Saturday, September 20, 2008

Publishing Archaeology: What do we mean by “urban”? Comments on definitions and standards of scholarship

If I was teaching my method and theory class fall (I'm not as I'm on sabbatical - w00t). I would have my students ready this discussion by Michael Smith about the use of terminology in archaeology. I would ask them to write a short essay which asks them to consider "Why is Smith arguing that we need definitions and standards of scholarship in archaeology? What assumptions is he making about the discipline and what it lacks? What else might be contributing to this problem? What solutions are there?." I think most of my ANTH 455/555 (Archaeological Method and Theory I: Formal Theory) students could provide a decent evaluation of what Smith is arguing.

Publishing Archaeology


Monday, September 15, 2008


What do we mean by “urban”? Comments on definitions and standards of scholarship


What do we mean by “urban”? Can archaeologists define terms like this however we please? Should journals go along with idiosyncratic definitions?


In a recent article in the journal Science, Michael Heckenberger et al (2008) use the term “urban” to describe large village settlements in the Xingu region of the Amazon from the late Pre-Columbian period. These sites conform to no published or recognized definition of “urban” that I am aware of. They are far too small to fit the demographic definition of urbanism and they do not have concentrated urban functions required by the functional definition of urbanism (for discussions of these approaches to urban definition, see Smith 1989, 2008b). I sent off a letter to the editor of Science pointing this out, but as usual, the letter was not accepted. You can see it here.

My concern here is with the issue of i [From Publishing Archaeology: What do we mean by “urban”? Comments on definitions and standards of scholarship]


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