The Triviality of the New: Innovation and impact in archaeology and beyond

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What drives archaeology? Is it new empirical discoveries, new methods or new theory? These factors combined are the fuel of the discipline, is the obvious answer. However, debates and research articles frequently reveal how a perceived need for novelty, originality and impact tends to disentangle this triumvirate of archaeological virtues, giving precedence to one asset over others as the supposed driving force. Focusing on archaeological theory,
this article taps into current discussions of the nature of archaeological change, reviewing debates on the formation of archaeological theory, its legitimisation and usefulness. Specifically, I address a recent claim that archaeological theory too readily undermines itself by adopting immature ideas and concepts from other disciplines in an uncritical pursuit of novelty. Finally, I discuss how archaeology may contribute more generally to the formation of theory in the humanities by returning so-called borrowed theory.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCurrent Swedish Archaeology
Pages (from-to)93-117
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2019

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Humanities - Archaeological theory, novelty, impact, borrowing, Object-Oriented Ontology

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