Archaeology

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Example text

The Internet is one obvious way. Pick a search engine, type in ‘archaeology’ (and don’t forget to try the alternative spelling ‘archeology’) and just see how many sites come up. Using Yahoo in December 1999 I found almost one thousand sites and over a hundred categories. Then try other search words – heritage, prehistory (66 sites in 1999), shipwreck, human origins, evolution, excavation, museum, new age (991 sites in 1999), megaliths – and the sheer diversity of the past will flood your screen.

Putting things in the right order, chronologically and geographically, is the most important goal for the culture historian. Hence a synthesis such as Gordon Childe’s The Dawn of European Civilisation went through six editions between 1925 and 1957. This reflects the culture history view that new data, rather than new frameworks, are the most important aspect in the development of archaeology. The framework allows the data to ‘speak for themselves’ and what they tell the ‘listening’ archaeologist is when change took place and from what direction it came.

These are very obvious essentialist assumptions about the correlation of biological sex with status and activity. They have very little to tell us about the social construction of gender categories. Instead, they tell us a good deal about a powerful academic ideology such as processual archaeology. Since this approach was not looking at how categories were constructed, it could claim, with great methodological rigour, that no information existed. A case off what you don’t believe in, you won’t find.

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