After squaring shoulders with Michael Shanks in a debate over fruitful learning strategies in archaeology – both emphasizing the pivotal importance of argument and the deployment of evidence – Lewis Binford reflects on the gains and losses of the New Archaeology of the 1960s and the Processual Archaeology it spawned. He goes on to discuss his ethnoarchaeological work with the Nunamiut and his relationship with these communities. He ends with an outline of what the academy should be doing for archaeology. (Editorial note: This conversation makes reference to a talk by Binford delivered on the previous evening at the Stanford Archaeology Center. Rather than remove references to this talk, an act that would obscure much of the flow of the conversation, the editors have provided contextualizing material where appropriate.)
Michael Shanks: Can we begin by trying to summarize some of the points you raised in your talk yesterday afternoon. With great clarity and detail you made a case for archaeology as science. You emphasized the working of science as a process that suits archaeology. Rather than a body of knowledge, you described science as what we do. Science is a practice which focuses on learning opportunities, and you described this as a learning strategy. This way of working and learning involves being explicit in our fundamental endeavor of constructing arguments. In this you emphasize clarity, rigor, and providing
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opportunities for people to deal with argument, offer critique, find problems, etc. In other words, this is a process which involves submitting work to a group of peers who assess it, perhaps verify its points, and then apply it to their own experiences and, in so doing, create a path to take the learning process forward.