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Readers Respond: Archaeology is (or is not) a Science because...

Responses: 16


There are many reasons why archaeology is a science, but there are some serious objections as well. Does a study have to fit all of the "hard science" criteria to call itself a science? Share Your Reasoning

Archaeology is a science

I understand that history is a huge part of archaeology, but so is the scientific method. I feel as though it should be considered a science, because one tests things within the field. If archaeology is not a science, then why is anatomy? Within both someone is given something (either alive or not) and they experiment on them to find answers. The main difference between anatomy and archaeology is that anatomy is so much more detailed. Nonetheless, Archaeology should be considered a science, because in order to conduct experiments after digging in the dirt, one uses the scientific method to properly test the remains.
—Guest Kelsey

What is a science?

Some of the debates about whether or not archaeology is a science seem to be underpinned by an impulse to show that archaeology is worthy or worthwhile: if it does not attain the standard of being a true Science (with a capital S!) and if it does not follow the Scientific Method (with a capital M!) then it is just thrown into the box of other belief-systems, along with religion, Marxism, acupuncture, feminism, postmodernism, and the belief that the pyramids were built by aliens. There is a certain amount of arrogant scientism in this view, which assumes that the scientific method is the only valid source of knowledge (or at least that all other knowledge systems are drastically deficient in some way). I see archaeology as a good field on which to challenge such reductive thinking, and indeed to challenge what is meant by 'science' in the first place. Much of what we are doing looks very much like science, but ultimately we are constructing knowledge rather than discovering it.
—Guest Higgs Boatswain

those that don't believe, will never

Archaeology is a science, it uses many of the scientific disciplines available today and like most scientific disciplines it has a lot of theory and hit and miss, but even in main stream science theories are ever changing as are theories in archaeology as new and important information becomes available. Remember yesterdays fiction often becomes tomorrow's facts. Mostly archaeology suffers from discipline jealousy and many people do not really know how much back ground research goes into a project.
—Guest Franz H Thrupp

dating in archaeology

we have 2 type of dating which are absolute and relative dating
—Guest yusuf isah ani

Logic Does Not Equal Science

Gathering evidence and applying logic to interpretations is not the definition of the scientific method. Archaeology does not generally offer reproducible results from controlled experiments. Sensible conclusions are far from incontrovertible facts. Archaeology, textual criticism, and evolution are all essentially history. As such, the scientific method is not of much use. So calling them sciences is stretching things a bit.
—Guest Lisa


10:22 AM 1/25/2013 If carbon dating is accurate and mankind is 10 -50,000 years back, then our calendars' are off, and it's 4 -44,000 A. D. because the chronological order of the Bible is true. The creator made similar primates, so if there were erect humanoids, it was when God put souls in them that they became mankind. I'm just saying, if we're going to speculate with theory this is mine! Prehistoric orators predated writing which would mean that Biblical events could have occurred more than 6,000 years ago. Unwritten stories have been past down through out human time in many cultures. Christ' appearance on earth was about 2,000 years ago, but B.C. time could have began in prerecorded history. There's no time in Eternity, so time began when matter came into existence their saying billions of years back. So B.C. is just a point in time and mankind(Adam)was created before then. Written: 1/25/2013 A.M. By KaraokLee Eleses( pseudonym)
—Guest Eleses

Archaeology is a science

In short, it uses the Scientific Method! After painstaking gathering of data, which is logically arranged and interpreted using logic.The findings are used as a starting point for even more data gathering etc, all treated with strict logic.

why not?

why not both-or more- a philosophy, one of the other humanities, science, education, or even just a job. Depends upon the aims of the archeologist. It doesn't HAVE to be "practical"; just interesting. And I have been an professional archeologist for over 50 years.

Of Course!

Of course it is. Even though it is very eclectic and draws from many disciplines, it is the interpretation of what is found that makes it a science. I just wish it had less in-fighting and arm-chair analysts.
—Guest Larry Boles

Is anythign a science then?

How to respond to these reasons Number 5 does not even qualify as a reason. Science is boring? Oscar Wilde is an authority on science? Or archaeology? Beyond silly. Counter examples for the other four (if we thought anything followed logically): 1. No two supernovas are exactly the same, therefore observations of them must be different, therefore astronomy is not a science. 2. Palaeontological data are sparse and incomplete. Palaeontologists interpret new fossils based on previous fossils, even when they only have a few bones or bits, and rely on other bits from other locations for interpretation. Therefore, palaeontology is not a science. 3. Too much of physics is based on interpretation, and string theory is based solely on mathematical models (not observation), therefore physics is not a science. 4. Forensic anthropology is part of anthropology, therefore forensic anthropology, and biological anthropology in general, it is not a science. Archaeology is part of anthropology only in the United States. Cultural Anthropology continues to debate whether it is or is not a science, and this debate is not resolved (witness the reaction to the AAA statement that anthropology is not a science). In much of Europe, archaeology is its own discipline, usually aligned with historical disciplines, and they debate whether history is a science.
—Guest Rudi

greater than science

I must say, since archaeology have so much assumption or theory, and so little evidence to prove, it is not a 'science'. Also using Bohr's scientific principle, the valid theory should be able to apply to everything in every filed, which is also rare in Archaeology. But why be a science? Human is more complicated than a simple scientific system. Maybe the time we find the uni-force in universe is the time that we can find a totally applicable system for archaeology. Right now, I believe it is not a science.
—Guest Loveday

If the shoe fits, are you the owner?

If conjecture, unsupported inferences, and faulty logic are disallowed, and only proofs for or against are used to come to conclusions, then I would say it can be a science. But conjecture has a way of becoming "facts" too easily, supported by faulty logic and baseless inferences. I have seen very proud and scholarly "scientists" presented with overwhelming evidence which only made them think their own method used to produce a finding was somehow faulty simply because they didn't believe the finding. They'd see it only when they believed it! Science was originally invented (believe it or not) to prove the existence of God. It has failed miserably and driven some to think there is no God. But failure to find evidence does not prove non-existence. I would submit that it could indicate looking in all the wrong places, ignoring proofs that don't fit conclusions, and presuming all the wrong presumptions about what God really is.
—Guest Steve

Post Processualists

Post Processualists wouldn't class it as a science however...Though the use of science within archaeology is of course integral to the success of the discipline
—Guest Student

Something that can't be ignored

"It is a vulgar superstition, now fortunately being dispelled, that archaeology is an empirical discipline . . . archaeological interpretations are a function not only of the evidence at hand, but also of the ideas and assumptions . . . that the interpreter carries about with him." (Trigger, 109, p. 30). This is soooo evident in the evolutionary THEORY.

The debate is futile

I see the whole debate of archaeology being or being a science futile,because i see it as a subject with a special distinction,like anthropology.Human behavior has to be understood with all the methodologies which can make the interpretation precise,and that inherently is found in Scientific methods.But the interpretation has to be based on human norms.As the evolution of this mammal called human has been a unique event,so the interpretation has to be unique in nature.But the main focus of archaeologist should be to make archaeological data more precise and near to reality as possible through scientific methods.The main focus remains the human and its evolution which continues to fascinate the practitioners of this subject.
—Guest Aadil Brar

One Question

Does its practices follow the scientific method? Then yes, it is a science.
—Guest Student

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Archaeology is (or is not) a Science because...

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