Chapter

Critical Distance: Stabilising Evidential Claims in Archaeology

ALISON WYLIE

in Evidence, Inference and Enquiry

Published by British Academy

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780197264843
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754050 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5871/bacad/9780197264843.003.0014

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

Critical Distance: Stabilising Evidential Claims in Archaeology

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This chapter adopts a philosophical perspective on evidential reasoning in archaeology. It argues that strong relativist and scientistic positions in debates within anthropological archaeology are both based on simplistic assumptions. The ‘scientists’ set standards of credibility that are too high, while the relativists underestimate the confirmatory power of epistemically independent lines of evidence. The chapter outlines a model of evidential reasoning based on archaeological practice that integrates insights drawn from philosophical theories of confirmation, model building, and hypothesis testing. Given growing interest in the uses of material evidence in fields that had been resolutely text-based, the archaeological principles of evidential reasoning may have much wider reach than this particular social/historical discipline.

Keywords: evidential reasoning; evidence; anthropological archaeology; scientists; relativists; confirmation; model building; hypothesis testing

Chapter.  10161 words. 

Subjects: Social Research and Statistics

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