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By Clive Gamble

From archaeological jargon to interpretation, Archaeology: The Basics presents a useful review of a desirable topic and probes the depths of this more and more well known self-discipline, proposing serious methods to the certainty of our prior.

Lively and fascinating, Archaeology: The Basics fires the archaeological mind's eye when tackling such questions as:

  • What are the elemental innovations of archaeology?
  • How and what can we find out about humans and items from the past?
  • What makes a very good rationalization in archaeology?
  • Why dig here?

This final advisor for all new and would-be archaeologists, whether or not they are scholars or amateurs, will end up a useful creation to this wonderfully infectious discipline.

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Neo-Darwinism, if interpreted broadly, does allow those all-important processes that integrate the micro- and the macro-scale of human activity, such as individual and society, village and civilisation, a year and a millennium, to be explored. It is a strong explanation which will be very powerful when used, as Shennan proposes, as a biological metaphor for cultural stability and change (Chapter 7). It is also the case that the co-evolutionary processes that led to language (Deacon 1997) and domestication (Rindos 1985) have been very important in human evolution (see Chapter 7).

These are Martin Heidegger, Michel Foucault, Pierre Bourdieu and Anthony Giddens (for recent reviews see Gosden 1994; Thomas 1996; Jones 1997; Dietler and Herbich 1998; Meskell 1999; Dobres 2000; Dobres and Robb 2000). A common thread is the notion that much of what we do is practical, unthinking, habitual action. This is a form of practical consciousness, as opposed to a discursive consciousness when we are fully engaged, thinking about a problem. The French archaeologist André LeroiGourhan, who is best known for precise excavations and a structural theory of cave art, anticipated these concepts in 1964.

In Man Makes Himself (1936) he began to redefine the three-age model using two socio-economic revolutions that occurred in prehistory but which set in motion the modern world. These were the Neolithic revolution, when agriculture and villages appeared, and the Urban revolution that led to the earliest civilisations with writing, monumental buildings, bureaucracies, cities, trade and an agricultural surplus that was then unequally distributed to create a ruling class. These issues were explored, revised and repeated in his many 32 HOW MANY ARCHAEOLOGIES ARE THERE?

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