Little, Barbara.  Text-Aided Archaeology.  Ann Arbor:  CRC Press, 1992.

Little asks how archaeologists should use texts to contribute to our interpretations and to provide ideas, information and suggestions on the use of sources.  This volume is intended to serve as "An exploration of relationships among our sources."  We must compare and contrast our methodologies, says Little, in order to refine our questions and analyses.  She also glosses, briefly, the effort to categorize sources themselves.

She groups the essays in this volume under three headings:  Complementary and Contradictory;  Archaeology as Myth Corrective; and Text and Context.  Potter and Purser, Hamilton, Singleton, Costello and Gasco offer papers discussing contradictory and complementary relationships between text and object.  Cleland, Vann and Humpf offer specific hypotheses and the results of the research they did.  Young, Rowland, McKee, Hood and Macpherson debunk myths. Mullins, Savulis and Shackel take on the relationship between text and context.

Middle-Range Theory, Ceramics and Capitalism in 19th Century Rockbridge County, Virginia
Parker B. Potter, Jr.

Parker employs middle range theory, which includes theories about organizational behaviors, in order to re-examine a previously-gathered body of data from Rockbridge County.  In order to pay better attention to organizational behavior, Parker suggests that researchers should seek out those documents written for a purpose that matches the organizational behavior the researchers wish to explore.  Potter uses data from the Washington and Lee High Hollows Research Project, one objective of which was to determine differences in living standards between plains (conceived of as wealthy) and the hollows (conceived of as poor).  Potter's first step was to read merchant's day-books on ceramic sales and decide what descriptors were significant of price categories (and which ones were assumed and unwritten).  Second, he recognized that plates are sold as sets, and that shards generally represent purchasable units.  Third, he created a formula that allowed a comparison of purchasable units.  Frequency in the High Hollows archaeological record could be replaced by a finer grained analysis of meaning.  Potter reminds his readers that "[a] heap of broken household discards says absolutely nothing about capitalism or anything else until the objects in the heap are named, interpreted, translated, spoken for. " (20)

Oral History and Historical Archaeology
Margaret Purser

Oral history ought to be included as a part of archaeological work and analysis.  Such work began in the 1970s, expanding academically to include other disciplines, and expanding geographically to include colonial sites, particularly in Africa.  Through internal debate in the field, historians have become more conscious of the role that they play in the creation of narratives and of the power structures embedded in research agendas.   The American Paradise Valley study explicated two "coexisting and competing versions of community history" (29):  one version which told of a sophisticated and bustling frontier town, the other of hardship, isolation and struggle with Indians.  This disparity, says Purser, can be understood through the changes in material culture in Paradise Valley.  Acknowledging and managing these gaps are an important part of understanding the past as a multi-layers and reified object. (note:  like an old Zagnut bar....?)

Simon Benning, Pewterer of Port Royal
D. L. Hamilton

Port Royal, Jamaica, was one of the two largest English towns in America until 1693 when about two-thirds sank into the Kingston Harbor; fortunately for archaeologists, the lost land was buried immediately and material remains are in situ.  The history of Simon Benning, Petwerer, pursued through wills and through the Worshipful Company of Pewterers of London is significantly supplemented through the identifying touchmarks found on plates pulled up from the harbor.  Because documents are not always filled out , the existence of Symon Benning, Jr., is made more certain by artifactual remains.  The Simon Benning Sr/Jrcase demonstrates the necessary iterative process from material to textual sources.

Using Written Records in the Archaeological Study of Slavery, An Example of from the Butler Island Plantation
Theresa A. Singleton

Documentation of slave histories is generally problematic:  those recording about slaves were concerned first with economic questions such as how much work is being done for how much gain?  Slaves themselves wrote their histories, but often these histories were recorded well after slavery ended. Health is more rarely a concern, but some documents on health do exist, and  Butler Island has very good health record for a local slave "hospital."  Archaeology at Butler Island was particularly illuminating on the related subject of provisioning, including diet, foodways, housing, household and personal objects.  These matters are not recorded as systematically, and comparing information on these topics with written documents like health records gives good insight into slave culture and life.

