Chapter 2: Processual and systems approaches
There are two broad approaches in archaeology (page 20):
Derived from New Archeology
(60's and 70's) a few approaches has
spawned (page 21), which all are based around the idea that culture is
systems adaptive process. It is interesting to note that although
processual approaches were based on rejection of normative archaeology
(so archaeology stream before New Archaeology), the covering law the
systemic approaches try to find are in itself still normative (page
In this case cultural meaning is inferred from relationship between
people and their environment
Some component of human action is not based on material base, but from
human mind or from culture.
A few approaches are:
The above approaches are not able to
account for the great richness, variability and specificity of cultural
production, and agents and their shared thoughts are passive
of the system (page 43).
- processual/systems approach
Processual/systems approach partitions the cultural system into various
sub-systems (starting point of systems analysis), which itself is based
on a Western view of the world (page 29).
Because of the low interest in idealogical ideas in the system
approaches, agent ([group of] individuals) play a little part in the
theory, they appear as automata driven by a covering law (page 30). The
covering law is though not necessary (page 42).
Furthermore agents are easily overpowered by the dominant ideology
The systems approach examines the functions of the things which already
exist, and discard the production, creation and innovation (page 32).
Cultural development is broken up into temporal phases and thus
minimizing thoughts about the constant (gradual) change (page 31).
- behavioral approach
This approach does not adopt the systems approach. It seeks to explain
variability and change of human behavior by emphasizing the study of
relationship between people and their artifacts (page 33) and values
outside its scope (page 36). The chief problem is that behavioral
approach does not recognize that material culture is meaningfully
constituted (page 33). Behavioral approach supports the idea of
performance; so that the most optimal/maximum is reached (page 34).
Furthermore it is problematic that behavioral approach insists that all
inferences must be grounded in already known interactions between
and object, thus denying 'historical uniqueness' (page 35)
- cognitive processual approach
Ritual, social organization and ideology are seen as having
cross-cultural relationships with the material (observable world); we
can therefore infer the ideology from measurable archaeological data,
and we can do this this security (page 36). It uses the natural
as a model (page 38), but there is an internal contradiction within
natural sciences-derived and
historically-relative point of view (page
38). It is important to note that it is not possible to have a
natural science theory which will allow secure inference and prediction
from one historical context to another (page 39).
- neo evolutionary approach
The use of population size and genetic transmission is the basis of
approach (page 40). This minimizes the importance of intentionality and
meaning (page 40).
They all concentrate on material functions and reduced symbolic
to utility and adaptation (page 24). The approaches don't try to
explain why something has
started (the becoming of something) (page 25).
Furthermore variability of material is ruled out because they are seen
as adaptive advantage (optimization) and not as a specific/wanted
cultural variability (page 26).
At the end it is important (not support by the above approaches) to
discuss function as part of the ideational environment, because:
It is important to note that systems approaches are inadequate partly
because they do not give sufficient weight to non material forces and
particular historical meanings. But
we should equally be warned of
idealist approaches which give little significance to material forces
- the idea of function assumes some goal within a cultural meaning
multiple goals, which are ranked in order of importance) (page 26).
- when categorizing objects, the archaeologist embeds the
with his/her cultural meaning (page 26)
- the function of an object is always based on an assumption about
meaning of the object. This often is done covertly and uncritically
So a balance is important! Although the processual approaches
tent to be materialist in practice, they don't have to be that way
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