Ellis Stones Garden next to Underground Carpark Entrance. Photographer: Sharon Walker. University of Melbourne

Martin Carnovale

Martin Carnovale (PhD in Classics & Archaeology, 2023), The Language of Archaeological Investigations

The thesis explores whether methods based upon analogical reasoning can be used to interpret culture if there are difficulties of translating other culture’s beliefs. The kind of cultural interpretation that I will discuss is that which pertains to social, artistic and religious activities. The thesis also explores the differences between quantitative and qualitative forms of reasoning, as well as inductive an deductive approaches, and how these are used in certain forms of archaeological interpretation. It is shown that scientific analyses of culture can make errors of translation, and it is also shown that humanistic and qualitative analyses of culture make many errors of reasoning that may be usually put forth against scientistic analyses of culture. How much biology and culture influence statistical trends is also discussed, and it is argued that trends may give support to certain forms of analogical reasoning that an archaeologist might use for the interpretation of culture.

I also critique the idea of biological universals as being meaningful for cultural analysis. It is also argued that cognitive and biological factors exist below the level of cultural and religious activities; hence, a biological basis for statistical trends might not give much content to certain forms of comparative cross-cultural analysis. Thus, one might defend a qualitative approach to interpretation, but I argue that qualitative approaches make errors that can be paradoxically regarded as scientistic. The relevance of philosophical and linguistic theories by Kant, Kripke and Carnap is defended for archaeological research to explore interpretative errors in both quantitative and qualitative reasoning. The thesis argues against the dualism between the qualitative and quantitative, and attempts to argue for a pluralist methodology where positivism and relativism may be unified.

Supervisor: Dr Brent Davis