Material Histories

Ann Brower Stahl

in The Oxford Handbook of Material Culture Studies

Published in print September 2010 | ISBN: 9780199218714
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Archaeology

Material Histories

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  • Archaeology
  • History and Theory of Archaeology



The term ‘material culture’ is often used by archaeologists as a non-specific way to refer to the artifacts or other concrete things left by past cultures. An archaeologist thus can be described as a person who studies the material culture of a past society. This article focuses on the idea of material histories. This idea as explored in this article has a dual sense. First, it underscores the ways in which material culture was bound up in how history as socio-historical process was lived, thus revealing how its study can provide insights into past practices and processes. Secondly, it reminds us that historical accounts — our insights into socio-historical processes — are material to the present, thus underscoring the need to consider how those accounts are shaped by and simultaneously shape contemporary perceptions and practices. An extensive analysis of material moments and material histories in the present time winds up this article.

Keywords: material histories; material culture; socio-historical process; material moments; historical accounts

Article.  9062 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology ; History and Theory of Archaeology

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