The publication in 1962 of Lew Binford’s paper "Archaeology as Anthropology" is generally considered to mark the birth of processualism—a critical turning point in American archaeology. In the hands of Binford and other young University of Chicago graduates of the 1960s, this "new" archaeology became the mainstream approach in the U.S. The realignment that the processualists proposed was so thorough that its effects are still being felt today. Predictably, processualism also spun off a number of other "isms," several of which grew up to challenge its supremacy.
Archaeology as a Process traces the intellectual history of Americanist archaeology in terms of the research groups that were at the forefront of these various approaches, concentrating as much on the archaeologists as it does on method and theory, thus setting it apart from other treatments published in the last fifteen years.
Peppered with rare photographs of well-known archaeologists in some interesting settings, the book documents the swirl and excitement of archaeological controversy for the past forty years with over 1,600 references and an in-depth treatment of all the major intellectual approaches. The contributors examine how archaeology is conducted—the ins and outs of how various groups work to promote themselves—and how personal ambition and animosities can function to further rather than retard the development of the discipline.
Cladistics and Archaeology
Michael J O'Brien University of Utah Press, 2003 Library of Congress CC75.7.O275 2003 | Dewey Decimal 930.1012
Cladistics is a method used in biology and paleobiology to establish phylogeny: what produced what and in what order. It is a very specific method, developed in Germany in the 1950s and currently the primary phylogenetic method in the world. Cladistics has also been applied to such fields as historical linguistics and manuscript history. If things evolve in a nonrandom way, they may be appropriately studied using this method.
In Cladistics and Archaeology, Michael O’Brien and Lee Lyman explore the application of cladistics to archaeology by considering artifacts as human phenotypic characters. Their fundamental premise is that particular kinds of characters (style, artifact type, tool) can be used to create historically meaningful nested taxa. Further, they argue that this approach offers a means of building connections and 'life histories' of archaeological artifacts.
In order to make a potentially difficult topic more readily comprehensible, the authors have organized the book as something of a primer. Cladistics and Archaeology includes many figures to illustrate basic concepts, as well as a case study that shows a step-by-step application of cladistics to archaeology.
The application of Darwinian theory to archaeological phenomena has always been a difficult concept. In its most modern form, this approach has only gained currency since the 1980s. Perhaps the greatest hurdle to incorporating scientific evolutionism into archaeology is the necessary development of more than a rudimentary understanding of Darwinian evolution itself. Failure to recognize the conflict of anthropological terms such as "adaptation" and "fitness" with standard biological usage is fatal to any attempt to apply scientific evolutionism to the material record. Even more problematic are the outdated notions that human culture has allowed us to escape the effects of selection, that culture evolves, and that it does so in a progressive manner.
This volume assembles what might be considered the benchmark articles in evolutionary archaeology — articles that show how to apply scientific evolutionism to the study of variation in the archaeological record. It delineates an approach to the past in which artifacts are viewed as parts of human phenotypes and thus are subject to selection in the same manner as any somatic feature.
Evolutionary Archaeology: Theory and Application is aimed at archaeologists who want to understand the basics of evolutionary archaeology and who wish to do so from the beginning.
Darwin's theory of evolutionary descent with modification rests in part on the notion that there is heritable continuity affected by transmission between ancestor and descendant. It is precisely this continuity that allows one to trace hylogenetic histories between fossil taxa of various ages and recent taxa. Darwin was clear that were an analyst to attempt such tracings, then the anatomical characters of choice are those least influenced by natural selection, or what are today referred to as adaptively neutral traits. The transmission of these traits is influenced solely by such mechanisms as drift and not by natural selection.
The application of Darwin's theory to archaeological phenomena requires that the theory be retooled to accommodate artifacts. One aspect that has undergone this retooling concerns cultural transmission, the mechanism that affects heritable continuity between cultural phenomena. Archaeologists have long traced what is readily interpreted as heritable continuity between artifacts, but the theory underpinning their tracings is seldom explicit. Thus what have been referred to as artifacts styles underpin such tracings because styles are adaptively neutral. Other traits are referred to as functional.
In their introduction to Style, Function, Transmission, Michael O’Brien and R. Lee Lyman outline in detail the interrelations of a theory of cultural descent with modification and the concepts of drift, style, and function. The chapters in the volume specifically address the issues of selection and drift and their relation to style and function. In non-polemic presentations, contributors specify empirical implications of aspects of cultural transmission for evolutionary lineages of artifacts and then present archaeological data for those implications.