ANT 4114: Principles of Archaeology
Lab 9: Patterning in Meaning
Meaning, in all times and places, is created through symbol, metaphor, and other figurative devices—all of which has been argued to be difficult to access archaeologically. In examples from Ohio Hopewell material culture, we will assess some of the possibilities and difficulties in understanding past cultural meanings.
1. As reviewed in
the text, Robert Hall (1997?) uses a direct historical approach to interpret
the social function of
(a) Identify the assumptions in his argument.
(b) What problems are there in the 1500-year separation between archaeological and historical evidence brought to bear in this argument? What data could address these problems?
2. Drawing on multiple lines of evidence, Warren DeBoer (1997) uses both historical analogy and structuralist principles to interpret the meaning of
(a) What assumptions about human symbolic behavior are necessary for DeBoer’s argument?
(b) What archaeological evidence would bolster DeBoer’s (1997) tripartite division of animal representations?
3. Archaeologists have often made distinctions between technologically functioning and symbolically functioning artifacts. Is this a false dichotomy? Describe at least two modern material items that fulfill both roles.
5. Is the principle of uniformitarianism useful for interpreting meaning in the past? Explain.
6. In the past, was there likely a singular and unchanging meaning for the symbols discussed above? Explain.
7. Is meaning less recoverable from the archaeological record than other cultural information? Why or why not?