Thursday, January 29, 2009

Book Review: Archaeology. The Conceptual Challenge

The Prehistoric Society

Archaeology. The Conceptual Challenge, by Timothy Insoll
Duckworth & Co. 2007.

This short book asks a series of timely questions about the nature of archaeological enquiry; the place of humans in the natural world; the nature of culture and the language used in archaeological writing. At the core of the book is a call for a reconsideration of the implicit assumptions and concepts we engage as archaeologists and the ways in which our experience of the modern(-ist) world affects our reading of the archaeological materials we encounter. Does mass access to quick and easy international travel, for example, have implications for how we understand concepts of ‘the local’ and does a shrinking world mean that we place less stress on place, distance and the concept of the journey? Can the products of a society which is dependent on the written word really understand what it is to be pre-literate? Does the rise of an ‘on demand’ culture which is less dependent on face-to-face interaction have implications for understandings of tradition, history and socialisation?

Chapter 2 of the book explores how globalisation has affected archaeological interpretation and Insoll attacks recent, ego-centred work (such as phenomenological studies), calling for a reassessment of how we think about social groups and the concept of community.

See the above page for the entire review.

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