Contributions of feminism to archaeological theory

Contributions of feminism to archaeological theory

Introduction

In its stages of conception archaeology was considered to be merely a subdiscipline of both history and anthropology and in many cases was restricted as a rich mans hobby Developed during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century the initial episode in the history of theoretical archaeology is usually referred to as culture history a means by which early archaeologists established rudimentary predictive models patterning human behaviour within designated temporal and spatial contexts via the interpretation of artefactual evidence

Though universally popular during the first half of the twentieth century culture history was rebelled against during the 1960s Perceived as restrictive due to its reliance on categorisation of artefacts the paradigms of culture history were abandoned in favour of the newly developed school of thought known as New Archaeology In an attempt to incorporate a level of scientific reasoning to anthropological archaeology these primarily American archaeologists chiefly Lewis Binford and his associates moved away from simple descriptions of the past in favour of questioning why cultures developed and adopting hypothesis evaluations Renfrew and Bahn 1996 The scientific basis and reliance of New Archaeology instigated the widespread development of processual archaeology

Two decades later processualisms focus on science and impartiality were increasingly questioned Led by Ian Hodder Michael Shanks and Christopher Tilley a new approach to theoretical archaeology emerged which emphasised the necessity of relativism in archaeological investigation Shanks and Tilley 1992 This methodology known as postprocessualism however has been criticised by proponents of processualism and New Archaeology for abandoning scientific competency and rigour and the debate over the most appropriate theoretical approach to any archaeological analysis is still much in evidence

Theoretical archaeology now relies on a wide range of influences During the 1970s and 80s genderrelated and feminist archaeology became popular among those archaeologists seeking a postprocessual approach to cultural identity Though phenomenology postmodernism and postprocessualism are still discussed in the literature and relied upon to evaluate cultural diversity feminist archaeology is for the most part unique in focusing on the collection of evidence of female social roles in past cultures and their influence in developing and sculpting individual societies Gilchrist 1998

Archaeological theory

It is possible to summarise the history of how archaeology has been conducted in the twentieth century into three expansive concepts predominantly description explanation and interpretation Trigger 1989 The chronological sequencing methodologies encouraged by the culture history approach allowed the description and ordering of artefacts using stratigraphic excavation and stylistic seriation particularly with regard to ceramics and lithics Though much disregarded following the development of processual and postprocessual archaeology the descriptive approach of culture history dominated the majority of the twentieth century and successfully produced charts and maps of cultures based upon artefacts and stratigraphic sequences which are still relied on as initial datasets for investigation Hodder and Hutson 2003

Arguing for a new recognition of the processes behind the evidence obtained from the archaeological record the development of complex processual archaeology encouraged many advocating theorists to analyse the evidence away from simple classifications and to view the archaeological record from a taphonomical viewpoint Proponents of behavioural archaeology such as Michael Schiffer 1983 1995 argued that the culture history assumption of artefacts existing as in situ fossils restricted the comprehensive analysis of archaeology to categorisation alone Processualism criticised culture history and Binfords early statement that artefac

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