Archaeological Science or Scientific Archaeology: Where Does "Science" Lie in Stone Artefact Research?

Author(s): Sam Lin

Year: 2018


Archaeological science is defined as the use of scientific techniques, typically derived from the natural sciences, in archaeology. In lithic research, archaeological science studies have investigated topics ranging from identifying raw material sources, assessing artefact function and technology, to modelling socio-cultural and evolutionary changes. However, this method-centred definition of archaeological science has also led to a focus on the "sciency" appeal of techniques over basic principles of the general science method, namely falsification ("how do I know if I am wrong?") and validation against uncertainty ("how confident can I be in my explanation as opposed to other explanations?"). Despite the flourish of archaeological science, much of lithic research still operate on analytical units embedded with implicit behavioural assumptions that are difficult to falsify, and a largely common-sensical reasoning process that favours explanations relatable to our modern daily experience. By reviewing other archaeological science approaches, it is argued here that a more explicit discussion of the general science framework is needed in lithic research, with particular concern over the nature of analytical categories, the integrity and confidence of inference, and the ability to objectively evaluate competing causal explanations for the formation of archaeological pattern through multiple lines of evidence.

Cite this Record

Archaeological Science or Scientific Archaeology: Where Does "Science" Lie in Stone Artefact Research?. Sam Lin. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 443777)

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Abstract Id(s): 20149