By the same authors

There's more than one way to skin a cat: equifinality and developer-funded archaeology

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper




Conference36th Annual AEA Conference: From Anthrosphere to Lithosphere (and back again): A Celebration of the Career and Research of Terry O’Connor
CountryUnited Kingdom
Conference date(s)6/11/158/11/15

Publication details

DateUnpublished - 8 Nov 2015
Original languageEnglish


Inspired by Terry's teaching and a question he posed at the AEA Spring Conference, this paper looks at equifinality in the everyday context of commercial archaeology. Equifinality, the idea that there are often different ways to arrive at the same answer, is intrinsic to archaeology, in particular to environmental archaeology and taphonomic studies. The question Terry posed - could perforated and strung shells be used as a
something more practical, like an abacus, rather than being purely decorative - was a reminder that we need to constantly challenge our assumptions, or natural interpretations. Using a range of environmental (and wider) archaeological case studies from the commercial sector, this paper will critically explore a number of questions. Are we offering alternative interpretations for our results? Where we are limiting our explanations - what is constraining us? And more importantly, what enables us to venture to offer different ideas? While there are inevitably considerable restraints (e.g. time, budgets) within the commercial sphere, we ultimately hope to illustrate that although this is an area we perhaps need to be more aware of - our 'skinning techniques' have adapted to our restraints.

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