Interpretations of the past are under constant critical scrutiny in archaeology. In recent decades, theoretical views have profoundly changed the conceptions of both "the past" and archaeologists' relationship to this object of study. However, our basic excavation and analytical methods have undergone little critical re-evaluation. Often archaeological discussions begin as if "data" were already established, independent of the research designs and analytical choices that produce them. Interpretation often ends at the lectern, but it has many beginnings within the traditional archaeological process.
Exploring how data is generated and interpreted by historical archaeologists, it is at the intersection of "dirt and discussion." The cases presented in this volume revisit old methods and previous scholarly approaches with new perspectives, along with incorporating the newest technologies available to understanding the past. Rethinking the classics and engaging with new modes of data creation also generate fresh theoretical approaches.
Using their own work as examples, the contributors explore the connections between methodology and interpretation. Between Dirt and Discussion advocates recentering the materials that make archaeology archaeology, in the hopes of reinvigorating dialogues about the historic past, and archaeological contributions to its understanding.
From the reviews:
"Anthropologists and related scientists look at what is necessary between digging up artifacts from historical periods and presenting findings to a conference.They do not champion some interpretive methodologies over others, but evaluate and critique methods they use themselves or have seen others use, with a goal of improving their internal consistency or their connection with larger theoretical and methodological contexts." (February 2007 Reference & Research Book News)
"The papers within the volume edited by Archer and Bartoy reveal how historical archaeologists are continuing to develop methodologies which allow data to be collected and analysed on a range of scales. ... Many of the methodological concerns explored here would also apply to other periods, and this is a book that should be examined in the library by many ... ." (Harold Mytum, Antiquity, Vol. 82, 2008)