University of Cambridge > > Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science > How archaeological evidence bites back: putting old data to work in new ways

How archaeological evidence bites back: putting old data to work in new ways

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A passion for things has taken hold in the social sciences and humanities in the form of an enthusiasm for the capacity of material evidence to bear witness to dimensions of social, cultural life that are otherwise inaccessible. As Daston puts it, the ‘bony materiality’ of physical traces of human action sustains a certain epistemic optimism but, at the same time, she reports considerable ambivalence about their status as evidence. To make sense of how trace evidence constrains interpretative inference despite being, itself, a heavily interpreted construct I consider three strategies by which archaeologists elicit new evidence from old data. The first two – secondary retrieval and recontextualization – are a matter of reconfiguring the scaffolding that underpins evidential reasoning. The third turns on redeploying old data in the context of computational models that make possible the experimental simulation of the cultural systems and contexts under study.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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