Tuesday, 11 July 2017


   One of the advantages, and there are a few, of this job is the opportunity to travel and experience new things, countries and cultures. It is a learning experience and each day we should be enriched by what has passed. Obtuse? Possibly, but let me explain.

     It is a beautiful sunny day and I am sat on the terrace of a small bar, overlooking the harbour of Faro in the Algarve region of southern Portugal. The beer is cold and a gentle sea breeze softens the midday sun. Life is good and I am just wondering whether to go to the roof top pool for a swim before evening dinner. Such is the pace of life at the moment.

     Anyway a couple with a young child sit down a few tables away and order drinks. A glass of white wine, a cold beer and an OJ for the kid. Perfectly normal, and the waiter does his thing...OJ for the kid, wine for the lady and beer for the bloke. Except  he was wrong..she was on beer and he on white wine.

     You see we all have a certain bias in our lives, born from upbringing, education and, to a certain extent, experience. As we are trained to be archaeologists we are warned, persistently, of the dangers of bias. Objective bias. Research bias. Personal bias, gender bias and many more besides. All of which are unavoidable. It is what makes us who we are and gives us the faults and qualities that make each and every one of us unique. So, you might ask, what has this to do with the eminent Lewis Binford? Arguably the most influential theoretical archaeologist of the late 20th century and....wrong.

     It all goes to the application of Middle Range Theory, the need to bridge the gap between the archaeological  record and contemporary interpretation. Writing in 1977 Binford argued that archaeological data is static and contemporary (in For Theory Building in Archaeology). Theoretical developments since then notwithstanding, and without going into the issues of taphonomy, this is an inherently flawed concept. The bridge is not static, but a continuum between the past and present that flows with the inexorable river of time. With it we also change and develop.

     For archaeology to have any relevance then we must accept it's fluidity, and that of it's pratctitioners. We also need to ensure that we constantly question ourselves, our motives and goals.....without which our complex scientific data will remain little more than a more modern version of the Victorian curio-collections so favoured by our predecessors, the Antiquarians.