Not Peas in a Pod:  Documenting Diversity among the California Missions
? Costello

The Franciscan monasteries of St. Alta, California, changed from struggling start-up farms to international traders in about 35 years. Costello presents the analytic strategies used to integrate archaeological and documentary sources that are part of this story.  Costello analyzed individual missions by ceramics, agricultural production records and traveler's diaries.  The presence of English ceramics was one proxy measure for their involvement in international trade.  By using this combination he uncovered more variety in mission economics than might appear from a single source.   He concludes that missions differed in production because of their relative autonomy but more importantly, because of their planning and leadership as reflected in the material and documentary remains.

Documentary and Archaeological Evidence for Household Differentiation in Colonial Soconusco, New Spain
Janine Gasco

Gasco suggests that written household inventories can be of great use to archaeologists in order to better understand the available range of goods and the relative economic differences between MesoAmerican households. These inventories, she suggests,  should be gathered and published.   Soconusco is the focus of Gasco's research in this paper, but the economic and trade context for the glass, pottery and metal objects feature in much of her research.  Gasco believes that traces of local trade are also waiting to be unearthed through household inventories and could be a source for "processual/problem-oriented" archaeology.

From Ethnology to Archaeology:  Ottawa and Ojibwa Band Territories of the Northern Great Lakes
Charles E. Cleland

Ottowa and Ojibwa Bands in the Upper Great Lakes were relatively organized and fairly well documented in their interactions with the U.S. Government (c. 1812). -- but can these records tell us anything about their prehistoric Woodland past?  To make any analysis, some key assumptions must be made.  These include (1) a similar population density, (2) a similar rate of trade, and (3) that the kinds of goods required for subsistence were adequately found within the existing territorial bands. Since other economic and geographic factors changed, but the local unit remained, Cleland concludes "Local group size, as well as household size is probably determined by sociopolitical and ideological factors, rather than by economic ones." (101)

The Harbor Herod Built, the Harbor Josephus Saw
Robert Lindley Vann

Josephus's accuracy as a historian and his integrity as man have been questioned by just about every following historian.  His description of Herod's harbor in Caesarea came in for scornful dismissal in the 18th, 19th and early 20th century.  Vann follows the history of Caesarea's harbor from Herodian fame to medieval obscurity.  Late 20th century harbor excavations have uncovered immense breakwaters, sophisticated engineering, and space for majestic statues.   In this case archaeology has vindicated Josephus the harbor historian.

Health and Demography in a 16-Century Southeastern Chiefdom
Dorothy A. Humpf

Three Spanish visits to the Southeastern American province of "Coosa" in 1540, 1560, and 1566 record a change in population and general wealth.  Modern Little Egypt, Etowah and King were used to study health and mortality rates in this long-vanished "unified mutilevel chiefdom."  Post-contact Indian settlements at Little Egypt were the home of the elites; Humpf's hypothesis was that inhabitants at such a site would have a better diet and thus a lower mortality rate; in fact, the opposite was true.   Skeleton series studies showed high child mortality rates and an earlier death rate at Little Egypt than at Etowah or King. .  Humpf notes that more densely settled groups may be more vulnerable to infections and diseases (although they are not invariably so), and that Little Egypt was where the Spanish stayed a bit longer, thus increasing the chances of new diseases to be transferred to the local population.

Text Aided or Text Misled?  Reflections on the Uses of Archaeology in Medieval History
Bailey K. Young

Critical wariness is especially needed in the field of medieval archaeology, Young says, because documentary records, histories, and monuments from this period are particularly polemical.  (note:  more than any other era ...?) He argues that there was no specific Germanic culture in the Merovingian cemeteries; rather,  the dressed burials (with funerary deposits) showed a newly forming culture -- Germanic Roman parvenus struggling for power in a complex empire.  Furthermore, pagan and Christian elements are scattered across these cemeteries.  Finally, early evidence for Christian structures suggests less of a abrupt pagan conquest and more of continuity within a dynamically changing society.

