Anthropology Post-processual Archaeology
Robert W. Preucel
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 July 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766567-0188


Post-processual archaeology refers to an intellectual movement in Anglo-American archaeology that emerged in the 1980s. As its name implies, it grew out of critiques of processual archaeology and advocated alternative interpretive perspectives, especially those encompassing questions of meaning, history, politics, and practice. At the broadest level, post-processual archaeology can be seen as a response to the widespread influences of post-structuralism, feminism, postcolonialism, and postmodernism on the humanities and social sciences. Significantly, post-processual archaeology expanded the reach of the field by opening up spaces for the investigation of gender, practice, materiality, and identity. It also encouraged archaeologists to acknowledge the relationships of humans and their object worlds and the different possible trajectories they travel. A key insight is that studies of materiality cannot simply focus upon the characteristics of objects; they must engage in the dialectic of people and things. Although post-processual archaeology per se no longer is the focus of contemporary debates, its legacy continues through these ongoing projects and interventions.


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