Epistemology of Truth in Archaeology




Dr Ernest-Emile
Permanent Member of the
« Societe des Americanistes au Siège du Musée de l’Homme à Paris ».
Member of Society for American Archaeology of Washington DC.
President of Ong Cerediar Org
President of the « Société International d’Archéologie Sociale »


Lic Adriana Noemí
Universidad Nacional de Buenos Aires
Scientific Assistant Director of Ong Cerdiar Org
Permanent Member of the « Société International d’Archéologie Sociale »

In our presentation at the Seminar of the Social Archaeology ENAH and 53 International Congress of Americanists, we agreed that:
« Archaeology is a social science; therefore these activities pose a different alternative to the traditional archaeology. A social Archaeology that considers that the theory is put into practice and that archaeologists aren’t divorced from the local reality but they are social actors, the result of the confrontation between the world of ideas or theories and the remains of prehistoric reality.  »
In the epistemology of the truth or the doctrine of the fundamentals and methods of scientific knowledge we can agree with José Ingenieros that it’s not entirely true conceiving the existence of absolute universal or eternal truths in reality or in the abstract reasoning as in the human experience, formed on the basis of an evolving universe, becomes steadily relative truths.
With the advent of postmodernism and its resulting posprocesual archaeology, it became clear that the subjectivity of the researcher intervened in the interpretation of the past. It was further noted that the dualities that have been based on Cartesian Western scientific thought, were part of a cognitive mechanism that has characterized our society, but not to those societies that we study through archaeology.
Archaeology therefore doesn’t discover « truths”, it doesn’t reveal the past, but works with what is left of it.

In occasion of the Social Archaeology Seminar, conducted jointly in the ENAH and at the Universidad Iberoamericana, the occasion of the 53rd International Congress of Americanists in Mexico realized in July 2009, two opposite formulations were clear to define archaeological science:

1. On the one hand the traditional formulation of culturalism who think that our work is « descriptive » of the « evolution » of cultures which haven’t left written record and thus providing end its work, exposing it. It does not seek to explain because it believes that there is nothing to explain

Hence its mission culminates in a showcase of a museum to illustrate the social classes that have idle time to illustration.

2. On the other hand the formulation is from historical materialism, who believes that archeology is to study the historical journey of a people through its existence, to find explanations for the processes of social change and development of human groups in their historical perspective.

Thus, while social science can not oppose the reality of this and that, while seeking such explanations on the historic journey of men, must commit to become useful tools for change

The question before us is an analysis of the epistemology of truth in archaeological science, from the moment it becomes necessary to finally establish the criteria that lead to valid scientific knowledge, ie, objective and therefore « verifiable ».

It is Mario Bunge who after analyzing the concept of science through history, starting from Aristotle (considered intuition as capable of reaching the first premises and a source of scientific knowledge) then following with Bergson, Husserl and finally Descartes (who claimed the existence of clear principles that should not be subjected to any test), tells us that the observation and analysis are not sufficient to verify a statement since they are propositions, not facts which are true or false and can not therefore be verified.

According to Bunge, when a verifiable statement has some degree of generality is usually called a scientific hypothesis, because it can be verified only indirectly, ie through the consideration of their consequences. For him a hypothesis is a conjecture that once proven will become a scientific truth.

Bunge opens a door to speculation when he argues that there was a scientific method in the Cartesian sense, with a certain set of rules that can lead to broad truths

Based on the consideration that archeology is a social science and that the archaeologist is responsible for interpreting the material remains found, but that he also belongs to a culture, and is part of cultural matrices, and that both have acquired the understandings, and skills, we agree with Elias and Harris saying that the researcher is both subject and object. In the social sciences explores relationships, man meets himself and others. It is possible addressing the same reality from different lights.

In the world archaeological thought before the 60s prevailed an empiricist position that considered that the objects or archaeological contexts were possessors of explicit information and the researcher’s role was merely that of mediator between the underlying truth and scientific truth.

We reached the point of distinguishing different conceptions of truth, according to the aforementioned Mario Bunge different criteria can be found throughout history to finally associate to scientific knowledge : « What is accepted only by choice or by officials or seem obvious or convenience, is only belief or opinion, but it is not scientific knowledge. » He claims that scientific knowledge is « sometimes unpleasant, often contradicts the classics (especially if it is new), sometimes torture common sense and humiliates intuition finally may be suitable for some and not others » . What characterizes it is its verifiability: it is always capable of being verified (confirmed or disconfirmed).

Following his reasoning, he argues that the veracity of scientific knowledge is a goal, and and not to characterize so clear as the mode or method by which scientific research poses problems and tests the proposed solutions.

A fact is considered true to some extent, if it can be confirmed in a consistent manner with the canons of scientific method. For a piece of knowledge is considered scientific, it.is not enough to be true.

