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Philosophy of Archaeology: Current Issues

Author(s): Merrilee H. Salmon


Source: Journal of Archaeological Research, Vol. 1, No. 4 (December 1993), pp. 323-343
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41053080
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JournalofArchaeologicalResearch,Vol 1, No. 4, 1993

Philosophyof Archaeology:CurrentIssues
MerrileeH. Salmon1

Recent literaturereflectscontinuingconcernwithproblemssuch as
and objectiveknowledge.Some authorsurge
explanation,skepticism,
in favorof new "philosophical"
to abandon "positivism"
archaeologists
and criticaltheory.
such as feminism,
hermeneutics,
Marxism,
approaches,
havebecome
Ethicalissueshavereceived
increased
attention
as archaeologists
involved
in determining
with
to
of artifacts
regard
disposition
publicpolicy
and uncovering
ofhumanburials.
KEY WORDS: philosophy,scientificmethod;epistemology;ethics.

TWO SENSES OF "PHILOSOPHY OF ARCHEOLOGY"-^NALYSIS


AND CRITICISM OR A GENERALAPPROACHTO THE DISCIPLINE
Thispaperexamines
recentworkin thephilosophy
ofarchaeology
as
it is practiced
both
As
used
in
this
and
by
philosophers archaeologists.
paofarchaeology"
refers
to thestudy
"analytic
per,theexpression
philosophy
of metaphysical,
thatarise
ethical,and aesthetic
epistemological,
problems
in thetheory
and practiceof archaeology.
Problemstakenup includethe
natureand realityof objectsof archaeological
study,themeaningsof arthe
standards
for
claims
to archaeological
knowlchaeologicalconcepts,
and
the
ethical
theuse of archaeological
sites
edge,
principles
governing
and materials.
work(whichmightbe donebyeitherarchaePhilosophical
withinthisbroadlydefinedsubjectarea can be
ologistsor philosophers)
directedtowardthelogicalanalysisofbasicconceptsthatarisein archaeandculture;
or it can
site,archaeological
record,
ology,suchas artifact,
style,
be concerned
withtherationalcriticism
of archaeological
includpractice,
of Pittsburgh,
1017 Cathedral
^epartment of Historyand Philosophyof Science, University
of Learning,Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania15260.
323
1993 PlenumPublishingCoiporation
1059-0161/93/1200-0323S07.00/0

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Salmon

324

of theories,the drawingof ining, but not restrictedto, the construction


the
treatment
of burials,and the allothe
of
ferences, handling materials,
cation of resources.Analyticphilosophyof archaeologydoes not tryto set
policyor give specificadvice on suchmattersbut,rather,seeks to elucidate
the principlesof moral,economic,or scientificreasoningas theyapply to
archaeology.Achievingclarity,or at least beginningto clean up muddles,
is the pointof philosophicalanalysisand criticism.The task is neithereasy
nor worthdoing unless it helps us to understandwhat archaeologyis and
how it works.
The view of philosophyof archaeologyas analysisand criticismaccordswiththe contemporary
analyticapproachto thephilosophyof various
disciplines.For comparableaccountsof philosophyof law, see Murphyand
Coleman (1984, p. 1), and of philosophyof science,see Salmon et al (1992,
pp. 1-3). Recent (since 1989) workin analyticphilosophyof archaeology
coverssuch topicsas typology(Adams and Adams, 1991), explanationand
realism(Bell, 1992; Gibbon, 1989; Salmon,1992), genderand archaeological knowledge(Hanen and Kelley, 1992; Wylie,1992b), inferenceto the
best explanation(Hanen and Kelley,1989), objectiveknowledge(Embree,
and skepticism(Wylie,1989a,b,
1992; Kosso, 1991; Wylie,1992c),relativism
and
method
scientific
theory(Drennan, 1992; Dunnell, 1992c;
1992a,b),
Sabloff,1992; R. Watson, 1990, 1992), efficiency
(Salmon, 1989a), species
(Dunnell, 1992b), metaarchaeology(Embree, 1989, 1992), and looted materials(Wylie,1990).
"Philosophyof archaeology"also can denote a general attitudeor
approachto the discipline.In thissense one speaks of a humanist,scientific,
processual, hermeneutic,Marxist,or feministphilosophyof archaeology.
Writingsthat fall under thisusage typicallyexplainhow the authorcame
to recognizethe value of the approach,how its adoption can improvearor practice,and whyotherapproaches are less
chaeologicalunderstanding
of an approachand explain
Authorsmaysummarizethe history
satisfactory.
how theirown positionsfitwithor departfromthe tradition.Unlike analyticphilosophyof archaeology,directivesand advice about how to theorize
about archaeologyand practiceit are an integralpart of this literature.
Recent examples include anarchism(Bell, 1991); feministarchaeology
(Hodder, 1991a; Johnsenand Ol(Conkey and Gero, 1991); hermeneutics
sen, 1992); Marxism(R. McGuire,1992); new archaeology(Binford,1989);
deconstructionism
(Hill, 1991); a compari(Davis, 1992); hypothesis-testing
son of positivist,hermeneutic,and critical theoryapproaches (Preucel,
1991a,b); a "criticalcriticism"of various approaches (Mller, 1991); the
ethicsof reburial(Goldstein and Kintigh,1990); and ernieethnoarchaeology(Gould, 1990). The expression"philosophicalapproachto archaeology"
is used to indicate a way of thinkingabout and doing archaeologyeven

