Anthropology Lewis Binford
by
David Meltzer
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 June 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 May 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766567-0102

Introduction

Lewis R. Binford (b. 1931–d. 2011) was an American archaeologist who had a profound impact on the thinking and practice of archaeology worldwide. Binford held degrees from the University of North Carolina (BA 1957), and the University of Michigan (MA 1958, PhD 1964). From 1962 through 1968 he held multiple academic appointments, his brief stays a result of several factors, not least Binford’s powerful personality and enthusiasm for confronting archaeological orthodoxy. From 1968 to 1991 he was on the faculty of the University of New Mexico, after which he served as a distinguished professor at Southern Methodist University. He retired in 2003. In the early 1960s Binford issued a call for archaeology to become more anthropological and more scientific, and to seek the processes by which cultures adapted and changed. His efforts gave rise to the “New Archaeology” (later called “processual archaeology”), and in the ensuing decade it dominated discussions of archaeological theory and method. Although many shared the goals of the movement, differences quickly emerged as to how to achieve those goals. Binford himself grew disillusioned with what the New Archaeology was becoming, and with his own efforts to understand patterns in the archaeological record. How could one learn, from a static archaeological record in the present, about the dynamic systems that produced that record in the past? Archaeologists needed to develop a “middle range” theory, he argued, to learn from present dynamic systems and their material correlates, in order to infer past dynamics from present archaeological statics. Toward that end, he conducted ethnoarchaeological research to better understand how foragers adapted to a landscape, organized their technology, and targeted their prey. The research results, published rapid-fire in the late 1970s and the 1980s, caused a sea change in archaeological hunter-gatherer studies; introduced influential analytical measures for understanding how foragers procured, processed, and consumed prey; and helped tease apart the natural and cultural processes that affect material in a site. The effort, in turn, led Binford to question received wisdom about early human cultural evolution, most notably the role of hunting in human evolution. His ideas shook up paleoanthropology and were much debated in the 1980s and 1990s. So too were his ideas about an archaeological science. Post-processualists dismissed the idea that archaeology could be an objective science, arguing instead for a more historically constituted approach. These and other debates engaged much of Binford’s attention in his last decades, but throughout he continued his efforts to understand hunter-gatherer adaptations. Over his career he was the recipient of four honorary doctorates and multiple awards, including the Huxley Memorial Medal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, the Society for American Archaeology Lifetime Achievement Award, and election to the British Academy and to the National Academy of Sciences.

General Overviews

Binford was a charismatic and formidable presence, and a mesmerizing speaker. His contributions to archaeology had breadth and depth. They breathed life into discussions of archaeological theory and method; created a critical self-awareness about the nature of archaeology and what and how we can learn about the past; advanced our understanding of hunter-gatherers, ethnoarchaeology, zooarchaeology, and archaeological site formation processes; and sparked thorough vetting of our knowledge of human evolution. Binford did not have the last word on these subjects, but he often enough had the first word and, for that matter, a great many of the words in between (see Meltzer 2011, p. 4, cited under Biographies and Appraisals). In all these areas, Binford’s work was routinely original, often confrontational, and yet inevitably worth thinking about—even if one disagreed or was offended, which was usually the result as well. Those interested in pursuing Binford’s contributions can profitably begin with Binford 1983, along with the several volumes of his collected works (Binford 1972, Binford 1983, Binford 1989, all cited under Autobiographies and Interviews), which provide ready access to roughly half of his 150 articles, as well as to chapters from several of his twenty books. These books are also a handy roadmap to changes in his thinking over time. Binford’s influence spanned nearly five decades, though that influence diminished over time, particularly in his last two decades as others, building on or reacting to the foundation he had helped create, took archaeological theory and practice in different directions. Aggressive to the end, in Binford 2001 he expressed his disappointment that his vision of a science of the archaeological record still hadn’t taken hold. Still, much of character of archaeology today, certainly in America but also worldwide, reflects Binford’s profound impact. That impact is discussed in Hegmon 2003; O’Brien, et al. 2005 (cited under Biographies and Appraisals); and Trigger 2006 (cited under Biographies and Appraisals), which provide useful overviews of some of the changes that took place in archaeology through the decades of Binford’s professional career. VanPool and VanPool 2012 includes a number of the relevant articles published over that span. Hodder 2012 is a valuable compendium of theoretical set pieces on the contemporary state of archaeological theory as it stood five decades after the launch of the New Archaeology, a movement that, in Hodder’s words, made it possible “to exist in archaeology largely as a theory specialist” (p. 1).

  • Binford, L. R. 1983. In pursuit of the past: Decoding the archaeological record. London: Thames and Hudson.

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    Transcribed from lectures given in 1980–1981, the volume captures something of Binford’s great abilities as a speaker. As a result, it is Binford’s most broadly accessible discussion of his views of the science of archaeology, the results of his ethnoarchaeological research and what he’s learned of hunter-gatherer adaptations, and his views of some of the enduring questions of prehistory.

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    • Binford, L. R. 2001. Where do research problems come from? American Antiquity 66.4: 669–678.

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      Binford’s last article in American Antiquity appeared exactly thirty-nine years after his first in that journal (Binford 1962, cited under Foundational Works). He still felt the need to convince the archaeological community that the subject matter of archaeology is the archaeological record, and it is the analytical study of it—and the patterns evident in such a study—that identify problems warranting solution.

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      • Hegmon, M. 2003. Setting theoretical egos aside: Issues and theory in North American archaeology. American Antiquity 68.2: 212–243.

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        Hegmon scans the landscape of archaeological theory at the outset of the new millennium, providing a very useful roadmap to the major perspectives—evolutionary, behavioral, processual-plus—and theoretical themes that marked the preceding decade. By the new millennium much of the explicit discussion of theory had died down, as American archaeologists expended more effort applying theory than just talking about it.

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        • Hodder, I., ed. 2012. Archaeological theory today. 2d ed. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

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          Hodder’s reader gathers many of the diverse threads that emerged in archaeological theory over the preceding decade(s), processual and post-processual alike. In that diversity of theoretical approaches, Hodder sees a healthy and important tension for the discipline of archaeology as a whole.

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          • VanPool, C., and T. VanPool, eds. 2012. Readings in American archaeological theory: Selections from American Antiquity, 1962–2011. Rev. ed. Washington, DC: Society for American Archaeology.

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            American Antiquity was a bellwether of changes taking place on the theoretical landscape of American archaeology, and in this anthology the VanPools have gathered a number of the articles from that journal (including, naturally, many of Binford’s) that help track the changes that took place over the decades that coincide with Binford’s active professional life.

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            Autobiographies and Interviews

            Binford gave several extended interviews, including those in Renfrew 1987, Sabloff 1998, and Thurman 1998. These, along with the autobiographical chapters in Binford 1972, Binford 1983, and Binford 1989, provide information on his personal and professional history, his views of archaeology and how they evolved over the years, and his unvarnished opinions of the work of others. Binford’s recounting of his graduate school career and the launch of the New Archaeology movement is especially colorful: so much so that his one-time PhD advisor James Griffin (Griffin 1976) and a fellow graduate student, Charles Cleland (Quimby and Cleland 1976), each felt compelled to provide their own takes on some of the events and episodes Binford recounted.

            • Binford, L. R. 1972. An archaeological perspective. New York: Seminar Press.

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              In An Archaeological Perspective Binford gathered virtually all of his seminal “New Archaeology” articles, interspersed with chapters recounting his personal and academic battles, and taking obvious pride in those he fought—not least, with Griffin, his PhD advisor—in his iconoclastic efforts to change the field.

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              • Binford, L. R. 1983. Working at archaeology. New York: Academic Press.

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                Working was the second installment of the Binford anthology (see Binford 1972 and Binford 1989), covering the period when he was in the midst of his ethnoarchaeological fieldwork among the Nunamiut Inuit. It includes his now-classic papers on hunter-gatherer foraging and settlement systems. Like its predecessor, interstitial chapters assess the field and its practitioners, along with his reaction to what had become of the New Archaeology.

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                • Binford, L. R. 1989. Debating archaeology. New York: Academic Press.

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                  Binford spent much of the 1980s at loggerheads with others over various issues, and his last anthology is aptly named. Reprinted here are articles on early human evolution and the role of hunting versus scavenging, as well his disputes with others over matters of archaeological theory and method, including with advocates of post-processual archaeology.

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                  • Griffin, J. B. 1976. Some suggested alternations of certain portions of An Archaeological Perspective. American Antiquity 41.1: 114–119.

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                    After Binford recounted his version of his time in graduate school (Binford 1972), Griffin felt he needed to set the historical record straight. Although impressed with Binford’s intelligence and capacity for work, Griffin admitted he had been “very slow to recognize certain facets of his creative ability.”

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                    • Quimby, G. I., and C. E. Cleland. 1976. James Bennett Griffin: Appreciation and reminiscences. In Cultural change and continuity: Essays in honor of James Bennett Griffin. Edited by Charles E. Cleland, xxi–xxxvii. New York: Academic Press.

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                      Cleland, a near-contemporary of Binford at the University of Michigan, likewise weighed in with his own observations of the events surrounding Binford’s rocky time as a precocious and ambitious graduate student and what he could observe of Binford’s increasingly strained relationship with Griffin.

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                      • Renfrew, C. 1987. An interview with Lewis Binford. Current Anthropology 28.5: 683–694.

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                        A major proponent of the New Archaeology in England, Renfrew probed Binford with questions about his upbringing and the route that led him to the New Archaeology and subsequently to ethnoarchaeology, and he elicits Binford’s views on archaeology in Great Britain and Binford’s evolving views of European prehistory.

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                        • Sabloff, P. W. 1998. Conversations with Lew Binford: Drafting the New Archaeology. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

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                          In a series of 1982 interviews with social anthropologist Paula Sabloff, Binford reminisced about his childhood, education, and the origin of the New Archaeology. The result is “more autobiography than history,” but the volume also includes a chapter by Jeremy Sabloff evaluating Binford’s contributions to archaeology.

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                          • Thurman, M. 1998. Conversations with Lewis R. Binford on historical archaeology. Historical Archaeology 32.2: 28–55.

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                            Although Binford published only a few papers in historical archaeology, they were not without influence. Thurman used this extended interview to highlight Binford’s contributions in this area, and to help assess “the current strengths and weaknesses of historical archaeology as a part of archaeological, historical, and anthropological scholarship” (p. 28).

