Why archaeology, in all of its components, is a social science
It is often said that archaeology lies at the interface between the natural and social sciences, as demonstrated by its range of publications, the distribution of its research teams, and its varied theoretical propositions. By re-examining these theoretical propositions and suggesting a new object for this science, it becomes possible to find a unity and uniqueness specific to archaeology. Based on the idea of the aggregate, and then exploring the minimalist ontology of the philosopher F. Wolff (things, events, people), it is suggested that what is being referred to is a world at our own scale and within our own semantic field, but which is designed using concepts developed by the other social sciences. While the use of analyses (physicochemical, biological) is increasingly common, these are not the determining aspect of archaeological discourse, which cannot present its constituent parts independently of all points of view, unlike the natural sciences.
To cite this articleBoissinot P., 2017 – Why archaeology, in all of its components, is a social science, in Boissinot P. (dir.), Archaeology and social sciences, University of Toulouse Jean Jaurès, P@lethnology, 9, 86-94.
Archaeology and psychoanalysis:
what is the inquiry searching for?
This article is a comparative reflection on the modes of inquiry proposed by two disciplines or practices which investigate the past, namely archaeology and psychoanalysis. These two types of regressive inquiry make use of present clues (material or psychological) in order to recover the past. However, beyond a superficial similarity, archaeology and psychoanalysis do not offer the same heuristic. This is not because they do not share the same objects, but rather because they do not have the same representation and the same practice of the processes of burial and recovery of their respective objects. Through discussion of the “hyperarchaeological” hermeneutics put forward by Jean Laplanche, this article pleads in favour of a mosaic history which enables us to bring together in one narrative the becoming of an object as well as each of its remains and memories.
To cite this articleFauvelle F.-X., 2017 – Archaeology and psychoanalysis: what is the inquiry searching for?, in Boissinot P. (dir.), Archaeology and social sciences, University of Toulouse Jean Jaurès, P@lethnology, 9, 75-85.
Archaeology and economic history:
between affinities and discord
Beyond the obvious points of convergence, these two disciplines have often followed parallel or even divergent courses. As such, the first major narratives about the economy of ancient societies were constructed with the almost complete omission of archaeological data. This indifference has even been openly admitted by historians who were otherwise mindful of a holistic approach to ancient societies (M. Finley, E. Will). This context appears to have changed in the 1980s, when a number of themes common to historical and archaeological inquiries were explored: for example, research on landscape in several Mediterranean regions (Greece, Italy, North Africa). Today, the tendency towards modelling in economic history leads to the selection of material indicators on the basis of criteria (economic growth) which fit more with current economic behaviours. There is nevertheless space for multidisciplinary convergence.
To cite this articleD’Ercole C., 2017 – Archaeology and economic history: between affinities and discord, in Boissinot P. (dir.), Archaeology and social sciences, University of Toulouse Jean Jaurès, P@lethnology, 9, 62-74.
Landscape archaeology and geography:
between observation, transfers and co-constructions
Since the end of the 19th century, relationships between landscape archaeology and geography appear to have been determined as much by the concept of time as by that of space. We can distinguish an initial period when geography and historical sciences were linked by a cyclical perception of the dynamic of landforms. From the 1960s, theoretical complementarities became more difficult because the explanatory model changed in geography, towards a view of a present which was no longer dynamically linked to the past. Since the 1990s, the theory of self-organisation and the concept of resilience, by introducing time as an agent in its own right within organisations, have made theoretical co-constructions possible once again.
To cite this articleRobert S., 2017 – Landscape archaeology and geography: between observation, transfers and co-constructions, in Boissinot P. (dir.), Archaeology and social sciences, University of Toulouse Jean Jaurès, P@lethnology, 9, 52-61.
The Jerusalem temple between “theology” and archaeology:
which issues, what dialogue?
Fabio PORZIA, Corinne BONNET
Divine presence on earth constitutes an aporia. However, it is also necessary, since that which we call “religion” is simply a series of social practices which aim to establish a line of communication, benevolent if possible, between superior beings and mankind. Ontologically speaking, divine powers are “superhuman”, which means that common parameters do not apply to them. This paper explores the first temple of Jerusalem using two sources: textual and archaeological evidence. We will therefore compare the theological and archaeological data in order to analyse the interactions between these two disciplines. The place of worship appears to be an ideal laboratory where several disciplines, methodologies and issues can be brought together to understand representations of divinity. In other words, we will explore how the consideration of “discourses about the gods” (theo-logy) can enhance the work of archaeologists and raise new questions: inversely, we will highlight that which archaeology contributes to those who conduct research into the representation of divinity in the texts.
