The Archaeology of Science

Studying the Creation of Useful Knowledge

  • Michael Brian Schiffer

Part of the Manuals in Archaeological Method, Theory and Technique book series (MATT, volume 9)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xvi
  2. Part I

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 1-1
    2. Michael Brian Schiffer
      Pages 3-11
    3. Michael Brian Schiffer
      Pages 13-24
    4. Michael Brian Schiffer
      Pages 25-40
  3. Part II

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 41-41
    2. Michael Brian Schiffer
      Pages 43-52
    3. Michael Brian Schiffer
      Pages 53-63
    4. Michael Brian Schiffer
      Pages 65-77
  4. Part III

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 79-79
    2. Michael Brian Schiffer
      Pages 81-98
    3. Michael Brian Schiffer
      Pages 99-115
    4. Michael Brian Schiffer
      Pages 117-135
    5. Michael Brian Schiffer
      Pages 137-144
    6. Michael Brian Schiffer
      Pages 145-162
    7. Michael Brian Schiffer
      Pages 163-183
    8. Michael Brian Schiffer
      Pages 185-198
  5. Back Matter
    Pages 199-204

About this book


This manual pulls together—and illustrates with interesting case studies—the variety of specialized and generalized archaeological research strategies that yield new insights into science. Throughout the book there are templates, consisting of questions, to help readers visualize and design their own projects. The manual seeks to be as general as possible, applicable to any society, and so science is defined as the creation of useful knowledge—the kinds of knowledge that enable people to make predictions. The chapters in Part I discuss the scope of the archaeology of science and furnish a conceptual foundation for the remainder of the book. Included are basic principles of behavioral archaeology that, because they privilege people-artifact interactions, can be employed to frame new research on science.  The varieties of scientific knowledge—from observations to theories and everything in between—are defined in behavioral terms.  Next, Part II presents several specialized, but widely practiced, research strategies that contribute to the archaeology of science. These chapters contain fascinating case studies from the archaeological literature that illustrate how these strategies can be employed to formulate and answer research questions. 

                 In order to thoroughly ground the manual in real-life applications, Part III presents lengthy case studies that feature the use of historical and archaeological evidence in the study of scientific activities. Many of these chapters draw on unpublished archaeological reports that bring to light the material dimension of intriguing—sometimes once secret—science and technology projects, such as the Manhattan Project, Project Rover, and Thomas Edison’s “invention factories”, to name a few.  The Archaeology of Science: Studying the Creation of Useful Knowledge stimulates readers because it calls attention to a great many archaeological projects already accomplished and shows readers how they can contribute to expanding and enriching the archaeology of science.   This original concept provides both advanced undergraduates and graduates, as well as professional archaeologists, with a cornucopia of strategies and tactics for conducting original—indeed, exciting—research leading to term papers, theses, dissertations, and eventually publications.  


archaeology of colonization archaeology of nuclear establishments archaeology of the space age archaeometry artifacts of early modern science varieties of scientific knowledge

Authors and affiliations

  • Michael Brian Schiffer
    • 1
  1. 1.School of AnthropologyUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA

Bibliographic information