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on 4 March 2010
Many students beginning an archaeology degree discover that at some point they will have to take a compulsory "theory" course. The serious student approaching the study of theory for the first time may feel adrift on a sea of '-isms' (culture-historicism, processualism, functionalism, post-processualism, determinism... etc etc!). This book is a thoroughly engaging introduction for the undergraduate, providing the foundation from which they can then explore theory in more depth in the works of archaeologists such as Hodder, Sherratt, and Meskell.

A superb book, written in entertaining and accessible style and required reading for archaeology undergraduates in the UK.
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on 3 March 2011
This is an incredibly digestible introduction to the `History and Theory of archaeology'. A subject that is vast and often tedious to study.

This book gives you a basic oversight without the jargon of more detailed books such as 'A History of Archaeological Thought' by Bruce Trigger; yet allows you to proceed to such books with a greater comprehension. It is most suited to the humble student of archaeology entering the hostile, argumentative - sometimes dull and sleep inducing - world of theory.

The theory behind the discipline is often something which is overlooked due to its daunting scale and heated debate; and what sometimes looks like futile bickering amongst elitist academics that don't appear to be doing much `real' archaeology.

It is, however, an extremely important area of study. It raises issues that are sometimes blindly overlooked and keeps archaeology in some manner of equilibrium. All approaches to the discipline have their upsides and downsides, and studying them helps you to identify these flaws and merits. This then allows you to enhance your own approaches to the practice and inference of archaeology.

Highly recommended for prospective archaeologists, university students, and even established archaeologists who have not had much contact with theoretical debates surrounding their discipline. Even those like myself studying archaeological science should take a look!
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on 11 November 2016
I have read the first edition of this book, and found it thought-provoking, though my main quarrel with it was that it raised questions and then failed to answer them. Of course, in any vital, growing field of knowledge there will be unresolved controversies. Any area where theoretical foundations are all settled, is probably undergoing fossilization itself. That said, I would have liked some attempt at resolution. By the final chapter, he seemed to be saying "we have all these different approaches, Marxist, feminist, interpretative, and they are all interesting, and they aren't listening to one another". All right, but where does this leave us?

One answer that occurred to me was, that the reason all these apparently contradictory approaches exist, is that they are all asking different questions. Perhaps all these questions need to be put. The theories may all at some point be seen to be leading to a common, higher-level appreciation of what past societies were about. They may all be telling the truth, but only parts of the truth, like the parable of the blind men and the elephant. But no, we are left dangling.

Another point was that while unwilling to criticize Marxist, feminist and all the other etcs, Johnson was happy to condemn "new" (now old) archaeology, with the standard text by Renfrew and Bahn coming in for particular scorn, for its message that there was after all some concensus in how archaeology was carried out in practice. Well, as it happens I recently chatted to a working archaeologist and asked him about all this. According to him, when you read the actual field reports of stars like Ian Hodder, it seems that how they actually do archaeology is really not much different to how the much despised new archaeologists did it. His books tell you one thing, and his research reports tell you another. Now I am not well enough informed to say whether this is true or not, but it does suggest to me that possibly, all this sound and fury of controversy is more to do with ensuring that you are one of the silverback alpha males in the subject, than with casting light on the truth, whatever that means.

This applies to the first edition. I haven't read this second version. It may be better. But to judge from the very brief extract available via the Amazon website, I doubt it. We still await the Newton of archaeology, or the Freud, or whoever your favourite system builder might be: or perhaps after all it is Godot we are waiting for.
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on 8 February 2013
This is recommended reading for my Archaeological Theory module and the book itself is great and I'd recommend it to anyone as a thought provoking introduction to archaeological theory.
However the kindle edition doesn't include page numbers which makes it useless to reference without a physical copy. As an academic piece of writing you'd think they'd include page numbers!

I'd reccomend buying the physical copy even though it us a little bit more expensive if you are going to use this in academia.
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on 28 October 2013
Easy to read. Essential book for anyone studying archaeology. It is informative and it tells you what you need. The kindle version doesn't give you the page numbers which is a down, as you then need a hard copy if you are using it as a reference.
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on 23 October 2012
The book came in earlier than I expected so that was a pleasant surprise. No problems with the product, all is good.
I'm currently using this book for my second year Archaeology degree so if anyone is searching for a book on archaeological theory, this is the book to go.
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on 14 November 2014
A clear ,readable , objective overview. Ideal for theory novices.
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on 18 December 2014
A great book for Archaeology students.
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on 28 January 2010
As an undergraduate Archaeology student I was persuaded into purchasing this 'major' seller of a book which would hopefully guide me into an often complex and puzzling subjest of Archaeological theory. I appreciate the introduction basis to the book yet Johnson has to be one of the most over-rated and distinctly disappointing of all Archaeological authors and writers in general. His attempt at simplifying this subject for students has led to an often patronizing and overly simplistic book which would hold more credence in a High-School classroom than within the framework of an Archaeological degree. His clear efforts to be 'down eith the students' has diluted the academic value and complexity of this subject as well as his own worth as an archaeologist. The fact that this rubbish is a bestseller within university degree courses is a great worry and should be to anyone with a love and genuine respect for this great discipline. I tried very much to enjoy and learn from this talked about book yet in the end I'd have rather counted sheep.
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