90. Whither Archaeology? Jacquetta Hawkes versus the statniks

100 Objects

In 1968, Jacquetta Hawkes considered the future of archaeology in one of her most famous and controversial pieces of writing: “The Proper Study of Mankind”, published in the journal Antiquity.

In this article, Jacquetta warned against the dangers of scientific reductionism in archaeology.  She certainly was not against the use of technological aids, but she felt that these had taken over along with pseudo-scientific aims and methods:   archaeologists had become “statniks”, looking only at what could be quantified.

Too much archaeological writing was “swamped by a vast accumulation of insignificant facts, like a terrible tide of mud”.  In another geological simile, the “extreme precision of detail” combined with “endless uncertainty of interpretation” in archaeological reports was like “walking across coarse scree”.  Instead, archaeologists should be economical in presenting their data and “extract the essential historical meaning … set this out in clear, firm and humane language”.

Archaeologists…

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