The Field of Historical Archaeology

  • Anders Andrén
Part of the Contributions to Global Historical Archaeology book series (CGHA)


The immediate impression of the field of historical archaeology is that of a vast jumble of strictly specialized archaeologies. The disciplines have different histories, the objects of study vary widely in time and place, and the debates are divided. At the same time, however, this jumble is pervaded by a shared feeling among many historical archaeologists that they are working in an intermediate zone, between subjects that are either more object centered or text centered. This feeling of being in-between and having a vague identity is often reinforced by the opinions and demands expressed by other disciplines. Historians have often come with “want lists” of all the things they think that historical archaeologies should be doing (e.g., Finley, 1971; Sawyer, 1983), and many prehistoric archaeologists see the historical archaeologies primarily as a laboratory in which they can test their methods (e.g., Bin-ford, 1977; Clarke, 1971). Moreover, the pioneers of the different historical archaeologies have in many cases been schooled in other subjects, which means that they have perceived the field as having special links with their own original discipline. For example, Michel de Bouard (1969:62), originally a historian, asserts that “medieval archaeology, in particular, must remain an auxiliary science to history.” The same view was expressed by the first generation of historical archaeologists in the United States (e.g., Harrington, 1955).


Nineteenth Century Material Culture Cultural History Historical Archaeology Historical Tradition 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anders Andrén
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LundLundSweden

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