Transforming lessons from the past into lessons for the future

Sander Van Der Leeuw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


This paper argues that we would massively increase the value of our archaeological understanding of the past for the present if we cast it differently. Rather than use a reductionist, ex-post approach (which explains the present by invoking the past, looking for origins), we should be using an "ex ante" approach that looks at the emergence of change, linking past and present to the future. This would allow us to learn from the past for the future. The paper examines some of the difficulties encountered in implementing such a different approach, at the level of our cognition, our scientific practices, and our paradigms, and then illustrates some of the changes in perspective such a shift would bring about by referring to the different discussions of Maya archaeology presented in this volume.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)215-231
Number of pages17
JournalArcheological Papers of the American Anthropological Association
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2014


  • Complex systems
  • Emergence
  • Information processing
  • Problem-solving

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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