Analogy in Archaeology

Analogy as a means of interpreting archaeological data was introduced by Graham Clark, (Peregrine, 2001, p.6) who suggested its use to interpret data in archaeology. This was first taken well but with time critics started viewing the method as inadequate. he suggested that cultures that were known could be used to develop analogies of those cultures of the past that the archaeologist may be trying to study, for example to understand pre historic societies we can first understand those that are present now, like the indigenous people of Australia can be studied to infer information on people who lived in those indigenous times. Analogy has different uses in archaeology; it can be used in ethnographic analogy, in ethno archaeology and in experimental archeology depending on the task at hand (scher, 1961).

Ethnographic analogy; in this type of archaeology we use known ways and behavior of those who lived in the past that might have been recorded to come up with interpretations about our evidence (Gould, 1980, p.78). In history some of their behavior and ways of conducting their daily activities may have been recorded .for example the use of stones as tools or the use of hides as clothes, with this the archeologist may be able to make analogies that may in turn help him in interpreting whatever evidence they have collected.

The main advantage of using analogy in ethnographic analogy is the availability of the records that can help an archeologist understands what it was like in those days and be in a position to come up with interpretation about the evidence collected. a disadvantage that follows this method is that the information that is found may be found to be bias or irrelevant or at times the archaeologist may not find any ethnographic data relating to his study and this may force him to make very general analogies that may end up not help him in interpreting his evidence and may turnout to be quiet risky.

The other disadvantage or danger of using ethnographic records to come up with analogies to be used in data interpretation is that some archaeologists may not critically analyze and relate the data so that it can be used to interpret the evidence found. for example, the use of the hunters from the Kalahari desert to interpret evidence that was found in New Zealand , where the environmental conditions are completely different does not make sense and one may end up interpreting their data wrongly and may not know what exactly the evidence in hand may have meant.

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