Friday, May 3, 2013

New in the journals

I am catching up on my on-line journal reading today, and a couple of things caught my eye.

(1) Make your arguments and reasoning clear and explicit.

The current issue of the Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory is a theme issue of papers on evolutionary archaeology, each of which contains a "logicist diagram." These diagrams show the relationships between what the issue co-editors (Valentine Roux and Marie-Agnès Courty) call the two components of research: data and inferences:

"Highlighting these two components and proposing their reading under the form of a diagram allow a rapid reading of the rules of inference used by the researchers to support a result and, in return, better sharing of knowledge within the discipline."

I will need to stare at these diagrams and read some of the papers more fully to understand this system in more detail, but this general procedure -- diagramming one's inferential process -- is an excellent practice. I do it informally quite a bit. It helps sort out things like the epistemological role of comparative data and models in one's argument. For example, am I using Netting's smallholder model to understand or explain my data, or am I using my data to confirm or extend the applicability or Netting's model in my area? I see this kind of confusion often when reviewing articles and proposals (and also when reading journals, unfortunately). Drawing a diagram is often the best way to sort these things out. This is one way to improve your arguments, something that archaeologists need to pay more attention to. Check out the issue, and the introductory paper.

Roux, Valentine and Marie-Agnès Courty
2013    Introduction to Discontinuities and Continuities: Theories, Methods and Proxies for a Historical and Sociological Approach to Evolution of Past Societies. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 20(2):187-193.

Inka Farce T-shirt
(2) The Inka empire used farce to subdue its provincial subjects! And you probably thought they were boring, heartless bureaucrats without a sense of humor. Here is part of the abstract of a paper in Antiquity: "the authors show how the Inka did not just use farce, production and ritual to subdue the indigenous population."

This must be a typo in the online abstract of the article. I don't have access to the pdf, but I hope the abstract is correct in the journal and the pdf!

Acuto, Felix A., Andrés Troncoso, and Alejandro Ferrari  (2012)  Recognising strategies for conquered territories: a case study from the Inka North Calchaquí Valley. Antiquity 86:1141-1154.

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