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Stratum Plus. 2003-2004. №1

L. S. Klejn (St.-Petersburg, Russia)

How to Distinguish a Good Theoretical Archaeological Work of a Bad One?

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Pages: 482-486

It is much more difficult to establish some objective research evaluation criteria in theoretical archaeology than for a concrete processing of material. It is easier to elaborate some criteria for evaluation of theories (integral concepts), than for a theoretical research, for the latter includes contributions on some separate issues, separate concepts. However, it is possible to find some objective criteria for evaluation of theoretical works.
First, a very clear formulation of the question to be answered is one such criterion: it must be a question formulated through an interrogative sentence rather than a nominative one. To do this correctly, a theoretician must be well aware of everything the other researchers before him have done in theoretical archaeology, must have some practical experience and have enough knowledge of theoretical directions in adjacent disciplines (which means three more criteria).
Second, a good work is distinguished from a bad one by the logical argumentation and explicit style. Tangled phrases with German syntax, abundant Greek-Latin words and English pronunciation will not improve understanding. Metaphors used instead of definitions and the old set of concepts dressed in a fashionable terminology will not make the work either modern or interesting. Third, a good work does not fear the question: so what? It gives birth to something new, it changes something in understanding of the material and the problem.
Fourth, it is desirable to evaluate the talent, which is difficult to formulate and easy to see at the same time. The talent of a theoretician is determined through associative and combinatory skills, ability to grasp the whole range of phenomena in a system, to distinguish its various configurations behind the chaos of particularities, through a dialectal and paradoxical mentality.


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