Time, being and unconscious acts in archaeological explanation

The force of habit: time, being and unconscious acts in archaeological explanation

Chris Ballard

Time in archaeology

‘Strangely’, Chris Gosden muses on the opening page of his new book, ‘archaeology is not in the forefront of thought about time’ (p. 1); a statement likely to bring a wry smile to the face of anyone familiar with the ponderous pace of theoretical development in archaeology. As a historical discipline, the paucity of debate in archaeology about time and temporality is particularly striking. Perversely, the development of radiocarbon dating, through rendering the issue of temporality a matter of chronology, may actually have had the effect of stifling thought on the topic of time as a problem for explanation. Social Being and Time returns the issue of time firmly to centre stage, and the arguments which Gosden puts forward here will need to be addressed by anyone who wishes to contribute further to the fundamental philosophical basis of archaeology.

The failure of successive attempts in archaeology to import models of social change from sciences such as ecology and from other social sciences has produced a general accord within the discipline that explanation in archaeology is unlikely to find ready models in other disciplines. Instead, we must look afresh at the particular nature of archaeology’s subject matter. Specifically, archaeology requires models of the relationship between forms of change over a considerable range of scales of both time and space; in combination with this is the need for models that can engage and encompass both social and environmental forms of change, and account for the links between the two. What other disciplines cannot supply to archaeology in meeting these requirements is a theory of time broad enough to address simultaneously the different times of human subjects, of the world, and of archaeological authors.

Some of the basic features of a theory of time for archaeology have already been described by Bailey (1983, 1987), and by Shanks and Tilley (1987), who stress the importance of clearly distinguishing between differences both in the nature of explanation at varying temporal scales and in the subjective nature of time as it is conceived and experienced by historical agents and employed chronometrically in the writing of archaeological history. The work of the French historian, Fernand Braudel, has been widely identified as providing a possible model for the conceptual integration of environmental and social histories operating on a range of temporal scales. But as a number of authors have observed (see, for example, Bintliff (ed.) 1991, Knapp (ed.) 1992), Braudel himself failed to theorise the links between his different scales of explanation. An unsatisfactory and too-ready equation of the short-term with social change and of the long-term with environmental change made little allowance for the questions of both the nature of long-term social change and the impact of short-term environmental change that archaeologists must regularly address. Gosden’s thesis marks a welcome return to time as the central problem for archaeological thought, adopting the view that it is only through consideration of people’s involvement with the material world that we can arrive at a theory of time that meets the specific needs of archaeology.

‘I’ll show you the life of the mind’: the Gosden thesis

Taking as his point of departure the observation that time, like space, is socially constituted, Gosden proceeds to define his particular stance through the interplay of brief commentaries on the work of a range of major social thinkers – Husserl, Heidegger, Foucault, Bourdieu and, inevitably, Marx – and his own reinterpretation of the results of archaeological excavations in the Pacific and in Britain. The parallels between space and time are instructive: landscapes, as essentially social products, ‘are not first and foremost symbolic constructs or landscapes of the mind. Rather they are spaces carved out by patterns of action’ (p.81). There is a mutual implication of humans and the material world in which each shapes the other. So too with time, which is created through the agency of humans in the course of their interaction with the world.

The primacy accorded to meaning and conscious action, which other archaeologists such as Barrett, Thomas, Shanks and Tilley have inherited from philosophy’s turn to language, is challenged by Gosden, who feels that the role of the material world in the constitution of human temporality and of the unthought or habitual elements of daily life have been unduly neglected. This is not to reject the search for meaning, but rather to insist that meaning derives as much from habitual, unthought action in the world as it does from conscious or symbolic acts, and that a sense of ‘the efficacity of the object world itself’ (p.55) be retained. The need to restore this balance between the significance of conscious and unconscious actions in constituting the archaeological ‘record’ is most evident when we address longer spans than the time-frames of the contemporary settings within which theories of meaning have been developed.

Taking his cue from the philosophical break represented by Heidegger’s shift from knowing to being, Gosden stresses that ‘our knowledge of the world is a derivative form of our everyday practice’ (p.113). Bourdieu’s notion of habitus is adopted, in which structured systems of social meaning are seen to be embodied and employed by people ‘without presupposing a conscious aiming at ends or an express mastery of the operations necessary to obtain them’ (cited on p.117); Bourdieu also supplies the notion of hexis, of the embodiment of habitus in people and in the world. ‘Habitual action’, Gosden concurs, ‘derives from the ways in which the human body is used and skills inculcated in our bodies during our life . . . skilled action is only learnt and maintained through interaction with the world’ (p. 188). Long-term history, then, can be viewed as ‘a series of layers of habitualities’ (p. 12), modes of habit that are both material and temporal.

