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We’re All Cultural Historians Now: Revolutions In Understanding Archaeological Theory And Scientific Dating

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 July 2017

Seren Griffiths*
University of Central Lancashire, Preston, PR1 2HE, United Kingdom
*Corresponding author. Email:


Radiocarbon dating has had profound implications for archaeological understanding. These have been identified as various “revolutions,” with the latest—Bayesian chronological statistical analyses of large datasets—hailed as a “revolution in understanding.” This paper argues that the full implications of radiocarbon (14C) data and interpretation on archaeological theory have yet to be recognized, and it suggests that responses in Britain to earlier revolutions in archaeological understanding offer salutary lessons for contemporary archaeological practice. This paper draws on the work of David Clarke and Colin Renfrew to emphasize the importance of critical considerations of the relationships between archaeological theory and scientific method, and to emphasize that seemingly neutral aspects of archaeological thought are highly laden interpretatively, and have significant implications for the kinds of archaeology that we write.

© 2017 by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona 

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Selected Papers from the 8th Radiocarbon & Archaeology Symposium, Edinburgh, UK, 27 June–1 July 2016



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