List A (Assessed by Written Examination)
One of the most vital areas within archaeology over the last forty years has been the debate concerning method and theory. Archaeological theory has shifted from the attempts to generalise about human life developed by the New or Processual archaeologists from the 1960s onwards. In the late 1970s there was a reaction against grand theory and a greater concentration on local prehistoric sequences and the finer details of people's lives by the so-called post-processualists. Today there is a huge range of archaeological theories in use, focussing on issues of identity, gender, mind, material culture, art and aesthetics, as well as the more traditional questions of technology and subsistence. Archaeology has drawn on a huge range of theory from outside the discipline, ranging from evolutionary and ecological theories, post-modernist and post-colonial theories, feminist and gendered perspectives and theories of history and change. How relevant any or all of these theories are to archaeological subject matters and problems is debatable, but these are subjects that need debating if we are to decide the most profitable and productive directions for archaeology. Recently, archaeological method has become a source of intense debate, looking at how social and intellectual factors influence the ways in which archaeological sites are excavated and interpreted. Excavation and analysis are not purely technical matters, but have great influence on how we create our basic forms of evidence and make sense of them.
Loosely following a chronological line, this option will first survey later 20th century archaeological thought, starting with the notions of culture history, processual and post-processual archaeology. This survey of theories and methods will then form the backdrop to a more detailed engagement with theoretical developments since the late 1990s and leading up to the state of archaeological thinking today.
Module Convenor: Dr. Alexander Geurds