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processual archaeology

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Ken Oliva

on 13 March 2013

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Transcript of processual archaeology

THE PROCESSUAL APPROACH led by Lewis Binford (1931-2011) aka "The New Archeology" This new approach to archaeology placed a major emphasis on environmental reconstruction, the study of ancient ways of life, and the use of advanced analytical tools. Researchers practicing this new form of archaeology stressed the importance of explaining how past cultures developed and changed. They were primarily interested in cultural process Increase in sea level
(Late Pleistocene Flooding of continental shelf Development of sedentary population in coastal and riverine environments exploiting these rersources Rapid increase in human population Enlargement of habitat for cereals Reaping of wild cereals/ cereal storage/initiation of planting Pressure on existing favored food resources Increasing exploitation of formerly marginal food resources Farming based on agriculture and stock rearing Morphological change as a result of selective pressure Increasing specialization in goat. Control of breeding cycle KEY CONCEPTS The Nature of Archaeology:
Explanatory vs Descriptive Explanation:
Cultural Process vs Culture History Reasoning:
Deductive vs Inductive Validation:
Testing vs Authority Research Focus:
Project Design vs Data Accumulation Choice of Approach:
Quantitative vs Simply Qualitative Scope:
Optimism vs Pessimism Other Example:
British archaeologist Barry Kemp took a processual approach to explaining how ancient Egyptian chiefdoms became a single unified state.
In 1989 Kemp suggested that a number of interacting developments gave rise to the unified state along the Nile River valley, which he dated to within a few centuries of 3000 BC.
His analysis of Egyptian ceramics, religious art, and trade routes has shown that a variety of factors, including population growth, the development of new religious beliefs, and expanded trade, contributed to this important change. The Origins of Farming "Members of the process school view human behavior as a point of overlap between a vast number of systems each of which encompasses both cultural and non-cultural - often much more of the latter. An Indian group, for example, may participate in a system in which maize is grown on a river floodplain that is slowly being eroded causing the zone of the best farmland to move upstream. Simultaneously, it may participate in a system involving a wild rabbit population whose density fluctuates in a 10-year cycle because of predators or disease. It may also participate in a system of exchange with an Indian group occupying a different kind of area from which it receives subsistence products at a certain predetermined times of the year, and so on. All these systems compete for the time and energy of the individual Indian; the maintenance of his way of life depends on an equilibrium among systems. Culture change comes about through minor variations in one or more systems which grow, displace o reinforce others and reach equilibrium on a different plane.

The strategy of the process school is therefore to isolate each system and study it as a separate variable. The ultimate goal of course is a reconstruction of the entire pattern of articulation, along with all related systems, but such complex analysis has so far proved beyond the powers of the process theorists." -Flannery 1967 "In the context of archaeology, processual interpretation is the study of the nature of what is vaguely referred to as the culture-historical process. Practically speaking it implies an attempt to discover regularities in the relationships given by the methods of culture-historocal integration." -Willey & Phillips 1958 Processual archaeologists think of human cultures as systems that interact with their surrounding ecosystems — interdependent systems of plants, animals, landscapes, and the atmosphere The theoretical frame at the heart of Processual Archaeology is CULTURAL EVOLUTIONISM.
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