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Peer-Review Record

Seeing with the Strong Programme

Humans 2022, 2(4), 219-225;
Reviewer 2:
Reviewer 3: Anonymous
Reviewer 4:
Humans 2022, 2(4), 219-225;
Received: 21 August 2022 / Revised: 26 September 2022 / Accepted: 28 September 2022 / Published: 12 October 2022
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Recent Reflections on the Sociology of Archaeology)

Round 1

Reviewer 1 Report

Minor editing necessary:

l. 40 "modus operandus" -> "modus operandi"

Author Response

This reviewer (who wanted to sign the review, but name is not included) has only one suggestion, to more clearly state questions, hypothesis, methods. I will revise accordingly.

Reviewer 2 Report

I am delighted to read this insightful study, and I plan to cite it soon in my own work.  As an anthropologist with a historical-particularist bent, I am exceedingly sympathetic to the approach advocated (and compellingly demonstrated) to analyze the rise of the Binfordian paradigm in Americanist anthropological archaeology.  

The citations are thorough and relevant. I would say there are many important ramifications for this work, and negative impacts caused by the broad ignorance of the relativistic qualities of historical sciences, not just among laypersons but among STEM professions (as Turner and Kehoe have both made clear in their work). Off the top of my head, I would note that the very active thought leaders in the anti-evolution movement (including all branches of theistic creationism and so-called "intelligent design" theory) have consistently sought to drive a wedge between what they regard as "real" (i.e. experimental) science and those historical-observational sciences like paleontology and geology and even astronomy, which do not rely upon experimental data to determine the age of the earth and the universe.  The widespread ignorance about how historical particularist observations are the foundations of many venerable branches of science has not benefited science at large. 

I do have one request for an additional citation.  I see one small parenthetical aside relating to Indo European studies, and the significance of the number three. Can the author please provide a relevant citation of this generality?

Once again, thank you for the opportunity to review this excellent work.

Author Response

This reviewer (also wishing to be named, but name not included) has only one small addition suggested, a citation to Indo-European which I will supply.

Reviewer 3 Report

AKB has highlighted a really interesting topic, and there is no doubt that Lewis and Sally Binford together offer a pre-eminent case study with which to examine gender and archaeology in the context of a major episode in the history of archaeology. A great advantage of this case study is that a fair amount of first hand testimony exists, not least from the authors themselves. In AKB’s current text, I am not sure that body of testimony has been optimally used, and note that much of her text is in a journalistic style rather than the style of a scientific journal paper, with a number of assertions unsupported by citations.


Going through some of those elements, the rather unpersuasive account of the state of American archaeology in the early 1960s is in fact supported by a citation, but one to a textbook published in 1947.  Turning to LB’s character, if a contemporary testimony does record Binford's rock-star personality, his overweening self-confidence..’ then that assessment (which would surprise many who knew him) is permissible with the appropriate citation,  but not without.


A useful alternative starting point, I would suggest, would be to look in greater depth into the two authors’s own writings, including references 3&4 from AKB’s current text.  For example, in An Archaeological Perspective LB refers repeatedly, and quite frankly, to SB’s work and her interaction with him (including an acknowledgement of her contribution to his writing style, a theme which is prominent in AKB’s text), so there is much there for critical assessment.  The same volume also provides much useful first hand testimony of LB’s experience of the archaeological establishment he encountered (which certainly isn’t encapsulated by the ‘monument envy’ implied in AKB’s text).


Although a laudable aim of this text is to highlight the significance of women among archaeologists , the overview in AKB’s text of SB’s archaeological contribution reads as decidedly thin (and ironically LB-centred) in comparison with LB’s own references to his former wife’s professional contribution within An Archaeological Perspective. His intriguing allusion for example, to the triangular intellectual tension between himself, SB and Francois Bordes I would have thought was worthy of examination in the context of ABK’s aims.


My assessment is not because the subject is not well chosen, but because a fresh start to the whole manuscript is advised, essentially working towards a new paper.  I would suggest a close critical reading of the authors’ own texts, particular current refs 3&4 would lead both to a more plausible account of American archaeology in the 1960s, and a robust entry point from which to explore the Strong Programme theme.


Writing style is an editorial decision, but whatever style is deemed acceptable, within a refereed journal the text needs to be fully supported by citations throughout.

Author Response

Yes, I did not write an in-depth scholarly paper about the Binfords; I cited my Land of Prehistory book which covers the data I refer to. This paper only uses the very well-known Binfords, citing the New Perspectives book, as example of the Strong Programme.  That is to say, the paper is about applying the premises of the Strong Programme to archaeology, in line with the theme of this special issue.  I will add a statement more clearly explaining that my Land of Prehistory book has a much fuller discussion of the Binfords, which readers of this paper can use if they wish more on the example case.

Reviewer 4 Report

The article presents a critique of the Strong Programme from multiple perspectives including 1) sociological factors that contributed to the “success” of the programme; 2) the difference in explanatory model between physical sciences and historical sciences such as archeology; 3) feminist perspective.

The strength of the essay is the application of multiple perspectives to see the “success” of the Programme in a short essay. It shows the breadth and the depth of knowledge of the author.

Each perspective, however, is not sufficiently articulated. For this reason, readers will be perplexed with what the author convincingly argued for or presented about.

If one of the key points of the essay is, as the author states in the abstract, to articulate how Sally Rosen made “Lewis's poorly articulated ideas and confusing writing clear and persuasive,” the essay did not sufficiently present the case. Readers have no clue about how or if Lewis’ writings are “poor” or “confused.”

There is an inconsistency between the abstract, the main body, and the conclusion. There should be a thematic unity among them.

I suggest the author:

A. To focus on one or two perspectives and argue sufficiently.


B. Make the point made in the abstract, the body, and the conclusion consistent. 

Author Response

Apparently I need to insert a statement that I personally observed the Binfords throughout their careers:  I write from firsthand direct observation.  I'll change abstract to say " . . . Lewis's ideas clear and persuasive."  I will also state more strongly, that the Strong Progamme incorporates a very broad perspective, which I consider basically anthropological.  Its strength is in NOT arguing one standpoint, instead it follows a Peircean openness to more or less all empirical observations that seem relevant.  This may look "journalistic".  I follow the late Nancy Lurie in striving to write in a readable and interesting style. Like her, I've established my credentials as a scholar and sound researcher, which is why Prof. Claassen invited me to contribute to this special issue.  Particularly an Open Access journal should push for wide readability by minimizing displays of erudition and long bibliographies.  

Round 2

Reviewer 3 Report

Thank you for your response and changes.

Reviewer 4 Report

Additional paragraphs in the conclusion and others made the author's points clearer. Thank you!

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