English summary

When archaeological knowledge is constructed

Jette Rostock

By applying symmetric archaeology this thesis examines how things and materiality take part in the archaeological practice and knowledge production. Studies of archaeological practice can provide a better understanding of the archaeological knowledge production and qualify future work on the professional development.

Usually archaeological science studies the past in order to learn about the past. Postprocessual archaeology, however, put the archaeological practice and knowledge production on the agenda as a study in its own right. Still this is not reflected in Denmark, where we have a more positivistic science tradition.

Archaeology has followed the modern way of thinking in dichotomies. Things have not been seen as having value in itself. The postprocessual archaeology attempts to confront modernity through the use of a symmetrical attitude. It is a key concern not to divide the world in humans and non-humans already before the analysis – all is regarded as equal.

Ethnographies of archaeological practice are ethnographic studies of the ways groups make their practices, rather than studies of their ways of thinking. With a symmetrical attitude the examined are not only archaeologists, but rather all the many entities involved, when archaeological knowledge is constructed. In the present work ethnographic studies at two different archaeological sites are carried out. The aim of the studies is not to judge whether or not the various methods are adequate, but rather to study what happens when archaeological knowledge is constructed, and how things (non-humans) take part in this process.

The study concludes that symmetric attitude in relation to ethnographies of archaeological practice can provide new insight into the complex process of archaeological construction of knowledge, where entities – archaeologists, tools, methods, machines, software etc. – take part. Further it becomes evident that knowledge does not exist – rather knowledge is performed and recreated over and over.