New Romantic Archaeology: radiocarbon revolutions and revolutions in understanding

Author(s): Seren Griffiths

Year: 2017


This presentation will reflect on the so called four ‘Radiocarbon Revolutions’ and their implications on archaeological narratives and theory generally, and Neolithic studies in Britain specifically. The timing of this reflection is critical given the implications of recent Bayesian analysis in order to produce precise, robust and probabilistic chronologies for parts of European prehistory. This paper will revisit the reactions to the initial radiocarbon revolutions by important theorists such as Colin Renfrew and David Clarke. Beyond this work there has been a marked lack of discussion of the implication that scientific dating has had and continues to have on archaeological theory as a whole. This paper will return to the considerations of the earlier radiocarbon revolutions by Clarke and Renfrew, as well as Wheeler, Childe and Sherratt to examine the implications for contemporary practice. Chiefly it will argue that the implications of earlier revolutions that Clarke identified have not been integrated with the newly available chronologies in archaeological practice. It will argue that glossing approaches as ordered 'New' science, and relativist Romantism is misleading, and will return to Wylie's emphasis on the importance of 'tacking' between data and interpretation, which is especially relevant with our newly precise chronologies.

Cite this Record

New Romantic Archaeology: radiocarbon revolutions and revolutions in understanding. Seren Griffiths. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430509)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15282