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Philosophyof Archaeology

325

when the approach is not linkedto the writingsor teachingsof any philosopher or school of philosophy.
The distinction
betweenanalyticphilosophyof archaeologyand philosophicalapproachesto archaeologyis oftenblurredwhenthe two are combined in a singlework,particularly
when analysesare employedin support
of a favoredapproachor to showsome defectin a rejectedapproach.Thus
Dunnell (1992b) examinesvariousanalysesof the species concept in support of his evolutionaryapproach to archaeology,and Shanks and Tilley
(1989) criticizethe conceptof value-freescience as part of theirrejection
of scientificarchaeology.Authorswho urge the virtuesof particularphilosophical approaches to archaeologydo so because theybelieve that the
framework
interpretive
providedby such an approachwill enable archaeto
data
to
better
use
ologists
advantage.What counts as "advantageous"
use of data varieswiththe philosophicalapproach.A Marxistarchaeology,
forexample,proposesthe dialectic(suitablydefinedforcontemporary
ara
as
tool
for
tensions
between
various
chaeological purposes)
exploiting
philosophicalpositions,such as materialismand mentalism;as a method
forstudying
change;and as a wayto understandrelationshipsbetweenpast
and presentsocial contexts(R. McGuire,1992,p. 15). Feministarchaeology
seeks to redress an unbalanced, male-orientedinterpretation
of archaeand
to
our
the
increase
of
ological materials,
understanding
past by asking
specific questions about women's roles and contributions(Conkey and
Gero, 1991).
In defendingor rejectinga particularapproach, archaeologistsmay
condense, rephrase,or summarizepositions that have been articulated
more fullyby otherwriters.From the standpointof analyticphilosophy,
manyof these summariesare inaccurateor even incoherent(R. Watson,
however,proponentsof variousap1989). When facedwiththe criticisms,
proachesmaycomplainthatphilosophicalanalysisis not the pointof their
work. What, then, are the criteriaforjudging various analyses and approaches?
The standardsfor evaluatinganalyticphilosophyof archaeologyare
relativelystraightforward:
clarity,logical coherence,and accurate representationsof viewspresented.If all goes well, the philosophicalworkwill
make a point so clear thatwe wonderwhyit was not apparentbeforethe
analysis.Nelson Goodman's remarkthatbanalityis the price of success in
philosophyis well taken. However,as Dunnell (1989, p. 8) notes,analysis
may be of great philosophicalimportbut have littlearchaeologicalvalue.
Do archaeologistsneed to be able to articulateclearlythe resultsof successfulanalysisand criticism
to proceedwiththeirwork?Clearlythe answer
is no. Good, even brilliantwork in any field can be done by those who
would not be able to describein a convincingmannerthe success-making

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Salmon

326

featuresof theirwork. Philosophicalanalysisdoes not set the standards


for success but, instead,takes generallyrecognizedsuccesses (or failures)
and triesto identify
the featuresthatcontributeto that success or failure.
At the same time, skill in philosophicalanalysisshould be useful to an
archaeologistwho wantsthe intellectualsatisfactionof reflectingon what
he or she is doing or who wantsto formulate,
evaluate,and communicate
views about whatworksand what does not and why.
At the level of practice,archaeologistsare urged by theircolleagues
to adopt or abandon variouswaysof conceptualizingdata or modes of inference.In consideringwhetherto take the advice to abandon analogical
reasoning,forexample,an archaeologistshouldhave a clear graspof what
analogical reasoningis and whatthe archaeologicalconsequencesof abandoningit would be. Despite his criticismof philosophicalanalysis,Dunnell
(1992) himselfis involvedin it because he realizesthe importanceof identifyingthe appropriatesense of "species" for his own programof evolutionary archaeology. Philosophical analysis of the key concepts of
archaeologyis too importantto be relegatedto philosophersin the hope
that theywill do all the workrequiredforarchaeology.Not everyarchaeologistneed botherwithphilosophicalanalysis,but the fieldwill benefitif
some do. Like most otherskills,facilityin philosophicalanalysisdepends,
in part,on naturaltalentand, in part,on trainingand practice.
Criteriaforevaluatingvariousphilosophicalapproaches to archaeolare
less explicitthancriteriaforevaluatinganalyses.R. McGuire (1992,
ogy
a succinctaccount that reflectsthe impatienceof many aroffers
p. 14)
chaeologistswithphilosophicalanalysis:
In theend,themeasureofourtheory
is nothowwellitfitssomeschoolofthought,
how eruditeand sophisticatedit is, or how it reflectsall the nuancesof a
shouldbe judgedbyhowwellit allows
debate.In theend,ourtheory
philosophical
- therealworldofwhathappenedin the
to deal witha realworld
archaeologists
createan understanding
of thatpastin
past,therealworldof howarchaeologists
of thepastservethe
thepresent,
and therealworldof howour interpretations
interests
ofthepresent.