To cite this articlePorzia F., Bonnet C., 2017 – The Jerusalem temple between “theology” and archaeology: which issues, what dialogue?, in Boissinot P. (dir.), Archaeology and social sciences, University of Toulouse Jean Jaurès, P@lethnology, 9, 31-51.
Medieval archaeology and the history of material culture:
Forty years later
The notion of material culture used in various historical and anthropological disciplines was principally introduced into France in several articles written by Jean-Marie Pesez in the late 1970s, to be applied in the field of medieval archaeology. These works reviewed the origins and the circumstances surrounding the emergence of this field of reflection and research, and established an initial framework for putting into practice, in archaeology, the use of material data as a source in the historical approach. A re-examination of these propositions and of the context of their application can be useful in order to investigate the current meaning of the concept, its heuristic potential (which still appears to be too limited), and the role it can play in the convergence of several social sciences.
To cite this articlePoisson J.-M., 2017 – Medieval archaeology and the history of material culture: Forty years later, in Boissinot P. (dir.), Archaeology and social sciences, University of Toulouse Jean Jaurès, P@lethnology, 9, 22-30.
Is an archaeological contribution to the theory of social science possible?
Archaeological data and concepts in the dispute between Jean-Claude Gardin and Jean-Claude Passeron
The issue of the definition and position of archaeology as a discipline is examined in relation to the dispute which took place from 1980 to 2009 between the archaeologist Jean-Claude Gardin and the sociologist Jean-Claude Passeron. This case study enables us to explore the actual conceptual relationships between archaeology and the other sciences (as opposed to those wished for or prescribed). The contrasts between the positions declared by the two researchers and the rooting of their arguments in their disciplines are examined: where the sociologist makes use of his philosophical training, the archaeologist relies mainly on his work on semiology and informatics. Archaeology ultimately plays a minor role in the arguments proposed. This dispute therefore cannot be considered as evidence for the movement of concepts between archaeology and the social sciences. A blind spot in the debate, relating to the ontological specificities of archaeological objects, nevertheless presents itself as a possible way of implementing this movement.
To cite this articlePlutniak S., 2017 – Is an archaeological contribution to the theory of social science possible? Archaeological data and concepts in the dispute between Jean-Claude Gardin and Jean-Claude Passeron, in Boissinot P. (dir.), Archaeology and social sciences, University of Toulouse Jean Jaurès, P@lethnology, 9, 7-21.
More than a decade has passed since archaeology first gained a level of autonomy as a discipline in France. Freed from the tutelage of history, but not having joined the departments of anthropology (as is often the case in the United States, for example), archaeology also benefited from a law which was favourable towards the rescue of heritage (development-led archaeology) and a growing interest among regional authorities. As a result, researchers and the various actors who align themselves with them, form a population which is larger than ever – without forgetting the added success of exhibitions and broadcasts dedicated to archaeology. At the interface of the human and natural sciences (with the deterioration of our ecosystems, environmental issues are topical as never before), this discipline has become a major producer of facts, divided into numerous sub-disciplines, each of which is developing the most advanced technologies.
To cite this articleBoissinot P., 2017 – Introduction, in Boissinot P. (dir.), Archaeology and social sciences, University of Toulouse Jean Jaurès, P@lethnology, 9, 4-6.
In this article I present several different forms of Neolithic and Chalcolithic houses that are found within the Mediterranean basin. In Cyprus, the round form of house appears in the PPNA and has a long lifespan, lasting throughout the PPNB, from the Khirokitian to the Chalcolithic. In south-eastern Italy, subrectangular house plans found in the Early Neolithic sometimes make way for circular or oblong forms during the Chalcolithic such as at Trasano (Laterza culture). In the Midi region of France, houses constructed with stone infrastructures dating to the Final Neolithic-Chalcolithic allow archaeologists to reconstruct lifeways based on the spatial analysis of preserved floors.
In each of these culture areas we can see both continuities and discontinuities in architectural styles. On the other hand, the concept of “household” is harder to study because it requires the archaeologist to define and measure the occupancy of each domestic unit within the village, an element which remains highly speculative given the archaeological data available.