Monday, June 11, 2007

Current book

F Anyone's I, I'm reading The Rise and Fall of Culture History by R. Lee Lyman, Michael J. O'Brien, and Robert C. Dunnell. Dunnell, of course, was one of my profs in grad school and the ideas in this book are mainly ones he's developed over the years. I actually talked to him about it the book once, and he seemed to think some of it was wrong, but at this late date, I can't remember the specifics. I've come across a few odds and ends that I think are probably not exactly what Dunnell had argued so far, but nothing spectacular.

At any rate, it's probably not a book the average non-archaeologist would find terribly exciting, but if you want to slog through it, it's quite rewarding. I've probably posted on this before, but the "New Archaeology" of the 1960s was largely placed in opposition to the "old archaeology" embodied by Culture History, which was regarded as atheoretical and unscientific. It's arguably true that it was, in a way, atheoretical, but in many ways it was also far more empirically-based than much that went after it. The ultimate test of any chronology was an empirical one: whether the distributions of types formed the monotonic curves specified by the methodology of seriation. They didn't have a specific scientific theory to explain why, by their methods implied that they had a well-formed intuitive sense of what was behind the distributions.

But all that, in fact, is not the point of this post. They devoted only a short section to a certain issue, but it's one I've been interested in for a long time, but never got around to really researching: The amount and kind of interaction between Americanist archaeologists and Egytpologists. I first started wondering about this since I learned that Petrie's Sequence Dating scheme seems not to have had any impact at all on the development of seriation in the U.S. Petrie's work was a full 17 years before the first true seriation by Kroeber in 1916 (give or take a couple of years). I have a few tickles in my memory that some here were aware of what Petrie had been doing, but I've not come across any references that indicate American-style seriation really owed anything to Petrie at all. I have similar fuzzy memories regarding whether Sequence Dating really was a true seriation either (this site seems to equate the two).

Once I finish this book, I am bound and determined to check some of the appropriate references therein. In the meantime, feel free to comment.