Traditional, Processual, and Post-Processual Archaeology

Around the 1960s there emerged a new development of archaeology we now call processual archaeology. "From the beginning, processual archaeology has been distinguished from traditional archaeology on the basis of its goals and the methods used to obtain them." (Processual Archaeology: Exploring Analytical Strategies, Frames of Reference, and Culture Process, ed. Amber L. Johnson, p11)

The methods used in, as well as the goals of, processual archaeology make it different from traditional archaeology. Traditional archaeology, also known as Cultural-Historical archaeology, involved the analyzing of data apart from the context from which artifacts are drawn, due to the artifact's separation from the context or seriation in which it lay. Therefore, traditional archaeology involved cataloging and analyzing artifacts and placing them in the chronology of the archaeological record.

On the other hand, processual archaeology involves the scientific method. All data is still important to the processual archaeologist, but the facts aren't good enough alone: an explanation of the data is required. Artifacts were used to determine how the people who created or owned such artifacts lived and thought.

Post-processualism stems from processualism. In fact, it is a criticism of its predecessor in that it challenges if we can know the lifestyle and belief systems of an ancient culture correctly at all. It's safe to say that the post-processualist sees all cultural-historical and processual archaeology as interpretations of the ancient through a modern lens.

If you want to learn more, read these related posts:

Traditional vs. Processual Approaches to Archaeology

An Intimate History: Post-Processualism


  1. Could you please explain the traditional archaeology in simpler terms?

    1. Hi Apex34, I wrote another post that explains a little more about traditional archaeology. I hope it helps.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts