Processualism In Archaeology

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Few schools of thought have had such an impact on the discipline of archaeology as processualism did in the mid twentieth century (Trigger 2006). Processualism, or the new archaeology, revolutionised the way archaeologists thought and worked with its effects lasting until today both directly and indirectly. Even in modern archaeological settings, processual approaches define the discipline with archaeologists generally describing themselves as processual or post-processual. Although this dichotomy, defined by processual theory and the reaction to it, is not as obvious as it once was, it is still a key divide amongst archaeologists and the source of much interdisciplinary debate. This essay aims to examine the origins and effects of the processual …show more content…
Along with his seminal study of the Nunamiut people- Binford was a major proponent for the integration of the scientific method in archaeological research in order to eliminate any bias that archaeologists might have (Binford 1968, 1983; Trigger 2006). These innovative and scientific ways of thinking introduced by the New Archaeology came out of the rising importance of modern thought and the improvement of scientific philosophy and advancements of other scientific disciplines (Trigger 2006). One key theme of processual thought was the use of Hempel’s logical positivism; a highly empirical philosophy asserting that there are certain truths that are knowable and human knowledge is based on logical inferences drawn from these observable facts (Barrett 1967; Johnson 2010; Price 2007). Processual archaeologists would identify patterns in the archaeological record (the observable facts) and seek to make inferences from these patterns as to what past human behaviours were like (Barrett 1967; Johnson 2010; Slife and Williams 1995). Similarly, processualists’ aims were essentially nomothetic, in the sense that Processual archaeologists aimed to identify universal laws of human behaviours and understand the conditions that supported or limited these laws (Barrett 1967; Slife and Williams 1995; Uba 2002). These new scientific ways of thinking drove the Processual movement beyond the diffusionist interpretations of culture-history to empirical methods of reconstructing past human behaviour and the environments that past cultures were living

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