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Critically Reading the Theory and Methods of Archaeology

An Introductory Guide

Guy Gibbon

Critically Reading the Theory and Methods of Archaeology stands out as the most thorough and practical guide to the essential critical reading and writing skills that all students, instructors, and practitioners should have. It provides priceless insight for the here and now of the Theory and Methods of Archaeology classes and for a lifetime of reading, learning, teaching, and writing. Chapters focus on rigorous reasoning skills, types of argument, the main research orientations in archaeology, the basic procedural framework that underlies all schools of archaeology, and issues in archaeology raised by skeptical postmodernists. « less more »
AltaMira Press
Pages: 254Size: 6 x 9
978-0-7591-2340-3 • Hardback • September 2013 • $110.00 • (£75.00)
978-0-7591-2341-0 • Paperback • September 2013 • $40.00 • (£24.95)
978-0-7591-2342-7 • eBook • September 2013 • $38.00 • (£24.95)
Gibbon is a professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota. He is the author of a number of books, including Anthropological Archaeology (Columbia University Press), Explanation in Archaeology (Blackwell), and The Sioux (Blackwell).
Part One: Foundations
1. What Kind of Archaeology Is It?
2.What Kind of Investigation Is It?
3. What Are the Issue and the Claim?
4.What Is the Argument?
5. What Are the Assumptions?
6. Is the Writing Clear?
7.Are (Deceptive) Rhetorical Devices Used?
8.Is There a Fallacy in the Reasoning?
9.Are There Skeptical Postmodern Themes in the Argument?
Part Two: From Observations to Population Estimates
10.Are Facts Clearly Distinguished from Opinions and Other Claims?
11.How Are the Observations Summarized?
12.Is There an Inductive Argument?
13.Is There a Population Estimate from a Sample?
Part Three: Interpreting the Archaeological Record
14.Is There a Theory in My Reading?
15.Which Research Program Is
My Reading an Example Of?
16.Is an Explanation Offered?
17.Is There a Causal Argument?
Part Four: Evaluating Interpretations of the Archaeological Record
18.Are Deductively Valid Conclusions Drawn?
19.Are Concepts Given Archaeological Interpretations?
20.Are the Conclusions Reasonable?
Coda: Is Critical Reading Worth the Effort
About the Author
Gibbon’s main goal with this book is clearly indicated by his title: he wants readers to think critically when reading archaeological texts. He suggests that his book is appropriate for undergraduates, graduate students, nonprofessionals, and also professional archaeologists. He further suggests that students engaged in thesis writing and also professional archaeologists might find the book useful in helping them write more clearly and coherently. I think Gibbon succeeds with these goals, and I agree that both students and professionals will benefit from reading his book. . . .Gibbon’s writing is refreshingly clear: he practices what he preaches! I think undergraduates will find his writing accessible, and will also appreciate the brevity of the chapters, as I did. . . .Gibbon offers an up-to-date, concise, and readable summary of archaeological theory, informal logic, statistics, and philosophy of science. Undergraduates, graduates, and professionals alike might find that this book will not only make them more critical readers of archaeology, but also better writers of archaeology. That is, Gibbon’s book has the potential to make us better archaeologists.
Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology

[I] found this book to be, on the whole, excellent, and I would recommend it to archaeology professors teaching introductory method and theory courses or to anyone who is interested in teaching critical thinking from the perspective of a working scientist.
American Antiquity

[T]he book addresses common assumptions and shortcomings in interpretive discourses, basic procedures for accounting for past remains, and toolkits to evaluate arguments. Since it is intended for undergraduate and postgraduate students, professional archaeologists, and the general public, it avoids in-text citations (notes are compiled as an appendix before the bibliography) and deploys an easily readable text lacking jargon. . . .In short, the contributions gathered in [this book] provide a good glimpse of the future prospects of archaeology as a theoretically vibrant discipline and as a mature and responsible way of dialoguing with the material world.
European Journal of Archaeology

This little book packs a punch! We have come to expect clear argument and cogent logic from Gibbon's works, but here he not only employs but gives us the tools to evaluate the clarity, validity, and cogency of archaeological literature. It is a book that should be required reading for any archaeologist. I am certain it will become a well-thumbed volume on my bookshelf.
Peter Peregrine, Lawrence University

The most invaluable lesson I learned at university was to be skeptical of what I read and to think for myself. Guy Gibbon’s stimulating book, Critically Reading the Theory and Methods of Archaeology, encourages its readers to read critically and to challenge arguments, and not accept things at face value, and it is to be applauded and welcomed for doing so. Our discipline will only progress through the rebuttal of fixed ideas, entrenched views and erroneous dogmas, of which there are many in Archaeology.
Paul Bahn, author of The Archaeology of Hollywood

Gibbon has produced a powerful text for courses that aim to teach disciplinary writing and thinking and a key work for courses in archaeological writing and archaeological theory. Critically Reading the Theory and Methods of Archaeology fosters thinking about archaeology as a holistic discipline and is a valuable resource for teaching archaeology students to read and think critically.
Mary C. Beaudry, Boston University

• Provides invaluable insight on critical thinking, for the here and now of the Theory and Methods of Archaeology classes and for a lifetime of archaeology reading, learning, teaching, and writing

• Improves clarity, coherence, and open-mindedness in writing a thesis, dissertation, article, or book