Keith Kloor links to an interesting piece talking about history and archaeology in South Africa. It’s short and definitely worth reading in full. In general I think the issue of the proper relationship between history and archaeology as disciplines is under-discussed, partly because the relationship in practice varies considerably in the scholarly traditions of different parts of the world. I found this particularly interesting:
I sometimes pity archaeologists, for theirs is a strict discipline pertaining to discovered facts. Archaeologists can only see the blades of grass; they cannot see the complete lawn.
They cannot speculate on the vastness of the other side; they can only report on the little that they see and find.
I don’t know that this is strictly true, at least in the US. Archaeologists certainly do sometimes speculate on a large scale. But there’s often something missing in such speculations, and they rarely read like the sort of history that historians write. I think this quote may get at part of that, which has to do with archaeology’s conception of itself as very much a social science, in contrast to history’s more ambiguous position between the humanities and social sciences.