16. Retrospect and Prospect in Regional Archaeology
Thomas P. Leppard [+]
University of Cambridge
Alex R. Knodell [+]
This concluding chapter situates the foregoing contributions in their wider disciplinary context and offers some suggestions on how archaeologists interested in regional studies of social complexity might look forward productively. We begin with a retrospective view of points of convergence and divergence in the chapters presented in this volume, focusing in particular how they contribute to past and ongoing debates in regional archaeology and studies of social complexity. Points of convergence include examinations of the role of the physical environment and material things in social interactions, as well as critical approaches to understanding the operation and maintenance of socio-political complexity. We see more divergent patterns in how scale is addressed, explicitly or implicitly, and in how comparison is attempted. The patterns witnessed here, we argue, in general reflect wider trends in archaeological thought. Finally, we turn to the future, suggesting that increasingly accessible technological and scientific developments will continue to have profound influence on the field. The nature and long-term effects of such innovations, however, are largely unpredictable. Rather than pointing toward unknown achievements of the future, we stress that the most valuable developments in this field moving forward concern methodological transparency, theoretical flexibility, and a critical, measured, and broadly engaged attitude toward collaboration, comparison, and disciplinary crossover.