Is there any meaning in the prehistoric past? If yes, where does this meaning lie in? Is it only hidden in the pottery for example, and the figurines, or could it be also found within the carbonized seeds, the animal bones and the simple rubble walls of any prehistoric context? And how would this meaning emerge out of past material culture today? Is it somehow evident on the surface of the past materialities, or is it codified behind certain morphologies which we should decipher? And is it definite once we have realized it, or could it be ever-changing and redefinable?
The meaning of the past has been archaeology’s major concern since its very beginning and throughout its entire life to date. The different way this meaning was each time perceived would imply different archaeological theories and priorities; for example, focus on the long-term historical event, such as population movements and colonizations, would make the past look as sets of traditions and historical cultures that tend to evolve or diffuse. If past societies are perceived as systemic entities that function and process under certain rules that generalized human behavior normatively dictates, then their culture is a-temporal and diachronic, externally rather than contextually formulated. Against this theory, post-processualism has perceived culture as resulting out of the tight bond between meaning and context; prehistory is then acquiring historicity and meaningfulness in every of its particular momentum.