When we tryto applythisstandard,however,problemsarise,forwe


mayhave no way of decidingwhetherthe archaeological"product""occurs
as a resultof takinga particularapproachor despitetakingthatapproach.
Justas "good" theoriescannotguaranteecorrectresults,so "bad" theories
cannot preventthem. Personal testimony,thoughinteresting,especially
when the archaeologicalproductis impressive(e.g., Hastdorfand Johannessen, 1991,p. 140), is not decisive,liie calorictheoryof heat, forexample, yieldedresultsthatare stilljudged correctthoughthe theoryitselfhas
been rejected.Conversely,questionsthatare not put to the archaeological
recordwill not be answered,and ifan approach,such as feminismor post-

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Philosophyof Archaeology

327

processimiarchaeology,can demonstratethatit is responsibleforbothnew


questionsand answersto them,thatis a measureof the approach'svalue.
A second problemwithR. McGuire'scriterionis itslack of specificity
about what dealing"well" withthe real worldmeans. Does dealing "well"
withwhat happened in the past mean tellingan interesting
story,tellinga
coherentstory,stickingclose to the materialevidence,being "true" to the
past, being relevantto the present,or somethingelse? If more than one
of these criteriaapply,what is the importof each, relativeto the others?
In the past decade, archaeologistshave urged theircolleagues to adopt a
varietyof approaches,some of whichare based on difficult
philosophical
systemsof thought.Is masteryof any of these systemsarchaeologically
worthwhile?Is masteiyof one of thesesystemsthe mostcost-effective
way
to acquire freshinterpretive
insights?Attemptsto answerthese questions
lead back to philosophicalanalysis.
RECENT WORK: METAPHYSICS AND EPISTEMOLOGY
Obviously,the volumeof literatureproducedsince 1989 thatfalls,at
least in part,under some sense of "philosophyof archaeology"cannot be
adequately covered in a briefarticle.I focus on a few centralproblems.
The veryimportantquestionsof feministcritiquesof archaeologyand of
the aestheticconceptofstylewillbe coveredin futureissuesof thisjournal,
so I omit themhere. Throughignoranceor bad judgment,I undoubtedly
neglectimportantwork,and for thisI apologize to deprivedreaders and
to neglectedwriters.
Philosophicalproblemsconcerningthe natureand use of typologies
are a good place to begin,since descriptionand classificationof archaeological materialshave long been centralconcernsof archaeologists.One
way in whichthe philosophicalcomponentof the typologicaldebate manifestsitselfis in the problem'sresistanceto solutionby empiricalinvestigation. Despite the most meticulousstudyof archaeologicalmaterialsand
agreementabout the detailsof observedfeatures,reasonablearchaeologists
can and do disagreeabout how to classifythe itemstheyobserve.Not all
of these disagreements
can be settled,even in principle,by the accumulationof additionalevidence.Sometimes,forexample,disagreement
concerns
whetherany divisionsare "natural,"thatis, inherentin the natureof the
are a functionof the
archaeologicalmaterials,or whetherall classifications
intellectualor social goals of the investigators.
The question of whether
scientistsdiscoverclasses that have independentexistence in nature or
whethertheyinsteadinventthese classes, freelyconstructing
typesto facilitatetheirstudies,is heavilydebated in biologyas well as in archaeology.

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328

Salmon

Althoughscientistsdebate it, the issue is not, strictly


speaking,scientific.
Science beginsby classifying
to
be
but
the question of the
studied,
objects
existentialstatusof these groupingsor classes is metaphysical,lying"beyond science."
Answersto questionsabout the natureof classificatory
systems(even
if theyremain at the level of implicitassumptions)have immediaterelevance to the practiceof archaeology.For example,someone committedto
"carvingnature at its joints" (findingthe "natural" divisions)will direct
researcheffortdifferently
thanone who worriesmoreabout usinga scheme
of classificationto solve a specificchronologicalproblem,If archaeologists
the prospectsforusedifferwithone anotherat the level of classification,
fullycomparingtheirresultsare not good.
In ArchaeologicalTypologyand PracticalReality:A Dialectical ApW. Y. Adams and E. W. Adams
and Sorting,
Classification
proach toArtifact
thatrecognizesboth natural
(1991) argue foran approachto classification
and artificialaspects of archaeologists'typologies.They insistthat classifithatare constructedprimarily
to servearchaeologicationsare instruments
cal purposes, and theirbook is accordinglyfull of advice about how to
The authorstryto avoid extremerelativismby
devise usefulclassifications.
a
order
that underlies the activitiesof sorting and
natural
admitting
do
not
They
explainin anydetail,however,just how the natural
classifying.
order objectivelyconstrainsarchaeologicalclassification;that,presumably,
is a matterof commonsense.
As Wylie (1993) pointsout, Adams and Adams do not contemplate
using systemsof archaeologicalclassificationfor any purpose other than
the traditionalgoal of determining
Thus,
spatialand temporalframeworks.
their pragmaticapproach is less flexibleand less relativisticthan a first
reading suggests.At the same time,theyask whetherclassificationis the
As pragleast costlymeans of constructing
temporal-spatialframeworks.
of
to
the
matists,theyare willingto seek othersolutions
problem chronology. The Adamses* book, which is the most extensive treatment of
typologicalproblemssince thatby Dunnell (1971), representsa significant
intellectualinterchangebetweenan archaeologistand a philosopher.The
"dialectic"in the subtitleis a metaphorforthe authors'cooperativeeffort
of archaebut actuallyrefersto the regularand necessaiyinterpntration
of each by the other.
ological theoryand practice,resultingin modification
Similar appeals to dialecticreasoning(not alwayslabeled as such) are a
prominentfeatureof recentworkin the philosophyof archaeology.
Emphasizingthe importanceof pragmaticfeaturesof classification
does not fullyaddress the concernsof those tryingto find an objective
basis for archaeologicalknowledgein the face of relativistic
challengesto
"positivism"or "empiricism."The archaeologicaldebate on this topic re-

