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Relational typologies, assemblage theory and Early Bronze Age burials

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Chris Fowler



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Cambridge University Press, 2017.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


This article argues that artefact types and typologies are kinds of assemblages, presenting an explicitly relational interpretation of typology grounded in a more-than-representational assemblage theory. In the process it evaluates recent approaches to typology, and the interpretations these typologies have supported, and compares these with approaches which emphasize materiality and experience. It then illustrates the benefit of drawing these two angles of analysis closer together within an approach grounded in a more-than-representational assemblage theory. Throughout, the discussion revolves around British Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age burials and types of artefacts commonly found within them. The core argument is that, if used appropriately, typologies are not constraints to the appreciation of distinctiveness, difference and relationality in the past, but can rather form an important tool in detecting those relations and making sense of different past ways of becoming.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Fowler C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Cambridge Archaeological Journal

Year: 2017

Volume: 27

Issue: 1

Pages: 95-109

Print publication date: 01/02/2017

Online publication date: 11/01/2017

Acceptance date: 20/10/2016

Date deposited: 17/01/2017

ISSN (print): 0959-7743

ISSN (electronic): 1474-0540

Publisher: Cambridge University Press


DOI: 10.1017/S0959774316000615

Notes: This article brings recent formulations of assemblage theory to bear on one of the oldest methodological tools in archaeology: typology. Since typology is fundamental to the archaeology of all times and places it has the broadest possible potential archaeological audience. It focuses on Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age Britain as an example, presenting a thorough analysis of recent trends in the use of typology to interpret artefacts and burials, including discussion of some results of my own recent primary research (both solo and collaborative), before setting out how assemblage theory provides an opportunity for a revised and enhanced appreciation of types and typology in archaeology. The article is part of a special section that includes two commentaries by archaeologists which both reflect on my piece as part of their contribution.


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