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                            Biographies and Appraisals

                            Binford has been the subject of multiple article-length biographies and assessments, including Gamble 1999 and Meltzer 2011, which also offer glimpses of Binford’s larger-than-life personality. Lyman 2012 and O’Connell 2011 explore particular aspects of Binford’s research, notably his work in zooarchaeology and hunter-gatherer studies, respectively. Binford’s contributions routinely figure more or less prominently in volumes on the history of archaeology, including O’Brien, et al. 2005; Trigger 2006; and Willey and Sabloff 1993. Wylie 2002 discusses his work from a philosophy of science perspective.

                            • Gamble, C. 1999. Lewis Binford. In Encyclopedia of archaeology: The great archaeologists. Vol. 2. Edited by T. Murray, 811–834. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.

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                              Both biography and assessment, Gamble explores Binford’s contributions through the early 1990s, via the lens of one who was strongly influenced by those contributions and for whom Binford was a long-distance mentor and friend.

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                              • Lyman, R. L. 2012. Lewis R. Binford’s impact on zooarchaeology: A consideration of three volumes (and assorted other things) that altered the way we think about the bones of human prey. Ethnoarchaeology 4.1: 55–78.

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                                Zooarchaeologist Lyman provides a critical assessment of Binford’s Nunamiut research, and how that work provided new interpretive models for understanding frequencies of prey-carcass parts and their economic utility. In Lyman’s view, Binford revolutionized how archaeologists analyze and interpret faunal remains, and made significant contributions “to what we think we know about the behaviors of our early hominid ancestors.”

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                                • Meltzer, D. J. 2011. Lewis Roberts Binford, 1931–2011. National Academy of Sciences Biographical Memoir 96:1–39.

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                                  An overview of Binford’s life and career, along with an assessment of the range of his contributions to archaeology. This Memoir also provides an extensive listing (although not a comprehensive one) of Binford’s published works.

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                                  • O’Brien, M. J., R. L. Lyman, and M. B. Schiffer. 2005. Archaeology as a process: Processualism and its progeny. Salt Lake City: Univ. of Utah Press.

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                                    An engaging, if occasionally idiosyncratic social history of American archaeology in the mid- to late 20th century, written by scholars with whom Binford occasionally clashed. The volume provides an informal counter to the more formal histories of Trigger 2006 and Willey and Sabloff 1993.

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                                    • O’Connell, J. F. 2011. Remembering Lew Binford. Mitteilungen der Gesellschaft für Urgeschichte 20:79–89.

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                                      O’Connell offers a cogent appraisal of Binford’s ethnoarchaeological work, including reminisces of their time together with the Australian Alyawara. O’Connell is overall positive but pulls no punches regarding Binford’s contributions to hunter-gatherer archaeology, not least his reluctance to engage with other theoretical approaches, including human behavioral ecology.

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                                      • Trigger, B. G. 2006. A history of archaeological thought. 2d ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                        Trigger’s encyclopedic history ranges over many centuries and continents, and assesses Binford’s contributions in that context. Not surprisingly, Binford does not loom as large here as in other histories of the field. Trigger was a contemporary of Binford who took a very different approach to archaeology, and was far less enamored of Binford’s contributions than others.

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                                        • Willey, G. R., and J. A. Sabloff. 1993. A history of American archaeology. 3d ed. San Francisco: W. H. Freeman.

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                                          This last edition of a book that evolved over two decades (the earlier editions appeared in 1974 and 1980) is perhaps their most considered treatment of the New Archaeology and Binford’s contributions, given that it benefited from the retrospection that comes with time. Examined serially, the several editions are a gauge to changing views of Binford’s work.

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                                          • Wylie, A. 2002. Thinking from things: Essays in the philosophy of archaeology. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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                                            Wylie provides an insightful and philosophically informed assessment of the conceptual and intellectual core of Binford’s New Archaeology—and of the reaction of the post-processual archaeologists who followed.

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                                            Obituaries and Tributes

                                            In the immediate aftermath of Binford’s death, the Antiquity website hosted comments on Binford’s contributions and legacy, which run the gamut from sharp criticism to warm praise. Fagan 2012 likewise has mixed reviews of Binford and his work. More positive assessments come from his former PhDs, many of whom were deeply inspired by Binford. Two reminiscences by these students (Kelly 2011 and Kuhn and Stiner 2011) provide insight into his abilities as a teacher and mentor. Also on balance more positive are Rigaud 2012 and Straus, et al. 2011. Yet even these do not sugarcoat the fact that Binford could be fiercely critical, a difficult colleague, and a challenge to work with—and yet he was at other times warm, generous, and supportive. Binford was a complex, charismatic person, and he cut a wide swath across American archaeology for nearly five decades. That his obituaries paint a complex picture is hardly surprising.

                                            • Fagan, B. 2012. Lewis Roberts Binford (1931–2011). American Anthropologist 114.1: 173–180.

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                                              An occasionally acerbic though not necessarily inaccurate assessment of Binford’s contributions, which Fagan sees as enormous, if not altogether original (“his genius lay in gathering up diverse ideas in the literature”), and sometimes flawed by Binford’s resistance to the ideas and research directions being pursued by others.

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                                              • Kelly, R. L. 2011. Lewis R. Binford (1931–2011). Science 332.6032: 928.

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                                                Kelly highlights Binford’s spell-binding speaking ability, which inspired students and general audiences alike, as well as his propensity to provoke controversy and debate among fellow archaeologists. But, as Kelly also observes, Binford “moved the field from a largely descriptive effort to a more scientific, explanatory enterprise. And no one will move it as far for a long, long time.”

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                                                • Kuhn, S., and M. Stiner. 2011. Lewis R. Binford, 1931–2011 (in memorium). Evolutionary Anthropology 20.4: 121–122.

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                                                  Kuhn and Stiner’s obituary focuses on Binford’s Nunamiut-informed critical reevaluation of received wisdom regarding human evolution and the confrontations and controversies that ensued. They are quick to note that for Binford it was not personal—it was “just part of the fun,” and perhaps an inevitable outcome when a “special mind” seeks to “bend the course of a field.”

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                                                  • Lewis Binford, 21 November 1931–11April 2011. Antiquity 2011.

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                                                    Comments on Binford and his work were posted in the days and weeks following his death in the spring of 2011, and came from colleagues around the world, from those who knew the person, and those who knew only his work. All offer their thoughts—usually positive but in places surprisingly negative—on Binford’s influence on archaeology.

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                                                    • Rigaud, J.-P. 2012. Lewis Roberts Binford 1931–2011. PaleoAnthropology 2012:63–66.

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                                                      As a graduate student of Bordes when Binford came to analyze material from Combe Grenal, Rigaud had a front row seat to a historic debate that was more a “progressive escalation of arguments” and sometimes “titanic controversy.” His obituary of Binford also recounts his time with Binford conducting ethnoarchaeological research in Alaska.

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                                                      • Straus, L. G., L. A. Borrero, R. Hunter-Anderson, et al. 2011. Lew Binford deserves more than the usual obituary. Journal of Anthropological Research 67:321–331.

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                                                        An obituary that is in places highly personal, offered in the immediate aftermath of Binford’s death by student and faculty colleagues who knew and worked closely with him at the several universities where Binford spent portions of his academic career.

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                                                        The New Archaeology

                                                        Binford was the undisputed founder of an intellectual movement, and unlike others who had tried to change the course of archaeology (e.g., Taylor 1948, cited under Influences), he arrived at a propitious moment in American history. There was greater funding available for research in archaeology, new analytical technologies were becoming accessible (the New Archaeology was “a child of the computer,” as Binford put it, in Binford 1983, p. 67, cited under Autobiographies and Interviews), and the initial wave of baby boomers were entering college, forcing a dramatic expansion of American universities. Faculty slots were soon filled by a generation of newly minted PhDs who—as the 1960s saying went—didn’t trust anyone over thirty, and who sought to establish a discipline distinct from their elders. They also shared the larger society’s heady optimism that anything was possible—perhaps even a science of archaeology. Within a decade of its launch, it seemed, the New Archaeology was everyone’s archaeology. The New Archaeology movement was successful in pushing culture history off center stage, but if the New Archaeology proved to be very good at showing what it wasn’t, it proved far less adept at figuring out what it was. During its formative decade, many ideas were tried. Some led to what would be called, often disparagingly, “ceramic sociology”; others sought inspiration in the philosophy of science, on the assumption that if archaeology acted like a science it would become one; still others grappled with how to give meaning to the archaeological record, and what the relationship was (or ought to be) between the archaeological and ethnographic records, or more broadly between archaeology and anthropology. By the early 1970s, Binford himself was disowning much of what had emerged under the umbrella of the New Archaeology, and his own career path took a radical turn.

                                                        Influences

                                                        Binford began his education in archaeology as an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina, studying with Joffre Lanning Coe, who was a traditional culture historian (see Coe 1964), but nonetheless encouraged Binford to read on evolution and Walter Taylor’s assault on the practices and practitioners of culture history, described in Taylor 1948. From there, Binford went to the University of Michigan, where he came under the influence (not always of a positive sort) of three of its faculty: James Griffin, Albert Spaulding, and Leslie White. Griffin was a dominant figure in eastern North American archaeology. As Binford saw it, Griffin was someone to whom the data spoke in “mystical” (nonscientific) terms; how else could he spot in stylistic nuances of a ceramic shard subtle Hopewell influence? (Griffin, of course, saw it differently: because he’d studied ceramic assemblages intensively since the 1930s and had encyclopedic recall, he could readily see attributes that indicated their position in time and space). Griffin was uninterested in the larger questions that Binford asked (see Griffin 1952), and he was not at all “self-conscious about being anti-theoretical” (Binford 1972, pp. 3–5, cited under Autobiographies and Interviews). Binford aimed to take archaeology in a different, more theoretical, and analytical direction. The tools for the latter came from Spaulding, who, in Spaulding 1953 and Spaulding 1960, applied statistics and quantitative methods to discern relationships between different things and reveal their underlying organization. Binford saw that rigorous analysis would remove much of the subjective element in archaeological inference, as exemplified in Thompson 1956, and provide a more robust method and results than Griffin’s seeming “mysticism.” Although White, a social anthropologist, was not interested in archaeology, he was a powerful influence on Binford’s thinking. Binford took from White 1959 two core tenets: that anthropology could and should be a science, in which assumptions were made explicit, logically framed, and theoretically informed; and that the study of culture should follow a materialist, evolutionary approach. Binford rendered what he’d learned from his mentors thusly: “Culture was not some ethereal force, it was [as White 1959 had stated] a material system of interrelated parts understandable as an organization that could be recovered from the past, given the language to be learned from Spaulding. We were searching for laws. Laws are timeless and spaceless; they must be equally valid for the ethnographic data as well as the archaeological data. Ethnology and archaeology are not separated by a wide, unbridgeable gap” (Binford 1972, p. 8, cited under Autobiographies and Interviews; see also Dunnell 1982, cited under Fate of the New Archaeology).

