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Caves in context : an introduction.

Bergsvik, K.A. and Skeates, R. (2012) 'Caves in context : an introduction.', in Caves in context : the cultural significance of caves and rockshelters in Europe. Oxford: Oxbow Books, pp. 1-9.


The premise for this volume is that the archaeology of caves in Europe needs to be more consciously and comprehensively studied ‘in context’, for the benefit of both speleology and archaeology. This ‘necessity of adopting a contextual approach to the study of the human use of caves’ was first emphasized in the 1990s (Tolan-Smith and Bonsall 1997, 218; c.f. Skeates 1994), but still needs reiterating today. One problem is that cave studies are so well established as a specialized field of research that it is now possible to investigate caves in relative isolation, including as a sub-discipline of archaeology (e.g. Inskeep 1979; CAPRA 1999–2007; Gunn 2004). Another problem is that cave archaeology is now dominated by scientific data collection and analysis, to the detriment of interpretative approaches to their social and cultural significance. As a consequence, archaeological cave studies can be accused of a loss of meaning and relevance to the social sciences in general and to archaeology in particular, especially in contrast to their dynamic development in the mid-nineteenth century, when they were entangled in some key scholarly debates. In this volume, then, we hope to demonstrate, through a diversity of European archaeological approaches and examples, that cave studies, whist necessarily focussed, can also be of significance to wider, contemporary, archaeological research agendas, particularly when a contextual approach is adopted.

Item Type:Book chapter
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Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:06 April 2016
Date of first online publication:2012
Date first made open access:No date available

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