The French-Anglophone divide in lithic research: A plea for pluralism in Palaeolithic archaeology
- Thursday 14 March 2019
- Academy Building
2311 GJ Leiden
This dissertation takes a fresh epistemological look at the so-called French-Anglophone divide in Palaeolithic archaeology - a much-debated interpretive conflict between two research traditions in stone tool analysis.
I present a brief historical survey of the division and evaluate its relevance, if any, for modern lithic approaches in the field. This in-depth conceptual analysis of selected case studies leads to the conclusion that the two spheres of research are based on incompatible understandings of the world and, consequently, differ in their construction of data, their methodological rationale as well as their theoretical toolkit. As a result, the same body of evidence is often interpreted in a radically different way.
The investigation also reveals that these stark differences in the logic of research can further be elucidated by deploying American philosopher Stephen C. Pepper's framework of 'world hypotheses'. Following Pepper's contention that Western thought can be broken down into four highly adequate yet conflicting modes of cognition, it is shown that French lithic approaches gravitate towards 'contextualism' and 'organicism', while Anglophone scholars tend to deploy 'formism' and 'mechanism'.
This new apprehension of the French-Anglophone divide strongly promotes a pluralistic view of stone artefact analysis in Palaeolithic archaeology. I therefore content that progress in the field can only be made if we take serious this condition and try to exploit the relative strengths of each of the involved modes of reasoning.
- Prof. R.H.A. Corbey
- Prof. M. Soressi
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