Conjunctive archaeology

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Conjunctive archaeology is a method of studying of the past developed by Walter Taylor in the 1940s that combined elements of both traditional archaeology and the allied field of anthropology. It is exemplified by Taylor's A Study of Archeology (1948).

Taylor saw archaeology as an integrated discipline, combining the study of diet, settlement patterns, tools and other elements to provide a holistic view of the past. This approach, along with Taylor's open and specific criticism of leading archaeologists of his day, caused dismay amongst many archaeologists at the time, but Taylor's approach is now a standard practice in the discipline.

Taylor was one of the first to criticize the descriptive, historical approaches to archaeology that dominated the discipline. According to Patty Jo Watson, Taylor's purpose "was not to generate ill will but rather to stimulate examination ... of aims, goals and purposes by American archaeologists".[1]

Walter Taylor's Influence[edit]

Walter Taylor was the founder of conjunctive archaeology. He was born in Chicago and studied at Yale. He saw archaeology as a discipline that was multifaceted, and tried to focus on Anthropology and Archaeology to form a well-balanced and all-consuming study. Taylor was one of the first in the field to begin to criticize other archaeologists in his field. To spread the word of his theory and criticism, he formed the thinking for his book, A Study of Archaeology, where he discussed conjunctive archeology. In the book he stated that, "Conjunctive meant that Archaeology should be an integrated science, combining research into diet, settlement patterns, tools, the works."[citation needed] With these ideas, came Taylor's hope for inclusion in modern archaeology of today. His work, however large of an impact, was slowly brought into the era of "New Archaeology", it happened piece by piece.

Taylor's A Study of Archaeology provided a number of firsts. First, it was the history of Americanist archaeology. It was also the first examination of the concept of culture in archaeology. I was also the first in-depth discussion of typology. Lastly, as previously mentioned, it held the first major critiques of American archaeology. Many leaders in the field and their students saw the critiques as a personal attack. For example, Patty Jo Watson claimed that Taylor's purpose "was not to generate ill will but rather to stimulate examination of aims, goals and purposes by American archaeologists".[citation needed] Watson and others responded personally to Taylor's claims and ridiculed him until his death.[citation needed]

During the 1960s, many archaeologists and scholars began reflecting on the origins of the New (Processual) Archaeology, and they most often cited Walter Taylor to do so. Actually, Taylor himself engaged with the fact that he was a large contributor to New Archaeology. He debated with Lewis Binford. Taylor challenged Binford, and fought that many ideas that were around today and long ago, and were also the basis to his conjunctive approach. Taylor went on to say that A Study of Archaeology contains the majority of ideas that are claimed by the New Archaeology.[citation needed]

Referencing his own book, Taylor says that all of the following were pulled directly or indirectly from his conjunctive approach: ideas regarding the nature of culture (including its variability) and culture process; hypothesis testing and the importance of inferences; and a systemic view of cultural context. He does allow Binford the credit for persistence and benefiting from the use of some new technologies. These claims made by Taylor may have a bitter taste, but they are almost all backed by various scholars.


  1. ^ Patty Jo Watson, Foreword to the 1983 edition of A Study of Archeology. Center for Archaeological Investigations, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.[page needed]