Reading three different archaeological syntheses more or less simultaneously has put me in an advantageous position to critique the various perspectives utilized in the the composition of a summary volume. The three books cover North America, the Southeast, and the Lower Mississippi Valley, and range from oldest to newest respectively. They also represent a spectrum of thought from cultural evolution, to culture history, and finally to evolutionary archaeology, the latter being the most processual of the lot. And yet I find the latter the most insecure of the three, chronically unsatisfied with the methods and perspectives held by regional archaeologists. While I’ve yet to compose a thorough critique of the LMV synthesis, I do feel it is important to note the North American and Southeastern syntheses are far more rewarding to read because they are composed by authors willing to accept the veracity of their data. As convinced as they are in their words, they are able to offer meaningful interpretations. While their perspectives may have been flawed, which we can now see with our 21st century eyes, I don’t think their work loses any of its impact. And the essence of their product is far more valuable to me than a volume composed largely of criticism and unbridled disdain for methodological eclecticm. Archaeology as a discipline is pre-paradigmatic at this stage, and I dare say it should always remain so. If we should ever adopt a unitary approach to our craft, I believe we may lose our critical faculties and stop challenging each other on the myriad of ways in which knowledge is created and/or “uncovered”.


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