Major Fallacies Surrounding Stone Artifacts and Assemblages

Harold L. Dibble, Simon J. Holdaway, Sam C. Lin, David R. Braun, Matthew J. Douglass, Radu Iovita, Shannon P. McPherron, Deborah I. Olszewski, Dennis Sandgathe

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    While lithic objects can potentially inform us about past adaptations and behaviors, it is important to develop a comprehensive understanding of all of the various processes that influence what we recover from the archaeological record. We argue here that many assumptions used by archaeologists to derive behavioral inferences through the definition, conceptualization, and interpretation of both individual stone artifact forms and groups of artifacts identified as assemblages do not fit squarely with what we have learned from both ethnographic sources and analyses of archaeological materials. We discuss this in terms of two fallacies. The first is the fallacy of the “desired end product” in stone artifact manufacture, which also includes our ability to recognize such end products. The second fallacy has to do with the notions that lithic assemblages represent simple accumulations of contemporary behaviors and the degree to which the composition of the depositional units we study reliably match the kinds of activities that took place. Although it is beyond the scope of this paper to offer a comprehensive set of new methodologies and theoretical perspectives to solve these problems, our goal here is to stress the importance of rethinking some of our most basic assumptions regarding the nature of lithic objects and how they become part of the archaeological record. Such a revision is needed if we want to be able to develop research questions that can be addressed with the data we have available to us.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1-39
    Number of pages39
    JournalJournal of Archaeological Method and Theory
    DOIs
    StateAccepted/In press - Aug 8 2016

    Fingerprint

    artifact
    interpretation
    methodology
    ability
    Stone Artifacts
    Fallacies
    Assemblages
    Group
    Lithics
    Archaeological Record
    Artifact
    Lithic Assemblages
    Methodology
    Conceptualization
    Archaeology
    Ethnographic
    Archaeologists
    Inference

    Keywords

    • Ethnoarchaeology
    • Lithic studies
    • Lithic technology
    • Replicative experiments
    • Site formation
    • Typology

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Archaeology
    • Archaeology

    Cite this

    Dibble, H. L., Holdaway, S. J., Lin, S. C., Braun, D. R., Douglass, M. J., Iovita, R., ... Sandgathe, D. (Accepted/In press). Major Fallacies Surrounding Stone Artifacts and Assemblages. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, 1-39. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10816-016-9297-8

    Major Fallacies Surrounding Stone Artifacts and Assemblages. / Dibble, Harold L.; Holdaway, Simon J.; Lin, Sam C.; Braun, David R.; Douglass, Matthew J.; Iovita, Radu; McPherron, Shannon P.; Olszewski, Deborah I.; Sandgathe, Dennis.

    In: Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, 08.08.2016, p. 1-39.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Dibble, HL, Holdaway, SJ, Lin, SC, Braun, DR, Douglass, MJ, Iovita, R, McPherron, SP, Olszewski, DI & Sandgathe, D 2016, 'Major Fallacies Surrounding Stone Artifacts and Assemblages', Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, pp. 1-39. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10816-016-9297-8
    Dibble, Harold L. ; Holdaway, Simon J. ; Lin, Sam C. ; Braun, David R. ; Douglass, Matthew J. ; Iovita, Radu ; McPherron, Shannon P. ; Olszewski, Deborah I. ; Sandgathe, Dennis. / Major Fallacies Surrounding Stone Artifacts and Assemblages. In: Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory. 2016 ; pp. 1-39.
    @article{87b102756a1f4daebd6c11ab5b8ddc47,
    title = "Major Fallacies Surrounding Stone Artifacts and Assemblages",
    abstract = "While lithic objects can potentially inform us about past adaptations and behaviors, it is important to develop a comprehensive understanding of all of the various processes that influence what we recover from the archaeological record. We argue here that many assumptions used by archaeologists to derive behavioral inferences through the definition, conceptualization, and interpretation of both individual stone artifact forms and groups of artifacts identified as assemblages do not fit squarely with what we have learned from both ethnographic sources and analyses of archaeological materials. We discuss this in terms of two fallacies. The first is the fallacy of the “desired end product” in stone artifact manufacture, which also includes our ability to recognize such end products. The second fallacy has to do with the notions that lithic assemblages represent simple accumulations of contemporary behaviors and the degree to which the composition of the depositional units we study reliably match the kinds of activities that took place. Although it is beyond the scope of this paper to offer a comprehensive set of new methodologies and theoretical perspectives to solve these problems, our goal here is to stress the importance of rethinking some of our most basic assumptions regarding the nature of lithic objects and how they become part of the archaeological record. Such a revision is needed if we want to be able to develop research questions that can be addressed with the data we have available to us.",
    keywords = "Ethnoarchaeology, Lithic studies, Lithic technology, Replicative experiments, Site formation, Typology",
    author = "Dibble, {Harold L.} and Holdaway, {Simon J.} and Lin, {Sam C.} and Braun, {David R.} and Douglass, {Matthew J.} and Radu Iovita and McPherron, {Shannon P.} and Olszewski, {Deborah I.} and Dennis Sandgathe",
    year = "2016",
    month = "8",
    day = "8",
    doi = "10.1007/s10816-016-9297-8",
    language = "English (US)",
    pages = "1--39",
    journal = "Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory",
    issn = "1072-5369",
    publisher = "Springer New York",

