chapter
7 Pages

Introduction: History without Documents

WithAlice Beck Kehoe

Evidence from archaeology is the material residue from human actions. Documentary historians and archaeologists work together, written texts fleshing out the archaeological ruins and remnants and the archaeology providing checks upon the text claims, for example on whether a household was wealthy or poor. An archaeological history may seem unconventional, yet the human actions it records were quite literally absolutely vital. The crux of archaeological interpretation lies at the juncture where the material data – artifacts and soil features – are related to social behavior, that is, where the syntagm is fitted into a paradigm. Paradigms that mold interpretation of archaeological data change as new methods and technology produce previously unavailable kinds of data, and also through clashes between ideological positions and the efforts of ambitious individuals to advance their careers by trumpeting a supposedly brilliant new theory.