violence and their implications for two different evolutionary models, i.e., parochial altruism model and subsistence model. The former assumes that frequent warfare played an important role in the evolution of altruism and the latter sees warfare as promoted by social changes induced by agriculture. (...)
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  10. 文化進化の考古学.Hisashi Nakao, Takehiko Matsugi & Nobuhiro Minaka - 2017
    The book includes some examples of cultural evolutionary studies on archaeological remains in Japan.
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  11. Is an Archaeological Contribution to the Theory of Social Science Possible? Archaeological Data and Concepts in the Dispute Between Jean-Claude Gardin and Jean-Claude Passeron.Sébastien Plutniak - 2017 - Palethnologie 9:7-21.
    The issue of the definition and position of archaeology as a discipline is examined in relation to the dispute which took place from 1980 to 2009 between the archaeologist Jean-Claude Gardin and the sociologist Jean-Claude Passeron. This case study enables us to explore the actual conceptual relationships between archaeology and the other sciences (as opposed to those wished for or prescribed). The contrasts between the positions declared by the two researchers and the rooting of their arguments in their disciplines are (...)
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  12. From the Ground Up: Philosophy and Archaeology, 2017 Dewey Lecture.Alison Wylie - 2017 - Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 91:118-136.
    I’m often asked why, as a philosopher of science, I study archaeology. Philosophy is so abstract and intellectual, and archaeology is such an earth-bound, data-driven enterprise, what could the connection possibly be? This puzzlement takes a number of different forms. In one memorable exchange in the late 1970s when I was visiting Oxford as a graduate student an elderly don, having inquired politely about my research interests, tartly observed that archaeology isn’t a science, so I couldn’t possibly be writing a (...)
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  13. How Archaeological Evidence Bites Back: Strategies for Putting Old Data to Work in New Ways.Alison Wylie - 2017 - Science, Technology, and Human Values 42 (2):203-225.
    Archaeological data are shadowy in a number of senses. Not only are they notoriously fragmentary but the conceptual and technical scaffolding on which archaeologists rely to constitute these data as evidence can be as constraining as it is enabling. A recurrent theme in internal archaeological debate is that reliance on sedimented layers of interpretative scaffolding carries the risk that “preunderstandings” configure what archaeologists recognize and record as primary data, and how they interpret it as evidence. The selective and destructive nature (...)
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  14. Evidential Reasoning in Archaeology.Robert Chapman & Alison Wylie - 2016 - London: Bloomsbury Academic Publishing.
    Material traces of the past are notoriously inscrutable; they rarely speak with one voice, and what they say is never unmediated. They stand as evidence only given a rich scaffolding of interpretation which is, itself, always open to challenge and revision. And yet archaeological evidence has dramatically expanded what we know of the cultural past, sometimes demonstrating a striking capacity to disrupt settled assumptions. The questions we address in Evidential Reasoning are: How are these successes realized? What gives us confidence (...)
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  15. Correction To: ‘Violence in the Prehistoric Period of Japan: The Spatio-Temporal Pattern of Skeletal Evidence for Violence in the Jomon Period’.Nakao Hisashi, Kohei Tamura, Yui Arimatsu, Tomomi Nakagawa, Naoko Matsumoto & Takehiko Matsugi - 2016 - Biology Letters 2016:20160847.
    Whether man is predisposed to lethal violence, ranging from homicide to warfare, and how that may have impacted human evolution, are among the most controversial topics of debate on human evolution. Although recent studies on the evolution of warfare have been based on various archaeological and ethnographic data, they have reported mixed results: it is unclear whether or notwarfare among prehistoric hunter–gathererswas common enough to be a component of human nature and a selective pressure for the evolution of human behaviour. (...)
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  16. Violence in the Prehistoric Period of Japan: The Spatio-Temporal Pattern of Skeletal Evidence for Violence in the Jomon Period.Hisashi Nakao, Kohei Tamura, Yui Arimatsu, Tomomi Nakagawa, Naoko Matsumoto & Takehiko Matsugi - 2016 - Biology Letters 1 (12):20160028.
    Whether man is predisposed to lethal violence, ranging from homicide to warfare, and how that may have impacted human evolution, are among the most controversial topics of debate on human evolution. Although recent studies on the evolution of warfare have been based on various archaeological and ethnographic data, they have reported mixed results: it is unclear whether or not warfare among prehistoric hunter – gatherers was common enough to be a component of human nature and a selective pressure for the (...)