                                                        • Coe, J. L. 1964. The formative cultures of the Carolina Piedmont. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 54.5. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society.

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                                                          Coe’s 1964 monograph, which included data from sites on which Binford worked, is a monument to regional time-space systematics. Binford had mixed feelings about his relationship with Coe, his undergraduate mentor, but it was Coe who gave Binford his start in the field and taught him the essentials of archaeological fieldwork.

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                                                          • Griffin, J. B., ed. 1952. Archeology of eastern United States. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                            Known colloquially as the “Green Bible,” this massive volume represented decades of accumulated cultural historical knowledge—of which Griffin was a master—which had recently been bolstered by the advent of radiocarbon dating. It well represents received wisdom in archaeology when Binford entered the field.

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                                                            • Spaulding, A. C. 1953. Statistical techniques for the discovery of artifact types. American Antiquity 18.4: 305–313.

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                                                              Binford learned from Spaulding that cultural patterns in archaeological data may not be overt, but still could be detected using statistical techniques. This landmark study illustrated how such an approach could be applied to archaeological classification.

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                                                              • Spaulding, A. C. 1960. The dimensions of archaeology. In Essays in the science of culture: In honor of Leslie A. White. Edited by G. Dole and R. Carneiro, 437–456. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell.

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                                                                The subject matter of archaeology, Spaulding argued, was artifacts: their form, and their temporal and spatial dimensions. It was a definition Binford “accepted throughout [his] career” (Binford 1989, p. 267, cited under Autobiographies and Interviews), and to him it meant the study of the archaeological record and not the study of, say, behavior or symbolic codes.

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                                                                • Taylor, W. W. 1948. A study of archaeology. American Anthropology Association Memoirs 69. Arlington, VA: American Anthropology Association.

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                                                                  Taylor’s searing critique of culture history and those who practiced it overshadowed the “conjunctive approach” he offered as an alternative. As a student, Binford read and re-read Taylor, but came away convinced Taylor had the aims but not the tools (see Binford 1972, p. 8, cited under Autobiographies and Interviews).

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                                                                  • Thompson, R. H. 1956. The subjective element in archaeological inference. Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 12.3: 327–332.

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                                                                    Thompson’s notion that the judgment of any archaeologist’s cultural reconstruction must be “based on an appraisal of his professional competence” was a negative influence on Binford. He developed an opposing view, that in an archaeological science it was data, not judgments of competence, that should be the arbiter of theory and ideas.

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                                                                    • White, L. 1959. The evolution of culture: The development of civilization to the fall of Rome. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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                                                                      White saw culture as a system, a uniquely human extra-somatic adaptation comprised of three parts: techno-economic, social, and ideological. That concept is clearly evident in Binford’s work, even from the outset (Binford 1962, cited under Foundational Works). White—and Binford as well—believed that anthropology (archaeology) is and ought to be a science concerned with understanding cultural evolution.

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                                                                      Foundational Works

                                                                      In 1962, while still a graduate student, Binford was hired to the faculty at the University of Chicago. There he wrote Binford 1962, which launched the New Archaeology. He announced there was more to archaeology than just time-space sequences: “Archaeologists should be among the best qualified to study and directly test hypotheses concerning the process of evolutionary change” (p. 224). Binford viewed culture in White’s terms, as an adaptive, participatory system, not an aggregate of shared traits. He spoke in a novel if not awkward language of the multiple roles of artifacts—technomic, sociotechnic, ideotechnic—in that cultural system. He insisted that, “with the entire span of culture history as our ‘laboratory,’ [archaeologists] cannot afford to keep our theoretical heads buried in the sand. We must shoulder our full share of responsibility within anthropology” (p. 224). He advocated a materialist position that explored variability (as opposed to the “normative” approach of culture historians), and from which one could use material items to infer elements of the past nonmaterial realm. He also advocated explanation, by which he meant one had to show explicitly and in theoretical terms how changes in one variable (or variable state) caused changes in another. And most famously of all, he wrote, “Granted we cannot excavate a kinship system or a philosophy, but we can and do excavate the material items which functioned together with these more behavioral elements within the appropriate cultural subsystems. The formal structure of artifact assemblages together with the between element contextual relationships should and do present a systematic and understandable picture of the total extinct cultural systems” (Binford 1962, pp. 218–219, emphasis added). What would it take to make all this happen? From the outset, Binford argued the solution was methodological, a question of how to accomplish this, not whether it could be. Over the next half dozen years he produced a string of papers (Binford 1964, Binford 1965, Binford 1967a, Binford 1968a, Binford 1968b, Binford 1968c) aimed at building that methodological structure. Traditional archaeology, as Binford portrayed it, involved little more than getting inspiration from the ethnographic record and from it inferring that a similar pattern held true of the archaeological record. That wasn’t sufficient or scientific, as he explained in Binford 1967b. He advocated “an independent means of testing propositions about the past” via a “consciously deductive philosophy.” That approach demanded not just new methods and new theories, but also “a new epistemological perspective” (Binford 1968b, p. 17).

                                                                      • Binford, L. R. 1962. Archaeology as anthropology. American Antiquity 28.2: 217–225.

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                                                                        Binford offered a framework and promise of what archaeology could become, illustrating it with a novel application to an enduring problem. What culture historians considered “devolution” in copper use over time, Binford audaciously theorized was a shift in the role of material symbols of status in response to population expansion that followed the opening of a new niche (fishing).

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                                                                        • Binford, L. R. 1964. A consideration of archaeological research design. American Antiquity 29.4: 425–441.

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                                                                          Understanding a cultural system, Binford argued, required tracking how people moved across a landscape, and what they did in different places at different times over the course of a season or year(s). To understand that system required explicit research designs and sampling strategies, and also thinking about the archaeological record at different scales, from artifacts to sites to regions.

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                                                                          • Binford, L. R. 1965. Archaeological systematics and the study of culture process. American Antiquity 31.2: 203–210.

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                                                                            Culture, Binford argued here, cannot be explained in reductive fashion by reference to a single component such as a shared norm (the traditional definition). Rather, analyses of cultural systems need to explore how artifacts varied in the different contexts of a cultural system, and how they articulated with or were independent of one another.

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                                                                            • Binford, L. R. 1967a. Comment on K.C. Chang’s Major aspects of the interrelationship of archaeology and ethnology. Current Anthropology 8.3: 234–235.

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                                                                              Foreshadowing a debate he would have with post-processualists two decades later, Binford attacked the notion that classification should aim to understand the cognitive frame of reference of the people under study. Such a position of cultural relativism, if carried to its logical extreme, would deny to archaeology the possibility of becoming an objective, comparative science.

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                                                                              • Binford, L. R. 1967b. Smudge pits and hide smoking: The use of analogy in archaeological reasoning. American Antiquity 32.1: 1–12.

                                                                                DOI: 10.2307/278774Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                As part of the effort to strengthen inferences about the past, Binford critically examined the role and function of ethnographic analogy, and proposed an explicit means of assessing and testing whether similarities in form between ethnographic and archaeological occurrences warranted the inference that the latter had a similar function.

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                                                                                • Binford, L. R. 1968a. Archaeological perspectives. In New perspectives in archaeology. Edited by S. R. Binford and L. R. Binford, 5–32. Chicago: Aldine.

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                                                                                  Binford distinguished his views from culture historians, defining his interest in culture process, by which he meant “the dynamic relationships (causes and effects) operative among sociocultural systems” (p. 14). Traditional archaeologists may have recognized the desirability of understanding culture processes but lacked the proper methods and mistakenly (to his mind) assumed the archaeological record was incomplete and ill-suited to the task.

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                                                                                  • Binford, L. R. 1968b. Post-pleistocene adaptations. In New perspectives in archaeology. Edited by S. R. Binford and L. R. Binford, 313–342. Chicago: Aldine.

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                                                                                    Although Binford’s primary interest was in the archaeology of hunter-gatherers, he made this brief but highly influential foray into the long-standing question of the origins of domestication and agriculture.

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                                                                                    • Binford, L. R. 1968c. Some comments on historical versus processual archaeology. Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 24.3: 267–275.

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                                                                                      Using as a foil a paper that sought to explain the Maya collapse as a result of invasion, Binford argued that merely showing two events were in correct chronological order was no explanation. One had to show they were causally linked and could be subsumed under general law(s) that would show the cause would lead to a specific effect.

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                                                                                      Emissaries

                                                                                      Binford’s extraordinary charisma and bold vision inspired a group of highly talented graduate students at the University of Chicago, as well as like-minded colleagues elsewhere. William Longacre and James Hill—in their Chicago dissertations (submitted in 1963 and 1965, respectively)—were among the first of Binford’s students to accept the challenge of exploring the archaeological record in new ways, with Longacre investigating whether he could detect descent groups (Longacre 1964), and Hill searching for residence patterns in the Puebloan archaeological record (Hill 1966). This approach came to be called “ceramic sociology,” not always with flattering intent. Streuver 1968 developed models to help explain changes in substance and settlement that might account for increasing cultural complexity. Flannery 1967 distilled for a broad audience the essence of what the New Archaeology sought. In 1968 Binford coedited with his then-wife Sally, a Paleolithic archaeologist, New Perspectives in Archaeology (Binford and Binford 1968), which showcased the New Archaeology in America and for audiences abroad. Following up on Binford’s call for archaeologists to adopt a more scientific approach, Fritz and Plog 1970 and Watson, et al. 1971 offered programmatic suggestions. For these authors, scientific explanation involved subsuming empirical phenomena under general laws, a notion adopted from essentialist descriptions of the way science—or at least physics—seemed to operate, according to some philosophers of science (notably the oft-cited Carl Hempel). It was a heady time for archaeology, and the enthusiasm of the youth even intoxicated a few of the “old guard,” who saw a new day dawning in the field (Martin 1971).

