1999 Hodder

Figure One. Ian Hodder

History. Edit

Ian Hodder was born on November 23, 1948 in Bristol, Great Britain.

In 1971, Hodder obtained his bachelor of arts degree in Prehistoric Anthropology from London University, and his PhD from the University of Cambridge in 1975 on the "spatial analysis in archaeology" (Munson). Spatial analysis is the pattern of examination of archaeological artifacts or sites as they appear in relation to one another.  Therefore, Hodder was looking at the way in which artifacts were found at a site then linking them together to find their meaning. Ian Hodder is a professor at Stanford University for nine years and currently is the Director of the Stanford Archaeology Center. 

Theory Edit

Hodder believes in a post-processualist theory of archaeology. In his book, Theory and Practice in Archaeology, Hodder describes the breakdown of six key components to post-processual archaeology; situational expendiency, materialism versus idealism, separation of system and structure, absolute dichotomy between societies and individuals, anthropology versus history, and finally the relationship between subject and object.

He is a firm believer in observing a particular place or thing and coming to a conclusion based on the context in which the artifact is found. He also advocates for considering history both in the past and present contexts of an artifact. He believes there is a definite fluidity when it comes to the interpretation of an artifact because people have different ideas and past ideas are constantly being reconstructed and fabricated with the discoveries of new items and places. He states, " archaeologists are open to seeing processes rather than things or categories." He describes processualist as being "highly restricted...." Also that their "categories were set apart from one another and dichotomized" (1992: 75).

Processual anthropology, specifically in archaeology, looks at the theory involving the disrput in agreement among subjectivity, and objectivity. As early as the 1970's a conflict has occurred that was potentially going to change the course or archaeological theory. Flannery's book with J. Marcus of 1973, Formative Oaxaca and the Zapotec Cosmos, saw a shift in the way that anthropologists looked at the complexity of behavior among the people concernng the law-and-order of their system. In oder for Flannery and Marcus to combat the troubles they were facing when analysizing their data was to incorporate "culture-hisorical dimensions" Marcus and Flannery also believed that to look at a symbol as just as symbolism is not its main focus but to have meaning beyond the context in which it is found. Marcus and Flannery also state, summarized by Hodder, that "[symbols] move from a strict adaptive view and argue that cultural meanings can be the framework for, rather than the tools of, adaption" (1992: 128). Many processual archaeologists have come to accept the difficulty they face in their meaning of "method and epistemology", but they had continued to realize that they views were "socially constructed" (1992: 128). Hodder continues to say on page 129 in Theory and Practice in Archaeology, that processual archaeologists held strong to their beliefs despite that the arbitrary meanings they constructed were just that and without the concrete evidence to prove their observations were left wide open. Many future processual archaelogists held tight the same ideas until post-processual archaeology was really accepted into the anthropological mind.

Situational Expendiency Edit

This is the most important facet of the post-processual approach to archaeology. Essentially, this aspect emphasizes that archaeology must attend to the fact that cultures change over time. According to Hodder, situational expendiency is the opposition between normative and adaptive behavior. He notes that the tendency to stability is in constant tension with the tendency towards cultural change. Along with Hodder, Franz Boas, A.R.Radcliff-Brown, and Bronislaw Malinowski also believed that rather than seeing culture as a never changing system, he believes that culture is "the medium through which adaption occurs and as being transformed in the process."

Examples of the relationship of cultural stability to cultural change include new people bringing new customs, therefore causing a change in the way people go about their lives. If exogamous marriage comes into practice, one of the spouses may bring a new child bearing idea into play. According to, exogamy is marriage outside of a specific group especially one's own group. Another example includes the extinction of a major food source causing the people to have to adapt their food scavenging habits. Hodder argues that there are many major and minor ways in which a community can change over time, and situational expendience attunes us to that reality. Once a post-processual anthropologist has a clear understanding of such an evolution in a group of people, they are able to look at the following components of this archaeological theory.

Materialism Versus Idealism Edit

Hodder states in Theory and Practice in Archaeology, that materialism is defined as "the separation of the material and culture" (1992:14). Material, referring to the artifacts found at a site. Culture, referring to how people would have altered something to make it meaningful in their society, whether it be religiously or a toy for a small child. He believes it is "possible to get archaeologist to reconstruct past technologies and economics with relative ease in comparison with past cultural social organization and ideas" (1992: 14). Other archaeologists' (who believed in the processual thoery); such as Earle, Preucel, and Bintliff, believed that there was not way or reason to "get into the past minds." However, Hodder disagrees saying that if you don't try to understand what was in their past minds, why even bother taking a look at the past? Post-processual archaeologists believe that it is important to look at the material constraints that a society may interact with and be able to understand the meanings, values, and symbolism that may arrive with it. Archaeologists like Hodder try to incorporate the idea of material culture with that of the ideas or symbols they may be (1992: 75).

