Importance Of Analogy In Archaeology

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Question 4: The Importance of Analogy
Analogy is a key aspect of archaeology because it is an important method to gaining a wide range of information about the past that is not always present in the archaeological or written record and it informs us on the nature of the archaeological record (Johnson 2010:50). Archaeologists use analogy for even the most basic of interpretation such as the identification of types of artifacts. For example, how do we know an arrowhead is an arrowhead? Or a bowl is a bowl? These identifications are partly due to the use of analogy where we assume that the arrowhead is an arrowhead due to our own conception of what an arrowhead looks like in the present. Despite analogy’s importance, archaeologists must be careful
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Through their research of three shrine sites, Insoll et al. have suggested that the seeming importance ascribed to rocks as a product of the Earth and as a source of power can perhaps be used for analogical purposes to explaining the use of natural rock (and different types of rock) in shrine sites in the British Isles during the Neolithic (2009:62–63). Furthermore, the use of sacred natural groves within the Tallensi culture suggests that we may have to redefine our definition of “natural” sites. While the flora at these shrines were natural in origin, it is likely that past people played a role in shaping these groves (Insoll et al. 2009:63–64). This could be used for analogical purposes to interpret other shrine sites in Iron Age Europe where the Classical records indicate that these natural sites were used, but they are missing from the archaeological record (Insoll et al. …show more content…
There are two forms of analogy that archaeologists use. Relational analogies rely on a natural or cultural connection between the two contexts, such as the direct historical approach (Johnson 2010:63). Formal analogies rely on the assumption that if there are similar elements between two different situations, there must be others (Johnson 2010:63) and it is this form of analogy that archaeologists use most frequently (Hodder 1982:19). That being said, Hodder argues that formal analogies are weaker than relational analogies (1982:16). Furthermore, he argues that by increasing the number of points of comparison between past and present and by identifying the relevance of these comparisons, archaeologists can dramatically reduce the unreliability of analogies and make them more scientific (Hodder

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