Those who have read the same sources as Gosden may carp about his particular interpretive emphases, but his focus on the significance of habit is a welcome corrective to archaeological histories founded principally on analysis of the more obviously symbolic elements of material culture such as monuments or rock art. His more adventurous excursions into typologies of temporal form or habitualities are not so immediately accessible however, either in the abstract or through their exposition in the form of archaeological case studies.

In the place of conventional characterisations of historical societies in terms of their social structure or mode of subsistence, Gosden suggests that we describe changing social formations ‘primarily in terms of their temporal styles of life’ (p.187). Communities evince particular temporal styles through the combination of a variety of practices, each of which creates a specific form of time. The distinctive character of a community’s temporal style derives principally from the sedimented nature of its habitual practices, those unthought actions embedded in the community over long periods of time through the process of repetition. The seemingly unlimited scope for varieties of time, corresponding to different practices, is in fact both secured and restricted by ‘the relative stability of material settings into which people are socialized’ (p. 125).

If unconscious action gives rise to a form of ‘habitual time’, conscious engagement with the world, in which particular and contingent interests are brought to bear on practice, produces a ‘public time’ – the consciously manipulated time of symbol and meaning. A temporal hierarchy consisting of three main levels of time is identified (p.137): personal time (the time of an individual’s life), public time (‘the main arena for the operation of forms of power’) and sedimented time (the ‘longer sweeps of recursiveness’ enduringly embodied in material culture).

Distinct times further contribute to a variety of harmonic forms, which describe the nature of interaction between different temporal styles. Gosden identifies three basic harmonic forms (p.126): harmonious times (‘when different areas of practice flow into each other easily and smoothly’), disjoint times (‘a series of cycles of action which constantly cut across each other’) and concatenating times (‘when actions with different periodicities are brought together into an accelerating rhythm with an ever faster and [more] unstable pace’). The role of public time in determining harmonic forms is critical, as disjoint and concatenating times arise ‘where they cannot be contained by social resources’ (p. 126). Although he is aware of the limits of seeking correspondences between such narrow typologies, Gosden effectively provides us with two contrasting sets of opposed terms:

Long-term : Short-term Habitual time : Public time Unconscious : Conscious Harmonious : Disjoint

Habitual time is thus generally associated with unconscious action over the long-term and the generation of harmonious temporal harmonics, in contrast to the shorter irruptions of conscious acts, public time and disjoint harmonics. Gosden notes, however, that public times can extend over longer periods to provide the substance of habitual time, and that habitual or unconscious action is also a daily phenomenon. How, then, does this framework play out in the ‘real-time’ of archaeological reconstruction?

Temporalising archaeology

Having decried the elaboration of theory without practical application in archaeological material (Gosden 1992), Gosden seeks to sketch out the value of his proposed scheme using preliminary results from his own extensive field research in the Arawe Islands of Papua New Guinea and the published results from excavations conducted over the last century in the Cranborne Chase area of southern England. Through both of these case studies, the concept of ‘social landscape’ is employed as the most appropriate framework for the analysis of temporal forms.

Like temporality, landscape is a social product that is constituted as much by habitual action as by the conscious investment of meaning and symbolism. Landscapes, literally, embody the long-term sedimentation of recurrent practices which, recursively, shape action in the present. Landscapes emerge as the ‘natural’ units of archaeological contrast, allowing for comparison across time or space ‘in terms of patterns of habit, public time and the types of sedimentation shaping the archaeological evidence’ (p. 193).

In his Pacific case study, Gosden describes Lapita landscapes as embodying two interwoven habitualities: the first characterised by mobility, a persistent orientation towards the colonisation of new islands and the portability of a familiar social landscape, and the second by the (habitually) deliberate destruction of existing environments in order to create new (and more familiar) spaces for the deployment of established practices. The most widely known examples of the latter include the documentation by Spriggs and by Kirch and Yen of the formation of rich coastal plains through upland deforestation and the promotion of soil loss on the islands of Aneityum and Tikopia, respectively. This destructive tendency, Gosden is suggesting, may be a largely unconscious community habit born of earlier, more consciously directed, attempts to create suitable environments.

