Reconstructing Prehistory

Scientific Method in Archaeology

James A. Bell
Book Cover

PB: $40.95
EAN: 978-1-56639-160-3
Publication: Jun 94

HC: $83.50
EAN: 978-1-56639-159-7
Publication: Jun 94

368 pages
6 x 9

A bold new method of theorizing about the prehistoric past

Read an excerpt from Chapter 1 (pdf).


Reevaluating the method of scientific investigation, James A. Bell provides a bold philosophical framework for developing and assessing archaeologists' theories of the past. More informed and judicious decisions, the author asserts, are made when archaeologists explore questions such as:

  • How can theories be formulated so that they increase understanding and provide insight, and are theories still useful when they do not?

  • How can theories be adjusted when anomalies are revealed?

  • How can theories be assessed against competing theories?

  • When should theories be abandoned, and when should they be pursued further?

With numerous examples from archaeology as well as comparative examples from the physical and biological sciences, Bell illustrates how exploring the answers to these and related inquiries will lead to improved formulation and testing of theories.

Table of Contents


Part I: The Context and the Issues
1. Controversy Over Method in Theoretical Archaeology
2. Issues in Theory Building and Assessment
3. Testability

Part II: The Philosophical and Methodological Roots
4. Induction
5. The Paradigmatic View of Science
6. The Refutationist View of Science
7. The Anarchic View of Science

Part III: Individualism and Cognitive Archaeology
8. Holism, Individualism, and Empathy
9. Cognitive Archaeology


About the Author(s)

James A. Bell is Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Philosophy Department at the University of South Florida.