Indiana Jones and the Post-Processual Archaeologists

Everyone else is link­ing to the trailer, so I’ll link to a paper from The Norwegian Archaeological Review, ‘Why Indiana Jones is Smarter Than the Post-Processualists’ by John Bintliff.

The most remark­able fea­ture of this latest con­fer­ence was the way in which speaker after speaker, British and Continental, dis­played a total dis­reg­ard for affil­i­ation to ‘Processualist’ or ‘Post-Processualist’ fac­tions, and deployed an eclectic atti­tude to the vari­ous object­iv­ist and sub­ject­iv­ist approaches debated over in the last 20 years. Yet equally con­sist­ently, this mer­ger of formerly oppos­i­tional tra­di­tions within a new prag­mat­ics of prac­tice, saw the speaker ground­ing his or her feet on evid­ence, an archae­olo­gical record, test­abil­ity.

It dates from 1993, but has stood up well. The per­sist­ence of pro­ces­sual and post-processual camps in archae­ology and earn­est dis­cus­sion of them says much more about the social rela­tion­ships between archae­olo­gists than it does about the past.

I need to read more Wittgenstein.


When he's not tired, fixing his car or caught in train delays, Alun Salt works part-time for the Annals of Botany weblog. His PhD was in ancient science at the University of Leicester, but he doesn't know Richard III.

3 Responses

  1. Henrik says:

    No, you need to watch Indiana Jones more often 😉

  2. Alun says:

    True! :)

    A couple of years ago I went look at a temple in Cefalù. I’m not a con­fid­ent speaker of Italian, but I thought I’d be ok with ask­ing where it was when I got off the train. So after arriv­ing I asked a local, “Mi, scusi. Dove è il tem­pio mal­edetto?” I got a very odd look and the guy poin­ted to the top of the hill over­look­ing the town. About halfway up the hill I real­ised I should have asked “Dove è il tem­pio di Diana?”

    I’ve only ever seen Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom once, and that was in Italian the night before I went to Cefalù.

  3. Henrik says:

    Mi, scusi. Dove è il tem­pio maledetto?”


    Il tem­pio mal­edotto might just have been quite more reward­ing than the eng­lish lan­guage original!

    But the films are kind of funny. Not least because of all the (un?-)intentional meta-jokes about aca­demia and archaeology.

    Watching Indy in the com­pany of archae­olo­gists can be great fun (con­sider optional add-ons like the toast-every-time-you-spot-positivist-archaeological-practice drink­ing game…)