The more detailed exposition of his temporal theory is reserved by Gosden for the evidence from the Neolithic and Bronze Ages of Cranborne Chase. The choice of a European case study for this demonstration reflects the sheer wealth of material evidence and archaeological interpretation associated with this relatively small area but, as I suggest below, there is also an unspoken form of relation between Gosden’s theoretical framework and his European case study that renders the latter more compelling than his treatment of the Pacific evidence.

Gosden’s reworking of Cranborne Chase relies heavily on the results published in a monograph by Barrett, Bradley and Green (1991). Together with Julian Thomas (whose writings he also draws upon), John Barrett and Richard Bradley have been leading figures in the recent move within British archaeology towards the analysis of meaning, with a particular emphasis on the archaeology of ritual sites such as monuments. Gosden’s reinterpretation seeks to play down the role which these authors have sought for monuments, as key elements in a symbolic landscape, and to argue instead for their historical significance in forging a series of temporal styles. Monuments, in Gosden’s parlance, are habit-forming ‘machines for the creation of space’ (p.98), consciously constructed and employed in the establishment of public time, only to be incorporated within the habitual practices of later periods. It is in his account of the history of Cranborne Chase that Gosden most clearly grounds his own notions of public and habitual forms of time, and of the relationship between harmonious, disjoint and concatenating temporal harmonics.

Briefly, trajectories for change can be discerned at Cranborne Chase, extending from the Neolithic to the Late Bronze Age. As elsewhere in Britain, archaeological evidence for the Neolithic is limited, particularly in relation to settlement and subsistence. This Gosden interprets as suggestive of mobile forms of settlement, with social links connecting small communities to form a very extensive and expanding social network. This network supplied the individual communities, substituting for their lack of ‘full self-sufficiency’ (p.94). At Cranborne Chase itself, processes of forest clearance and the construction of long-barrow monuments associated with ancestor rituals were initiated in the upland areas, but actual settlement was restricted to the lowlands.

The monuments of the late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age (EBA) represent a further development of earlier ancestor-focused rituals, serving to integrate the extensive social landscape inherited from the Neolithic; these were machines consciously employed in the creation of public times in a novel effort to restrict the expansion of social space. But it was not until the Middle Bronze Age (MBA) that a massive transformation in the social landscape occurred, with the introduction of fixed field systems and enclosed, self-sufficient settlements and, at Cranbrone Chase, the complete clearance and ‘humanization’ (p. 128) of the upland areas. From the MBA to the Late Bronze Age, forms of public time were increasingly asserted as local material production increased and the scale of social networks contracted.

These changes in spatiality correspond to fundamental transformations in temporal being. Gosden proposes ‘mutuality’ and ‘materiality’ as two contrasting modes that serve to characterise being in the Neolithic and in the later Bronze Age, respectively. Mutuality refers to relations formed amongst humans, while materiality denotes forms of relationship between humans and the material world. Together with the dimensions of space and time, they constitute what Gosden refers to as the four dimensions of possibility and limit, or ‘moving moments of being’ (p.78). The two modes are inseparable elements of all forms of being, but the being of particular historical communities can be identified as emphasising either one or the other mode. The full form of Gosden’s analysis of the British Neolithic and Bronze Ages is founded on the intersection of the three temporal harmonic forms with these two contrastive modes of being.

Being in the Neolithic is characterised accordingly by an emphasis on mutuality, through the proliferation of social networks of alliance. But if the locally specific public times of the Neolithic allowed for harmonious regional time, the widening social landscape created problems relating to space as former hunter-gatherer communities engaged with novel resources and extractive technologies and first experienced a ‘tethered mobility’ (p.161). Seen in this light, the monuments of the late Neolithic and EBA were ‘set up to deal with the problems of space’ (p.129) in an early attempt at the creation of more extensive forms of public time. Yet these same monuments, and the new practices that they embodied and formed, had the added effect of creating disjoint times between the disparate practices of individual communities and the new requirements of co-ordinated performance at the major monuments. Ultimately, the weight of these disjoint times forced collapse in this early attempt at the public manipulation of time on a regional scale.

