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Evidence and Metaphor in Evolutionary Archaeology

  • Douglas B. Bamforth (a1)

Abstract

Evolutionary theory and terminology are widely used in recent archaeological work, and many evolutionary archaeologists have argued that the integration of such theory and terminology is essential to the future of our field. This paper considers evolutionary archaeology from two perspectives. First, it examines substantive claims that archaeology can study the operation of Darwinian evolution, either through a reliance on optimal-foraging theory or by linking the process of natural selection to archaeological data. It concludes that there are serious problems with both of these claims on Darwin: the relation between evolution and foraging theory has never been documented, and midrange arguments linking selection and archaeological data are unsustainable. Second, it argues that archaeologists rely metaphorically on evolutionary terminology to help make sense out of archaeological data. Although the use of evolutionary metaphor can be, and has been, problematic, it also offers a powerful conceptual framework for our research. However, this framework is only of one of a number of comparable frameworks that have been offered to our field, as a comparison of systems archaeology and evolutionary archaeology shows.

Résumé

La teoría y terminología evolucionarias son usadas ampliamente en el trabajo arqueólogico reciente, y muchos arqueólogos evolucionarios han argumentado que la integración de dicha teoría y terminología es esencial para el futuro de nuestro campo. Este escrito considera la arqueología evolucionaria desde dos perspectivas. Primero, examina pretensiones substantivas de que la arqueología puede estudiar el funcionamiento de la evolución Darwiniana, ya sea a través de la confianza en la teoria del abastecimiento óptimo o enlazando el proceso de la selección natural a los datos arqueológicos. Concluye que hay serios prolemas con estos dos alegatos sobre Darwin: la relación entre evolución y la teoría del abastecimiento nunca ha sido documentada, y los argumentos de mediano alcance enlazando la selección y los datos arquelógicos son insostenibles. Segundo, a pesar to eso, también los arqueólogos metafóricante confían en la terminologia evolucionaria para mejorar la comprensión de los datos arqueológicos. Aunque el uso de la metáfora evolucionaria puede ser, y ha sido, problemático, igualmente ofrece un marco conceptual poderosos para nuestra investigación. Sin embargo, este armazón ideológico es sólo una de varias estructuras de pensamiento comparables que han sido ofrecidas a nuestro campo, conforme un cotejo entre la arqueología de sistemas y la arqueología evolucionaria nos muestra.

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Evidence and Metaphor in Evolutionary Archaeology

  • Douglas B. Bamforth (a1)

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