                                                                                      • Binford, S. R., and L. R. Binford, eds. 1968. New perspectives in archaeology. Chicago: Aldine.

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                                                                                        New perspectives was a showcase for practitioners of the New Archaeology, who in this volume explored prehistoric social organization, subsistence, and settlement patterns, evolutionary change in the Upper Paleolithic, and the origins of agriculture. It was a landmark work, but in the volume-ending comments by social anthropologists there were hints of trouble to come.

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                                                                                        • Flannery, K. V. 1967. Culture history vs. culture process: A debate in American archaeology. Scientific American 217:119–122.

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                                                                                          Flannery used the occasion of a book review to draw a sharp distinction between the old and the new, the aim of the latter being to explain human adaptation and culture change within a scientific framework in which hypotheses were rigorously tested, not held sacrosanct.

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                                                                                          • Fritz, J. M., and F. T. Plog 1970. The nature of archaeological explanation. American Antiquity 35:405–412.

                                                                                            DOI: 10.2307/278113Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                            For Fritz and Plog, the goal of processual archaeology was the “formulation and testing of laws” using Hempel’s deductive-nomological model. Archaeological classification with its dual referents (form and function) was one such application, which they (in)famously illustrated as “a ‘chopper’ not only ‘chopped,’ but was also used for ‘chopping’” (p. 407). Such statements would be heartily criticized by archaeologists and philosophers alike.

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                                                                                            • Hill, J. N. 1966. A prehistoric community in Eastern Arizona. Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 22.1: 9–30.

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                                                                                              Assuming people “do certain things in certain places within their communities, and leave behind them many of the structured remains of these activities” (p. 10), Hill analyzed ceramics from Broken K Pueblo, finding five type clusters that were nonrandomly distributed. As ceramics were ethnographically associated with female activities, Hill concluded this was evidence of residence with wife’s maternal relatives.

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                                                                                              • Longacre, W. 1964. Archaeology as anthropology: A case study. Science 144.3625: 1454–1455.

                                                                                                DOI: 10.1126/science.144.3625.1454Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                Longacre’s finding of a nonrandom spatial distribution of three different clusters of ceramic design elements across the Carter Ranch Pueblo was interpreted, on the assumption that learning ceramic manufacturing was done within matrilineages, as evidence of different descent groups, possibly indicating “some 700 years of one to three localized matrilineages” (p. 1455).

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                                                                                                • Martin, P. S. 1971. The revolution in archaeology. American Antiquity 36.1: 1–8.

                                                                                                  DOI: 10.2307/278018Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                  An elder statesman, Martin was one of the few, and certainly the most prominent of his generation, to embrace the New Archaeology, and his field station was an incubator for the movement. His paean to the New Archaeology as scientific revolution well illustrates the zealotry of the newly converted, and the optimism of what archaeology might become.

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                                                                                                  • Streuver, S. 1968. Woodland subsistence-settlement systems in the Lower Illinois Valley. In New perspectives in archaeology. Edited by S. R. Binford and L. R. Binford, 285–312. Chicago: Aldine.

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                                                                                                    In an effort to understand the rise of complexity within the Hopewell culture, Streuver explores how changes in settlement and subsistence—notably the increasingly selective harvest and intensive use of natural resources—could trigger higher economic productivity, and in turn increased population, status differentiation, and exchange networks evident in Hopewell.

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                                                                                                    • Watson, P. J., S. A. LeBlanc, and C. L. Redman. 1971. Explanation in archaeology: An explicitly scientific approach. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                      The goal of scientific archaeology, Watson and colleagues argue, should be to establish general laws concerning culture process. They discuss ways to achieve that goal, one possibility being to take the implicit assumptions of culture historians and make them “new” by rewriting and thus making them explicit, the latter being the key to scientific explanation and testing (p. 29).

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                                                                                                      Critical Reactions

                                                                                                      In the 1970s the grand hopes for the New Archaeology began to fade. As Kent Flannery memorably said, the New Archaeology had all the trappings of a fad: “If process archaeology is really the biggest thing since hula hoops, it is perhaps only because some people thought it would be even easier to operate” (Flannery 1973, p. 49). Critics pounced on ceramic sociology for its archaeological shortcomings, and for why it had been tried in the first instance (see Dumond 1977 and Plog 1978). What was the point, asked social anthropologists in Binford and Binford 1968 (cited under Emissaries) of archaeologists attempting to find residence, descent, and social organization in the past (and doing so badly), when the archaeological record provided such a rich opportunity to examine adaptation and culture change over time (Harris 1968)? Philosophers of science (Morgan 1973) and archaeologists alike (see Binford 1983, cited under Autobiographies and Interviews; and Dunnell 1982, cited under Fate of the New Archaeology) chimed in to criticize what they deemed the naïve efforts of archaeologists to prescribe what were, in fact, narrow and inapt descriptions of one form of explanatory model. No doubt some sciences—such as physics, from which Hempel derived his deductive-nomological model—had general laws that are (mostly) universal, but did the same apply to human behavior, and ought the deductive-nomological model be the standard for archaeological explanation? Most were skeptical. Still others jumped on what they perceived to be flaws in some of the underpinning assumptions made by the New Archaeology about what the archaeological record represented and the degree to which it could be taken at “face value” (Schiffer 1972). Meanwhile, Walter Taylor (in Taylor 1972) groused that he’d said it all before in 1948 (see Taylor 1948, cited under Influences). Binford himself was likewise critical, and disappointed. In the absence of progress toward useable theory, he complained, “there is no new archaeology, only an anti-traditional archaeology at best . . . what has thus far been presented under the term is an anarchy of uncertainty, optimism, and products of extremely variable quality.” And then he tossed his hands in the air: If the argumentative environment of the 1960s stimulates only further argument, the New Archaeology “will have been a failure, providing only social excitement in a relatively dull field” (Binford 1977, pp. 9–10).

                                                                                                      • Binford, L. R. 1977. General introduction. In For theory building in archaeology. Edited by L. R. Binford, 1–13. New York: Academic Press.

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                                                                                                        Binford criticized much of what had been said and written about the New Archaeology, and in his introduction to this volume he laid out the reasons and justification for developing middle-range theory: in order to get from contemporary facts to statements about the past, and to convert the observationally static facts of the archaeological record to statements of dynamics (p. 6).

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                                                                                                        • Dumond, D. E. 1977. Science in archaeology: The saints go marching in. American Antiquity 42.3: 330–339.

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                                                                                                          Dumond’s examination of several of the “modern classics” of the New Archaeology—among them the Hill and Longacre studies—found them to be deeply flawed on multiple counts, not least that in the absence of temporal control of the site that ceramic clusters might have no relationship to residence or descent patterns.

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                                                                                                          • Flannery, K. V. 1973. Archaeology with a capital “S.” In Research and theory in current archaeology. Edited by C. L. Redman, 47–53. New York: Wiley.

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                                                                                                            Flannery’s humorous, if acerbic, take on the missteps and wrong paths taken by many of the practitioners of the New Archaeology ends with a plea that all parties not forget the goal—to craft an archaeological science. But he’s uncertain and not altogether confident that the coalition that was the New Archaeology can hold together.

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                                                                                                            • Harris, M. 1968. Comments by Marvin Harris. In New perspectives in archaeology. Edited by S. R. Binford and L. R. Binford, 359–361. Chicago: Aldine.

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                                                                                                              Harris chided the authors in New Perspectives for using outdated concepts in social organization and making dubious assumptions about its relationship with material culture. More important: Why were archaeologists even looking there? They should focus on “variations in the demographic and behavioral characteristics of … populations over long periods of time in relationship to specific complexes … of their ecosystems” (p. 360).

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                                                                                                              • Morgan, C. G. 1973. Archaeology and explanation. World Archaeology 4.3: 259–276.

                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1080/00438243.1973.9979538Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                In his sharp critique of Watson, et al. 1971 (cited under Emissaries), philosopher of science Morgan illustrates how badly they mishandled Hempel’s covering law model, and its application to archaeology. It was an object lesson in the hazard of going outside one’s specialty to borrow methods or techniques without being fully aware of their limitations and problems, or of objections to them.

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                                                                                                                • Plog, S. 1978. Social interaction and stylistic similarity: A reanalysis. Advances in Archaeological Method and Theory 1:143–182.

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                                                                                                                  Plog’s critical assessment of the underlying assumptions, analytical and statistical methods, and inferential claims of “ceramic sociology” revealed significant flaws in the approach. To make it work required better control of time, space, and site formation processes, a better understanding of style and rates of stylistic change, and a better appreciation for the complexity of design variability.

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                                                                                                                  • Schiffer, M. B. 1972. Archaeological context and systemic context. American Antiquity 37.2: 156–165.

                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.2307/278203Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                    Reacting to the claim in Binford 1964 (p. 425, cited under Foundational Works) that an archaeological site is “a ‘fossil’ record of the actual operation of an extinct society,” Schiffer argued archaeologists ought to pay more attention to what extent and under what conditions the location of artifacts in a site necessarily corresponded to their actual locations of use in past activities.

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                                                                                                                    • Taylor, W. W. 1972. Old wine and new skins: A contemporary parable. In Contemporary archaeology: A guide to theory and contributions. Edited by M. P. Leone, 28–33. Carbondale: Southern Illinois Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                      Dismayed that Taylor 1948 (cited under Influences) was being neglected by New Archaeologists, Taylor arranged for the volume to be reprinted, and in this 1972 article immodestly suggested that much of the New Archaeology was anticipated in that volume. The primary difference he saw was that archaeologists now had the use of computers and backhoes.