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Philosophyof Archaeology

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fleetsa controversy
litdiscussedin an expandingbody of interdisciplinary
erature(see J. McGuire, 1992). As oftenhappens in such disputes,each
side formulatesa simplisticversionof the other'sviews,thus emphasizing
the differences,
weakeningthe opposition,and makingcompromisemore
difficult.
Relativists,forexample,see the search forobjectivityas a futile
attemptto grasp "the facts,"that is, a body of information
purged of all
theoreticaland interpretive
and
endowed
with
or truth.
prejudices
certainty
a
see
relativism
as
claim
that
are
there
no
"facts,"that the
Objectivists
is
"constructed"
who
are
constrainedonlyby theirsopast
by investigators
cial and culturalmilieu,not by a "real" past. New archaeologists,although
theyspecifically
recognizethattheoriesconstraindata (e.g., Binford,1989;
Sabloff,1992; Sabloffet al, 1987), are identifiedas objectivistsby their
are characterizedas relativists,
even as they
opponents.Postprocessualists
a
proclaim "guarded objectivity5'
(Hodder, 1991a, p. 12). Proponentsof
each positionexplore and exploitits subtletieswhile ignoringor denying
similarnuances in the opponent'sstatements.
From this dispute,several writers,like the Adamses, have tried to
forgea positionthatavoidsextremes.Wylie(1989a,b,1992a,b) in numerous
and relativism,
papers and talks,has addressedthe problemof objectivity
with its concomitantskepticism.She places the debate in the contextof
the historyof archaeology.Her solution,whichmightalso be describedas
"dialectic,"adopts Geertz'sfertile"tacking"metaphorto describein detail
the archaeologist'smoves back and forthbetween standard interpretive
conventions,the resistanceofferedto theseconventionsby new findingsor
new insights,the subsequentrefraining
of conventions,
furtherdiscoveries,
and so on. In the courseof her analysesof specificarchaeologicalexamples,
"objectivism"and "relativism"no longerretainthe meaningstheyhad in
the simplisticcaricatures.She shows,forexample,thatthe objectivisms
demand forempiricalconfirmation
is a quest not forcertainty,
but fora more
limitedformof support.Since objectivity
is not equated withcertainty,
obis
to
revision
jective knowledge open
(fallible).Moreover,Wyliegrantsthe
relativist'sdenial of an access to realitythatbypassesall interpretation,
but
she in turndenies that "objective"means "freefrominterpretation."
All
data are theory-laden,
but interpretation,
properlyunderstood,is not a barrier to objectivism.Interpretive
bias can be compensatedfor and accommodated. Objective knowledgeis gained, not by strippingall theoretical
considerationsfromdata, or by any single secure inferentialmove, but
throughinterrelatednetworksof inductivesupport.Objective knowledge
thus gained can be treatedas a secure foundationfor furtherwork,but
with the provisothat additionalinformation
or new insightsmay require
revisionor rejection.Archaeologistsdo not need to embraceskepticismor

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Salmon

330

relativismto recognizethatnew data or new ways of lookingat data may


promptrejectionof whatwas once considered"proven."
AlthoughKosso's (1991) analysisof the problemof objectiveknowledge in archaeologydiffersfromWylie's,he also attacksthe problemby
examiningarchaeological practiceand describingit in a vocabularythat
carefullyunpacks such loaded termsas "objective"and "relative."Kosso,
a philosopherwho studiesthe role of observationin science, also accepts
the relativistdictum,now regardedby manyas a truism,that all observations are theory-laden.
Applyinga conceptof independencedeveloped for
the theories
observationsin the naturalsciences,Kosso (1989) distinguishes
thatinfluencea particularset of observationsfromthe theoriesthatthose
observationsare used to support.For example,observationsof patternsof
tree ringsat archaeologicalsiteshave been used to supportthe hypothesis
thata series of droughtsoccurredin east-centralArizona duringthe fourteenthcentury.Observationsof tree ringsare pertinentto the droughthypothesis in lightof a theoryof how climate affectsthe growthof trees.
Anothertheoryexplainshow growthis reflectedand preservedin logs long
afterthe trees have ceased to live or grow.A stilldifferent
theory(or set
subtlevariof theories)accountsforhumans'abilityto observeand identify
ations in color as tree rings.Thus, the observationof tree ringsis not theory-free.But this does not mean that observations of tree rings are
dependenton the theory(of drought)thattheyare used to support.
Kosso (1991) analyzesobservationalevidenceforvariousarchaeological hypothesesto determinethe sense in whichthe observationsare theoiy-dependent.On the basis of his analysisof the crucialconcepts,Kosso
the methodology
(1991) attemptsto show thatbeneathverbal differences,
involvedin Binford'smiddle-range
theoryand Hodder's contextualarchaesimilar.
ology are strikingly
of theproblemof objectiveknowledge
treatments
and
Kosso's
Wylie's
fallclearlyintothe categoryof analyticphilosophyof archaeology.Hodder,
in contrast,promotesvariousapproachesto archaeologicalthought,drawing inspirationfrommanyphilosophicalschools. Afterearlier identifying
himselfwith Collingwood'saccountof historicalthoughtand a relativistic
social constructionism
(Hodder, 1987), he now (Hodder, 1991b) invokes
the hermeneuticsof Gadamer (1975) to supporta "guarded objectivity."
Objectivityis "guarded,"Hodder maintains,because our immersionin the
hermeneuticcircle allows us only"to increasethe plausibilityof hypotheses." The circlereferredto is a dialecticprocess thatinvolvesinterpreting
while recognizingthat interwhat we observeand revisinginterpretations,
that
no
and
observations
inform
pointexistsoutside the "circle"
pretations
fromwhich observationsand interpretationcan be compared. Hodder