    }

    TY - JOUR

    T1 - Major Fallacies Surrounding Stone Artifacts and Assemblages

    AU - Dibble, Harold L.

    AU - Holdaway, Simon J.

    AU - Lin, Sam C.

    AU - Braun, David R.

    AU - Douglass, Matthew J.

    AU - Iovita, Radu

    AU - McPherron, Shannon P.

    AU - Olszewski, Deborah I.

    AU - Sandgathe, Dennis

    PY - 2016/8/8

    Y1 - 2016/8/8

    N2 - While lithic objects can potentially inform us about past adaptations and behaviors, it is important to develop a comprehensive understanding of all of the various processes that influence what we recover from the archaeological record. We argue here that many assumptions used by archaeologists to derive behavioral inferences through the definition, conceptualization, and interpretation of both individual stone artifact forms and groups of artifacts identified as assemblages do not fit squarely with what we have learned from both ethnographic sources and analyses of archaeological materials. We discuss this in terms of two fallacies. The first is the fallacy of the “desired end product” in stone artifact manufacture, which also includes our ability to recognize such end products. The second fallacy has to do with the notions that lithic assemblages represent simple accumulations of contemporary behaviors and the degree to which the composition of the depositional units we study reliably match the kinds of activities that took place. Although it is beyond the scope of this paper to offer a comprehensive set of new methodologies and theoretical perspectives to solve these problems, our goal here is to stress the importance of rethinking some of our most basic assumptions regarding the nature of lithic objects and how they become part of the archaeological record. Such a revision is needed if we want to be able to develop research questions that can be addressed with the data we have available to us.

    AB - While lithic objects can potentially inform us about past adaptations and behaviors, it is important to develop a comprehensive understanding of all of the various processes that influence what we recover from the archaeological record. We argue here that many assumptions used by archaeologists to derive behavioral inferences through the definition, conceptualization, and interpretation of both individual stone artifact forms and groups of artifacts identified as assemblages do not fit squarely with what we have learned from both ethnographic sources and analyses of archaeological materials. We discuss this in terms of two fallacies. The first is the fallacy of the “desired end product” in stone artifact manufacture, which also includes our ability to recognize such end products. The second fallacy has to do with the notions that lithic assemblages represent simple accumulations of contemporary behaviors and the degree to which the composition of the depositional units we study reliably match the kinds of activities that took place. Although it is beyond the scope of this paper to offer a comprehensive set of new methodologies and theoretical perspectives to solve these problems, our goal here is to stress the importance of rethinking some of our most basic assumptions regarding the nature of lithic objects and how they become part of the archaeological record. Such a revision is needed if we want to be able to develop research questions that can be addressed with the data we have available to us.

    KW - Ethnoarchaeology

    KW - Lithic studies

    KW - Lithic technology

    KW - Replicative experiments

    KW - Site formation

    KW - Typology

    UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84981287371&partnerID=8YFLogxK

    UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=84981287371&partnerID=8YFLogxK

    U2 - 10.1007/s10816-016-9297-8

    DO - 10.1007/s10816-016-9297-8

    M3 - Article

    SP - 1

    EP - 39

    JO - Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory

    JF - Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory

    SN - 1072-5369

    ER -