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Historical Archaeology in Global Perspective.

Also on the archaeology of colonialism and contact between Europeans and indigeneous peoples is the collection of essays in LISA FALK (ed.) Historical archaeology in global perspective (xiv+122 pages, 16 figures. 1991. Washington (DC) & London: Smithsonian Institution Press; ISBN 0-87474-413-X paperback |pounds~7.75). Three specialist studies on the Dutch presence at the Cape and at Fort Orange are sandwiched between wide ranging and rousing surveys by JAMES DEETZ and KATHLEEN DEAGAN of what historical archaeology is and ought to be. DEETZ defines the realm of historical archaeology by the expansion of Europe and its impact on everyone else's life (and death). This identification of what constitutes history, as ERIC WOLF pointed out in Europe and the people without history (oddly omitted from the bibliographies), leaves non-European pre-contact experience hanging in a peculiar definitional limbo: either prehistoric (but pre- whose history?) or ahistorical (worse still). This issue aside, the ideas here are stimulating stuff. Reminiscent of WOLF is DEETZ's emphatic claim: 'It is unlikely that any European ever met a Native American who was free of European influence . . . such a phenomenon as a fully unacculturated Native North American observed by anyone from the Old World probably never existed'. Both DEETZ and DEAGAN are adamant that a global, comparative approach is desirable, and indeed practically inevitable given the nature of the data. Even a bulldozed site in South Africa is of value if it turns up 18th-century Chinese porcelain. They also envisage historical archaeology as a revisionist discipline. Written records, as DEETZ states in a memorable phrase, are the product of 'a small minority of deviant, wealthy, white males'; historical archaeology by contrast, as DEAGAN sees it, is 'one of the most democratic of the social sciences'. This small, slim, inexpensive volume is one of the best value contributions to the Columbus 500th anniversary debates.
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Author:Broodbank, Cyprian
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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