Mark Pluciennik

Is Narrative Necessary?

Published: 2010-03-24 | DOI: 10.54799/KTVF1175


How important is traditional narrative structure (stories with an explicit beginning, middle and end) for archaeologists? To answer this question fully would demand attention to human and historical ontologies and archaeological epistemologies, as well as analysis of the kinds of pasts archaeologists prefer to present. In their favour it is here argued that historical narratives are generally complex (for example, in comparison with those preferred by practitioners of the hard sciences, who typically find reductionism the most powerful methodological tool). Narratives may even in some way map onto natural and common structures of human experience. But they also perhaps have a particular affinity to archaeological practices, with the chronological sequence of narrative reflecting in reverse order the process of actual or metaphorical excavation, and hence mimicking the reconstruction of a past told as cause and effect. Narratives can also off er a sense of coherence, resolution and closure, which may encourage a kind of intellectual conservatism. So too may socio-political pressures to conform with existing dominant narratives within the profession. However, despite the potential pitfalls of too strong an adherence to narrative form, and the values of alternative modes of presentation such as non-narrative evocation, it is suggested that narrative should remain an important style of archaeological explanation, albeit with a commitment to open-endedness and an awareness of the possibilities of life beyond narrative.

How to Cite

Pluciennik, Mark. 2010. “Is Narrative Necessary?”. EAZ – Ethnographisch-Archaeologische Zeitschrift 51 (1/2):48-63.
EAZ Cover Issue 1/2/2010, 51. Volume
EAZ Cover Issue 1/2/2010, 51. Volume
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