Conclusions

In many ways this discussion of the symbolic aspects of the Neolithic revolution is intended more to suggest a direction for future research than to discuss results from previous studies. While it can be argued by some researchers that there are insufficient archaeological data sets to engage in the kinds of debates presented here, it should also be pointed out that archaeologists, like all scholars, tend to find only what they are seeking. Nothing is more limiting and blinding in the accumulation of information than the a priori acceptance of select data sets, philosophical approaches, and research avenues. Contextual archaeology has been critiqued on these grounds: an accusation that is, despite the intrinsic interest of its ideas, favored by the very theoretical and ideologicalperspective in which it is situated. We should note, however, that the "materialism" of the New Archaeology is itself a philosophical apriori, one that very much resembles what psychoanalysts call a "blockage."Needless to say, such a blockage is also encouraged in prehistorians as a result of the quasi- "residual" nature of our data, for we lack the texts exploited by historians and the living words gathered by ethnologists. In the case of late prehistory and, specifically, the Near East Neolithic,the existence of art and the development of rich ritual and funerary practices provide a valuable, and in some ways largely unexplored, source ofinformation. To this end, "symbolic archaeology" has contributed, by its new interpretations of material facts themselves, toward the process of freeing of archaeological research from the spell of its positivist reflexes that has been going on for nearly twenty years in the Near East (Cauvin 1978). It is still important to verify in the field the value of these ideas and especially to see whether they clarify facts that are otherwise inexplicable. Although still in its infancy, the models and interpretations presented here aid us in explaining the order of stratigraphically observed phenomena, the results of which radically refute strictly materialist interpretations.

On the other hand, it is an exaggeration to see the hermeneutic ap proach as only an encouragement of subjective arbitrary affirmations (Binford and Binford 1968). Certainly this danger exists, but we are clearly in a time when in order to face the anarchic invasion of irrational forms of thought, science has undertaken a revision of the foundations of scientific rationality itself. As French historians of the École des Annales have demonstrated, in developing the importance of symbolic structures in the history of societies (for example, Dumezil, Le Goff and Vernant), such an interest in "mentalities''is only outrageous for scholars who support an outdated ideology. Although the difficulties of extending such an approach to the Neolithic are real, we risk missing an essential dimension of human history by ignoring this path.

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