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  17. A Plurality of Pluralisms: Collaborative Practice in Archaeology.Alison Wylie - 2015 - In Jonathan Y. Tsou, Alan Richardson & Flavia Padovani (eds.), Objectivity in Science. Springer Verlag. pp. 189-210.
    Innovative modes of collaboration between archaeologists and Indigenous communities are taking shape in a great many contexts, in the process transforming conventional research practice. While critics object that these partnerships cannot but compromise the objectivity of archaeological science, many of the archaeologists involved argue that their research is substantially enriched by them. I counter objections raised by internal critics and crystalized in philosophical terms by Boghossian, disentangling several different kinds of pluralism evident in these projects and offering an analysis of (...)
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  18. Material Evidence.Alison Wylie & Robert Chapman (eds.) - 2015 - New York / London: Routledge.
    How do archaeologists make effective use of physical traces and material culture as repositories of evidence? Material Evidence is a collection of 19 essays that take a resolutely case-based approach to this question, exploring key instances of exemplary practice, instructive failures, and innovative developments in the use of archaeological data as evidence. The goal is to bring to the surface the wisdom of practice, teasing out norms of archaeological reasoning from evidence. -/- Archaeologists make compelling use of an enormously diverse (...)
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  19. Jed Z. Buchwald and Mordechai Feingold. Newton and the Origin of Civilization. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2013. Pp. 544, Index. $49.50. [REVIEW]Chris Smeenk - 2014 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 4 (2):383-387.
    Review of Newton and the Origin of Civilization, by Jed Z. Buchwald and Mordechai Feingold.Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2013. Pp. 544, index. $49.50.
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  20. Community-Based Collaborative Archaeology.Alison Wylie - 2014 - In Nancy Cartwright & Eleonora Montuschi (eds.), Philosophy of Social Science: A New Introduction. pp. 68-82.
    I focus here on archaeologists who work with Indigenous descendant communities in North America and address two key questions raised by their practice about the advantages of situated inquiry. First, what exactly are the benefits of collaborative practice—what does it contribute, in this case to archaeology? And, second, what is the philosophical rationale for collaborative practice? Why is it that, counter-intuitively for many, collaborative practice has the capacity to improve archaeology in its own terms and to provoke critical scrutiny of (...)
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  21. Archaeology and Critical Feminism of Science: Interview with Alison Wylie.Alison Wylie, Kelly Koide, Marisol Marini & Marian Toledo - 2014 - Scientiae Studia 12 (3):549-590.
    In this wide-ranging interview with three members of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Sao Paolo (Brazil) Wylie explains how she came to work on philosophical issues raised in and by archaeology, describes the contextualist challenges to ‘received view’ models of confirmation and explanation in archaeology that inform her work on the status of evidence and contextual ideals of objectivity, and discusses the role of non-cognitive values in science. She also is pressed to explain what’s feminist about feminist (...)
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  22. Interdisciplinary Practice.Alison Wylie - 2013 - In William Rathie, Michael Shanks, Timothy Webmoor & Christopher Witmore (eds.), Archaeology in the Making: Conversations Through a Discipline. Routledge. pp. 93-121.
    In commenting on the state of affairs in contemporary archaeology, Wylie outlines an agenda for archaeology as an interdisciplinary science rooted in ethical practices of stewardship. In so doing she lays the foundations for an informed and philosophically relevant “meta-archaeology.”.
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  23. ’Do Not Do Unto Others…’: Cultural Misrecognition and the Harms of Appropriation in an Open Source World.George P. Nicholas & Alison Wylie - 2012 - In Geoffrey Scarre & Robin Coningham (eds.), Appropriating the Past: Philosophical Perspectives on the Practice of Archaeology. Cambridge University Press. pp. 195-221.
    In this chapter we explore two important questions that we believe should be central to any discussion of the ethics and politics of cultural heritage: What are the harms associated with appropriation and commodification, specifically where the heritage of Indigenous peoples is concerned? And how can these harms best be avoided? Archaeological concerns animate this discussion; we are ultimately concerned with fostering postcolonial archaeological practices. But we situate these questions in a broader context, addressing them as they arise in connection (...)
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  24. Comparing Tangible and Virtual Exploration of Archaeological Objects.David Kirsh - 2010 - Cyber-Archaeology:119-124.
