Archaeology: the most basic science of all

Embree, Lester
March 1987
Antiquity;Mar87, Vol. 61 Issue 231, p75
Academic Journal
The last British minister of education refused ever to use the phrase 'social sciences', since these studies were so soft -- by comparison with the real hard sciences like physics -- they did not count to him as sciences at all. Archaeology, sometimes accepted as a social science, is often placed in the 'arts' departments of universities, a conventional word which nevertheless may suggest the creative arts, rather than an attempt at rigorous empirical research. Yet, ever since Sir John Lubbock (1865: 2) said of the new prehistory of the 1860s, 'a new Science has, so to say, been born among us', the aspiration of archaeology lo the status of a 'real science' has been a recurring theme within the subject. Meanwhile, its place in the academic pecking-order stays dismally low. Here a philosopher takes a fresh look al what sort of science archaeology adds up to.


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