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On June 27th, 2012, Posted by Author No Comments

What is Ethnoarchaeology?

Ethnoarchaeology is a combination of ethnic and archaeological studies and as such, the ethnographic or anthropological study of peoples and their cultures from an archaeological perspective. Jesse Fewkes first used the term Ethnoarchaeology in about 1900. The earlier ethnoarchaeologists were not very scrupulous in correlating the present behavioural data to the people of the past, unlike the modern researchers in the field.

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Ethnoarchaeology utilises the physical remains as well as the non-physical traditions and cultural aspects of the people of a society for this purpose (David & Kramer 2001). From this study, ethnoarchaeology helps in the aids archaeologists in recreating the way the earlier societies and communities lived. It is then easy for a comparative study of their descendants living now in parallel settings and conditions.

How is Ethnoarchaeology carried out?

Ethnoarchaeology relates approaches of qualitative socio-scientific research methodology of ethnography centring on the comprehensive study of a specific living culture, with archaeological principles and techniques so as to construct interpretations about its past cultural behaviours grounded on its present cultural behaviours. Ethnoarchaeology helps in the study of various areas of social aspects such as religious beliefs, social structure, and many types of past behaviours. As ethnoarchaeology deals with both historic as well as pre-historic cultures, there is a much wider canvas available for this.

Iethnoarchaeologyt is argued by some archaeologists that anthropological research alone is not enough for understanding issues in archaeology and it is only through ethnoarchaeology that these can be satisfactorily studied. Ethnoarchaeologists make use of the artefacts from such areas as middens and other places and study these objects, such as tools, ceramics, quern-stones and so on to learn how they could have been manufactured, used and discarded (Hayden, 1987). In order to provide enough useful information, ethnoarchaeology has to be conducted as a long-term field work (Longacre & Skibo, 2000; Kohn, 2010).

Ethnoarchaeology is also conducted through the study of ethnologic or anthropological information gathered from living groups so as to formulate a correlation for comprehending the culture and behaviour of the people of the past. Although ethnography is made use of widely in the ethnoarchaeology, modern ethnoarchaeologists such as Watson, Binford, Kent and so on use such information with caution and do not apply it wholly to the behaviour of the people of the past.

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