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The epistemology of archaeological perception

The epistemology of archaeological perception
The epistemology of archaeological perception
Archaeologists are predominantly realists; they work on the premise that we can use our senses to learn real information about the remains of the past. Whilst this is a stance which must be adopted to say anything meaningful about the evidence we collect, when it comes to constructing narratives about the past, the validity of our perceptions are called into question. This work explores the relationship between perception and archaeological knowledge creation, especially the use of vision in landscape studies.

Archaeological interpretations are built up from data which has been collected through an act of perception in the present, and to apply this data in the creation of narratives about the past we rely on a number of assumptions. One of these, which is often left unmentioned, is that people in the past perceived in the same way as people today. Some perceptual theorists suggest that visual perception is mentally mediated (see Bruner, 1957; Gregory, 1980; Robinson, 2001) and thus culturally constituted however, making our attempts to understand archaeological remains in the same way as those who created them destined to fail. Whilst a number of archaeologists have commented on this issue (see for example Johnson, 2007; Thomas, 2001; Tilley, 2004), few have sought to find a resolution to it. This work thus critiques the current epistemological state of archaeology, and drawing on visual and cross-cultural perception literature, proposes one possible way in which its problems may be overcome. This involves an archaeological perceptual investigation aimed at determining the extent/existence of the potential perceptual gap between cultures of the past and present. Finally, the potential outcomes of this work will be discussed, along with their consequences for archaeology as a whole, and the resulting opportunities for future research.
archaeology, epistemology, archaeological record, perception, vision, cross-cultural perception, uniformitarianism, perceptual framework, crowd-sourced interpretation
Campbell-Bell, Damien
70e34ea2-2b07-4469-a845-c97a53547edb
Campbell-Bell, Damien
70e34ea2-2b07-4469-a845-c97a53547edb

Campbell-Bell, Damien (2013) The epistemology of archaeological perception. Theoretical Archaeology Group 2013, United States. 09 - 11 May 2013.

Record type: Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)

Abstract

Archaeologists are predominantly realists; they work on the premise that we can use our senses to learn real information about the remains of the past. Whilst this is a stance which must be adopted to say anything meaningful about the evidence we collect, when it comes to constructing narratives about the past, the validity of our perceptions are called into question. This work explores the relationship between perception and archaeological knowledge creation, especially the use of vision in landscape studies.

Archaeological interpretations are built up from data which has been collected through an act of perception in the present, and to apply this data in the creation of narratives about the past we rely on a number of assumptions. One of these, which is often left unmentioned, is that people in the past perceived in the same way as people today. Some perceptual theorists suggest that visual perception is mentally mediated (see Bruner, 1957; Gregory, 1980; Robinson, 2001) and thus culturally constituted however, making our attempts to understand archaeological remains in the same way as those who created them destined to fail. Whilst a number of archaeologists have commented on this issue (see for example Johnson, 2007; Thomas, 2001; Tilley, 2004), few have sought to find a resolution to it. This work thus critiques the current epistemological state of archaeology, and drawing on visual and cross-cultural perception literature, proposes one possible way in which its problems may be overcome. This involves an archaeological perceptual investigation aimed at determining the extent/existence of the potential perceptual gap between cultures of the past and present. Finally, the potential outcomes of this work will be discussed, along with their consequences for archaeology as a whole, and the resulting opportunities for future research.

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More information

Published date: 10 May 2013
Venue - Dates: Theoretical Archaeology Group 2013, United States, 2013-05-09 - 2013-05-11
Keywords: archaeology, epistemology, archaeological record, perception, vision, cross-cultural perception, uniformitarianism, perceptual framework, crowd-sourced interpretation
Organisations: Archaeology

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 352235
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/352235
PURE UUID: 90b132a0-9b19-41eb-8eb9-52f8184615a0

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 13 May 2013 07:50
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 04:16

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