Material Meanings focuses on the social context in which things are produced and in which they are given meaning.
With firm roots in antiquarianism, archaeology began as the study and collection of things. Even today objects take center stage in many areas of archaeological inquiry. But the past few decades have seen a proliferation of the ways anthropological archaeologist analyze raw materials, tools, techniques, finished products, and discarded objects.
Material Meanings examines current approaches to material culture in the archaeological record from three perspective: ethnoarchaeology and technological traditions, material science, and theoretical approaches to materiality. The focus of this book is not on artifacts themselves but on the social context in which things are produced and in which they are given meaning, the technical choices of an artifact producer within a larger technical system, and their interpretation by modern researchers.
The chapters represent a broad range of theoretical perspectives, methods, and data sets. Several chapters consider methodological issues in reconstructing technical systems. Most contributions, however, apply this understanding to larger questions of social identity and ethnicity, emphasizing historical context or models of cultural process.