Organizing Ideas about Prehistory

For any activity to have a purpose there needs to be an organizing idea behind it and, in interpreting megalithic sites, many (often-competing) organizing ideas have been at work.

Archaeology has adopted different modus operandi over time, sometimes defining a new movement for the profession such as processual (New) and then post-processual (1980’s), and other specific ideas responding to changes in technology such as carbon dating or extrapolations of anthropological modalities expected for stone age peoples.

Ever since the rise of modern archaeology during the nineteenth century, the field has been in a perpetual identity crisis about its primary purpose. Archaeologists have never entirely agreed among themselves about what they are doing and why they are doing it. “What in fact is archaeology? I do not myself really know,” Mortimer Wheeler admitted in Archaeology from the Earth… [However] Most archaeologists would agree with one of Wheeler’s most eloquent statements: “The archaeologist is digging up, not things, but people.”

The Goddess and the Bull, Michael Balter, Free Press, 2005, p60
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