They don't usually do it, but sometimes they do, especially when they have to face apparently inexplicable phenomena like the emergence of some language groups (Indo-European, Afro-Asian, etc.) and their mysterious, even transcontinental dispersals at prehistoric times. It is then that some archaeologists feel the need to tackle the issue of ancient languages and devise their own theories. In the field of Indo-European studies, for example, the list is already quite long: Gordon Childe, Marjia Gimbutas (Kurgan theory), James Mallory, Colin Renfrew (Anatolian Hypothesis), Marcel Otte (Paleolithic Continuity), David Anthony, and many others. The debate is still alive, and it involves a number of archaeologists. Let's see an interesting example that I recently found:
Gamble et al (2005: 209; the highlighting is mine): "the most fruitful avenue for advocates of the cognitive origins synthesis to pursue might be the arrival of a proto-Indo-European dialect in southwestern Europe with the Badegoulian ATU2, in the refugium phase, and its subsequent codispersal with the Magdalenian ATU2 into western and northern Europe. It seems unlikely, however, that historical linguists who were not prepared to journey with Renfrew back to the early Neolithic would welcome the concept of a Late Glacial dispersal of Indo-European languages in western Europe."
Sounds like the Paleolithic Continuity hypothesis, doesn't it?
As we can see in the abstract, the authors of the article, among them two notorious British archaeologists (Clive Gamble and Paul Pettitt), criticise the role of historical linguistics and genetics in the debate and also the validity of what they call 'agriculturalist thinking', which was born in the work of Gordon Childe and continued by Colin Renfrew and other archaeologists. Let's see an excerpt from the abstract:
"This article presents the initial results from the S2AGES database of calibrated radiocarbon estimates from western Europe in the period 25,000-10,000 years ago. Our aim is to present a population history of this sub-continental region by providing a chronologically-secure framework for the interpretation of data from genetics and archaeology. (...) We conclude that only archaeology can currently provide the framework for population history and the evaluation of genetic data. Finally, if progress is to be made in the new interdisciplinary field of population history then both disciplines need to refrain from inappropriate agricultural thinking that fosters distorting models of European prehistory, and they should also pay less, if any, attention to historical linguistics."
I'm afraid I agree with them.
- Gamble, Clive, W. Davies, P. Pettitt, L. Hazelwood & M. Richards (2005). "The archaeological and genetic foundations of the European population during the Late Glacial: Implications for 'Agricultural Thinking'. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 15:2, 193-223.
- Magdalenian art. Lascaux (France).