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                                                                                                                      Fate of the New Archaeology

                                                                                                                      By the mid-1980s the New Archaeology had become “processual archaeology,” but it had changed in more than name only. What had once been everyone’s archaeology was now one of many archaeologies in a habitat crowded with other theoretical approaches (Redman 1991, Trigger 1984), methodological domains, and increasingly narrower specialties. These included behavioral archaeology, cognitive archaeology, contextual archaeology, ethnoarchaeology, evolutionary archaeology, experimental archaeology, gender archaeology, geoarchaeology, hermeneutic archaeology, Marxist archaeology, post-processual archaeology, social archaeology, structuralist archaeology, symbolic archaeology, and approaches some cynics would say were unrecognizably archaeology. It would be an exaggeration to call these different “subdisciplines,” as that would imply a greater internal coherence, consistency, and content than actually existed in any one of them. The New Archaeology had once been unified around a common goal. Two decades later, many, such as Robert Dunnell, still espoused the goal of creating a science of archaeology (see Dunnell 1982), Binford not least of all, as discussed in Binford 1986 and Binford 1989. But the pendulum had begun to swing in the other direction, as archaeologists in America and abroad, led by Ian Hodder (Hodder 1982) and Mark Leone (Leone 1982), sharply questioned whether archaeology could ever be a law-driven science as envisioned, proposing in its post-processual stead a strongly cultural and historical focus—one that returned archaeology to a cultural relativism Binford had vehemently rejected. Abandoned as well were once-central concepts and approaches, along with the optimism that had once buoyed the field (Flannery 1982). As Trigger 1984 put the question: “Is archaeology in serious trouble, or does it stand on the threshold of brilliant new accomplishments?” The answer was not clear.

                                                                                                                      • Binford, L. R. 1986. In pursuit of the future. In American archaeology: Past and future. Edited by D. J. Meltzer, J. A. Sabloff, and D. D. Fowler, 459–479. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution.

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                                                                                                                        Binford heartily rejected the reconstructionist and contextual-structuralist strands, and reaffirmed that a science of archaeology was possible—even obligatory. Only archaeology could investigate cultural systems over a vast time scale, and only archaeology was positioned to “understand humankind in a way that no participant, or no social scientist addressing the quick time events of direct social experience, could ever imagine” (p. 474).

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                                                                                                                        • Binford, L. R. 1989. The “New Archaeology,” then and now. In Archaeological thought in America. Edited by C. C. Lamberg-Karlovsky, 50–62. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511558221Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                          Binford encapsulated the flaws of traditional archaeology, what he and others had set out to correct and change, and what happened in the aftermath. Too many of the recent trends, he argued, were unproductive if not downright reactionary. But he still held out hope for scientific growth, despite “much opposition.”

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                                                                                                                          • Dunnell, R. C. 1982. Science, social science, and common sense: The agonizing dilemma of modern archaeology. Journal of Anthropological Research 38.1: 1–25.

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                                                                                                                            Although sympathetic to efforts to craft an archaeological science, Dunnell saw that effort as a failure, largely due to a fundamental misunderstanding of what constitutes a scientific explanation, and particularly how such an effort plays out in a historical science as archaeology in which the notion of a “law” has a different meaning than in the nonhistorical sciences like physics.

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                                                                                                                            • Flannery, K. V. 1982. The Golden Marshalltown: A parable for the archaeology of the 1980s. American Anthropologist 84.2: 265–278.

                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1525/aa.1982.84.2.02a00010Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                              Flannery’s entertaining, and in spots wickedly funny, parable captures the state of archaeology (and deftly caricatures its participants) struggling to hold itself together as the core of the New Archaeology and concepts like culture lost their centripetal force, and practitioners became more interested in talking theory than doing archaeology.

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                                                                                                                              • Hodder, I. 1982. Theoretical archaeology: A reactionary view. In Symbolic and structural archaeology. Edited by I. Hodder, 1–16. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511558252.002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                Hodder’s critique cut deep into Binford’s view of culture as an adaptive system. He saw it, instead, as “meaningfully constituted” and to be understood in terms of its unique historical context. Artifacts reflected individual action, meaning, and symbol, and seeing them as such would be the only way to understand cultural variety and behavior. Archaeology was a historical discipline.

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                                                                                                                                • Leone, M. P. 1982. Some opinions about recovering mind. American Antiquity 47.4: 742–760.

                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.2307/280280Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                  Lost or at least misplaced in processual archaeology’s emphasis on systemic adaptation was interest in thought and meaning. Leone’s introduction of the topic, viewed through the lens of structuralism and Marxism, was the first major statement in what would become a substantial literature in symbolic, cognitive, and structural archaeology.

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                                                                                                                                  • Redman, C. L. 1991. Distinguished lecture in archaeology: In defense of the seventies—The adolescence of New Archaeology. American Anthropologist 93.2: 295–307.

                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1525/aa.1991.93.2.02a00010Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                    Granting that the New Archaeology was not without its flaws, Redman was nonetheless unwilling to discard it altogether, nor cede ground entirely to post-processualism. Rather, he sought to identify elements common to both scientific and humanistic approaches, and where a productive research middle ground between them might be found.

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                                                                                                                                    • Trigger, B. G. 1984. Archaeology at the crossroads: What’s new? Annual Review of Anthropology 13:275–300.

                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1146/annurev.an.13.100184.001423Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                      Trigger was hardly dismayed to see the “gradual rejection of [processual archaeology’s] neoevolutionary views,” and the development of a “more complex and less deterministic view of human behavior.” Archaeology needed to be more sensitive to the history and social context in which that behavior occurred, and thus less “neocolonialist and insulting to the third world and to native people” (pp. 294–295).

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                                                                                                                                      Ethnoarchaeology

                                                                                                                                      Although Binford was dismayed by the diverse and (in his view) unproductive paths that emerged in the wake of the New Archaeology (see Binford 1986, cited under Fate of the New Archaeology), by then his own research trajectory had pivoted sharply, prompted by the realization he had been laboring under the misimpression—typical of traditional archaeology, he said—that the arbiter of ideas about the past was the archaeological record (see Binford 1983, p. 12, cited under Autobiographies and Interviews). His epiphany came while investigating stone tools and faunal remains from the Mousterian (Middle Paleolithic) site of Combe Grenal, France. The study was prompted by Francois Bordes’s claim that different stone tool assemblages in alternating stratigraphic levels of the cave represented the serial use of the site by different Neanderthal tribes. To test Bordes’s claim, Binford and his wife, Sally, examined patterns of stone and bone use at the site over time (Binford and Binford 1966), which generated an “embarrassment of recognizable patterning, and more correlations between things than anyone had ever imagined” (Binford 1983, p. 66, cited under Autobiographies and Interviews). But the effort got him no closer to understanding the Neanderthal groups who occupied the site. The problem, he realized, was that he had no inferential basis for translating archaeological patterns observed in the present (statics) into meaningful statements about past dynamic conditions (see Binford 1983, p. 67, cited under Autobiographies and Interviews). He needed a better understanding of adaptive strategies, how cultural systems are organized in different environmental settings, how material culture is generated or used within cultural systems, and how this could vary over time, space, and conditions (see Binford 1983, pp. 100–101, cited under Autobiographies and Interviews). Forget “general theory” and high-level worrying over “laws of human behavior,” Binford concluded, as he could see he needed to develop a “middle range” theory to understand the dynamic processes that produce statics. Ethnographic analogy was of limited utility here.

                                                                                                                                      • Binford, L. R., and S. R. Binford. 1966. A preliminary analysis of functional variability in the Mousterian of Levallois Facies. American Anthropologist 68.2: 238–295.

                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1525/aa.1966.68.2.02a001030Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                        Doubtful that different Neanderthal groups took turns occupying the site of Combe Grenal (as Bordes suggested) and yet somehow never interacted with one another, this study examined the site’s archaeological assemblages to assess whether these might be explained as different activities or seasonal occupations by the same group, or as their responses to changing environmental conditions over time.

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                                                                                                                                        The Problem with Ethnographic Analogy

                                                                                                                                        Binford considered his paper “Smudge Pits and Hide Smoking” (Binford 1967b, cited under Foundational Works) to be “one of the strongest arguments from analogy” he had ever seen (Binford 1983, p. 8, cited under Autobiographies and Interviews). But then Patrick Munson, following Binford’s criteria for creating a successful analogy, showed that the function of smudge pits could just as readily have been to blacken the interior of pottery vessels (see Munson 1969). Which was the correct interpretation of smudge pits: hide smoking or pottery smudging? Binford replied that the only way to choose would be to “devise deductively reasoned hypotheses regarding expected relationships between phenomena in question and other classes of archaeological remains” (Binford 1972, p. 53). As far as he was concerned, smudging of pots could be done in a variety of ways not tied to smudge pits, while that was not true of hide smoking; therefore hide smoking had the greater prior probability of being correct. Still, he was starting to see the limits of analogy in archaeological inference. Discussions of analogy carried well beyond the Binford-Munson exchange as practitioners debated the proper role, and possibly better procedures, of ethnographic analogy. One could, as Gould suggested (in Gould and Watson 1982), look beyond specific analogies to underlying principles and processes of behavior, and isolate not just commonalities but also anomalies (differences) between present and past, and then test those. Or one could array competing analogies against one another and look at ancillary evidence as a means of testing. There was no obvious solution, in part because analogy is by its nature an inductive argument (Wylie 1985), and achieving certainty with such an approach is no easy matter; such could only occur—as Wylie 1982 pointed out—in those narrow instances where one could create biconditional (“if and only if”) statements. Others were even less sanguine. Freeman and Wobst, who, not coincidentally, worked on Pleistocene and sometimes pre-sapiens hunter-gatherers—were particularly skeptical of the analogical relevance of the ethnographic record of modern hunter-gatherers (see Freeman 1968 and Wobst 1978). Contemporary groups were a tiny sample of all groups who had ever lived, and were themselves in the process of acculturation and often living in marginal environments. They represented but a snapshot in evolutionary time, and because they were Homo sapiens they were likely irrelevant in dealing with earlier non-Homo sapiens. Besides, the ethnographic record was witnessed in quick time by ethnographers, who were usually interested in very different questions than those of concern to archaeologists, and who rarely paid attention to material culture. Hence, as Binford argued (in Binford 1984), there was a need for ethanoarchaeological research to understand dynamic processes and the principles behind them.

                                                                                                                                        • Binford, L. R. 1972. Archaeological reasoning and smudge pits: Revisited. In An archaeological perspective. Edited by L. R. Binford, 52–58. New York: Seminar Press.

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                                                                                                                                          In response to Munson’s demonstration (in Munson 1969) that smudge pits may have had additional uses, Binford reassessed his position that one could refute an analogy merely by showing an alternative possibility. Instead, one or both could be correct, but to determine which was more likely one had to devised hypotheses and tests of the relative merits of each.

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                                                                                                                                          • Binford, L. R. 1984. Butchering, sharing, and the archaeological record. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 3.3: 235–257.