We know how we got to know or presume that the statement in question is true: we must be able to list the operations, empirical or rational, which is verifiable in an objective, at least in principle.

To verify a statement – ‘because the propositions and not the facts are true and false and can be verified « – we must confront them with other statements. The formal verification of statements includes only rational operations, while the propositions that communicate information about the nature or society are to be tested by some empirical procedures such as counting or measuring. For while knowledge of the facts does not come from pure experience (being the theory an indispensable component of the collection of factual information) there is no other way to verify our suspicions that draw on the expertise, both passive and active.

There are no infallible rules that guarantee in advance the discovery of new facts and inventing new theories thereby ensuring the fruitfulness of scientific research: certainty to be found only in the formal sciences. The scientific method is the compass by which we can estimate if you are on a promising track. Do not produce automatically knowledge, but we avoid loss in the apparent chaos of phenomena.

Bunge is a not dialectical empiricist, despite their good intentions on non-speculative scientific level.

The first aspect of knowledge is the logical Marxist dialectic, which is the apprehension of the dialectic of being.

It is to follow the actual movement in its contradictions. This is diametrically opposed to formal logic. For formal logic, A is A and nothing more than A. For dialectical logic A is A and not A. Being is and is not.

Each object is its denial, the principle of self motion. Therefore, it is very difficult if not impossible to formalize, establish mathematical equations. At all times our investigations are contradictory situations

The artisan is a domestic producer whose goal is to produce consumption values, but is also a potential capitalist: in their work holds the possibility of denying the producer of consuption values, to refuse to himself as artisan to become capitalist.

The asymmetric exchange of pre-capitalist societies, to the extent that it is against the law of market value, denies the exchange because it allows the appropriation of value and constitutes a form of alienation in circulation process. Consequently, trade is and is not, is affirmed and denied.

But also, the scientific work is to penetrate always the ways in which the facts are presented, is to trascend their phenomenal presentation.

For example, the wage relationship between capitalist and worker is formally a relation of exchange performed by two free subjects. Buy and sell one another. But if it crosses this way content is reached, the essence: in that market relationship work is unpaid, there is generation of surplus.

In capitalism, the profit seems to originate in the capital. Only if we ask ourselves what is the capital (or as Bertold Brecht asked who made the house, desk or car) we know that the capital gain does not arise, that the world did not capital, but the gain and the capitalist world it did work.

The capitalist state is presented as a neutral body above classes, as a technical objective arbitrator. This is based on the materiality of the state itself: is not constituted by the ruling class but by a specific segment, the bureaucracy, without being dominant class reproduces the political conditions for the reproduction of the ruling class.

Therefore, both in economic and in political relations is beyond the forms, get to the core, to the foundations of social functioning.

This is critical knowledge is to know what lies behind the appearances of external forms. The Marxist critique is this, is radical critique, absolute, is absolutely criticize, uncompromising, not yell or protest (there are many who cry) it reveals the secret that lies behind the apparent.

It is discovering the real movement behind the movement apparential. To take a simple example: the sun rises every morning in the east and sets in the west: only discover scientific knowledge of the movement visible behind the actual movement is not evident. When that is discovered and the land is off-center of the universe, God falters.

The method to reach this discovery is starting from that sensitive daily movement, follow the movement, as they perceive, and from an abstract process, reaching the discovery of underlying real movement.


Here, we arrived at the key point: where is the truth when we do archaeological science?

Note first that we are faced with two ways of approaching the archaeological science: on one hand those who understand it as an « evolution to display » and we that believe that it is the study of a « historical process ».

This means that we have on the one hand an archeology class of Aristotelian methodological base where the Principle of Identity becomes something sacred, which is expository and does nothing ever seeking information and explanations as it considers that there is nothing to explain or change .

So for Willey all that is the same color comes necessarily from the same manufacturer (Horizons) because « their » truth is in the superstructure. It is an archeology that first establishes the truth of the object to then develop a new theory.

On the other hand we have a scientific archeology that is a science that studies the historical journey of people to find explanations for the processes of social change and development of peoples in historical perspective.

When archeology merely serves only to collect « information », is positioned to serve the status quo and immobility, because their view, what we call « history » is the realization of human idea and not the reverse.

The true heritage of a nation is its traditional route and not the objects left by their predecessors. The objects are useful to us, archaeologists, to understand the mode of production of material life, but out of context these objects become something invalid.

The confusion may be « politically correct » but it certainly is « scientifically wrong ».

So our truth in archaeological science lies not in the found object and then place it in a theory, but in the method chosen for the job, that starting from a theory will use the object to establish the knowledge of a situation in which we are engaged and we should not be alien.

Consider a real example of the difference between going to the theory of the object against the principle of going from theory to evidence:

For 30 years the University of Chicago through the mouth of the holder of the chair Alan Kolata said that Tiwanaku fell in 1187 by an « ecological collapse ».