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Philosophyof Archaeology

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to "somein archaeology"
(1991b,p. 35) rejectsa viewthathe attributes
whobelieve"thatwe can somehowverify
and validateour hypotheses."
Hoddermisses
If theunnamed"some"refersto newarchaeologists,
his mark,fortheyfullyacceptthe fallibility
of science(e.g.,Hill, 1991).
and "validasuchas "verification"
Givenscientific
fallibilism,
expressions
tion"of hypotheses,
evidence"are not in"proof,"and "incontrovertible
tendedto suggestthatabsolutecertainty
is attainable.In the contextof
scientific
thelimitsof thesetermsare wellunderstood.
inquiry,
oververification
Eventhosewho,following
Popper,favorfalsification
as the correctscientific
(or confirmation)
methodology
(e.g., Dunnell
WhenP. Watson(1991,p. 265) talksabout
1992a,p. 211) are fallibilists.
a moment
of"pure,refutationist,
Popperianecstasyat herinitialdiscovery
of smallfragments
ofsquashrindat an EasternWoodlandsite,she knows
thattheinitialthrillmighthavebeen spoiledbyfinding
thatherauxiliary
of an uncontaminated
flotation
hypotheses
setupwas incorrect.
Hodder'saccount,
failsto explainhowto increasetheplaumoreover,
of
If
we
cannot
circle,whyis
sibility hypotheses.
escapethehermeneutic
easier
to
achieve
than
confirmation?
suchas this
Questions
plausibility
any
are obviously
for
will
answers
involve
elurequests philosophical
analysis;
cidationof"plausibility"
and"confirmation"
andwillcritically
discussproblemsof interpretation,
as well as the circumstances
in whichwe can say
we know.Granting
that
we
can
confer
fallibilism,
whysay
only"increased
on
such
well-verified
as thehuman
plausibility"
archaeological
hypotheses
of
North
America
the
of
a shell-turexistence
occupation
by 10,000B.P.,
trade
network
between
coastal
and
Pueblo
Indians
quoise
priorto Euroand
the
of
in
Arizona
pean contact,
practice irrigation
agriculture
during
thefourteenth
TheworkofHodder,Dunnell,P. Watson,and othcentury?
erscitedhereall showsclearlyhowphilosophical
approachesto archaeolwithphilosophical
ofarchaeological
ogyare entwined
analysis
conceptsand
of approachesalmostinvariably
involves
practices.That is whycriticism
criticalquestionsof analysis.
R. McGuire(1992,p. 108) proposesa Marxistdialecticapproachto
the problemof objectiveknowledge.
He acknowledges
thathis
resolving
viewson thistopiccloselyfollowthoseof Kohl,whomhe quotes:
A real past,although
can be glimpsed
materials.
blurred,
through
archaeological
the same as history's:
activeengagement
in a
Prehistory's
logic is essentially
continualdialoguewithoneselfand one's sources.Perfectknowledge
is never
butunderstanding
of thepast"as a rationaland intelligible
attained,
process"is
arrived
at through
a nonending
seriesofsuccessive
indirectly
approximations.
(Kohl
1985,p. 115)

This"Marxist"
statement
is interesting
becauseit has suchclearechoesin
theworksjustdiscussed(AdamsandAdams,Wylie,Hodder)eventhough

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332

Salmon

their (not particularlyMarxist)views are distinct.Kohl's dialectical approach to prehistory


applies equallywell to (fallible)physicaland biological
sciences. All scientistsare or should be engaged in dialogues with their
sources (the literatureon a topic,variousobservations,experiments,and
theiroutcomes) and withthemselves("Have I consideredall the relevant
factors?""Was the equipmentworkingproperly?""Did I understandthe
implicationsof a particularoutcome?""Was myunexpectedobservationa
resultof an erroror some new phenomenon?").Furthermore,
given the
of
Kohl's
the
of scientificknowledge,
"logic of prefallibility
description
history"does not distinguishit fromthe logic of science.
withan accountof the logic of
Many archaeologistsare comfortable
prehistorythat does not distinguishit sharplyfromthe logic of science.
alike are uneasywiththe challenges
Processualistsand postprocessualists
to scientificarchaeology elaborated by Shanks and Tilley (1987, 1988,
1989). R. Watson (1990) respondsby defendingthe explicitlyscientific
methodologyof the new archaeologyand takes Shanks and Tilley to task
for theirextremeformof relativism(adopted fromthe "strongprogram"
of science as a
of the Edinburghschool), as well as theircharacterization
manipulativetool for maintainingan oppressivecapitalistsociety(associschool of criticaltheory).Watson exposes numerated withthe Frankfurt
ous contradictory
passages of Shanks and Tilley,rejectstheir account of
new (positivist)archaeology,and condemnstheirrhetoricforits distortion
of technicallanguage. Meltzer (1990), in his reviewof Shanks and Tilley
(1988), along withmanyarchaeologistsinvitedby the editorsof the NorwegianArchaeologicalReviewto commenton Shanksand Tilley (1989), exapproach.
pressed similarreservationsabout the latter'santiscientific
AlthoughHodder (1991b, p. 38) would not accept Watson's account
he too dissociateshimself
of the appropriatearchaeologicalmethodology,
fromShanksand Tilley,emphasizingpostprocessualarchaeology'sdiversity.
Like Shanksand Tilley,he sees archaeologyas properlydirectedto present
of archaeological
concerns,but unlikethem,Hodder acceptsthe possibility
laws.
Gibbon's (1989) recentproposalforreplacing"positivist"new archaethan that of Shanks and Tilley.
ology is less stridentin its antiscientism
Like earliercritics,however,Gibbonrejectsthe scientific
methodologyproposed bynew archaeologistson thegroundsthatitsexplanationsare monocausal, that the requisite universalcoveringlaws required for scientific
explanationare not available to archaeology,and that the behavioristaccount of human behaviorofferedby the new archaeologyis inadequate.
traditionand
Gibbon's own "realist"positionfallswithinthe interpretative
the
on
is closely related to the Wittgensteinian
rule-governed
emphasis
characterof human action (see Winch,1958). Gibbon,like Winch,argues