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                                                                                                                                            Binford rejected Gould’s characterization (in Gould and Watson 1982) of his Nunamiut studies as “misguided arguments from ethnographic analogy aimed at establishing empirical laws” (p. 236). Rather, they sought to understand how variation—in the sharing of meat—could vary, and why, even among the same cultural groups. These were not “anomalies” in Gould’s sense, but instead situational responses.

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                                                                                                                                            • Freeman, L. G., Jr. 1968. A theoretical framework for interpreting archaeological materials. In Man the hunter. Edited by R. B. Lee and I. deVore, 262–267. Chicago: Aldine.

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                                                                                                                                              Freeman dismissed the idea that modern hunter-gatherer behavior was relevant to prehistoric groups, especially pre-sapiens. After all, there was no reason to think Pleistocene populations were appropriate analogs for modern hunter-gatherers. He offered instead a method of controlled comparison that sought to isolate regular types of associations of materials, and their formal equation with activity types.

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                                                                                                                                              • Gould, R. A., and P. J. Watson. 1982. A dialogue on the meaning and use of analogy in ethnoarchaeological reasoning. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 1.4: 355–381.

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                                                                                                                                                Gould and Watson traded views on the role and efficacy of ethnographic analogy, Gould’s “argument by anomaly” (his alternative to analogy), and how the concept of uniformitarianism applies (or not) to human behavior over the long span of evolutionary time.

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                                                                                                                                                • Munson, P. 1969. Comments on Binford’s “Smudge pits and hide smoking: The use of analogy in archaeological reasoning.” American Antiquity 34.1: 83–85.

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                                                                                                                                                  Binford 1967b (cited under Foundational Works) had stipulated ways in which one could “refute” the postulate that smudge pits were used for hide smoking, one of them being by showing smudge pits were used for something other than hide smoking. Munson 1969 did just that, providing ethnohistorical evidence that smudge pits were also used for blackening the inside of ceramic vessels.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Wobst, H. M. 1978. The archaeo-ethnology of hunter-gatherers or the tyranny of the ethnographic record in archaeology. American Antiquity 43.2: 303–309.

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                                                                                                                                                    Wobst worried that using ethnographically derived theory led to the “great danger” of merely reproducing the form and structure of ethnographically perceived reality in the archaeological record. He proposed that archaeologists observe “the material precedents and products of behavior,” and in turn link those “with behavior through hypothesis in a framework of strong inference” (p. 307).

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                                                                                                                                                    • Wylie, A. 1982. An analogy by any other name is just as analogical: A commentary on the Gould-Watson dialogue. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 1:382–401.

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                                                                                                                                                      A commentary but also a careful discussion of the logical fallacies that can trap the unwary in using analogy, as well as the narrow conditions where logical certainty could be realized in these interpretive arguments; notably, where the interpretive principle supporting the argument is a biconditional statement of the form “if and only if x, then y.”

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                                                                                                                                                      • Wylie, A. 1985. The reaction against analogy. Advances in Archaeological Method and Theory 8:63–111.

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                                                                                                                                                        Wylie provides a thorough historical treatment of analogy, critical reactions to its role, and a discussion of the criteria and methodological strategies for strengthening and evaluating analogical inferences, including circumstances where more inferential confidence can be realized, including through the application of ethnoarchaeology.

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                                                                                                                                                        Learning from Hunter-Gatherers

                                                                                                                                                        If analogy wasn’t sufficient to the task, how could one infer from the structured arrangements of inert matter (statics) that comprise the archaeological record the one-time past dynamic processes that produced it? Archaeologists needed to “understand the statics as archaeologists see them and to uncover the dynamics that produced them” (Binford 1983, p. 391, cited under Autobiographies and Interviews). Gaining that knowledge was akin to learning—to use Binford’s metaphor—how to recognize from footprints on the ground the animal that had left them (Binford 1981, pp. 26–27). First, one had to isolate the different processes or agents (animals) that might be expected to contribute to or cause an archaeological pattern (footprint). Second, one had to study those agents or processes (animals) in the contemporary world to develop criteria for recognizing their archaeological signature (observe the bear and the footprint together). Finally, making the uniformitarian assumption that the relationship between dynamics and statics observed in the present was true in the past (bears and the footprints they make haven’t changed significantly), one could infer the past dynamics from those patterned statics. The devil is in the details, for one must provide the warrant for the uniformitarian assumption that processes observed in the present operated in the same manner in the past, which can be challenging when it comes to human behavior. But, as Binford noted, ecological and anatomical characteristics of prey species, such as carcass utility and nutritional value, were “enduring objects for which uniformitarian assumptions might be securely warranted” (Binford 1981, p. 28). In 1969 Binford began a multiyear ethnoarchaeological study among the Nunamiut of northern Alaska. He hoped it would be a “good educational experience” (Binford 1983, p. 101, cited under Autobiographies and Interviews), but it proved much more than that. The Nunamiut study yielded rich data, scores of articles, and several influential books, which resulted in a far more nuanced understanding of the organization of technology among mobile foragers (e.g., Binford 1978a, Binford 1979, Binford 1980, Binford 1982, Binford 1983); a deeper understanding of how foragers procured, processed, and consumed their prey; what frequencies of skeletal parts found in an archaeological site might reveal of past faunal exploitation patterns (Binford 1978b); and a better understanding of what might be revealed in attributes of bone breakage, butchering, and bone element survivorship and assemblage from human and nonhuman agencies (Binford 1981). He followed his work among the Nunamiut with shorter yet equally productive stints of ethnoarchaeological research in Australia (Binford and O’Connell 1984), and in the American Southwest.

                                                                                                                                                        • Binford, L. R. 1978a. Dimensional analysis of behavior and site structure: Learning from an Eskimo hunting stand. American Antiquity 43.3: 330–361.

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                                                                                                                                                          From observations at the Mask site, a briefly occupied hunting stand, Binford showed the intersecting yet independent dimensions of activities and individuals and material culture that passed through the site, what may—or may not—occur in the static archaeological record as a result, and what that would reveal of dynamic systems.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Binford, L. R. 1978b. Nunamiut ethnoarchaeology. New York: Academic Press.

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                                                                                                                                                            This study of Nunamiut hunting documented how parts of a prey carcass varied in nutritional value, thereby influencing butchering and transport decisions. Assuming uniformitarianism and recognizing the effects of bone density mediated attrition, Binford developed influential “utility indices,” to help “translate” frequencies of skeletal parts in a site into evidence of past faunal exploitation pattern. It was a “revolutionary” contribution (Lyman 2012, cited under Biographies and Appraisals).

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                                                                                                                                                            • Binford, L. R. 1979. Organization and formation processes: Looking at curated technologies. Journal of Anthropological Research 35.3: 255–273.

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                                                                                                                                                              Arguing that the simple models of tool production (and tool use) mask variability, Binford explored how items of material culture are procured, manufactured, used, and discarded across a settlement system, as these may vary seasonally, by the intended purpose and anticipated use of the items, and the degree to which those items were to be used in place or transported across the landscape.

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                                                                                                                                                              • Binford, L. R. 1980. Willow smoke and dogs’ tails: Hunter-gatherer settlement systems and archaeological site formation. American Antiquity 45.1: 4–20.

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                                                                                                                                                                In the most cited article to emerge from his Nunamiut research, Binford introduced the concepts of “collector” and “forager” as end members of a continuum of subsistence/settlement systems, and detailed the very different mobility and site structural implications of each, as well as offering an explanation as to the environmental contexts in which one would anticipate such systems.

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                                                                                                                                                                • Binford, L. R. 1981. Bones: Ancient men and modern myths. New York: Academic Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                  An unintended but significant outcome of the Nunamiut research was the recognition that skeletal remains of prey killed by human and nonhuman predators may or may not be distinct, and in Bones he explored how different patterns might be archaeologically recognizable, along with the resulting “signatures” used to evaluate and critique claims of human hunting in sites of early hominins.

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                                                                                                                                                                  • Binford, L. R. 1982. The archaeology of place. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 1:5–31.

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                                                                                                                                                                    Archaeologists, of course, work with sites, and here Binford explored how the dynamic processes and activities of foragers over time might appear when viewed through the window of a fixed spot on the landscape (Binford likened a site to a “rock with eyes,” glimpsing segments of systems passing overhead), and how different uses would in turn yield different archaeological patterns.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Binford, L. R. 1983. Long term land-use patterning: Some implications for archaeology. In Lulu linear punctated: Essays in honor of George Irving Quimby. Edited by R. C. Dunnell and D. K. Grayson, 27–53. Anthropological Papers 72. Ann Arbor: Museum of Anthropology, Univ. of Michigan.

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                                                                                                                                                                      Nunamiut settlement ranges shifted seasonally, annually, and over longer period of times and extended areas of space. Binford explored the implications of such range changes for patterns of site and landscape use. Changes in the intensity of site use might be unrelated to changes in the system organization, and instead reflect a change in its position on the landscape.

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                                                                                                                                                                      • Binford, L. R., and J. F. O’Connell. 1984. An Alyawara day: The stone quarry. Journal of Anthropological Research 40.3: 406–432.

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                                                                                                                                                                        Binford’s work among the Alyawara provided new ethnoarchaeological experience, including the opportunity to observe the acquisition of quartzite at a quarry, as well as the varying strategic decisions that determined the form in which the material was knapped and readied for transport, which provided lessons in the differentiation of stone procurement and manufacturing strategies in anticipation of tool use.

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                                                                                                                                                                        Moving From Present Dynamics to Past Statics

                                                                                                                                                                        Throughout his ethnoarchaeological research in Alaska and elsewhere, Binford kept an eye on the implications of what he was learning for what it might yield in understanding the substantive problems of human prehistory. After all, it was his inability to make sense of the archaeological record at Combe Grenal that prompted his ethnoarchaeological research in the first instance (see Binford and Binford 1966, cited under Ethnoarchaeology). He wanted to know what the varying patterns of stone artifacts and associated faunal remains at the site might reveal of seasonality, storage, provisioning patterns, and the like, and what that might reveal of the organization of Mousterian cultural systems. By the early 1980s, Binford was ready to apply what he’d learned about hunter-gatherer organizational strategies and the role and signature of nonhuman predators on the landscape to tackle the conventional wisdom about early human prehistory and cultural evolution. Doing so led him into vigorous and often highly contentious disputes, arising from what Binford deemed his “attempts to expand our pattern recognition frontiers while at the same time criticizing the conventionalism that has stood behind much interpretation of early hominid materials” (see Binford 1989, p. 271, cited under Autobiographies and Interviews). As it happened, relatively little of that criticism of “conventionalism” and the application of knowledge gained in his ethnoarchaeological research was aimed at the Mousterian problem; much of it, instead, focused on the Lower Paleolithic period. But wherever he went, Binford embroiled himself in debate, for he was calling into question what had been widely accepted received wisdom about early human cultural behavior. He believed there was something fundamentally very different about behavior of pre-Homo sapiens that other researchers were not seeing (Binford 1989, cited under the Hunting-Scavenging Debate).

