4. The ‘Third Science Revolution’ in Archaeology
How do new scientific methods revolutionize archaeological theory and practice?
In 2014 Kristian Kristiansen, a former President of the EAA, confessed that “we are right now experiencing the most exciting of times in archaeology – at least during my own lifetime”. In the last decade, according to Kristiansen, we are witnessing the ‘Third Science Revolution’ in archaeology. The ‘first science revolution’ would have taken place in the period between 1850–1860 when archaeology profited from the scientific breakthroughs in the fields of cultural, biological and geological evolution; the ‘second science revolution’ around 1950–1960 with the common usage of nuclear power and the introduction of Radiocarbon dating in archaeology. For Kristiansen recent developments linked to the ‘third science revolution’ in archaeology are in the fields of (1) ‘Big Data’, (2) new quantitative modelling and (3) results from A-DNA, strontium isotopes and related scientific methods. These developments have already been discussed at former EAA meetings, as in Glasgow in the “Science and archaeology” session or in Vilnius in the session “Science and Multidisciplinarity in Archaeology”. The Maastricht EAA meeting would like to address these developments again because of their profound and wide ranging impact on practice and theory in archaeology for the years to come. Issues raised can range from technological problems related to the development of new methods, the (non-)applicability, quality and reliability of new analytical methods, and problems related to the interdisciplinary cooperation between archaeologists and (natural) scientists. Questions to be answered could include: What effect have digitalization and big data on our way to understand reality and act in it? Where do these new trends take archaeological theory and interpretation? Do we experience, as Kristiansen stated in 2014, the collapse of processual and post-processual frameworks and are in a period of theoretical and methodological experimentation and reorientation? How does the application of new technologies and methods lead to new interpretations and to a new combination of the scientific and narrative side in archaeology? Is this integration possible, affordable or desirable? Does scientific-led archaeology offer a critical understanding of the present and does it have transformative power as regards current social problems? More practical, how do the archaeological profession and heritage management really profit from the ‘Third Science Revolution’? What sort of influences in academic authority, disciplinary power and professional relations could cause a scientific-led practice?