M.A. Theses: Wayne C. Nelles, 1985

Archaeology, Myth, and Oral Tradition: A Problem in Specialization, Consciousness, and the Sociology of Archaeological Knowledge.

This thesis suggests that archaeologists often ignore or discount the use of myth and oral tradition due to an inadequate understanding of their potential contribution to archaeology, and that this is a condition directly related to problems of ideology, specialization and fragmentation within archaeology and related disciplines. Concomitant with specialization is the fact that knowledge systems such as archaeology exist in, and are constrained by a sociocultural context. This context insures a systematic selection of material data and theoretical frameworks which both define and limit archaeology. As a result, other bodies of knowledge such as myth and oral tradition are often precluded or ignored.

Examples are drawn from the literature to illustrate these problems, and to show that archaeologists and other scholars often assume and reinforce false or misleading dichotomies between myth and history or archaeology, and myth and science. It is suggested that such dichotomizing is an incorrect premise on which to engage in archaeological or historical work. Some discussion is provided on approaches which counteract this premise. As well, some examples are given which suggest successful correlation between myth, oral tradition, and archaeological or historical data.

Although some particular approaches or interpretations are provided for illustration, this thesis argues that an understanding of problems resulting from specialization, socialization, and ideology, is fundamental and requisite to any discussion of methodology or support for specific interpretations. To this end this thesis provides a critique of contemporary archaeology though concepts in the sociology of knowledge, mythology, ethnohistory, and philosophy. It points critically to many of the mythic dimensions, origins, and functions of archaeological thought and to a philosophy of archaeology generally, beyond a narrower approach in the philosophy of science adapted to archaeologica method. It also points practically to the use of myth and oral tradition in hypothesis testing, site survey and discovery, and generally in archaeological interpretation for outlining or explaining both culture history and culture process. This thesis suggests that these perspectives can and should be better integrated into discussions and application of archaeological theory and method, and more formally in the socialization of archaeologists.