                                                                                                                                                                        Leaving the Mousterian Problem Behind

                                                                                                                                                                        Binford’s battle with Bordes began in the late 1960s and continued into the early 1970s (Rigaud 2012, cited under Obituaries and Tributes). As Binford saw it (in Binford 1972), there was a deep incommensurability between his and Bordes’s approaches, and those of others, all of whom came together at a conference at Sheffield University in 1971 (Renfrew 1973). It was a discussion that ended without agreement or resolution (Binford and Stone 1999). Binford was then in the midst of his ethnoarchaeological research, seeking that “Rosetta Stone” to link Combe Grenal statics with Mousterian dynamics. At the Sheffield Conference (Renfrew 1973) he shoe-horned in a few lessons he’d already learned from his work among the Nunamiut, the most striking being that “with regard to artifacts per se there is little correlation between what is done [at the site] and the artifacts remaining” (Binford, in Renfrew 1973, p. 242). It was (to use a favored term of his) a “provocative” lesson, but he announced, immodestly, that more was to come: “I am sufficiently aware of the patterns of variation in the Combe Grenal data and similar patterns in the Nunamiut data to anticipate (a) that I will be largely successful in specifying with some reliability the behavioral context responsible for the differential frequencies of the anatomical parts in the Combe Grenal assemblages, and (b) that many of the sets of co-varying related tools will be shown to vary directly with variations in anatomical parts understood from a behavioral perspective” (Binford, in Renfrew 1973, p. 251). Yet, after he finished his ethnoarchaeology fieldwork (which was essentially complete by 1974) and successfully launched a flotilla of publications from it, he did not return to the Mousterian in any significant way. By then, Bordes was “fed up” with the Mousterian problem, and he and Binford agreed that their one-time plan for a pair of volumes on Combe Grenal, which would include a cooperative discussion of the Mousterian, would be put on hold “for a time when we both felt like getting it out” (Binford 1989, p. 273, cited under Autobiographies and Interviews). Bordes, however, died in 1981 before their plan could be realized, a point of regret, as noted in Binford and Stone 1999, a portrait of Bordes. Binford never subsequently published his Combe Grenal analysis, and only occasionally commented on the Mousterian problem (e.g., Binford 1982; Binford 1989, cited under the Hunting-Scavenging Debate).

                                                                                                                                                                        • Binford, L. R. 1972. Contemporary model-building: Paradigms and the current state of Palaeolithic research. In Models in archaeology. Edited by David L. Clarke, 109–166. London: Methuen.

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                                                                                                                                                                          Binford’s last pre-Nunamiut foray into early cultural behavior, the essay begins and ends with philosophers of science (Kuhn and Popper, respectively), but with a long middle using factor analysis to explore the organizational patterning and change across the Oldowan-Acheulean transition and into the Mousterian.

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                                                                                                                                                                          • Binford, L. R. 1982. Some thoughts on the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition. Current Anthropology 23.2: 177–181.

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                                                                                                                                                                            Critical differences between Middle and Upper Paleolithic sites—notably, a patterning of scavenging, curation, and lack of storage in the former—suggested earlier groups lacked the “ability to anticipate events and conditions not yet experienced.” If that was so, the Mousterian problem would not be understood by projecting backwards from modern hunter-gatherers, save “by way of contrast.”

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                                                                                                                                                                            • Binford, L. R., and N. Stone. 1999. François Bordes, 1919–1981. In Encyclopedia of archaeology: The great archaeologists. Vol. 2. Edited by T. Murray, 759–774. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.

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                                                                                                                                                                              Binford’s biographical entry on Bordes in many ways reveals almost as much about Binford and his view of his relationship with Bordes (respectful, warm, but always ready to do battle) as it does about Bordes himself. It provides a behind-the-scenes look at Binford’s take on their debate over the Mousterian.

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                                                                                                                                                                              • Renfrew, C. ed. 1973. The explanation of culture change: Models in prehistory. London: Duckworth.

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                                                                                                                                                                                The volume includes major chapters (with lines drawn firmly in the sand) by Binford, Bordes, Collins, and Mellars on the Mousterian problem. These are the last significant articles by the principles in the Mousterian debate of the 1960s and 1970s. Debate over Mousterian behavior continues to the present, however, by generations strongly influenced by these earlier works. See pp. 227–254.

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                                                                                                                                                                                The Hunting-Scavenging Debate

                                                                                                                                                                                A Nunamiut informant, when queried about a pattern of caribou bones on the tundra, asked Binford why he thought the caribou was killed by people and not wolves? That question made Binford realize he needed to find out what wolves “‘looked like’ when viewed from the perspective of fauna.” That led him to study prey remains at wolf kills, dens, and lairs (see Binford 1981, p. xvii, 197ff, cited under Learning from Hunter-Gatherers), and to attempt to understand the “signature” of other carnivores (Binford, et al. 1988). Doing so helped distinguish human from nonhuman kills, and from natural death assemblages, using attributes of bone breakage, butchering marks, patterns of bone element survivorship, and assemblage composition. That research directed him into the deep human past, for he saw a potential “application of my nascent methods to the questions of the nature of ancient man’s behavior” (Binford 1985, p. 293). To him, many faunal assemblages attributed to early hunters were more likely the work of animal predators and scavengers. But how were assemblages that also contained stone tools to be understood (Binford 1983, Freeman 1983)? As Binford surveyed the literature, the co-occurrence of bones and stone tools was routinely (and to his mind wrongly) viewed as self-evident proof of large-game hunting, on which were stacked other inferences about early humans, such as the use of home bases, sexual division of labor, and pair-bonding and male provisioning (Binford 1985; Binford 1988a, cited under Challenging Received Wisdom). In Binford 1981 (cited under the Learning from Hunter-Gatherers) and subsequent publications (Binford 1983; Binford 1985; Binford 1988a, cited under Challenging Received Wisdom) he attacked the conventional wisdom that big-game hunting and all that supposedly followed was a formative element of human cultural evolution, and he was particularly keen to convey that message to physical anthropologists, as he did in Binford 1987, lest they invoke such behaviors in explaining anatomical changes. There was another, more personal reason why Binford ventured into this realm. He’d gotten the distinct impression that “all the interesting discussion and honest investment in learning more about the archaeological record that I and my colleagues had been attempting was [deemed] irrelevant . . . to the domain of the Lower Paleolithic” (Binford 1989, pp. 272–273, cited under Autobiographies and Interviews). Being considered irrelevant was not a new experience, Binford admitted. But this “particularly bothered me since every student of archaeology was required to study at least something about the Lower Paleolithic” (Binford 1989, p. 273, cited under Autobiographies and Interviews). He wanted to break the monopoly of traditional ideas in that realm, as he argued in Binford 1989, and the notion that our earliest ancestors were formidable big-game hunters, as he thought it more likely they were scavengers on the margins of the landscape. Domínguez-Rodrigo 2002 assesses the success of that effort two decades later.

                                                                                                                                                                                • Binford, L. R. 1983. Reply to “More on the Mousterian: Flaked bone from Cueva Morín,” by L. Freeman. Current Anthropology 24:372–377.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  Mousterian behavior at Cueva Morin was merely the archaeological backdrop for what was instead a debate with Freeman over how to recognize and distinguish bones gnawed by canids (Binford’s view) or animals killed, butchered, and modified by hominins (Freeman 1983).

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • Binford, L. R. 1985. Human ancestors: Changing views of their behavior. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 4.4: 292–327.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    Binford reviewed responses to his idea that scavenging carcasses dominated early hominin evolution, concluding (incorrectly, as it happens) that his challenge to the received wisdom was “conceded by many Africanists” (p. 312). The remaining question as he saw it was to determine when and under what conditions systematic hunting of big game began in prehistory.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    • Binford, L. R. 1987. The hunting hypothesis, archaeological methods, and the past. Yearbook of Physical Anthropology 30:1–9.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      Binford’s address to an audience of physical anthropologists traced the rise of the idea that big-game hunting was a key to human evolution, the inferences that spun off that idea, and especially (in a hectoring tone) how archaeologists and paleoanthropologists violated scientific canon by accommodating their data to one another’s models. It was time to end the mutual “back-scratching.”

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                                                                                                                                                                                      • Binford, L. R. 1989. Isolating the transition to cultural adaptations: An organizational approach. In The emergence of modern humans: Biocultural adaptations in the later Pleistocene. Edited by E. Trinkhaus, 18–41. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        Binford identified three elements that appeared with Homo sapiens but were absent among earlier hominins: planning depth (the ability to anticipate conditions and actions), tactical depth (the ability to respond to unforeseen circumstances), and tool maintenance (curation to insure long use lives). The conditions in which those behaviors evolved, and why such were seemingly lacking earlier, were critical unsolved questions.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        • Binford, L. R., M. G. Mills, and N. Stone. 1988. Hyena scavenging behavior and its implications for the interpretation of faunal assemblages from FLK 22 (the Zinj floor) at Olduvai Gorge. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 7.2: 99–135.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          Reports on experiments in which bones—some meaty, others less so—were left for hyenas. Two observations of their scavenging emerged: all bones were moved from their original position, and remaining elements showed no signs of gnawing. This implied the bones on the Zinj floor were scavenged, since they had evidently been gnawed prior to their use by hominins.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          • Domínguez-Rodrigo, M. 2002. Hunting and scavenging by early humans: The state of the debate. Journal of World Prehistory 16.1: 1–54.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            A detailed review of the arguments and evidence for and against hunting and scavenging, which concludes that empirical support for the scavenging hypothesis is lacking, that evidence from bone surface modifications suggest that early hominins were indeed hunters, and that meat (not marrow) was an important element of the diet in human evolution.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            • Freeman, L. G. 1983. More on the Mousterian: Flaked bone from Cueva Morín. Current Anthropology 24.3: 366–372.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              Responding to Binford’s repeated assertion (Binford 1981, p. 177, cited under the Learning from Hunter-Gatherers; Binford 1983) that the flaked bones in Cueva Morín are “without exception indistinguishable from canid-gnawed bone fragments,” Freeman argued that “on the basis of size of the bones and body-part representation, there is every reason to reject the interpretation that the . . . [prey] bones were mostly accumulated by hyenas or other local Pleistocene carnivores.”

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                                                                                                                                                                                              Challenging Received Wisdom

                                                                                                                                                                                              Binford was not content to make general pronouncements about early human evolution. Instead, he went on the offensive, reexamining the data and interpretations made at a series of iconic early hominin sites, including Olduvai Gorge (Binford 1988a), Olorgesailie (Binford 1977), Torralba (Binford 1988c), and Vaufrey (Binford 1988a). His critiques of the work at these sites spurred considerable research by site investigators into the processes—natural and cultural—that structured these Plio-Pleistocene localities. However, in no instance were the investigators of those sites willing simply to roll over in response to Binford’s criticisms. Thus he found himself in disputes on multiple fronts, sometimes simultaneously, with a gaggle of researchers over the archaeological patterning and meaning of early human behavior and adaptation—see Bunn and Kroll 1988 (regarding the Zinjanthropus floor at Olduvai), Shipman, et al. 1981 (Olorgesailie), Villa 1990 (Torralba), and Grayson and Delpech 1994 (Vaufrey). The citations listed below are but samples from dozens of often sharply pointed articles that flew back and forth throughout the 1980s. In one instance a journal editor had had enough, declaring (following Bunn and Kroll 1988), “This is the end of the Binford/Bunn and Kroll exchange in these pages.” One theme common in many of the responses to Binford was skepticism regarding his marshaling of the data and analysis. As Freeman 1983 (cited under the Hunting-Scavenging Debate) put it, the “errors [in Binford’s analyses] betray a cavalier treatment of data that undermines one’s confidence in Binford’s conclusions” (p. 366; see also Bunn and Kroll 1988, and Grayson and Delpech 1994). As O’Connell put it, “it now seems likely that Binford’s alternative interpretations of these early assemblages were wrong on most counts” (O’Connell 2011, p. 85, cited under Biographies and Appraisals). But O’Connell then quickly added that the proof of this was based on “precisely the kind of ethnographic, ethnoarchaeological and experimental research that Binford pursued among the Nunamiut . . . provoked to a significant degree (though not entirely) by Binford’s arguments” (O’Connell 2011, p. 85, cited under Biographies and Appraisals).

                                                                                                                                                                                              • Binford, L. R. 1977. Olorgesailie deserves more than the usual book review. Journal of Anthropological Research 33:493–502.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                Binford used Isaac’s report on Olorgesailie to launch his first major salvo in the debate over how to assess the association of artifacts and faunal remains, and whether the latter are referable to hominin behavior and thus indicative of hunting. He made his position clear: Isaac’s assumption that the bones and stones were related was little more than “wide eyed naiveté.”

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                                                                                                                                                                                                • Binford, L. R. 1988a. Etude taphonomique des restes fauniques de la grotte Vaufrey. In La Grotte Vaufrey à Cénac et Saint-Julien (Dordogne): Paléoenvironnements, chronologie et activités humaines. Edited by J.-P. Rigaud, 535–564. Mémoires de la Société Préhistorique Française 19. Paris: Société Préhistorique Française.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  Binford’s analysis led him to the conclusion that two different mechanisms had introduced the remains of herbivores into this site. Tahr, chamois, and roe deer had been brought in by carnivores, while horse, red deer, and large bovids had been scavenged by Neanderthals and a subset of their remains transported to the site.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Binford, L. R. 1988b. Fact and fiction about the Zinjanthropus floor: Data, arguments, and interpretations. Current Anthropology 29:123–135.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1086/203618Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Following up on the argument in Binford 1981 (cited under Learning from Hunter-Gatherers) that hominins scavenged the fauna on the Zinjanthropus floor, Binford examined cut marks on the bones, which in comparison with sites elsewhere suggested to him that by the time the Olduvai hominins got to the carcass little meat was left, only marrow, and hence it was unlikely food sharing had occurred.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Binford, L. R. 1988c. Were there elephant hunters at Torralba? In The evolution of human hunting: Proceedings of the Field Museum of Natural History Ninth Annual Spring Systematics Symposium on the Evolution of Human Hunting, Chicago, Illinois, held May 10, 1986. Edited by M. H. Nitecki and D. V. Nitecki, 47–105. New York: Plenum.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      The answer, Binford argued, was “no.” Instead, his analysis of this widely accepted case of Middle Paleolithic elephant hunting indicated a minimal hominin presence and the accumulation of marginal animal parts, suggestive of having been scavenged from elsewhere on the landscape. This was little more than “ad hoc exploitation … performed by poorly equipped hominid groups” (p. 103).

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Bunn, H. T., and E. M. Kroll. 1988. Reply to Binford: “Fact and fiction about the Zinjanthropus floor: Data, arguments, and interpretations.” Current Anthropology 29.1: 135–149.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        Bunn and Kroll’s sharp response criticizes Binford for using flawed data; disagrees with his Nunamiut-informed notions of how, whether, how often, and under what circumstances cut marks will appear; argues that spatial patterning of refit bones indicated sharing of meat; and that Binford’s “unproductive” attempt to polarize debate did little to advance understanding of the formation of this faunal assemblage.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Grayson, D. K., and F. Delpech. 1994. The evidence for Middle Paleolithic scavenging from Stratum VIII, Grotte Vaufrey (Dordogne, France). Journal of Archaeological Science 21:359–376.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1006/jasc.1994.1035Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Reexamination of the original Vaufrey data, and Binford’s data and analyses, yielded results “dramatically different” from those Binford reported. Grayson and Delpech claimed the deer and horses specimens were scavenged, and that the claim that the tahr, chamois, and roe deer were brought in by carnivores was not supported by the cut mark and carnivore data (neither Binford’s nor the original data). Binford’s study, they concluded, was “fatally flawed.”

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Shipman, P., W. Bosler, and K. Davis. 1981. Butchering of giant geladas at an Acheulian site. Current Anthropology 22.3: 257–264.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1086/202663Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                            In the Olorgesailie bones, Shipman and colleagues see a pattern of breakage and representation that is distinct from that in Theropithecus remains from other (noncultural) sites, indicative of an assemblage of individuals “killed at intervals and brought back to the campsite for butchering” (p. 263). A more interesting question was not whether hominins preyed on Theropithecus at Olorgesailie, but why?

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Villa, P. 1990. Torralba and Aridos: Elephant exploitation in Middle Pleistocene Spain. Journal of Human Evolution 19.3: 299–309.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1016/0047-2484(90)90071-ISave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Villa observed, contra Binford, that one could not altogether dismiss Middle Paleolithic “organized elephant exploitation,” given evidence seen at other sites of this time period. Either hominin behavior was highly variable (including both hunting and scavenging), or—equally possible—the evidence from Torralba on which Binford based his analysis was too disturbed and ambiguous to support his far-reaching conclusions.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              Expanding the Scope and Scale of Inquiry

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Binford had spent the 1970s and 1980s with or writing about the Nunamiut. From that intensive study of a single North American hunter-gatherer group, he expanded his scope and began accumulating ethnographic data toward the goal of producing a major study of hunter-gatherers worldwide. That effort began in earnest in the early 1990s, coinciding with his move from the University of New Mexico to Southern Methodist University, and the effort consumed much of his attention throughout the decade. As he was systematically gathering ethnographic data, he began compiling information on global environments in order to probe the relationship between environmental parameters and hunter-gatherer adaptive strategies. To use the ethnographic data productively in the service of archaeological goals (Binford 2001), he also worked with climatologist Reid Bryson, who was then developing models for reconstructing past climates, from which projections could be made of past temperature and precipitation, and other ecologically meaningful measures, such as net above-ground productivity. There were relatively few publications on this work that emerged in the 1990s (e.g., Binford 1990, Binford 1999), in contrast to Binford’s prolific output in previous decades. Instead, the results came together in Binford 2001, his last major book, and by far his most massive. The volume sought to identify and understand global patterns and variation (present and past) in hunter-gatherer mobility, technological organization, site structure, demographics, and adaptation (among other features), along with their underlying adaptive and ecological principles. It was an extraordinary effort to bring order to hunter-gatherer organization, but one that received mixed reviews—praise for the data brought together and the effort to do more than the standard “cross-cultural” approach, for example, but wariness (bordering in places on outright skepticism) for the analytical results. So, too, there was disappointment in Binford’s longstanding reluctance (see Binford 1983, pp. 219–220, cited under Autobiographies and Interviews) to make use of well-developed theory pertinent to his project—in this case the framework of behavioral ecology—in favor of his own idiosyncratic alternative. Laudable in many ways as this magnum opus is, as O’Connell 2011 (cited under Biographies and Appraisals) observes, “it also represents an extraordinary missed opportunity” (p. 87).

                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Binford, L. R. 1990. Mobility, housing and environment: A comparative study. Journal of Anthropological Research 46.2: 119–152.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                In exploring the relationship among modern foragers between the degree of mobility and patterns of subsistence with the relative investment in storage and housing, Binford spotted distinctive latitudinal patterns, which he related to effective temperature. Such patterns have archaeological implications, not least for shifts over time from hunting to gathering and domestication, ultimately to the development of cultural complexity.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Binford, L. R. 1999. Time as a clue to cause? Proceedings of the British Academy 101:1–35.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Binford developed the concept of a population “packing threshold,” and how hunter-gatherers shift their subsistence strategies to cope with increases in their numbers. Using Bryson’s paleoclimate model, he projected population growth rates across Late- and Post-glacial Europe, estimated the timing when packing thresholds are reached locally, and speculated about what this reveals of why and how domestication and agriculture spread across Europe.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Binford, L. R. 2001. Constructing frames of reference: An analytical method for archaeological theory building using ethnographic and environmental data sets. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    A voluminous, dense, and complicated work, Constructing Frames of Reference brings together Binford’s review of centuries of ethnographic research among hundreds of foragers, and seeks to understand patterning among those groups in terms of climatic and environmental conditions—all as frames of reference for understanding patterning in the archaeological record.

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