ABSTRACT

In a recent summary of the potential contributions which “ethnoarchaeology” can make to model-building and explanation in archaeology, Michael Stanislawski defines this field of study as

the direct observation … of the form, manufacture, distribution, meaning, and use of artifacts and their institutional setting and social unit correlates among living, non-industrial peoples (1973:8).

While this definition is suitable for archaeologists interested solely in bettering their understanding of prehistoric socio-cultural systems, through the use of analogy and the direct historical approach, it ignores the fact that historical archaeologists also stand to benefit from the ethnographic investigation of material culture. Studies of the behavioral and cognitive dimensions of material objects should not be restricted to non-industrial contexts, if indeed such situations actually exist today. Rather, the scope of what has been called “ethnoarchaeology” should be expanded to include all ethnographic research concerned with material culture. In fact, the term “ethnoarchaeology” itself might be profitably discarded in favor of a broadened view of archaeology as a discipline. As James Deetz has argued:

… a coherent and unified body of subject matter entirely appropriate to the archaeologist is the study of the material aspects of culture in their behavioral context, regardless of provenience (1970:123).

In this expanded, ethnographic sense, archaeological fieldwork should involve not only the observation of actual behavior and the investigation of cognitive domains, but the eliciting of information about past behavior as well. In other words, provision should be made within archaeology for the oral history and folklore of material culture, particularly in the context of modern, industrial societies. It is the aim of this paper to provide some examples of how fieldwork in oral history and oral tradition which concentrates on material culture can contribute to a program of interdisciplinary historical archaeology. In addition, some ideas will be offered regarding the relationship between archaeological data from above and below the ground, and how the two might be connected in the study of British colonialism in the New World.