Importance Of Time, Context And Material

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ARC1 Supervision (Monday, 20 October)
Daniel Orvomaa

Discuss the importance of time, context and material culture in archaeology. Which of these three, based on your analysis of their use in archaeology, is most important to the distinctiveness of archaeology as an anthropological discipline?


If we were to imagine all the humanities, and especially the anthropological disciplines at the centre of them, together with the natural sciences trying to form some sort of grand narrative – a full picture of humanity that would include answers to all the thousands of questions we ask about our origins and history, our societies, our place in the universe, politics, economics etc. – then we would definitely see archaeology contributing in some manner. Gosden (2009) examines this concept as expressed by Whallon: “ ’we ultimately may see the development of a systematic and rigorous understanding, on both short-term and long-term timescales, of human cultural organization and evolution’ (Whallon 1982: 1)”. He then rejects this view when he says: “The second justification for looking at the relationship between archaeology and anthropology is that they are part of the same endeavour. This is not to say that archaeology and anthropology are part of a grand generalising discipline of anthropology which can make statements about all of human life, past and present, as was said by the new archaeologists.” (Gosden, 2009) He does, however, admit that the disciplines are on a
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