Twenty years ago, perhaps due to the very “intellectual faddism” that the author laments (5), a book similarly titled would likely be a metaphorical appropriation of the discipline’s popularized method in the manner of Foucault. Yet on page six alone, in the clear and succinct writing style that characterizes the volume, the author reclaims the distinctiveness of archaeology and why it is particularly suited to studying science. “. . .[T]he foundation of any archaeological investigation [is] a concern with people making and using artifacts”: People and things. Despite other currents cross-cutting the field, behavioral archaeology has unwaveringly held to this relationship as a key matter of concern to build generalizations about. Of course, it is a broad definition of archaeology. So broad that such a ‘Renaissance archaeology’ may risk studying everything and no thing.
To the contrary, however, the author’s behavioral approach studies ‘mere’ things and their interactions with other objects, humans and life-fellows in abundant detail. Case studies fill the later two thirds of this volume and amply demonstrate such attention to thingly detail. Consider the specificity of the following definitions on page fifteen: “material properties”, the nonrelational, measurable qualities of a material; “performance characteristics”, the relational competence of an “interactor” (human or nonhuman) among other interactors in real-world activities; or “sensory performance characteristics” as the relational qualities of interactors with respect to the human senses. These have been refined from close observation of people and things.
Static, essential qualities of objects, the relational, emergent capacities of networks or inter-actants; these terms and modes of description would be at home in recent, self-styled ontological works in archaeology, computer science, design studies, human geography, speculative philosophy, science and technology studies (STS) and other fields. In many ways, behavioral archaeology took the so-called turn to things decades ago, and has been an inspiration for re-membering the ‘discipline of things’ (Olsen et al. 2012); a discipline capable of contributing to the above fields and beyond. A Renaissance man in the best sense of the phrase, the author long ago ventured forth with such archaeological expertise into inter-disciplinary waters, whether with early electrification, the portable radio, or the electric automobile (e.g. Schiffer et al. 2003). Shoring up and consolidating earlier forays into the collective accomplishments wrought by people and things in early modern science and modern science and engineering, this book attempts to systematize and stake out an archaeological approach to science studies by characterizing scientific activity in behavioral terms (187).