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date: 16 April 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Theory holds a paradoxical position in archaeology: its symbolic prestige is restricted to academic circles, and contrasts with the poor influence it exerts upon the daily practice of archaeology. This problem relates to the lack of a solid body of doctrines, but also to the methodological blurredness and disciplinary unsteadiness of archaeology. Past ideological abuses of interpretative models, as well as the tangible materiality of the archaeological sources have often encouraged demagogic, positivist attitudes among researchers, where down-to-earth explanations become evidence that discredit the need for theory in archaeology. We use a very broad definition of “theory”, encompassing the epistemology and the historiographic analysis of archaeological research: theory deals with everything that is linked to the nature of archaeology, to its scientific approaches, and to its relationship to the past and present. Functioning as a guide to archaeological practice, theory can therefore not be the field of specialists only.

Keywords: Theory, practice, archaeology, learning, pragmatism, archaeologist

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