Stories of the past or science of the future? Archaeology and computational social science

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

13 Scopus citations


Since it emerged as a formal field of study from 18th-and 19th-century antiquarianism, archaeology has focused on the past, a fact explicitly recognized in the Greek neologism adopted for its name. From its inception, archaeology has had as its primary goal the systematic (and, to many, scientific) reconstruction of past societies; that is, the most common outcome of archaeological practice has long been the construction of narratives that recount in historylike fashion some aspect of past human lives and societies. Within the past half-century, this basic aim has been expanded to encompass explanations why people and societies in these archaeological reconstructions acted and changed in the way they did-although debate continues within archaeology as to the relative importance of reconstruction (or history) and explanation and about what constitutes adequate explanation (Barton and Clark, 1997; Dunnell, 1982; Hegmon, 2003; Killick, 2004; Pauketat and Alt, 2005; Wylie, 1992, 2000). With ongoing advances in methods for data collection and analysis, archaeologists endeavor to create and explain narratives of the past with increasing detail, accuracy, and insight. But regardless of the methods used or the relative emphasis on historical accounts or explanation, the reconstruction of the past still underlies all modern archaeology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationComputational Approaches to Archaeological Spaces
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)9781315431925
ISBN (Print)9781611323467
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences
  • General Arts and Humanities


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