Monday, April 30, 2012

Archaeology as a social science

Excavated house at Calixtlahuaca
I haven't been posting very often lately because I have been on sabbatical leave, working hard to finish a book manuscript: Aztec Communities and Households: Archaeologists Discover a Sustainable Way of Life. I have gotten a draft finished, and now I am looking for a literary agent so that I can attract a publisher to provide a broad, nonspecialist, readership.

Today this paper was posted online by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:

Smith, Michael E., Gary M. Feinman, Robert D. Drennan, Timothy Earle, and Ian Morris
    2012    Archaeology as a Social Science. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109:(published online).

I have posted the paper here.  ||  There is some ASU publicity about the paper here.

We argue that because of recent fieldwork and methodological advances, archaeology is now starting to contribute knowledge to the social sciences beyond anthropology. We illustrate this point with several examples:
  • Early village society
  • Cities and urban planning
  • States and markets in deep history
  • Standards of living.

 These are topics covered to some extent by various social sciences (economics, political science, historical sociology, urban studies), and for each, archaeologists now have data that relate to current concerns in those fields.

 A brief section on urban planning includes the figure shown above to illustrate the point that cities with unplanned neighborhoods (e.g., the Yoruba city Ado Ekiti) were much more common in the ancient past than fully-planned orthogonal cities (e.g., the Greek city Priene), despite the common assumption that ancient cities were mostly like the Greek example.

This is a topic I've blogged about before, for example:

Spatial order, visual order, and urban planning

Are shantytowns a normal form of urban residence?

If you want a copy of the PNAS paper, CLICK HERE.