Persistent elements of the public times of the Neolithic and EBA emerged as habitual practice in the MBA, during which the dramatic re-ordering of production led to a general re-orientation of being towards materiality. The MBA thus represents a period in which the linking of productivity with habitual time – the sedimenting of the novel practices of the late Neolithic and EBA – provided a solution to the disjointed accumulation of different times and spaces. Gosden’s narrative concludes with the initial phases of the Iron Age, in which the habitualisation of Bronze Age practices and times ultimately allowed for centralisation and the standardisation of production.

Brief as it is, I would hope that this summary does justice to the broad outline of Gosden’s general argument. The value of his thesis resides in the attention it pays to the previously unrecognised significance of continuity, to the role of long-term structures of recursiveness in the constitution of successive social landscapes. While its various components are not conceived or laid out with equal precision, this is above all an ambitious program for theoretical development and should be applauded as such. By the same token, this initial presentation of Gosden’s thesis is not without its teething problems: there is a sense, for instance, that the pages spent in digesting continental philosophers are the author’s notes to himself. As Gosden states, Social Being and Time is not ‘a full exposition of how my position can be applied to archaeological data . . . it would take another book to provide fully worked out case studies’ (p.8); and, indeed, it reads like the theoretical prologue to an analysis in which his own archaeological work will feature more prominently. In many ways, criticism of the present volume must therefore adopt an equally preliminary tone. The remainder of this paper is thus phrased as a series of notes written back to the author, happily abdicating the reviewer’s conventional right to the ‘final’ word.

Other people’s habits

The scope of Social Being and Time is considerably broader than I have been able to indicate here, extending to consideration of the basis of the concept of public time in theories of power and knowledge; a lengthy application of Gosden’s analytical methods to the practice of deliberate deposition in the British Neolithic and Bronze Age; and an entire chapter on ‘species being’, the very long term in archaeological history, which addresses Palaeolithic archaeology and studies of primate behaviour in search of the origins of human temporality and early evidence for forms of habitual practice and public time. Gosden is interested in the big picture, in sketching out the broad framework of a theory of time that will inform archaeology as an entire discipline. Not surprisingly, the details of much of this framework are not altogether clear in this initial statement, but it is through consideration of some of this detail that I am led to a deeper sense of disquiet about the fundamental underpinnings of Gosden’s project.

In the concluding chapter, Gosden insists that he does not want to produce a typology of temporal forms, but rather ‘to use the history of temporality to reflect both on what makes us human and how we conceive of humanity’ (p. 193). The typologies which he deploys here are thus heuristic devices, simplified but ultimately disposable aids to a more complete understanding of a difficult and often nebulous topic; but it is the specific content of these typologies that casts doubt on the value of a project that seeks to conceive of a singular ‘humanity’.

Perhaps the most important typology for Gosden’s thesis is the distinction between conscious and unconscious agency. While his principal concern is to redress the neglect of unconscious or habitual action, Gosden’s antipathy to the archaeology of meaning (cf. Gosden 1992) has the effect here of foreshortening the complexity of conscious action, the complexity which is necessary to an understanding of the relationship between conscious and unconscious agency. We need a more sophisticated account of this relationship which expands upon the notion of ‘sedimentation’ and articulates more directly with an understanding of economies of power and of the deployment of knowledge within societies. Much of the process of generating a ‘public time’, after all, consists of the conscious naturalising, or rendering habitual, of particular forms of relationship.

Given the evidence for Gosden’s reading of the phenomenological philosophers, the sense imparted in his writing of the material world as an agent is puzzling. As the landscape is altered by humans, ‘the world changes its physical shape . . . and it then enters into human history as an ever-changing active force’ (p. 77). Elsewhere, the material world is described as ‘not a passive medium for social action, but a set of material forces which play a role in human action’ (Gosden and Head 1994:114). These material forces are the world’s ‘enabling and constraining properties’ (p. 77) but they are surely also properties which operate solely in relation to human agency. The next step, which Gosden makes, is to posit a distinction between the ‘human and natural worlds’ (p. 180), to assert that ‘the world has its own structure’ (p. 78) and distinct temporal structures. The immanence of structure – and specifically, the implied singularity of any such structure – in the world, or in human society, is a point I return to shortly.

