The Theories Of Agency Theory In Archaeology

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Agency Theory in Archaeology Contemporary archaeological inquiry has situated itself under the umbrella of anthropology, an open marriage to many different ways of analyzing material culture; as it gives insight to both the physical world, as well as the social-cultural world. In this paper, I will discuss some of the beginnings to this union, and specifically the theory of agency as it relates to archaeological analysis. I enter into the debate among archaeology scholars by proposing that the theory of agency is a useful paradigm to the analysis of material culture, and adds a dimension beyond the artifacts of the past themselves - deepening the analysis and understanding. It is apparent after many years of the development of archeological …show more content…
Symbolic meaning plays an important role in creating a strategy for the structuring of relations in society”.
Further to Bourdieu, Leone (1986) concurs that somewhere in the discipline archaeologists had forgotten about the human aspect of material culture;
“archaeology has become so rational it is dehumanized. Much of the best of archaeology has become not only mechanical but almost devoid of cultural context”.
Post processualists argued that the symbolic meaning of material culture added a deeper insight to the analysis of archeological data (Hodder & Hutson, 2003). The worldview of archaeology and the analysis of material culture was moving into the contemporary era, now holding a deeper, more diverse meaning in the pursuit of the past material culture was beginning to have a social aspect.
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After the forensic analysis of the remains, archaeologists traditionally continued examining the materials that were also recovered near the site, this process leaned on the processual methods and scientific analysis. However, Hodder goes further and suggests looking at these remains and artifacts from the perspective of the “Ice Man” being a human agent, a larger wider scale analysis. Envisioning the “Ice Man” through agency we can see his life, death, struggles and his daily life. We come to an understanding of the material culture almost through the eyes of “Ice Man”. Another good example of agency in archaeology is the account of Erickson (2008) in Amazonia. Erickson provides evidence through agency theory to contrast the assumption that Amazonia was only able to sustain a small, scattered population due to the environmental aspects. Even though archaeological excavations in this region are difficult due to the dense forest and quick, heavy overgrowth of the material culture, Erickson showed that indeed humans as agents adapted the land to sustain large populations, and to some degree assisted through their agency to the region being able to sustain itself through he cultivation of species, and vegetation. Erickson uses as evidence of this agency anthropogenic burning, settlements and villages, mounds, anthropogenic forest

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