Archaeology, science-based archae...
Knapp, A. B. (2000) Archaeology, science-based archaeology and the Mediterranean Bronze Age metals trade. European journal of archaeology 3(1):pp. 31-56. http://eprints.gla.ac.uk/archive/00002809/ Glasgow ePrints Service http://eprints.gla.ac.uk
Knapp���Archaeology and Science/EJA ARCHAEOLOGY, SCIENCE-BASED ARCHAEOLOGY AND THE MEDITERRANEAN BRONZE AGE METALS TRADE A. Bernard Knapp Department of Archaeology University of Glasgow Glasgow G12 8QQ Scotland Keywords: science-based archaeology, Cyprus, Sardinia, Mediterranean Bronze Age, metals trade, recycling, lead isotope analysis, social theory, commodification of metals Abstract: Archaeologists often seem either sceptical of science-based archaeology or baffled by its results. The underpinnings of science-based archaeology may conflict with social or behavioural factors unsuited to quantification and grouping procedures. Thus, the interaction between archaeologists and their science-based colleagues has been less profitable than it might have been. The main point I consider in this study, and exemplify by considering metals provenance studies in the Bronze Age Mediterranean, is the relevance and application of the stated aims of science-based archaeology to the contemporary discipline of archaeology. Whereas most practitioners today recognise that science-based archaeology has the potential to contribute positively to the resolution of problems stemming from our field���s inadequate and incomplete data resource, I contend that science and scientific analyses alone cannot adjudicate between cultural possibilities. Rather they provide analytical data which are likely to be open- ended, subject to multiple social interpretations, and in need of evaluation by collaborating archaeologists using social theory. Biographical Note: A. Bernard Knapp is Professor of Mediterranean Archaeology in the Department of Archaeology, University of Glasgow. He received his PhD in Mediterranean Archaeology from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1979. He has held research appointments at the University of Sydney, the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute, Cambridge University (England), and Macquarie University (Sydney). Current research interests within and beyond the Mediterranean include social theory, archaeological survey, the archaeology of mining, and gender in archaeology. He co-edits the Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology (with John F. Cherry) and edits the series Monographs in Mediterranean Archaeology. 1
Knapp���Archaeology and Science/EJA ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Many, if not most, archaeologists regard archaeometry as a sometimes interesting, largely irrelevant, and definitely optional endeavor. (Dunnell 1993: 161) It is becoming clear that the interpretation of lead isotope data has not taken place within a framework which reflects the true complexity either of ore deposits, or ��� perhaps more importantly ��� of metal supply and circulation in the ancient world. We contend that this crisis of confidence stems, not from lead isotope measurements themselves, but from their interpretation. (Budd et al. 1996: 169) Introduction Philosopher of science Stephen Toulmin (1977: 157-58) once pondered whether there was an 'alternation ... between periods in which the focus of scientific inquiry is on the development and refinement of general intellectual techniques for their own sake, ... and periods in which the focus shifts from such general techniques to particular kinds of concrete problems and problem situations.' In other words, are there times when scientific outlook and practice tend to be more theory-driven, and other times when they tend to be more empirical and method-driven? Any viable intellectual discipline may choose either to explore the implications and uses of a given set of techniques and procedures, or to look for ways of improving them. By the same token, interdisciplinary research may choose to foster the autonomy of individual fields whilst refining their own general procedures, or else they may opt to find ways of drawing on pooled resources to resolve concrete problems and applications. With specific reference to the interdisciplinary field of science-based archaeology, one primary aim should be to draw upon pooled resources in the attempt to resolve specific archaeological, cultural or historical problems, if not modern-day social issues. Indeed, that goal has been touted over the years by a diverse group of archaeologists, scientists and archaeological scientists (most recently, Demirici et al. 1996 McGovern 1995 Renfrew 1992 Vaughan 1995 Young et al. 1999). In a recent issue of Antiquity, Killick and Young (1997) explored ways of promoting a more effective interaction between scientists and archaeologists. They concluded that, whilst it is possible to conduct viable scientific research in archaeology, it remains difficult to maintain continuity within the field or to educate the future consumers and practitioners of science-based archaeology without formal academic training. Of course, this problem is less acute in Britain where, as those authors realise, the academic and institutional integration of archaeology and science-based archaeology has been under way for some time. Serious debate over integrating science within archaeology began with a 1981 ���round table��� discussion entitled Future Directions in Archaeometry (Olin 1982). At the conference, the archaeological intuition was that most science-based research served no demonstrable purpose. For their part, the scientists were clearly frustrated with archaeological ignorance of the methods, potential and limits of science- based archaeology (Killick and Young 1997:518). Today, almost twenty years along, archaeologists and their science-oriented colleagues are still bogged down in this controversy. Recently, Robert Dunnell (1993) entitled a review article ���Why archaeologists don���t care about archaeometry.��� Rick Jones (1988: 1) suggests that science-based archaeology is a ���second class 2