There is also a need to distinguish clearly between the agency and perspectives of individual historical agents, historical communities or traditions, and archaeological author-observers. Thus, when Gosden writes of traditions ‘responding’ (p. 156) to historical problems or ‘making’ (p. 19) certain actions flow, he is seeking to describe the cumulative effects of habitual and public practices on the parts of individuals over many generations. His vocabulary, however, effectively ascribes an agency and identity to the tradition. Traditions thus seek to ‘mask periods of crisis’ (p. 123) or ‘come to terms with novelty’ (p. 156), although the identification of their circumstances as either novel or in crisis cannot have been apparent to historical individuals. This is precisely the criticism of Braudel’s history articulated by Ricoeur (and discussed in Social Being and Time): ‘long-term group time [in Braudel’s history] has no special existence and can only be discussed using the narrative strategies of quasi-characters, quasi-events and a teleological ordering, all of which are drawn from individual time’ (p. 136).

The nature of the links between Gosden’s various temporal scales is similarly obscure, with little theorising of the relationships either between public time and personal time (once defined, the latter is virtually excluded from consideration, presumably reflecting the book’s emphasis on the long-term), or between public time and the longer strands of recursive time. Indeed, the imprecision of the language used to describe these links is indicative of the difficulty they pose for the author: Gosden has public time ‘sedimenting down’ (p. 129) or ‘shading off’ (p. 189) into habitual time.

The long-term focus is obviously vital for archaeology but it needs to draw upon a sensitivity, which is not always in evidence, to the sociology of the smaller scale and to the ways in which the actions of individuals and communities articulate over time and space to contribute to the larger scale. Repetition is held to ’cause what is initially thought out to become habit’ (p. 89). Always? with uniform results? and over what time? The use of the distinction between performative and prescriptive structures proposed by Sahlins (the High Typologist himself), to identify ritual as an activity founded on the repetition of rules, betrays a lack of familiarity with the work of anthropologists such as Barth (1987) who have shown, in a Melanesian context, how ritual is predicated on the flexibility of ‘rules’ and a ceaseless process of innovation. The reference to Sahlins that is missing here is to his notion of the ‘structure of conjuncture’ which, together with the body of criticism it has attracted, provides exactly the sort of nuanced model of the relationship between longer-term structures and short-term events that Gosden’s model might usefully build upon.

This lack of attention to what could be called the sociological details is then compounded in the accounts of historical processes occurring at successively larger temporal scales. The tendency to describe habitual and public times as posing and solving ‘problems’ produces a history consisting of cycles of problems and solutions. Public time ‘arises as a coping mechanism for the problems of habit’ (p. 189) and is ‘both a means of dealing with the problems of habitual action and a set of pathologies causing more problems; both medicine and a new disease’ (p. 184). In the Upper Paleolithic, the ‘new complexity of group forms . . . set up a series of clashes in time and space, which needed resolving through . . . cave and mobiliary art’ (p. 184). The Neolithic represents a problem of ‘extensiveness’ (p. 99), ‘problems caused by changing links between people’ (p. 127) and a ‘core set of problems to do with the material and social life of the group’ (p. 156). In the Neolithic, monuments are ‘both problem and solution’ (p. 162), but the monuments of the ‘less problematical’ (p. 90) MBA are ‘set up to deal with the problems of space’ (p. 129); and the ‘problem’ posed by the EBA finally gives way to the ‘cure’ of the MBA (p. 129). Perhaps the pressure of trying to conceive of the myriad complexities of long-term history forces explanation inevitably back upon the vocabulary of a Durkheimian functionalism?

A consequence of this narrative trope of problems and solutions is an implicit progressivism in which problems are defined as such retrospectively by their solutions, rendering the solutions historically necessary and thus inevitable (a point made eloquently by Bourdieu [1977:9-10]). It is perhaps no accident that the principal archaeological case study draws on the over-determined progression from the Neolithic to the Iron Age of Europe. One has to wonder if a history composed of problems posed and solved would be equally sufficient in accounting for, say, the archaeological history of Australian Aboriginal society – a question which brings me to a final critical comment.

Social Being and Time is, or perhaps forms part of, an unashamedly modernist project: an attempt to provide a ‘fully inclusive theory of people in the world’ (p. 55) from which other archaeological theorists have shied away. Leaving to one side the question of the value of a unitary theory for archaeology, the assertion of a singular basis for human temporality and thus of a fundamental structure to human practice raises a further series of issues. Gosden is not unaware of the difficulties of cultural translation or of the situatedness within western thought of his own perspective; ‘our knowledge of the world is a derivative form of our everyday practice’ (p. 113, emphasis mine). The search for universal foundations for thought must inevitably reflect the particular intellectual heritage of the author. By the same token, the unconscious and the commonplace are equally contingent, so that the ‘other worlds’ which Gosden wishes to explore ‘within the realm of the ordinary’ (p. 187) will not always correspond to his sense of ‘the ordinary’.