It is not clear what « ecological collapse » means in an empire of more than 600,000 km2 with different ecological production, but if it is true that elements are presented that suggest some localized economic crisis around the capital, today archaeological site, heritage of mankind. We ourselves have found pottery from the Late horizon that presents evidence of cooking failures, ie there was not enough wood to fuel the furnaces. Still other studies and understood Ostrom, establish that the Titicaca Lake is stable since the Holocene.

Behold, Kolata goes « the object to the theory » and the theory is obviously false because the object is always considered in isolation and out of context.

When we work in Tiawanaku we start to reverse: we did it «from theory to evidence». We contend that no empire, and much less one of multilingual and ecological magnitude as Tiwanaku, with 3000 years of material production in tow, falls by an alleged « collapse » (on the other side missing), but by the depletion of its political model.

And our theory, our « theoretical framework » was so true, that very easily we could obtain the evidence that Tiwanaku fell by revolts of the ethnic groups subjeted, and its capital besieged by thirst (irrigation channels blocked) first buried their gods and then surrendered. (Our jobs 2001 to 2004 in Bolivia).

For all these reasons, we believe that it is our archaeological science the right the tool for « building bridges » as stated in the name of this Symposium. Bridges allow us through knowledge of the past, interpret the present and be able to propose alternatives to address these situations, leading to improve living standards while respecting their ancient traditions. As an example of this, we can cite some of the actions undertaken by our NGO, Centre de Recherche et Diffusion Archéologique (ong CEREDIAR), both Latin America and in Africa.

In the emergency rescue sites Miraflores and San Blas in Bolivia, have signed agreements with the National University of Tarija Juan Miguel Saracho and prefectural institutions Bolivian, to resume the use of « stevia » forming a production cooperative.

The Columbian irrigation channels are put in relief, not only for study, but also to provide free water to the indigenous people, avoiding the use of the water meters of multinational corporations, wiha are payments.

In African studies, the group reviews the Soninke and Mande neolithization, while modernizing the peripheral clinic Kaedi in Mauritania, as the Peulh ethnic group is the current heir to that neolithization.

And not to dwell more on NGO Cerediar archaeological practice during the past decade, we mention only the signature of an agreement with the National University of Bamako to prospect the neolithization of the sources of the river Senegal while agree with Malian NGOs the modernization of agricultural structures, health and education and programs for inserting and dignity at work of women in civil society

With this, « We build Bridges » instead of  » Deepening Gaps ».

Basic Bibliography

ALMUDENA Hernando Gonzalo
2006 Comentario a Arqueología Simétrica

BASULTO Beatraiz Rodiguez
2007 ¿Dónde la realidad ? ¿Dónde el discurso ?
Gabinete de Arqueología OHCH, Cuba

BATE Luis Felipe
1996 El proceso de ivestigación en Arqueología
Departamento de Prehistoria y Arqueología
Universidad de SEvilla

BERENJENO Enrique Luís Domingo
1997 La verdad inexistente: Arqueología y Reflexión Filosófica

2001 La science, se méthode et sa philosophie
Ed Vigdor

IBAÑEZ Eduardo Alejandro
Relativismo y verdad en la cultura filosófica y científica contemporánea

2004 Tiwanaku: Protocolo de Investigación sobre el Altiplano Boliviano
Ong Cerediar – Circulo Amerindiano Università di Perugia
2007 Archéologie et Pseudo-Archéologie
AFIS Association Française pour l’Information Scientifique

LOPEZ-SANSON de LONGVAL Ernest-Emile and Adriana Noemi SALVINO
2009 De la Teoría a la Praxis, o como construir lo propio en un mundo globalizado
partiendo de la Arqueología Social
53 Congreso Internacional de Americanistas – Mexico

MARTINEZ Victor M.Fernandez
2005 The conflict between « truth » and « value »




Auditorio “Javier Romero”

10:00 a.m. a 2:00 p.m.

Auditorio “Román Piña Chan”

10:00 a.m. a 2:00 p.m.


Rodrigo Navarrete

La unidad doméstica y la residencia del pasado: consideraciones teórico-metodológicas desde los andes centrales (Lectura de ponencia)
Arturo Juan Noel Espinoza

Instituto Cultural RVNA (Perú)

Un acercamiento al poblamiento del territorio mexicano desde la región de la alta montaña veracruzana
Paris Alejandro Ferrand Alcaraz

Universidad Veracruzana (México)

Signos en contradicción: cultura material y diferenciación social en una sociedad compleja de los llanos occidentales de Venezuela (Lectura de ponencia)
Rafael Gassón
Juan Carlos Vargas

Instituto venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas (Venezuela)

La arqueología social latinoamericana, entre el hacer y el decir (Lectura de ponencia)
Daniel Torres Etayo