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Philosoph) of Archaeology

333

in accordancewithrulesthat
thatbecausehumanactionsare performed
ofthose
scientific
or causalexplanations
theircharacter,
determine
logically
thatifevents
hisclaimis theassumption
actionsare precluded.
Underlying
are logically
dependenton one another,
theycannotalso be causallydeto interpretativists,
the
pendent(Gibbon,1989,pp. 106-107).According
so
it
and
distinct
eventsare themselves
causesof physical
physicalevents,
makessenseto seek the sortsof lawsinvokedin thenaturalsciencesto
But
connecteventsthatare causeswithothereventsthatare theireffects.
between
intentions
and
that
the relationship
purinterpretativists
deny
relation,sincethereasonforthe
posivehumanactionsis a cause-effect
in thedescription
actionis logically
involved
oftheactionand thusis nota
andmanslaughter
murder
are disevent.
For
first-degree
separate
example,
not
the
from
another
one
the
intention,
tinguished
onlyby
by
physical
involves
the"rule"(preevent.To describean eventas a murder
logically
The inintentional
meditated,
killing)thatdefinesan actionas a murder.
tentionis nota separateeventthatoccursbeforethemurderand causes
it; instead,the intention
givesmeaningto the act and makesthemurder
thekindof act it is.
The crucialassumption
thesis(i.e.,that
thisinterpretative
underlying
a logicalrelationship
has been
however,
precludesa causalrelationship),
and rejectedby Davidson(1980).
subjectedto intenselogicalscrutiny
Davidsonpointsouta confusion
betweenthedescriptions
of events(which
be
and
the
events
on
one
themselves,
may logicallydependent
another)
whichcan be describedin variousways.Thuseventsthatmaybe causally
relatedcan be describedin termsthatconcealthisrelationship.
[For example,assumethatrustcauseda bridgeto collapse.Then "thecause of
thebridge'scollapsecauseditto collapse"is vacuously
true,butneverthe^
betweenthecause of thebridge'scollapse(whichis
less,the relationship
therust)and the collapseis causal.The relationship
can be describedin
variousways,but it is nevertheless
a causal relationship.]
In the viewof
Davidson's
refute
the
forementioned
manyphilosophers,
arguments
logical
basisforinterpretativism
it seemsin(Salmon,1989b,1992).Accordingly,
cumbenton Gibbonto producea different
basisforhis defenseof interor
to
to
ratherthanto writeas if
pretativism respond Davidson'scriticism
thepositionhad notbeen challenged.
Fromtheviewpoint
ofarchaeology
ratherthanphilosophical
analysis,
a moreseriousdifficulty
forGibbon'sproposalis itsincorporation
intoarshouldexplainbehavior
chaeologicalpractice.He saysthatarchaeologists
in termsofintentions
butdoes notsayhowtheintentions
(or "tendencies"
thatwouldmakepastbehaviorintelligible)
are to be recoveredfromarmaterials.
Thatis,he offers
no particular
advicethatimproves
chaeological

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334

Salmon

on techniques
alreadyused bynewarchaeologists.
Archaeologists,
despite
all grapplewithintentional
behavior.
For example,
rhetoric
to thecontrary,
burialsand identified
new archaeologists
have uncovered
gravegoods as
In doingso, theyrecognize
intentional
behaviorand
"statussymbols."
past
about
the
rules
"tendencies," (norms),or inacquire(fallible)knowledge
Whilenewarchaeologists
of a socialgroupor itsmembers.
tentions
worry
- proviaboutthelegitimacy
of inferring
intentions,
theydo ascribethem
- on thebasis of moreor less secureanalogies.The standardarsionally
and postprocessualists,
sharedby processualists
chaeologicalvocabulary,
ofarchaeological
"ball
sitesas "foodstoragecontainers,"
identifies
features
embodiesa recognition
courts,""palettes,"and the like.Thisvocabulary
behavior[whichis whyDunnell(1992a) seeksitsreof humanintentional
ifit is to replaceotherformsof archaeological
Gibbon's
"realism,"
form].
therecovery
of intentions
shoulddemonstrate
howto improve
inference,
basis.
as wellas justify
itsinterpretative
materials
fromarchaeological