Separation of System and Structure Edit

Hodder states that post-processual archaeologists need to embrace the fact that structure and system are intertwined. Systems, according to Hodder, is culture, or beliefs of a group of people while structures are the rules or laws that the people of that particular group designate to regulate those ideas that create the ground work for the systems. He states that one needs to recognize that there are structures behind systems which can add to the conflict, tension, or contradiction to the fluidity of the society (1992: 74). An example of this is kinship. It goes without saying, that in some families, when a son or daughter marries, the new daughter-in-law or son-in-law will not always get along with the new parents-in-law. There are certain rules that each of the different family member must obey in order to keep the family sound as a whole. Whether they all want to get along or want to argue, is the role of the new addition to the family to make. In this example one can see that the relationships and responsibilities of each of the family member are the systems, while the entire kinship is the structure.

Dichotomy of Societies and Individuals Edit

According to, dichotomy refers to the division in two, mutually exclusive opposites. Hodder and other post-processualist believes that it is foolish to distinguish an individual from the society in which he or she is in. While an archaeologist may not be looking directly on how an individual or anothers interact; they will be looking at the structure of the whole to determine what that the different people may be doing that is going to alter the future of the society. Also they may observe to see how it has been changed because what they are doing now to survive as a whole. Hodder states that they should be concerned with how people act with their material environment to be a meaningful in the social context of that group of people (1992: 74).

Anthropology Versus History Edit

Another way that Hodder puts this idea is the general and the particular. Many other archaeologists would agree with the idea; looking at the specific context of an idea but if it is not put that into a broader context, there may be some very general ideas that you miss out on. For example, if you have a particular question about men, then you will only look to men to answer that question, possibly missing the entire fact the the society you are studying is matrilineal, lineage is traced through the women of a society.

Subject and Object Edit

In Hodders book, Theory and Practice in Archaeology, he states that the subject and object that anthropologist are looking at should not be the same. He believes that a subject is that of which you are observing. Simply, it is the physical object in which one sees. An onject, however, is the meaning that one gets from the subject or the meaning that a person or people put to that subject. For example, Di Vinci's painting, Mona Lisa, may just be a woman in a strange foreign land while others may see it as the female version of Leonardo himself. The way in which one chooses to look at something and then define it is in the mind of the person who is studying, the painting in this case, and what that person believes the painter, Leonardo Di Vinci, intended on portraying.


Figure Two. Catalhoyuk shelter.

Bull horn

Figure Three. Wild bull horn pillars with possible burials below.

Catalhoyuk Edit

Since 1993, Ian Hodder has been working on Çatalhöyük, a 9,000 year old Neolithic site in Turkey. He is currently the project director for the site.

The site is thought to be one of the first urban centers in the world, circa 7400 BC. The site consists of 68 buildings, with 2042 features in 8 different areas.  The researchers have developed a 25 year plan that aims to uncover, conserve, and present the findings to the people of the world.  The Çatalhöyük homepage, suggests that the site is an internationally important key in understanding the development of agriculture and civilization as we know it, helping to understand the transformation from hunters and gatherers to land domesticated creatures.  The Turkey Minister of Culture and Tourism hopes for the site to be a way in which visitors can experience the dig in any numbers of ways. 

The site has made a permanent structure in which it is housed to be a way for people to see the different ways in which the technology of archaeological research is done today. (See Figure Two.) Visitors would be able to see the processes of the dig;  anywhere from the archaeologists out in the field doing the excavation, to witnessing people in the lab trying to clean and identify the artifacts.  Replicas of the features that the excavators have found would also be a part of the journey in which the tourists could experience.  The shelter includes a conservation lab, to help in the preserving of wall paintings, sculptures, and textiles found in the site. 

 Currently there are replicated Neolithic houses people can walk through. conservationists hope to protect one of the houses that they uncover so visitors would be able to walk through a part of the village as if they were living there when it was thriving.

The main research questions of the project are to identify the reasons for intensification of agriculture on a social and economic level within a communal context The archaeologists are looking to identify the social context for the use of pottery and trade relations with other nearby communities.

According to the 2008 press release, published in the summer of 2008, a burnt building with wild bull horns set in pillars was discovered. The researchers say that there are burials beneath the pillars on a platform.(See Figure Three.)

Major Publications Edit

  • Spatial analysis in archaeology (1976, with C. Orton)
  • Symbols in action. Ethnoarchaeological studies of material culture (1982)
  • The Present Past. An introduction to anthropology for archaeologists (1982)
  • Reading the Past. Current approaches to interpretation in archaeology (1986) (revised 1991 and, with Scott Huston, 2003)
  • The Domestication of Europe: structure and contingency in Neolithic societies (1990)
  • Theory and Practice in Archaeology (1992) (Collected papers)
  • On the Surface: Çatalhöyük 1993-95 (1996) As editor, Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research and British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara. 
  • The Archaeological Process. An introduction (1999)
  • Archaeology beyond dialogue (2004) (Collected papers)
  • The Leopard's Tale: Revealing the Mysteries of Çatalhöyük (2006)
  • Click Here for a more detailed list of Ian Hodder's publications.

Annotated Bibliography Edit

Balter, Michael. 2005. The Goddess and The Bull.

