By Stephen Shennan
Examines the serious implications of cultural identification from quite a few views. Questions the character and bounds of archaeological wisdom of the previous and the connection of fabric tradition to cultural identification.
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Additional info for Archaeological approaches to cultural identity (One World Archaeology 10)
Local knowledge (in Gardin’s terms) is bounded in time as well as space. Archaeological ‘cultures’ It is very easy indeed to demonstrate that the way in which people conduct their lives varies from time to time and from place to place, and, as we have seen, this var iation is impor tant to archaeolog ical interpretation. However, from this simple truism archaeologists have elaborated a complex and unsatisfactory explanatory edifice, based on the idea of the archaeological ‘culture’, which has in general served to confuse rather than enlighten (for example, Rouse 1972).
Hill’s chapter (Ch. 16), in the third part of this book, dealing with the very different case of changing ethnic identities among Native Americans in the eastern USA over the past 200 years, leads to similar conclusions, as, of course, do a number of the contributions to Earth’s (1969a) well-known book on ethnic groups and boundaries. (b) The second reason to reject the idea that archaeological ‘cultures’ are entities arises from the fact that spatial variation in archaeological material is the product of a variety of different factors, not merely of the fact that different people in different places have different ideas about how to do things.
The political significance of archaeological ‘cultures’: it is precisely because of their political rôle through their identification with ethnic groups that ‘cultures’ have played such an important part in archaeological interpretation. This was the reason for their introduction to the discipline in the 19th century, and it is why they have again become important in recent years after a period during which their significance declined. In other words, it is only rarely, and then usually only on a local scale, a question of objective groupings of material being discovered by the archaeologist which are then available for use in political arguments (for example, Ucko 1983a, b).
Archaeological approaches to cultural identity (One World Archaeology 10) by Stephen Shennan