Excavation methodologies and labour as epistemic concerns in the practice of archaeology. Comparing examples from British and Andean archaeology

Mary Leighton*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations

Abstract

Archaeologists' excavation practices vary significantly from country to country and site to site. But variation in the most fundamental, 'common-sense' excavation practices is 'black-boxed'-it is not discussed outside casual, informal contexts, and is treated as having no effect on higher-level interpretation. These practices can, however, be a source of conflict when archaeologists from different communities of practice work together. In this paper, I explore what variation in excavation methodology reveals about the nature of archaeological knowledge itself. By comparing methodologies and the organization of labour on British and Andean excavations, I argue that archaeologists in different communities of practice have divergent understandings of what the object of archaeological investigation is, and of how it can be known, and by whom. This results in contrasting understandings of the nature of material/archaeological objects, as well as contrasting conceptualizations of excavation as an 'expert' practice-one requiring skills, knowledge and bodily practices that are specific to trained archaeologists. Situating these concerns in historical and ethnographic context, this paper suggests that archaeological excavation is, in fact, a far more complex, nuanced and variable practice than the lack of attention paid to it implies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-88
Number of pages24
JournalArchaeological Dialogues
Volume22
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - May 15 2015

Keywords

  • Andean archaeology
  • British archaeology
  • excavation
  • history and ethnography of archaeology
  • methods
  • science studies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Archaeology

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