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New Archaeology

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A movement that began in America in the 1960s, aimed at making archaeology more scientific, with explicit theory and rigorous methodologies. At the heart of the thinking was a positivist belief in the principles of the scientific method (especially hypothesis testing or hypothetico‐deductive reasoning). In the USA many of these ideas were set out by Lewis Binford in his book New perspectives in archaeology, published in 1968. In it he stressed: the need to use new technologies such as the computer for statistical and matrix analyses of data; the concept of the ecosystem for the understanding of the economic and subsistence bases of prehistoric societies; an evolutionary view of culture; the use of models of cultures that could be viewed as systems; incorporating an evolutionary approach to culture change; and a close relationship between archaeology and anthropology. In Britain, David Clarke's book Analytical archaeology, also published in 1968, took up similar themes, emphasizing particularly the application of systems theory to archaeological modelling.

Although the proponents of the New Archaeology were heavily criticized by more traditionally minded scholars, especially for their use of jargon and for dehumanizing the discipline, the basic principles became widely accepted. The product of studies that implemented and developed the ideas set down under the rubric of the New Archaeology is what is now often referred to as processual archaeology.

Subjects: Archaeology

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