In this latest collection of articles, Ian Hodder sets out to deal with new developments in archaeological theory and its application to archaeological data. Seven of the nineteen chapters have been specifically written for this volume to act as an overview of the way the archaeological debate has developed over the last ten years. Yet Hodder's brief is wider than mere commentary: he aims to break down the separation of theory and practice and to reconcile the division between the intellectual and the "dirt" archaeologist. Through a series of examples - from excavation and heritage issues to site reports - the book demonstrates that an interpretive archaology must be applied to archaological data in order to contribute to modern social practice. Faced with a rapidly diminishing past, archaology urgently needs a clear image of itself, able to gain funding, win public confidence and save the heritage quickly and professionally. This image, however, is often clouded by the theroy/practice debate, a division all too often encouraged by the separation of universities and heritage management. Hodder emphasises the importance of finding the right balance. archaeologists, he asserts, cannot afford to ignore general theory in favour of practice any more than they can afford to shut themselves away in intellectual ivory towers.
Theoretical debate is important to any discipline; but in archaeology particularly, theory must be related to practice if it is not to become complacent, self-interested and uncritical. Theory and Practice in Archaeology captures and continues the lively debate of the 1980s over symbolic and structural approaches to archaeology.