However, the ground for Gosden’s thesis, the material world, is engaged as a primordial given with its own ‘natural rhythms’ (p. 122) and an unproblematic materiality. Landscapes are recognised as social products, but ‘are not first and foremost symbolic constructs or landscapes of the mind. Rather they are spaces carved out by patterns of action . . .’ (p. 81). Yet landscapes are never wholly material or bounded solely by the visible horizons; cosmological topographies, sacred geographies for example, ‘enable’ and ‘constrain’ practice for different communities quite as effectively as rivers and mountains (Ballard 1994). This assumed transparency of meaning for the material world is further reflected in assumptions about basic structures of human experience. Thus death is held to bring with it ‘the finitude of all human life, encouraging each culture to see time as a scarce resource’ (p. 80); forest clearance in Britain makes the landscape ‘a more obviously human product’ (p. 95), with woodlands ‘humanized’ through conversion to open area. Yet many New Guinea communities regard cleared grasslands as a specifically ‘de-humanized’ space of death and the dissipation of life-force (see, for example, Poole 1986).

It is in relation to his proposed structures of materiality and mutuality that Gosden’s own practice comes most clearly to the fore, and speaks least revealingly to the practices of others. Of the Neolithic, he writes that we ‘are dealing here with a complex world of reference and restriction, little of which has to do with productivity as we would understand it . . .’ (p. 95, emphasis mine) and yet it is concepts of productivity and labour as ‘we’ would understand them that inform the contrast between materiality and mutuality. Those familiar with Gosden’s earlier writings (e.g. Gosden 1989) will recognise in this contrast the ghost (the habit?) of his earlier conception of social landscapes as being organised around debt and the contrasting modes of dispersal or accumulation of surplus.

This is not the place to develop a lengthy critique of the application of concepts such as debt to non-Western societies; however I do want to suggest that a global theory of time in archaeology must first perform the difficult task of interrogating its own intellectual foundations. Ethnographers such as Marilyn Strathern and Roy Wagner have begun to outline the possibility of quite radical differences between Western and Melanesian personhood and temporality. This suggests that those Western philosphical projects, such as Heidegger’s, that have sought to expose the ontological ground of all being may have remarkably little to tell us about being in other cultures (Gell 1995). Jadran Mimica, too, has pointed to the ‘unquestioned assumption of the transcultural validity’ of Heidegger’s ontological project, arguing that ‘different cultural life-worlds are different modes of humanness and, as such, are different modes of being-in-the-world in their totality’ (Mimica 1993:81). Different cultures, different beings, different temporalities. Perhaps the most difficult task for archaeological theory is not to posit structures, but to accept the fundamentally positioned grounds for identifying those structures and to deploy our models as such, as temporary or disposable analytical means towards particular archaeological ends.

Old (archaeological) habits die hard

In attending to the issues of habitual practice and change in the long term, Gosden has clearly identified a significant avenue for further research. However, his approach in Social Being and Time serves also to stress the importance of maintaining a parallel project which addresses the same issues at a sociological level, and which seeks to illuminate the nature of the links that undoubtedly extend beyond personal and sedimented times, and between habitual and public practices. If doubts about his model as it is currently articulated emerge most obviously from its application to the archaeological case studies, that is simply further proof of the value (and considerable difficulty) of engaging archaeological evidence while foregrounding one’s theory.

‘Archaeology can become a philosophical discipline’ says Gosden (p. 196) but, applying his own insights about habit a step further, it is possible to see contemporary archaeological practice – including the unconscious repetition of long-term habits – as already containing a significant wisdom about the nature of archaeological reasoning. Alison Wylie (1985) has made much the same point in her review of the use of analogy in archaeological interpretation: while eluding the attempts of the New Archaeology to legislate for its use, analogical reasoning has a respectable and indeed critical function in conventional practice. As archaeologists, we should perhaps seek to show more clearly how, in their past practices, our disciplinary ancestors have negotiated the problems of time and temporality. If it is not always easy to codify this knowledge, to recreate it as a public practice, the ontological process of rendering it consciously to hand is certainly illuminating.


This paper has benefited greatly from the comments and advice of John Ballard, Christine Helliwell and an anonymous reviewer. Errors of expression and judgement remain my own.


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