Documentary Archaeology in Sardinia
Robert J. Rowland, Jr.

Based on 19th century documents, Rowland argues that chalcolithic and bronze age  Sardinia was not ruled by shepherd-warriors, but by peasant-warriors.  Mythical Sardinian shepherds fiercely resisted Roman invaders, goes the myth, and the towers in the uplands support that story.  However, Roland suggests that upland areas were used for very productive agriculture, especially in the Roman era.  Farmers, not shepherds, dominated Sardinia.  He says that more studies, particularly from the 6-11th centuries, are in order.

Reinterpreting the Construction History of the Service Area of the Hermitage Mansion
Larry McKee, Victor P. Hood, and Sharon Macpherson

The Hermitage, Andrew Jackson's home, has attracted extensive archaeological study. The authors believe that a too close adherence to the documentary records prevented previous historians from seeing the plainly obvious marks of remodeling. The Hermitage kitchen was apparently remodeled but not documented in 1831 (not 1836 as is currently believed).  The kitchen /serving area is often seen as liminal space for slaves, and the authors believe that the remodeling reflects the views of Andrew Jackson, Jr. on what a mansion should be and how slaves should be kept away from the living areas for the family.

Defining the Boundaries of Change:  The Records of an Industrializing Planter
Paul R. Mullins

Mullins assembles the story of how Emanuel Suter, of Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, adapted his business to industrial change.  In diaries which recorded his business life, Suter told about his long move from a pre-Civil War farm pottery to a post-Civil War railway town factory, including the changing relationship between workers, and the changes to manufacturing processes.  Mullins says that Suter actively negotiated the industrial processes and the distribution routes he wished to use, and in so doing he became a "consumer of industrial social organizations."  (191).

Alternative Visions and Landscapes:  Archaeology of the Shaker Social Order and  Built Environment
Ellen-Rose Savulis

The Shakers had well-defined religious community rules and as a part of those rules, well-defined gender roles, spaces, and work.  Despite the Shaker ideological challenge to the secular views of gender, Savulis suggests that Shaker women held roughly the same role within Shaker communities that would have been available to them outside the community.  Even religious revivals, such as Mother's Work (1837-1860s) didn't change the basic power structures.  Maps, poems, pictures and architecture demonstrate that men had a greater range of physical freedom in outdoor spaces while women focused on home management and the production of food and clothes.

Probate Inventories in Historical Archaeology:  A Review and Alternatives
Paul A. Shackel

What are probate inventories good for?  Shackel covers probate scholarship, then how research goals can incorporate social goods, and finally how objects can be used to structure social relationships.  Using probate inventories from Annapolis, MD, 1770-1830, Shackel shows how the elite became the elite in their handling of material culture and social norms.  Noting the  presence of special company silverware and plateware, Shackel concludes that the concept of "new" became more important that "old and traditional."  He concludes that historians and archaeologists alike should learn and use each other's sources.

Text, Images, Material Culture
Barbara J. Little

Would it serve archaeology for a text to go beyond providing a context and become a model for analysis?  Can material culture be seen and read as a text?

I would ask about the "proper level of certainty" about each:  If no text can be read without questioning its range of deconstructed meanings and no object precisely pinned down to its meaning, without its entire context (and even with its context), then what to make of the combination of text and object ?   Can middle-range theory help? Renfrew's definition  of middle range theory is "[a] distinct body of ideas to bridge the gap between raw archaeological evidence and the general observations and conclusion to be drawn from it." (Archaeology, Theories Methods and Practice). It seems to me middle range theory merely codifies the range of uncertainties.  The problem resembles one of those roadside nickel and penny machines that rolls and rattles a coin down and down in tighter and tighter circles until it drops out of view.