Article

Ethnoarchaeology

Kodzo Gavua

in Anthropology

ISBN: 9780199766567
Published online January 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199766567-0005
Ethnoarchaeology

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  • Anthropology
  • Human Evolution
  • Medical Anthropology
  • Physical Anthropology
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Ethnoarchaeology is the strategic gathering and studying of ethnographic data on human behavior and its ramifications by archaeologists, who train as ethnographers in order to address issues of concern to archaeological inquiry. It is a dynamic subfield of archaeology, whose practitioners seek, among other things, to deepen knowledge and understanding of the archaeological record, how this record can be better researched and interpreted, and how research results can be adequately explained. Archaeologists made attempts to explore prehistoric human behavior on the basis of ethnographic information during the 19th century, but ethnoarchaeology, properly so-called, developed into a subfield during the early 20th century. It gained prominence from the 1960s onward with the emergence of “new archaeology,” also referred to as “processual archaeology,” which stimulated the search by archaeologists for strategies by which they could scientifically study and explain the archaeological record objectively. Its scope broadened when “postprocessual” archaeologists, in their reaction processual archaeology, sought to explain material culture and its variability on the basis of intangible realms of behavior within changing historical and environmental contexts. A wide range of theoretical perspectives, hinging on the relationship between ethnographic data and the archaeological record, have influenced the interests, foci, goals, and methods of ethnoarchaeological research. Research activities vary, however, in relation to the local and regional cultural and environmental contexts of behavior and include actualistic studies of processes by which material culture is produced, distributed, consumed, and discarded; a combination of these studies with experimentation; reenactments of production processes; studies of site formation processes; and studies of material cultural variability. Today, the approach to research in the subfield is multifaceted, and practitioners continue to explore new ideas that may render it coherent. The subfield is, nonetheless, contributing immensely to the development and refinement of archaeological method and theory.

Article.  6723 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology ; Human Evolution ; Medical Anthropology ; Physical Anthropology ; Social and Cultural Anthropology

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