RECENT WORK: ETHICS

and epistemological
questionsaboutthe natureof arMetaphysical
havelongdominated
and
inference,
classification,
explanation
chaeological
Ethical
in
however,
recently
questions,
thought archaeology.
philosophical
faced
havecometo thefore.Whereasin thepast,individual
archaeologists
of sitesand the distreatment
and resolvedethicalproblemsconcerning
sincethe1960spublicdebate
moreor lessprivately,
positionof materials
of thesemattershas becomemorecommon.The loss of archaeological
The environmental
is alarming.
sitesin the faceof rampantdevelopment
resources
of
nonrenewable
the
awareness
of
has
raised
movement
fragility
was
concern
This
for
future
them
and the need to preserve
generations.
senIncreased
resources.
cultural
to
natural
resources
from
easilyextended
to the land on whichsitesare locatedand awarenessof specific
sitivity
peopleshaveled todiscussions
placesandobjectsheldsacredbyindigenous
aboutrights,
duties,justice,and fair
corresponding
amongarchaeologists
Act
and Repatriation
The NativeAmericanGraveProtection
treatment.
and reburialof human
(1990),whichstatesfederalpolicyon ownership
Discrimidiscussion.
visibleoutcomeofthisongoing
is one highly
remains,
and possible
has beenrecognized,
nationagainstwomenin theprofession
remediesdiscussed(Dincauze,1992;Kelley,1992;Mason,1992;Mathien,
1992;Reyman,1992;Spencer-Wood,
1992).
theseissuesare debatedin a contextin
Like manyethicalquestions,
the problems
In addition,
interests.
whichopposingpartieshavedifferent

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Philosophyof Archaeology

335

oftenrequirepromptaction to prevent,alleviate,or forestallserious consequences. The ensuingpoliciesthususuallyeffectcompromisesthatbring


togetherpracticaland politicalas well as ethical concerns.Nevertheless,
philosophical reasoning about principlesof justice, fair treatment,and
beneficialor harmfulconsequences of actions can play a crucial role in
framingacceptablepolicies.As withthe analysisof epistemologicalprinciples, the goal of analyticphilosophicalwork should be a clear underas theyrelate
standingof therelevantethicalprinciplesand presuppositions
to archaeology,ratherthanthe formulation
of any set of directivesforaction,thoughthe latter,one hopes, will referto the former.
thePast (Smithand Ehrenhard,1991) containsarticlescovProtecting
eringmanyaspectsof preserving
archaeologicalremains.Valuable practical
advice and information
about legal and archaeologicalpolicyon protection
are presented.Philosophicalquestionsare raised,but are answeredmore
by the assertionof basic values than by argumentationto supportthese
values. Since,however,some of thebasic valuesthatare enunciatedconflict
withothers,and since views about whichvalues are basic vary,the issues
discussedin Protecting
thePast could be illuminatedbyphilosophicalanalysis. For example,Knudson(1991, p. 3), in her articleon the archaeological
to justifypreservation:"We
public trust,invokesrightsand responsibilities
all have a rightto our past, and our past is the worldwiderecord of the
humanexperience.""She refersto an "inalienableright"to use the "values
inherentin archaeologicalmaterials"and assertsthatthisrightis "derived
fromthe Western Judeo-Christianvalue system."As an anthropologist
committedto "culturalrelativity,"
however,she also notes that ethics requires "a search for a common ground. . .when resolving conflicts.. .[among]different
value systems."While Knudson recognizessome
of theproblemsthatcan arisefromculturalconflictsabout values,she does
not address or emphasizethe more fundamentalconflictbetweenher positionthat admitsboth inalienablerightsand "no absolute value as compared withany other."Inalienablerightsare nonnegotiable;insofaras the
rightis inalienable,compromisesregardingit are not permissible.For example, the inalienablerightto lifeprohibitsnot onlymurder,but also selling or tradingone's own lifeforany othergood.
Many anthropologists
believe,as Knudsonapparentlydoes, thatethical relativism(the absence of any absolutestandardforjudgingactions as
rightor wrong)followsfromculturalrelativism[characterizedas the positionthat"no culturalsystemis of absolutevalue as comparedto anyother"
(Knudson, 1991, p. 4; see also Godsteinand Kintigh,1990, p. 586)]. Yet
this connectionbetweenculturalrelativismand ethicalrelativismis by no
means obvious.Furthermore,
if ethicalrelativism
were correct,the archaeologist'smoral(as opposed to legal) stanceforcondemningthe looterwho

