Archaeology, the Basics by Gamble

By Gamble

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As we shall see in Chapter 3, middle-range theory seeks to bridge the interpretive gulf between Box 6: Middle-range theory: a set of bridging arguments from the present to the past Middle-range theory is more a set of methods than a theory. They are middle range because the issues addressed are not grappling with the big theoretical issues needed to explain why culture changes or how humans evolved. Neither are they low level, such as the law of superposition (see Box 1). Instead, middle-range theory reminds us that we still do not know thatmuch about the archaeological record.

The list makes divisions between theory, techniques and professional practice, and periods and regions. Within each category will be many questions, such as the origins of agriculture or the Romanisation of Britain. The divisions and questions will be cross-cut by themes such as trade, religion, subsistence and the archaeology of death. These are too numerous to list. It matters little how you participate in archaeology. What you will find by reading, surfing, excavating or learning about the subject is that there are major differences in approach.

Childe died in 1957 at the age of 65. Through the scope and scale of his writings he moved archaeology away from the simple progressive evolution of Lubbock and the people-free typologies of Thomsen and Montelius, and provided an antidote to the racist agenda of the German archaeologist Kossina. Nearly all his work was written before the advent of radiocarbon dating, which provided the first truly independent check on the Montelian scheme. Such absolute dating saw the demise of the strong diffusion model of people mainly moving from the Near East that Childe favoured to explain changes in European prehistory, and allowed a fuller investigation of his socioeconomic narrative (Renfrew 1973a).

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