Social Theory and History in Behavioral Archaeology: Gender, Social Class, and the Demise of the Early Electric Car

Archaeology today, it is well known, lacks a unified theoretical framework. Two traditional paradigms – culture history, with its diffusionist theory, and new (or processual) archaeology, with its weak amalgam of neoevolutionary, ecological, and systems theory – have long dominated the discipline’s social theory, that is, the principles that explain variability and change in human behavior (Schiffer 1988b). Since the early 1960s, however, three additional theoretical frameworks have arisen, in part as reactions to the many shortcomings evident in the conceptual structure of new archaeology. Behavioral (e.g., LaMotta and Schiffer 2001; Reid et al. 1975; Schiffer 1976, 1992, 1995a; Schiffer and Miller 1999a; Skibo et al. 1995), evolutionary (e.g., Dunnell 1978, 1980; Hart and Terrell 2002; Hurt and Rakita 2001; O’Brien 2005; O’Brien and Lyman, 2002, 2003b; Teltser 1995), and postprocessual archaeology (e.g., Hodder 1985; McGuire 1992; Shanks and Tilley 1997) are minority programs whose advocates seek a wider following. In both evolutionary and postprocessual archaeologies, the major products are historical narratives. Behavioral Archaeology, however, strives to generate both historical narratives and general principles.

This chapter enters the arena of dispute with evolutionary and postprocessual archaeologies by presenting a case study in Behavioral Archaeology. The purpose is to showcase a behavioralist approach to building social theory and to constructing historical narratives. In Behavioral Archaeology, there are intimate and mutually reinforcing relationships between science and history.


Social Theory Behavioral Theory Performance Matrice Historical Narrative Favored Activity 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

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