Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Archaeology and the psyche: part thirteen ― conclusion

Carl Gustav Jung standing in front of Burghölzli clinic,
Zurich, in about 1909
The "observer" has been an important factor in theoretical physics since Einstein, and since the wave/particle duality has been described perhaps "participant" might even be a better term. Certainly, David Bohm must have thought so.

That the archaeologist, too, is a vital part of an archaeological site cannot be denied as archaeologist are prone to conduct their work within the framework of certain theories and those theories affect the final product of the archaeological report and any conclusions about the site. That archaeology is theory-laden is a common observation among archaeologists, themselves so different interpretations can be expected. Even beyond theory, the personality type of the archaeologist will also affect the work as it would affect all aspects of a person's life. The personality type determines how questions will be be solved and the order in which such a process will take place. An introvert will be better at seeing subjects that depend on introversion like religious and aesthetic matters, and the extravert will be better at the material aspects of a site that do not include types of thinking as an essential ingredient.

Different viewpoints are important in extracting knowledge from material evidence and "think-tanks" are often constructed using very different sorts of people including those who have no specialized knowledge of the subject and might deliver something very important along the "out of the mouths of babies" category. After all "cannot see the forest for the trees" is a common phrase applied to specialists.

When Lewis Binford said that ideas could not be excavated, only actions  ― he was wrong. Actions cannot be excavated either, only the effect of actions can be seen and the archaeologist contributes details of the causative actions through his knowledge. If that knowledge is adequate it might seem, as it did to Binford, that the action has been excavated rather than reconstructed by a mind. Similarly, the art-historian does not see the ideas behind a work of art, but reconstructs them in the same way.

All of the actions and ideas that have resulted in an archaeological site or single find were the products of individuals with different personalities, and being able to understand these differences are essential for coming to a better understanding of the resulting object.

Most importantly, psychic considerations are subject to scientific experimentation, but these will never take place until archaeologists see themselves as part of the work as well as the things that they excavate. This requires a certain measure of postmodern thinking.

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