Accepted Paper:

Edge effects: geophysics and the others  


Martyn Barber (English Heritage)
Helen Wickstead (Kingston University)

Paper short abstract:

Paper long abstract:

How does the creation of boundaries around a discipline have effects within it? This paper uses the history of Geophysics to explore how epistemological boundaries emerge. At their introduction, certain Geophysical techniques were poorly understood by most archaeologists. Although electrically based methods were eventually relatively widely adopted, and adapted (often by enthusiastic amateurs brandishing Heath-Robinson devices), other techniques were initially the preserve of small groups of specialists, many of whom had backgrounds outside Archaeology. The liminal characteristics of archaeological geophysics were enhanced by the uncomfortable similarities its methods bore to practices long present on the fringe of archaeology - notably dowsing and the investigation of ghostly and psychic phenomena. Establishing legitimacy for Geophysics involved constructing strong defences against Archaeology's "lunatic fringe". Paradoxically it may be these very defences that have segregated Geophysics from wider conversations questioning epistemologies and experimenting with alternative ways of building knowledge.

Panel S14
Drawing epistemological lines in the sand