David L. Clarke and Analytical Archaeology (Or, 'The Life of a Graudate Student')

... or should I say "Archeology."

Analytical Archaeology by David Clarke is a medium size blue book about methods in archaeology that, during the 1970s and 1980s was probably required reading in all graduate level method and theory archaeology classes. It may still be in many cases. Clarke was one of the founders of "processual" archaeology. Processual archaeology represented a theoretical shift in archaeology to come into closer alignment with broader anthropological theory extant at the time, in the post Willey and Phillips (1958) period when every tenth paper about archaeological theory had the words "archeology", "anthropology" and "is" in the title.

But Analytical Archaeology is not really about processual archaeology as much as it is about British concepualizations of Middle Range Theory. All working archaeologists who are not familiar with this book should read it. Yeah, it's out of date, but it is still in its own way inspiring.

I have two stories to tell about this book.

The first story is not mine. It belongs to a colleague, whom I will call F.G. in order to protect the innocent (F.G. himself not being one of the innocents, I'm sure). It's really a very simple story. F.G. was brilliant as a graduate student, but he was also a bit of a renegade, and he (according to him) never quite got on board with the teachings of his mentors at the major, Famous University he went to. In 1976, F.G. was about to undergo his General Exams that would (or would not) allow him to continue on as a graduate student. He was in a department famous then (and for some time thereafter, perhaps even today) for it's culling practices. Fifty percent of the students were culled from the PhD program by this General Exam. And F.G. knew he would be one of them.

His fears were realized as the exam started, based on the kinds of questions he was getting and the kinds of responses he received for his lame answers. But the exam had not quite yet turned into the bloodbath it would presumably become when the Department Secretary came into the conference room, interrupting the examination, to make an important announcement.

"David Clarke is Dead."

David Clarke was revered in this department, and the news was so devastating that the examiners ... senior faculty all ... forgot what they were doing and wandered off in a daze. Later, no one could recollect how the exam had gone (except F.G. of course, who was left rather hanging by this event).

Since no one could really remember what had happened, they really couldn't fail him. So they let him stay. F.G. eventually became a credit to the department. In his own way.

The second story is not as good, but it is my own. But don't worry, it's shorter.

When I was a graduate student I attended the required seminar in Archeology Method and Theory. Each week, we were provided with a list of books, and each of us was to select a book, read it, write up a summary, make a copy of the summary for all the other students in the seminar, and lead a discussion of the book. This is what we did each week.

During the third week of the class, by the time it came round to my turn to choose a book, there were only two left on the list: David H. Thomas' "Figuring Anthropology" (a stats book) and David Clarke's "Analytical Archeology."

I had read them both already. As a new graduate student, I felt that I should challenge my self each week in this seminar, but I also knew that of all the people in the class, I was going to have the least difficulty with the stats book, because that was kinda my thing and I had not only read it before, I had used it constantly since it has been published a few years earlier. So for the greater good, I picked DHT's stats book, even though I would have much preferred to re-read Clarke.

And off we all trudged to the Tozzer Library to find our books. Except me. I already owned a copy of the book I was to read. But I went to the library anyway, because there was something else I needed to get.

And as I was wandering around in the stacks, I ran into a fellow student, now an accomplished archaeoloigst working at a Midwestern university (I'll call her B.A.). BA had chosen Clarke. Now, she was holding Clarke's book thumbing through it, and scowling. She looked up and saw me, and said "Hey, you picked that 'figuring anthropology' book, right?"

"Ah ... for the seminar? Yes, I did. Why?"

"Can we switch? This book is full of numbers. I didn't realize it was all about mathematical modeling and stuff. I'm not really into that. I'd rather read your book."

"OK, whatever ... I'm sure Thomas is still on the shelf," I said, as I took Clarke out of her hands and headed off.

The next week, B.A. confided to me before class: "Figuring Anthropology! Who would have thought it was a stats book!!!!"

But she did a good job at summarizing it. As though you could summarize a stats book, really....

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