Topics: Anthropology, Archaeology, Culture Pages: 24 (7195 words) Published: March 31, 2013
Durham Research Online
Deposited in DRO:
22 January 2013

Version of attached file:
Accepted Version

Peer-review status of attached file:

Citation for published item:
Garrow, D. and Yarrow, T. (2010) ’Archaeology and anthropology : understanding similarity, exploring difference.’, Oxford: Oxbow.

Further information on publisher’s website:
http://www.oxbowbooks.com/bookinfo.cfm/ID/87549 Publisher’s copyright statement: Additional information: Sample chapters deposited. Chapter 1: ’Introduction : archaeological anthropology’ by Duncan Garrow and Thomas Yarrow, pp. 1-12. Chapter 2: ’Not knowing as knowledge: asymmetry between archaeology and anthropology’ by Thomas Yarrow, pp. 13-27.

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2. Not Knowing as Knowledge: asymmetry between archaeology and anthropology Thomas Yarrow

Asymmetry This paper explores the widespread understanding that archaeology and anthropology exist in an asymmetrical relationship to one another characterized by an archaeological theoretical ‘trade deficit’. While the paper questions the basis on which this asymmetry has been imagined, it explores the effects that this has had. Through examining how archaeologists and anthropologists have historically imagined the relationship between these disciplines, the article sets out to understand the implications of this asymmetry for both. Rather than seek to redress this asymmetry, it demonstrates how asymmetry has in fact been archaeologically productive, leading to an explicitness about archaeological procedures and their limits and concomitantly to an openness to other disciplinary insights. On the other hand, for anthropologists the perception of asymmetry simultaneously arises from and leads to assumptions that have foreclosed certain lines of enquiry, relating to a disciplinary narrowing of horizons.

In the introduction to An Ethnography of the Neolithic, Chris Tilley starts by describing an archaeological fantasy that is revealing of wider assumptions both about the kinds of knowledge that archaeologists and anthropologists produce and about the relationships between these disciplines:


I have sometimes imagined what it might be like to be transported back into the past in a time capsule, to arrive somewhere in Sweden during the Neolithic and to be able to observe what was really going on, stay for a couple of years and then return to the late twentieth century and write up my ethnography. I have thought how much richer, fuller and more sophisticated the account would be. I would actually know who made and used the pots and axes, what kind of kinship system existed, how objects were exchanged and by whom, the form and nature of ethnic boundaries, the details of initiation rites, the meaning of pot designs and the significance of mortuary ceremonies. (Tilley, 1996: 1)

Tellingly, whilst such archaeological fantasies of time-travel are common, the corresponding fantasy does not seem to capture the anthropological imagination: anthropologists, to my knowledge, do not often fantasize about the possibility of travelling forwards in time and viewing their own field-sites through the material remains of the people who once lived there. Why might this be? My suggestion is that the asymmetry is indicative of a wider perception,...
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