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Archaeology and Apprenticeship

Body Knowledge, Identity, and Communities of Practice

Willeke Wendrich

Publication Year: 2013

Archaeologists study a wide array of material remains to propose conclusions about non-material aspects of culture. The intricacies of these findings have increased over recent decades, but only limited attention has been paid to what the archaeological record can tell us about the transfer of cultural knowledge through apprenticeship.

Apprenticeship is broadly defined as the transmission of culture through a formal or informal teacher–pupil relationship. This collection invites a wide discussion, citing case studies from all over the world and yet focuses the scholarship into a concise set of contributions. The chapters in this volume demonstrate how archaeology can benefit greatly from the understanding of the social dimensions of knowledge transfer. This book also examines apprenticeship in archaeology against a backdrop of sociological and cognitive psychology literature, to enrich the understanding of the relationship between material remains and enculturation.

Each of the authors in this collection looks specifically at how material remains can reveal several specific aspects of ancient cultures: What is the human potential for learning? How do people learn? Who is teaching? Why are they learning? What are the results of such learning? How do we recognize knowledge transfer in the archaeological record? These fundamental questions are featured in various forms in all chapters of the book. With case studies from the American Southwest, Alaska, Egypt, Ancient Greece, and Mesopotamia, this book will have broad appeal for scholars—particularly those concerned with cultural transmission and traditions of learning and education—all over the world.

Published by: University of Arizona Press

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pp. v-vi

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1. Archaeology and Apprenticeship: Body Knowledge, Identity, and Communities of Practice

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pp. 1-19

As archaeologists, we study material remains to pronounce upon a wide range of immaterial aspects, from cultural identity to the internal and external dynamics of sociocultural groups. The profession has developed from a simplistic equation of material culture with “a” culture (“a pot is a people”) to understanding ...

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2. Apprenticeship and the Confirmation of Social Boundaries

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pp. 20-42

Many paths can be followed to reach a full understanding of the complexity of craft production looking at apprenticeship procedures. To clarify the role of teaching and learning in the shaping of cultural identity and the reproduction of styles, a double case study explores apprenticeship through pottery making ...

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3. Social Contexts of Learning and Individual Motor Performance

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pp. 43-60

Motor habit can be analyzed through “microvariables,” an archaeological method used to identify the work of individual prehistoric potters. Based on an experiment designed to test the premises on which this method is based, I argue, contra Hill (1977), that motor-performance–related attributes are quite sensitive to their social contexts ...

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4. Knowledge Transfer: The Craftmen’s Abstraction

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pp. 61-78

The tacit knowledge of craftsmen is communicated not only by example but also through language. Carpenters in the past developed specialized terms for timber qualities, features of tools, and specific designs. It is possible to gain an understanding of the language of craftsmen by combining the study of archaeological timber ...

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5. Placing Ideas in the Land: Practical and Ritual Training among the Australian Aborigines

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pp. 79-98

Maurice Bloch (1991) divides learning into the acquisition of two forms of knowledge: linguistic-like knowledge and nonlinguistic, practical knowledge, involving the acquisition of skills. The division between knowledge and skill is extended by François Sigaut (1993, 111– 112), who differentiates between the practical side ...

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6. Apprentice to the Environment: Hunter-Gatherers and Landscape Learning

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pp. 99-118

How do you learn an environment? What skills does it take? What information do you need? In what situations is it best to learn for yourself, and when is it better to be instructed by others? Our common conception of learning a skill or craft is that it is based on observation, imitation, and, often, repetition of actions ...

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7. Lithic Raw Material Availability and Palaeo-Eskimo Novice Flintknapping

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pp. 119-144

For more than a century, archaeologists have replicated prehistoric lithic artefacts to understand stone tool reduction sequences (e.g., Cushing 1895; Holmes 1891). More recently, there is growing interest in identifying when and where people learned this skill and how the material signatures of novices differ from those of expert toolmakers ...

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8. Apprenticeship and Figured Ostraca from the Ancient Egyptian Village of Deir el-Medina

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pp. 145-170

A figured ostracon is a limestone flake or potsherd that bears a drawing or design on its surface, rather than, or in addition to, a text. Flakes of limestone and pieces of pottery were plentiful in ancient Thebes and readily available for sketching. Ostraca, a disposable medium, can be considered as remnants of learning by draftsmen from ancient Egypt. ...

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9. Craft Apprenticeship in Ancient Greece: Reaching beyond the Masters

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pp. 171-202

In the study of ancient Greek culture, the figure of the accomplished master artisan—in vase painting, wall painting, sculpture, gem cutting, or architecture—has been the protagonist. When ancient sources or signatures do not single out any masters in a particular period or craft, modern scholars designate “masters,” “painters,” or “architects.” ...

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10. Apprenticeship and Learning from the Ancestors: The Case of Ancient Urkesh

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pp. 203-223

A topic widely discussed by archaeologists interested in the development of identity in the prehistoric and early historic record is the growth of self-consciousness, a topic that has a long history in Syro-Mesopotamia. It is best exemplified by the exploits of Gilgamesh, a mythical third millennium king ruling the southern Mesopotamian city of Uruk ...

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11. Types of Learning in Apprenticeship

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pp. 224-239

Different attributes have been used to classify particular types of relationships as “apprenticeships,” especially by archaeologists and anthropologists interested in craft production, as demonstrated in the preceding chapters. Such attributes include the social context of learning, levels of performance skill, ...

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12. Writing Craftsmanship? Vocabularies and Notation Systems in the Transmission of Craft Knowledge

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pp. 240-254

In Western philosophy of science, academic knowledge is traditionally perceived as fundamentally different from the forms of knowledge embedded in craftsmanship. Theoretical knowledge is viewed as something that can be put into books, and taken out of them. Further, knowledge about something is viewed as qualitatively distinct from the subject; ...

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13. Recognizing Knowledge Transfer in the Archaeological Record

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pp. 255-262

The chapters in this volume provide a broad overview of theoretical and practical aspects of knowledge transfer and apprenticeship, but how can we, as archaeologists, recognize transmission of knowledge with all its inherent aspects of explicit and tacit training, body knowledge, identity, cultural practice, and communication? ...

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About the Contributors

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pp. 263-268

Harry Allen is an associate professor of archaeology in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Auckland. His teaching and research range from the history and archaeology of northern Australia and New Zealand to heritage conservation. ...


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pp. 269-276

E-ISBN-13: 9780816599301
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816507672

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2013