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Jean-Claude Gardin on Archaeological Data, Representation and Knowledge: Implications for Digital Archaeology

Abstract

This paper presents Jean-Claude Gardin’s distinctive approach to archaeological data, representation and knowledge in the context of his early engagement with semiotics and structural semantics and his grounding in fields as diverse as documentation, classification theory, material culture studies, argumentation theory and the philosophy of the human sciences. Pointing at Gardin’s ambivalence vis-à-vis the promises of automated classification and machine reasoning in archaeology, it shows that his approach goes beyond a normative, positivist conception of archaeological research, recognizing the contextual, theory-laden nature of archaeological data constitution, the priority of focusing on actual archaeological interpretation practices and the complementarity between narrative and formal representations of archaeological reasoning. It connects his early development of archaeological descriptive and typological metalanguages with his later elaboration of a theoretically informed approach to archaeological argumentation, analysis and publication, situates his logicist programme as a relevant contribution to the development of an archaeological “theory of practice”, grounded on reflexivity and modesty vis-à-vis the possibility of knowledge and the limits of scientism, and highlights aspects of Gardin’s work that point to potentially fruitful directions for contemporary research and practice in the field of archaeological informatics and digital humanities communication.

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Acknowledgments

The author wishes to thank Dr. Seamus Ross and the anonymous reviewers for constructive criticism and useful suggestions. This work has been partially supported by ARIADNE—Advanced Research Infrastructure for Archaeological Dataset Networking in Europe, a project funded by the European Commission Directorate General for Research and Innovation—SP4-Capacities e-Infrastructures Programme (Grant Agreement No. 313193).

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Dallas, C. Jean-Claude Gardin on Archaeological Data, Representation and Knowledge: Implications for Digital Archaeology. J Archaeol Method Theory 23, 305–330 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10816-015-9241-3

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Keywords

  • Jean-Claude Gardin
  • History of archaeological thought
  • Logicism
  • Data constitution
  • Knowledge representation
  • Archaeological reasoning
  • Digital publication