Centro Nacional de Conservación, Restauración y Museología (Cuba)

Ética critica de la arqueología y práctica política académica del arqueólogo, un momento de subsunción coherente (Lectura de ponencia)

Raúl Francisco González Quezada

Instituto de Investigaciones Antropológicas-UNAM (México)

Hacia una arqueología social para el desarrollo: la arqueología latinoamericana desde un contexto político y tecnoeconómico periférico
Miguel Aguilar

Universidad de los Andes (Colombia/Perú)

El Patrimonio Cultural Peruano en el Neoliberalismo: un acercamiento desde la Arqueología Social (Lectura de ponencia)

Ricardo Chirinos Portocarrero

Nilton Ríos Palomino

Instituto Cultural RVNA (Perú)



Auditorio “Javier Romero”

5:00 p.m. a 9:00 p.m.

Auditorio “Roman Piña Chan”

5:00 p.m. a 9:00 p.m.

La revuelta de los objetos: hacia una epistemología materialista histórica (Lectura de ponencia)

Henry Tantaleán

Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona/ CENFOTUR (España/Perú)

“How can I burry my loved one” (“Como puedo enterrar a mi amado”).

Talia Shay

Ariel University Center of Samaria (Israel)

La dignidad del pasado: sobre la construcción de las realidades a través de la arqueología (Lectura de ponencia)

Diego Vásquez Monterroso

Universidad del Valle de Guatemala
Revista electrónica Kab’raqän (Guatemala)

Cuestión étnico-nacional y arqueología social latinoamericana: vías de praxis para la arqueología
Lidia Iris Rodríguez Rodríguez
Omar Olivo del Olmo

Escuela Nacional de Antropología e Historia (México)

Arqueología, monumentos y comunidades en la Biosfera Lauca

Daniella Jofré Poblete

University of Toronto (Canadá)

Así habló Tepoztecatl. Ideología, ritual, crisis y autonomía en el pueblo Indígena de San Juan Tlacotenco, de Morelos.

Juan José Guerrero

Escuela Nacional de Antropología e Historia (México)

Arqueología y reivindicaciones sociales: integrando colectivos para la defensa de los pueblos y comunidades de América latina (Lectura de ponencia)
Manuel Aguirre-Morales

Instituto Peruano de Astronomía y Ciencias de la Tierra/Frente de Defensa de Chilca (Perú)



+ México

+ Venezuela

+ Cuba

+ Perú

+ Chile

+ Guatemala

+ España

+ Francia

+ Israel

+ Canadá

Escuela Nacional de Antropología e Historia

Del 20 al 22 de julio de 2009

Sala de consejos

10:00 a.m. a 2:00 p.m.

La construcción de lo propio en un mundo globalizado (Lectura de ponencia por Erika Salas Cassy)

Ernest-Emile Lopez- Sanson de Longval

Adriana Salvino

Centre de Recherche et Diffusion Archéologique (Francia)

Trabajo y Prácticas Sociales: Sociología Arqueológica de las Situaciones Históricas

Pedro Castro Martínez

Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona. Grupo ACAIA (Cataluña, España).

Mujeres y Arqueología: Concepción Materialista de la Historia y Feminismo

Trinidad Escoriza

Universidad de Almería. Grupo ABDERA (Andalucía, España).

Arqueología Materialista Histórica en Chiapas: de la Agenda al Programa

Colectivo del Área de Prehistoria y Evolución Humana, IIA-UNAM. Coordinación: Guillermo Acosta (México)

Proyecto La Puntilla (Nasca, Ica, Perú): Prácticas sociales y producción en la vida social en el valle de Nasca (c. 1400 cal ANE-400 cal DNE).

Pedro Castro Martínez
Trinidad Escoriza

Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona. Grupo ACAIA (Cataluña, España).

Universidad de Almería. Grupo ABDERA (Andalucía, España).


Sala de consejos

5:00 p.m. a 9:00 p.m.

Explicación: “estructura oculta” o narración causal

Manuel Gándara Vázquez

Escuela Nacional de Antropología e Historia (México)

Cultura como categoría en la Arqueología Social Latinoamericana: de la negación política a la negación científica. Apuntes primarios.
Omar Olivo del Olmo
Lidia Iris Rodríguez Rodríguez

Escuela Nacional de Antropología e Historia (México)

La arqueología social latinoamericana y la socialización del conocimiento histórico
Gladys Gordones Rojas

Museo Arqueológico de la Universidad de Los Andes (Venezuela)

Aportes teóricos y éticos políticos de la arqueología social latinoamericana: caso venezolano
Lino Meneses Pacheco

Museo Arqueológico de la Universidad de Los Andes (Venezuela)

Apuntes sobre Arqueología Social Latinoamericana

Luis Felipe Bate

Escuela Nacional de Antropología e Historia (México)