Politis, Gustavo G. CONICET, Facultad de Ciencias Sociales, Universidad Nacional del Centro de la Provincia de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
- Ethnoarcheology as ethnography
- Current ethnoarcheology
- Additional Readings
Since the 1970s, archeologists have carried out fieldwork in traditional societies to help answer questions regarding the interpretation of the archeological record and to develop analogies. This research strategy has been labeled ethnoarcheology and has transformed into one of the main sources of analogy. There are various definitions of ethnoarcheology, but it can be summarized simply as the acquisition of ethnographic data to assist archeological interpretation. It also can be defined as the study of the relationship between human behavior and its archeological consequences. Ethnoarcheology is differentiated from other actualistic studies in that it includes the systematic observation of living societies. It also is differentiated from other types of ethnography through its explicit focus on the intention to identify the archeological (material) context of human behavior. One of the most comprehensive definitions is provided by the archeologist Bill Sillar: “the study of how material culture is produced, used, and deposited by contemporary societies in relation to the wider social, ideological, economic, environmental, and/or technical aspects of the society concerned, and with specific reference to the problems of interpreting archeological material.” Within the framework of ethnoarcheology, the key concept is that of analogy, which can be defined broadly as the transfer of information from one object or phenomenon to another based on certain relations of compatibility between them. Ethnoarcheology thus obtains information from a better-known source—living societies—in order to transfer this information to another, less well known subject—extinct societies.
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