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336

Salmon

argues,"I got my rightsand this is a freecountry.I pay taxes and I can


dig thereif I want to. . .. I ain't botheringnobody"(Smithand Ehrenhard,
1991,p. 19), could be challengedas a rejectionof another'sculturalvalues.
Denyingabsolutevalues can even be regardedas inimicalto the anAt
culturaldiversity.
underlying
thropologicaldoctrineof humansimilarity
the possibilityof shared values
least we should not rule out investigating
even when dearisingfromour commonhuman condition.Furthermore,
in
in
absolute
values
moral
archaeologists,
practice,offer
nying
principle,
moralguidelinesthatare supposed to hold acrosscultures.Thus, Goldstein
and Kintigh(1990, p. 587) condemnbehaviorthat infringeson the rights
of others,and they intend theircondemnationto apply across cultures.
Feminists' moral argumentsfor alteringculturalsystemsto preventdisto ethicalrecrimination
would similarlybe underminedby a commitment
lativism.
moral standof basic humancross-cultural
Recognizingthe possibility
ards does not conflictwiththe doctrinethatno human cultureshould be
rankedhigherthananother.Archaeologistswho rejectrelativismneed not
fearbeing consideredintolerant.Tolerance does not prevent,and may reethiquire,examiningsuch issues as how to set prioritiesamongconflicting
cal principles(for example,a principleof autonomyto assure individual
rightscan conflictwitha utilitarianprincipleto assure the commongood)
eitherwithinor across cultures.Archaeologistshave alreadybegun to face
the question of rankingtheirrightto obtain knowledgewith respect to
others'rightsto controlwhat is perceivedas theirown culturalheritage.
withina culturalcontext,but thisdoes
Ethical systemsare constructed
not mean that humans are passivelyimprintedwiththe culture'ssystem.
Even the most "traditional"systemsare routinelychallenged,negotiated,
the expression
and redefinedin both subtleand obviousways.Accordingly,
"the culture'ssystem"is suspect,for it suggestsan unrealisticdegree of
culturalunity.Few culturesattemptto specifydetailsof behaviorso closely
that negotiation concerningapplications of principlesis inappropriate.
Thus, determiningwhich actions are rightor wrongrequiresethical reasoningwithina culture,includingquestioning,ranking,and reformulating
ethical principles.Similarethicalreasoningcan be applied cross-culturally
withoutassumingthat any cultureis superiorto any other.The recourse
to legal and politicalsystemsto settleethical questionswill not work,as
Goldstein and Kintighrecognize.Systemsthat framecross-culturallaws
concerninghuman rightsappeal implicitlyor explicitlyto shared ethical
principles.Moreover,compromisesbetweenopposingpracticesare negotiated best when shared principlescan be exposed and invoked. Native
forexample,did not disagreeabout theprinAmericansand archaeologists,

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Philosophyof Archaeology

337

dead ancestors
aboutwhichpractices
but,rather,
cipleof honoring
respect
or violatethatprinciple.
Evenwithin
thenarrowly
defined
culture
ofprofessional
archaeology,
withitssharedcommitment
to preserving
and increasing
ofthe
knowledge
of commercial
archaeological
pastand itscondemnation
tradingin antiqethicalquestionscannotbe resolvedsimply
uities,important
byappealing
to prevailing
culturalstandards.
Thatis whytheExecutiveBoard of the
askedWylieto preparea briefon the
SocietyforAmericanArchaeology
use of lootedmaterialforarchaeological
research.Her proposal(Wylie,
to
a
formulate
1991)urgesarchaeologists
conceptof "looted"appropriate
fortheirconcernof whether
lootedmaterials
shouldbe used in archaeresearch.
Since"looted"is a termwithnegativeethicalconnotaological
classified
underthislabelwillbe ethically
tions,the use of anymaterials
definition
a starting
suspect.The dictionary
mayprovide
pointforthephilosophicalanalysisofthetermbutcannotbe expectedto serveas an approin thiscontext.
definition
sincethe sense
priatearchaeological
Similarly,
of "looted"thatwillresultfromthisanalysiswillalmostcertainly
cover
will
have
to
consider
an
whether
manymuseumcollections,
archaeologists
relevant
distinction
can
be
made
between
recent
and
"old"
ethically
using
lootedmaterials
forresearch.
Wylie'sbriefshows(byexampleratherthan
preaching)howto addressethicalquestionsby reasonedappeal bothto
andto empirical
research
principles
(e.g.,Willa particular
policyon looted
materialhavetheeffect
of increasing
tradein antiquities?).
CONCLUSION: PROSPECTS FOR THE FUTURE

Intensearchaeological
debatesaboutmetaphysical
and epistemological questionsduringthepasttwodecadeshaveshedsomelighton basic
and haveengagedarchaeologists
withbroadintelconceptsand principles
lectualissuesofcurrent
interest.
The bitterness
ofsomeoftheearlierdebateshas diminished
as archaeologists
to finda commonground
struggle
on whichto solvetheirfoundational
Attention
to ethicalprinproblems.
to archaeology
neednotgiveriseto theseacciplesand theirapplication
rimonious
Witha basisin carefully
reasonedethicalarguments,
exchanges.
be
better
able
to
their
case forpreservation
of
archaeologists
may
cany
our archaeological
to
the
for
similar
heritage
public[see Murray(1989)
aboutthehistory
of archaeology].
arguments
Makinga case forthevalue
of archaeological
also requiresarchaeologists
to examineand
preservation
evaluatetheirownresearchpriorities
withrespectto otherinterests.
of archaeology"
is somewhat
Althoughthe label "philosophy
novel,
theanalysisand criticism
ofthebasicconceptsandprinciples
of archaeol-

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338

Salmon

are not. If archaeologistsare clear about the goals


ogy by its practitioners
of philosophicalanalysisand realisticabout its limitations,theirtheories
can benefitin ways indicatedin thispaper fromits use. If archaeologists
subject the various philosophicalapproaches recommendedby their colleagues to carefulanalysis,theywill be betterable to judge the value of
adoptingthese approachesto the discipline.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
J. Sabloffand R. Preucel kindlyread and commentedon a draftof
this paper. I gratefully
acknowledgetheirhelpfulsuggestions.
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