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Artifacts and Ideas: Essays in Archaeology
by:Bruce G. Trigger
Prehistoric archaeologists cannot observe their human subjects nor can they directly access their subjects' ideas. Both must be inferred from the remnants of the material objects they made and used. In recent decades this incontrovertible fact has encouraged partisan approaches to the history and method of archaeology. An empirical discipline emphasizing...
Prehistoric archaeologists cannot observe their human subjects nor can they directly access their subjects' ideas. Both must be inferred from the remnants of the material objects they made and used. In recent decades this incontrovertible fact has encouraged partisan approaches to the history and method of archaeology. An empirical discipline emphasizing data, classification, and chronology has given way to a behaviorist approach that interprets finds as products of ecologically adaptive strategies, and to a postmodern alternative that relies on an idealist, cultural-relativist epistemology based on belief and cultural traditions. In Artifacts and Ideas, now in paperback, Bruce G. Trigger challenges all partisan versions of recent developments in archaeology, while remaining committed to understanding the past from a social science perspective. For over thirty years, Trigger has addressed fundamental epistemological issues, and opposed the influence of narrow theoretical and ideological commitments. He encourages a relativistic understanding of archaeological interpretation. Yet, as post-processual archaeology, influenced by postmodernism, became increasingly influential, Trigger countered nihilistic subjectivism by laying greater emphasis on how in the long run the constraints of evidence could be expected to produce a more comprehensive and objective understanding of the past. He has argued that while all human behavior is culturally mediated, the capacity for such mediation has evolved as a flexible and highly efficient means by which humans adapt to a world that exists independently of their will. "a fine narrative of the development of Trigger's metaphysics in his archaeological and historical research. It is accessible, clearly written, and worth close reading."--Journal of Field Archaeology "Trigger is a brilliant essayist, and Artifacts and Ideas brings together a number of the most incisive and keenly observed essays he has written in the course of a long and productive career."--Alison Wylie, Washington University "Eloquent, subtly nuanced, and thoroughly grounded in the contemporary world, Trigger's essays are an essential guide to the multifaceted archeology of today."--Brian Fagan, University of California, Santa Barbara Bruce G. Trigger is professor emeritus of anthropology at McGill University. His books include The Children of Aataentsic: A History of the Huron People to 1660, A History of Archaeological Thought, and Sociocultural Evolution.
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