Critique of Archaeological Reason
1. Introduction to the website


Giorgio Buccellati – February 2016
Giorgio Buccellati – March 2020

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Nature and limits of the website

The initial impetus for this website was to provide an enhanced documentary apparatus for the printed volume A Critique of Archaeological Reason. One reason was that I wanted to retain for the book a discursive style more in keeping with the nature of an essay, leaving footnotes for a different venue. A second reason was that, given the size of the printed volume, the website seemed like the best option to allow for a more complete bibliography and set of notes. In the process, it appeared useful to expand its scope so that it might serve as an open forum as well.

As the project developed, it became difficult to keep the same pace in the work on both the volume and the website. As a result, in its current version the website remains selective, in ways that I will explain in the section that deals with the website as a companion to the printed volume.

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In spite of these limitations, the current website aims for internal coherence as a self-contained whole. The very notions of an “introduction” and a “preface” imply a compositional unity as discussed in the printed volume (see also note 12.6.3). This concern for internal consistency within the website is at the basis of the choice of an ephemeris type archive for future versions of the website.

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The preliminary goal of the website project was to establish a template or framework for the website, designing it in such a way that it might allow for the inclusion of documentary material at different levels, ensuring a close integration of these levels. Alongside this, it was important to create input protocols that might allow collaborators to easily contribute to the overall construction of an integrated website. These two goals I consider to have been achieved.

There were then two major substantive goals. The first was to provide the bibliographical apparatus and supportive documentary notes for the printed volume. The second was to include expanded treatments on selected titles, authors and topics. These two goals have been achieved only in part in this first version of the website. It is, however, in the nature of a website to be open to an incremental development, because it has a flexibility that goes beyond the “fixity” of the printed volume while respecting it as a firm point of reference: it can both add pertinent information and expand the scope of the inquiry.

Thus the substantive goal of the website remains open ended. We will continue to work within the framework of the Critique Research Group, and successive versions will contain an archive providing a transparent trail of the revisions.

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Narrative and arguments

The structure of the website proposes a multi-linear discourse, which is developed along two main lines.

The first is that of the main narrative, presented in Part One. At this point, the narrative follows the one of the book by the same title as the website, A Critique of Archaeological Reason. Other books or papers will be added at some later date that develop alternative main narratives.

The second line, in Part Two, deals with arguments that run parallel with the narrative. The core of this section is the bibliography, where titles are given and commented on that impact on the main narrative. Next to the bibliography, there are other sections where arguments are developed in texts of varying length and complexity (excerpts, reviews, themes, monographs), each one serving the same purpose of offering parallel lines of argument to the one unfolding in the main narrative.

The links from Part Two to sections of the main narrative, and conversely the notes in Part One which link to Part Two, provide the scaffolding for the multi-linear dimension of the overall argument.

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The Urkesh Project

The origin of the book, and thus of the website, is to be found in the field work at Tell Mozan, the site of ancient Urkesh. The theoretical effort behind the excavation project came to be crystallized in the form of the book as now published, but it naturally remained firmly anchored to the project itself. Thus the Urkesh website is also closely linked to the aims of the Critique project, in that it serves as an exemplification of its principles.

The complexity of the Urkesh website is such that it has lagged behind. While the major parts are in place, it needs an overhaul of its introductory sections, so that its goals and nature may be more readily apparent. We are striving to make it accessible within a reasonable amount of time, and a future version of the Critique website will refer more explicitly to it. For the time being, anyone who is interested may request of the Urkesh webmaster the ID and passwords that will give access to it.

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Looking back

At all times, my research on archaeological theory went hand in hand with fieldwork, and my attention to digitality went hand in hand with programming. Accordingly, while aiming for rigor and coherence in developing an abstract argument, I have consistently been mindful of the implications of the very concrete feedback resulting from the operational side of practice. (This resulted at times in a disconnect between ambition and implementation, in ways that regularly reminded me of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver on Laputa…). The Critique website is a reflection of this process, because of the interweaving of different levels of information and of different moments in the development of a multi-layered argument.

The recurrent interchange between theory and practice was a constant reminder of the centrality of meaning in the midst of all efforts at analysis, reminding me that “grammar” must not become an end in itself, lest we fall prey to Erasmus‘s caustic condemnation. Similarly, in order to “remain capable of thought,” we should eschew the “stammering greatness” of Funes el memorioso. In fact, to ultimately access meaning, we must, with Bonaventure, keep wonder alive.

As one can tell, the website does not shy away from a personal tone

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