Professor of African and Islamic Archaeology
Insoll, T. (2007). Archaeology. The Conceptual Challenge. London: Duckworth.

Insoll, T. (2007). Archaeology. The Conceptual Challenge. London: Duckworth.

Sample Chapter Available Here – Chapter 1. Introduction.

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The central question which this book seeks to explore is – are we trying to reconstruct a past in our own image, chained solely to our own unacknowledged emotional, intellectual, and philosophical traditions? Should we in fact attempt to look anew at the fundamental concepts we often take for granted and, seeing them as constructs of the relatively recent past, begin to acknowledge our limitations and perhaps engage more profitably with archaeological evidence in various ways? Concepts considered include time, age and experience, literacy, text and the oral/aural, colour, emotions and the senses, the wild and nature, and the global and local. Wittgenstein’s thought on the notion of family resemblance is taken as a starting point, yet the end result is not another nihilist offering based upon a post-modernist collapsed perspective, but rather a considered approach, which is ultimately positive in tone, owing a debt, if anything, to the philosophical outlooks of critical realism. Brief extracts of reviews include:

  • Dean J. Saitta in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.) (2008, 16, pp.673-4) states that the book, “packs a big and important message….Insoll provides good service with this book. We need to be continually vigilant about the concepts we use in interpreting the past….Insoll reminds us in a way that he also intends to be clear and jargon-free. Mission accomplished on both counts”.

  • Robin B. Weaver writes in Rosetta (Spring 2009) that, “this is a must read for students and researchers interested in current archaeological theory. It rewards repeated attention and will no doubt be widely read and debated”.
  • Monique Boddington notes in the Archaeological Review from Cambridge (2008, 23.1, p.155) that, “Archaeology. The Conceptual Challenge is well written and argued and Insoll considers clearly and in great depth the many different issues at play when we attempt to reconstruct the past from our modern perspective”.