In this book, Balter explains some of the recent findings of the Catalhoyuk site in Turkey.  It tells a story of a goddess who ruled there and the pilgrimage that people who worship her do.  In chapter 4, Balter gives a very deatailed history of Ian Hodder.  He desribes Hodders childhood and how he got to become the archaeologist he is today.   

Duke, P.G., Wilson, Micahel. 1995. Beyond Subsistence. 

In this book, Hodder provided an article that push for the use of post-processual archaeology at sites, ir oder to better understand the shift from hunting-gatherers to subsistence agriculturalists. He discusses agin how it is important to understand the meaning of active material culture, just as he did in his book, Theory and Practice in Archaeology. He also stresses the importance of the being and internal and external relationship with it comes to identifying the artifacts found at a site.

Hodder, Ian. 1982. The Present Past. An Introduction to Anthropology for Archaeologists

This book brings together all of the different studies that an anthropologist can go through to help them to become better archaeologists.  Many subfeilds in anthropology can directly relate to different situations of findings at an archaeological site.  From ethnographies of current and past societies to hunting-gathering societies, all can be helpful from one time to another while at a dig.

Hodder, Ian. 1986. Reading the Past. Current approaches to interpretation in archaeology

This is the third book that Ian Hodder has written on the theory and practice of archaeology.  Originally written in 1986, two more editions were composed, 1991, and 2003 with Scott Huston.  With the evolution of archaeology into what it is today, more books had to be written to keep up with the new ideas and people in the archaeological scene.  Huston and Hodder believe that it is important for the archaeologists of today to understand the varying perspectives that they will encounter.  Also, it is important for them to be able to understand the complexities and uncertainties that come with "translating the meanings of past texts into their own contemporary language".  They also explore the new cultural ways of doing archaeology and the influence that cultural anthropology has had on it. 

Hodder, Ian. 1990. The Domestication of Europe: structure and contingency in Neolithic societies

This book describes the importance that burial goods have to the people of the past and to the people of the present that are trying to look at them.  Burials goods are objects that the descessed put with their loved one, such as; small figurines, pottery, a favorite toy, or something that identifies that persons work from life.  Hodder also believes that these objects may contain the information to decode the social and economic changes that people of a agricultural life had once went through.

Hodder, Ian. 1992. Theory and Practice in Archaeology. Collected Papers.

In this reading, Hodder offers a very indepth look at post-rpocessual archaeology in the alst two decades.  He also provides and very well balanced look at the theory and practice behind the archaeological method of today.  He believes it that people should be enthrawled with as much theory as they are with the practice of doing the work.  This book describes the ways that one should collected, observe and share the information in which they find at whichever site they may be working at. 

Hodder, Ian. 1999. The Archaeological Process. An introduction

An indepth look at how the archaeological process has evolved over the last twenty years.  This book tells the reader of important theory and practice questions that they may have or may encounter while out on an archaeological dig.  They will also be able to look more deeply at how to assess those situations as they occur.

Hodder, Ian. 2004. Archaeology beyond dialogue. Collected Papers.   

This book describes the importance of the communication between the different archaeologists all over the world.  He stresses the importance of communication in the methods that archaeologists are doing.  They need to be able to go to eachother when a find is made and and seek help from their collagues that may have experience in that field.  Excavation and analysis should also be similar all over the world to help fellow archaeologists to understand what is being examined and how they came to that conclusion.  With a more concrete way to look at the artifacts, and identify the meaning behind them, archaeologists may find that there are similarities and to may some day answer the life long question every person in the world has had...where did we come from?

Pearce, Susan M. 1994. Intepreting Objects and Collections.

In this book, Pearce suggests the great importance there is in contextualizing and interpreting the objects that are found around a site.  She first looks at past papers and examines the politics around the paper and the objectivity of the subject they are studying.  Then in the second half of her paper she begins to look at different collections and the different topics brought up in those that contribute to the collections she had previouisly looked at.  In chapter nine, she included an article from Ian Hodder and his critique to functionalism.  He states that people who used functionalism back in the day need to have their papers rewritten because it is so old and out of date for the new way of examination there is today.

Quinn, Malcolm. 1994. The Swastika: Constructing the Symbol.

This book takes what Ian Hodder is saying about the meaning and history of the swastika and applying it to an archaeological stand point.  He states that Hodder's interpretation of the past meaning of the swastika is flawed and the way in which he went about concluding the true evolution into what we see the swastika as today.  He believes that with all of the examplesHodder could come up with, he is still not truely looking at the "ultimate 'true meaning'" of the swastika. (11)

Work Cited Edit

2009 Çatalhöyük: Excavations of Neolithic Anatolian Höyük. Electronic Document, , accessed March 6, 2009., Electronic Document,, exogamy and dichotomy, accessed April 6, 2009.
Department of Anthropology. Electronic Document,, accessed April 1, 2009.
Hodder, Ian. 1992. Theory and Practice in Archaeology. CRC Press: Routledge.
Munson, Paul. Ian Hodder. Electronic Document. , accessed March 6, 2009.

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