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The Structure of Archaeological Theory

Michael B. Schiffer
American Antiquity
Vol. 53, No. 3 (Jul., 1988), pp. 461-485
DOI: 10.2307/281212
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/281212
Page Count: 25
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The Structure of Archaeological Theory
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Abstract

Contradictory programmatic statements have increased uncertainty about the nature and roles of theory in archaeology. However, a framework can be constructed that ties together diverse kinds of theory that archaeologists use-and often create. Three overarching realms of theory can be recognized, each consisting of one or more functionally defined domains: social theory, reconstruction theory (the domains are material-culture dynamics and cultural and noncultural formation processes of the archaeological record), and methodological theory (the domains are recovery, analysis, and inference). Within each domain are high-level, mid-level, and low-level theories. Previous investigators often have overlooked the richness and complexity of archaeological theory, sometimes generalizing from a very narrow perspective.

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