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Evidence, Inference and Enquiry$
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Philip Dawid, William Twining, and Mimi Vasilaki

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780197264843

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197264843.001.0001

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Critical Distance: Stabilising Evidential Claims in Archaeology

Critical Distance: Stabilising Evidential Claims in Archaeology

(p.371) 14 Critical Distance: Stabilising Evidential Claims in Archaeology
Evidence, Inference and Enquiry


British Academy

This chapter adopts a philosophical perspective on evidential reasoning in archaeology. It argues that strong relativist and scientistic positions in debates within anthropological archaeology are both based on simplistic assumptions. The ‘scientists’ set standards of credibility that are too high, while the relativists underestimate the confirmatory power of epistemically independent lines of evidence. The chapter outlines a model of evidential reasoning based on archaeological practice that integrates insights drawn from philosophical theories of confirmation, model building, and hypothesis testing. Given growing interest in the uses of material evidence in fields that had been resolutely text-based, the archaeological principles of evidential reasoning may have much wider reach than this particular social/historical discipline.

Keywords:   evidential reasoning, evidence, anthropological archaeology, scientists, relativists, confirmation, model building, hypothesis testing

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