    Can virtual engagement enable the sort of interactive coupling with objects enjoyed by archaeologists who are physically present at a site? To explore this question I consider three points: 1) Tangible interaction: What role does encounter by muscle and sinew play in experiencing and understanding objects? 2) Thinking with things. What sorts of interactions are involved when we manipulate things to facilitate thought? 3) Projection and imagination. Archaeological inquiry involves processes beyond perception. Material engagement of things stimulates these processes. What (...)
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  25. Archaeological Facts in Transit: The ‘Eminent Mounds’ of Central North America.Alison Wylie - 2010 - In P. Howlett & M. Morgan (eds.), How Well do ‘Facts’ Travel?: The Dissemination of Reliable Knowledge. Cambridge University Press. pp. 301-322.
    Archaeological facts have a perplexing character; they are often seen as less likely to “lie,” capable of bearing tangible, material witness to actual conditions of life, actions and events, but at the same time they are notoriously fragmentary and enigmatic, and disturbingly vulnerable to dispersal and attrition. As Trouillot (1995) argues for historical inquiry, the identification, selection, interpretation and narration of archaeological facts is a radically constructive process. Rather than conclude on this basis that archaeological facts and fictions are indistinguishable, (...)
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  26. Testing Times: Confirmation in the Historical Sciences.Ben Jeffares - 2008 - Dissertation, Australian National University
    In this thesis, I argue that a good historical science will have the following characteristics: Firstly, it will seek to construct causal histories of the past. Secondly, the construction of these causal histories will utilise well-tested regularities of science. Additionally, well-tested regularities will secure the link between observations of physical traces and the causal events of interest. However, the historical sciences cannot use these regularities in a straightforward manner. The regularities must accommodate the idiosyncrasies of the past, and the degradation (...)
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  27. Introduction: Doing Archaeology as a Feminist.Alison Wylie - 2007 - Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 14 (3).
    Gender research archaeology has made significant contributions, but its dissociation from the resources of feminist scholarship and feminist activism is a significantly limiting factor in its development. The essays that make up this special issue illustrate what is to be gained by making systematic use of these resources. Their distinctively feminist contributions are characterized in terms of the recommendations for “doing science as a feminist” that have taken shape in the context of the long running “feminist method debate” in the (...)
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  28. The Scope and Limits of Biological Explanations in Archaeology.Ben Jeffares - 2003 - Dissertation, Victoria University of Wellington
    I show how archaeologists have two problems. The construction of scenarios accounting for the raw data of Archaeology, the material remains of the past, and the explanation of pre-history. Within Archaeology, there has been an ongoing debate about how to constrain speculation within both of these archaeological projects, and archaeologists have consistently looked to biological mechanisms for constraints. I demonstrate the problems of using biology, either as an analogy for cultural processes or through direct application of biological principles to material (...)
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  29. Thinking From Things: Essays in the Philosophy of Archaeology.Alison Wylie - 2002 - University of California Press.
    In this long-awaited compendium of new and newly revised essays, Alison Wylie explores how archaeologists know what they know. -/- Preprints available for download. Please see entry for specific article of interest.
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  30. Rethinking Unity as a "Working Hypothesis" for Philosophy: How Archaeologists Exploit the Disunities of Science.Alison Wylie - 1999 - Perspectives on Science 7 (3):293-317.
    As a working hypothesis for philosophy of science, the unity of science thesis has been decisively challenged in all its standard formulations; it cannot be assumed that the sciences presuppose an orderly world, that they are united by the goal of systematically describing and explaining this order, or that they rely on distinctively scientific methodologies which, properly applied, produce domain-specific results that converge on a single coherent and comprehensive system of knowledge. I first delineate the scope of arguments against global (...)
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  31. Unification and Convergence in Archaeological Explanation: The Agricultural “Wave-of-Advance” and the Origins of Indo-European Languages.Alison Wylie - 1996 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 34 (S1):1-30.
    Given the diversity of explanatory practices that is typical of the sciences a healthy pluralism would seem to be desirable where theories of explanation are concerned. Nevertheless, I argue that explanations are only unifying in Kitcher's unificationist sense if they are backed by the kind of understanding of underlying mechanisms, dispositions, constitutions, and dependencies that is central to a causalist account of explanation. This case can be made through analysis of Kitcher's account of the conditions under which apparent improvements in (...)
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