Knapp���Archaeology and Science/EJA science.��� And Christopher Chippindale (1994:5-6), writing in a recent editorial for Antiquity, complains that: The claim [of archaeological science] to high status ... rests on its giving a more secure knowledge, to be measured by the certainty of scientific understanding, and to be displayed to the rest of us by a fetish for exact measurements, not always of qualities or entities that have a well-defined and relevant existence. So it is curious that the disputations among archaeological scientists seem deeper and more intractable than the ones in the less ���objective��� end of the business, and even slower to be ended by indisputable facts. Referring to a series of papers that appeared in Archaeometry 34 and 35 (1992, 1993), Chippindale levelled a pointed attack on lead isotopic analyses (LIA) of Mediterranean metals from the Bronze Age, quoting the research team from Oxford (N��el Gale and Zophia Stos-Gale) who seemed to be challenging their scientific colleagues to become more understanding and more understandable. Chippindale emphasized the equivocal nature of conclusions based on LIA, with respect to an ore body���s isotopic signature, smelting techniques and mixing of ores, wastes and slags and even the analytical and statistical techniques employed. Moreover, re-measurement and/or rejection of old analyses in new compilations of lead isotope data have shown that not all measurements were of the highest precision (Budd et al. 1996:169). Indeed John Cherry and I have repeatedly pointed out the same problems (Cherry and Knapp 1991 Knapp and Cherry 1994:32-40). Many archaeologists remain sceptical of science-based archaeology or baffled by its results. Sarah Vaughan (1995) argues that the scientific underpinnings of science-based archaeology often conflict not just with the nature of the materials studied but also with a whole array of behavioural factors that are not amenable to quantification and grouping procedures. In her call for more humanistic input into science-based archaeology, Vaughan stands completely at odds with Dunnell���s (1993:163-4) appeal for a real scientific archaeology: 'The effort, rigor, and cost of physical analyses are lost in a humanistic approach where they serve only to inspire story- telling ��� stories that are not testable in any scientific sense.' However, Dunnell���s view of ���archaeology as science��� has little to do with the concerns of science-based archaeology but rather hearkens back to a positivist archaeology driven by a belief in a (biological) evolutionary ���science��� (Dunnell 1992:86-90). 3 Is it really the case, then, that the level of interaction between these two camps has changed very little? Who, if anyone, is right or wrong in this volley of charges and counter-charges between science and archaeology? The main point I wish to consider in this study, and exemplify by considering metals provenance studies, is the relevance and application of the stated aims of science-based archaeology to the discipline of archaeology. In so doing, I also consider some of the reasons why science and archaeology, especially in the Mediterranean, have not been as well integrated ��� in interdisciplinary terms ��� as they might have been. In order to consider the various complaints that have been aired, I discuss the most recent research in archaeometallurgy and the Mediterranean metals trade, the latter the same topic targeted by Chippindale and one in which I have been involved professionally on several levels over the past decade. Whereas most practitioners today recognise that science-based archaeology has the potential to contribute positively to the resolution of problems stemming from our field���s inadequate and incomplete
Knapp���Archaeology and Science/EJA data resource, I contend that science and scientific analyses alone cannot adjudicate between cultural possibilities. Rather, they provide analytical data which are likely to be open-ended, subject to multiple social interpretations, and in need of evaluation by collaborating archaeologists using social theory. I begin with a brief consideration of the historical context within archaeology that helped to foster scepticism and acrimony instead of collaboration and co-operation. Processual Archaeology and Archaeological Science When ���new archaeologists��� like Lewis Binford and David Clarke broke ranks with the culture- historical regime in archaeology, they were not much interested in events or in individuals but they were interested in society. As part of a positivist movement in archaeology, they examined the long-term ecological and environmental processes which, they believed, enabled or constrained certain kinds of cultural and social development. Binford called for an entirely revamped archaeological research strategy, essentially an anthropological ���science��� based on a formalised, statistical methodology where hypothesis testing would hold central place. David Clarke, on the other hand, still adhered to Childe���s notion of an archaeological culture, and placed more emphasis on both historical evidence and geography than did Binford. Nonetheless, both Clarke and Binford emphasized quantitative, scientific perspectives in archaeology and used ���systems theory��� as an important means of explaining cultural change. Much of mainstream archaeology, especially in America, became a ���hypothetico-deductive��� pursuit, seeking general laws of human behaviour. This positivist approach emphasized orderly data collection and analysis within a sound theoretical framework geared to explain the past through generalisation. Combined with the locational techniques and statistical analyses that helped to establish a quantitative revolution in spatial archaeology and the ���new geography��� alike, processualism still holds a prominent place in archaeology���s internecine battles. Science-based archaeology (archaeometry) developed into a highly respected sub-discipline of the new archaeology, using approaches such as radiocarbon dating, dendrochronological calibration, phytolith analyses, palaeoethnobotany, palaeopathology, provenance studies, and many more. Research interest in all of these areas stemmed directly from a processual, positivist focus on ���science.��� Many anthropological archaeologists in the USA still argue that archaeology is and must remain a scientific endeavour and they mean hard science - not social science. Since the limitations of such ���forensic archaeology��� have been pointed out repeatedly, there is no reason to dwell upon them here. Archaeology in the 1990s has moved well beyond processualism���s narrow, systemic approach, its view of itself as an ���anthropological��� science of the past, and its promotion of Science with a capital ���S.��� It seems fair to say that most archaeologists working at the beginning of the new millennium seek to move beyond polemics and to explore areas of possible agreement amongst contemporary archaeologies (e.g., Hodder 1991 Lightfoot 1995 Preucel 1991 1995 Schiffer 1996 Shanks and Hodder 1995 Shanks and McGuire 1996 Trigger 1991). Multiple paths and perspectives are inevitable, and a postprocessual or interpretative approach dictates that archaeologists must learn to live with the notion of mutually irreconcilable views about the past (Knapp 1996:150-2). Archaeologists of 4