How Pervasive Are Culture History Approaches in Contemporary Global Archaeology?

Author: Christopher Battams

Battams, Christopher, 2024 How Pervasive Are Culture History Approaches in Contemporary Global Archaeology?, Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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This thesis is a literature-based study and works within existing knowledge about the place of culture history in archaeological practice. Culture history records and interprets past events involving humans through their social, cultural and political involvement. Culture history is based on human cultures of the past and chronological and spatial ordering of archaeological data (Fagan 1988:501).

This project sets out to investigate and describe the culture-historical approach in the practice of archaeology, identify its proponents, and understand how, and what degree, this approach is still relevant to contemporary archaeology. Culture history is both part of the history of archaeology, and an approach to doing archaeology (Webster 2008:11). Between the 19th and 21st centuries different scientific approaches to archaeology arose, including antiquarian archaeology that led to a culture history approach and the adoption of a historical format to detail and record material artefacts.

The main method utilised for this research involved a structured random sampling approach and key word analysis of more than 124 articles drawn from international and national journals, noting key terms from culture history, processual archaeology and post-processual archaeology and comparing them for frequency of use. The data analysis demonstrated that culture history terms were the most frequently used in the articles read, followed by processual and, lastly, post-processual terms.

The thesis suggests that culture-history is still part of the normative approach to doing archaeology in the interpretation and analysis of artefacts and assemblages (material culture). Culture history provides a method to create a relative sequence for interpretation, dating and formulating linkages between different culture areas, such as Egypt or Western Asia (Renfrew 2007:50). The culture-historical method was a way of conducting anthropological and archaeological research that was prevalent among western scholars between about 1910 and 1960 (Hirst 2019:1). This thesis argues that culture-history can be considered as a particular approach to doing archaeology, and how it interprets and orders information still underlies much contemporary archaeological theory and practice.

Keywords: Culture, History, Archaeology

Subject: Archaeology thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2024
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Dr Daryl Wesley