Writing Histories of Archaeology

Tim Murray

in The Oxford Handbook of Public Archaeology

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780199237821
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Archaeology

Writing Histories of Archaeology

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  • Archaeology
  • Contemporary and Public Archaeology



This article critically reviews the different approaches adopted by archaeologists and other scholars in studying and writing the history of archaeology. Based on this, it places them within the broader context of the history of science, arguing for both radical and conservative roles for histories of archaeology, and stressing its great value in helping understand the social and cultural elements of archaeological knowledge. Histories of archaeology reveal a discipline in a ferment of change, but also in a ferment of self-discovery. Archaeology has touched and continues to touch everybody, and although much of it has become highly technical and arcane, the central elements of the quest for an understanding of the history of human beings have remained largely intact. In the late twentieth century, there remained a core of belief that only archaeology could reveal the evidence of the whole human story from prehistoric to historical times.

Keywords: history of archaeology; archaeologists; archaeological knowledge

Article.  7353 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology ; Contemporary and Public Archaeology

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