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The typological schemes constructed by many archaeologists to explain the rise and fall of civilizations have neither accounted for the processual changes involved in the evolution of social complexity nor contributed to the development of a comparative method for considering regularities and variation in social behavior. This paper begins with a review of the foundations on which archaeologists have based their conceptions of social evolution. A critical test of the assumptions of “evolutionism” is then provided by case studies in Mesopotamian civilization in which materials from both preliterate and literate times are examined. Using ancient, emic documentation that is recovered as part of the archaeological record, such studies may logically be termed ethnoarchaeological. It is suggested that the customary analogy between social change and biological evolution is inappropriate and that a new problem orientation will facilitate more productive research into the dynamics of social evolution.
You would be surprised at the number of years it took me to see clearly what some of the problems were which had to be solved. . . . Looking back, I think it was more difficult to see what the problems were than to solve them, as far as I have succeeded in doing, and this seems to me rather curious.
When we define a word we are merely inviting others to use it as we would like it to be used . . . the purpose of definition is to focus argument upon fact and . . . the proper result of good definition is to transform argument over terms into disagreements about fact, and thus open arguments to further inquiry.
Aspects of Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions are discussed and criticized. Problems are pointed out in three general areas: the latitude Kuhn allows in the concept paradigm, his views on the nature of scientific change, and his notion of incommensurability and the accompanying problems of relativism. The utilization of Kuhn's model by archaeologists is then critiqued, with a focus on the varying interpretations of the paradigmatic state of the discipline. Finally, consideration is given to the recent changes in archaeology that have led to the claim that there has been a scientific revolution in the field. It is argued that those ostensibly fundamental changes are neither revolutionary nor particulary beneficial to a scientific archaeology.
Our recent efforts in preparing syntheses of Puebloan prehistory suggest that most of the standard, normative generalizations are empirically false and that the conceptual framework traditionally employed to organize the archaeological data is inadequate and inappropriate. We show that the patterned variability manifest in the archaeological record is obscured by normative treatment. An approach to southwestern prehistory that is at once more faithful to the data and to processual, evolutionary anthropology is provided by describing the variable strategies that prehistoric groups used to cope with the continually changing natural and social environments in which they lived. We argue that some aspects of demographic, productive, and social organizational strategies are appropriate for treatment in syntheses of broad scope. We trace these strategies as they seem to have occurred in the northern Southwest from about A.D. 1 to the protohistoric period. In so doing, we find that successful strategies were those that facilitated the articulation of diversity. At some times productive specialization, organized redistributive exchange, and status differentiation were among the more important strategies.
Site content, structure, and function are examined using information drawn from historic sites, ethnographic observation, and modern material-culture studies in an effort to understand more about the relationship of past cultural systems to their material by-products. The elements of site content, such as artifacts, architecture, features, and strata, are examined in terms of their temporal and spatial dimensions in relation to site function.
The importance of identification of use, form, function, condition, and size in relation to spatial pattern and associations is emphasized. Given the ability to control or identify site function, those of us working on historic sites can begin to recognize the site structure correlates of site function and thereby take our place alongside experimental archaeology and ethnoarchaeology in the development of general archaeological theory.
Recently several models have been proposed for the origin and evolution of lowland Maya civilization. These models share a basic spatial framework, the culture area, which is logically tied to a particular theoretical approach to the emergence of lowland Maya civilization. The culture area approach rests on the premise that sociocultural innovation occurs as a localized response to local natural and social conditions. Such innovation subsequently diffuses outside the local area through successful competition with alternatives. The empirical archaeological expectations of models based upon this approach are not satisfied at the site of Cerros, a Late Preclassic center on the coast of northern Belize. An alternative approach, the interaction sphere, better accommodates the evidence from Cerros and other Preclassic sites in the Maya Lowlands. The culture area models, the evidence from Cerros, and the interaction sphere approach and its theoretical ramifications are discussed.
Two prehistoric mortuary sites, one from the Archaic and one from the Mississippian period, are compared with regard to the importance of age and sex as status-bearing variables. Statements about social organization in the two societies are examined using mortuary data, specifically, grave-good inclusions with burials. Cluster analyses at Indian Knoll in Kentucky and Dickson Mounds in Illinois show significant differences in cluster formation which can be interpreted in social organizational terms. These interpretations pertain both to the importance of age and sex and to wider principles of organization. Indian Knoll is found to be less egalitarian in organization than expected; Dickson Mounds, less hierarchical than expected.
Human behavior has spatial corollaries of great importance to both geographers and archaeologists. Some of these corollaries can be expressed as point maps, and to describe them objectively it has become common-place to employ the nearest-neighbor analysis technique devised by ecologists. But recently it has been shown that "underestimation" is an inherent flaw of the technique. Initially, therefore, the attention of this paper focuses on elimination of this problem by modifying the traditional formulae. With the flaw corrected, the issues surrounding interpretation of the nearest-neighbor statistic are discussed, and a review is made of the special difficulties of applying the technique to archaeological data.
This article suggests that accepted interpretations of variability in nonlithic material culture are insufficient. Recent ethnographic fieldwork in Kenya and Zambia and anthropological studies of societies in Sudan and Nigeria demonstrate that culture may be used by groups to communicate within-group corporateness in reference to outsiders. The greater the competition between groups for resources, the greater the likelihood that material culture will play a part in the maintenance of internal cohesion. Distinctive types of distributions and associations of artifacts occur as strains develop between spatially or hierarchically defined groups. The relevance of this view to archaeology is shown by two examples. Finally, it is suggested that this type of approach will allow a better understanding of the underlying causes of social and cultural change.
A burial at Vegueta on the central Peruvian coast contained pottery assignable to two regional styles. This association supplements other evidence for widespread interaction during the Middle Horizon. These distributional patterns are compatible with the hypothesis that several powerful commercial centers existed at this time, rather than the kind of political integration implied by the Huari Empire.
The theory of Holocene refugia in Amazonia as offered by B. J. Meggers is discussed in terms of dating, climate analysis, ecology, and linguistics. There is strong evidence to suggest that Meggers" formulation may be premature.
This paper reviews the relative feasibility of interior and coastal routes for early man entering southern North America from Beringia during the late Pleistocene. Paleoenvironmental and archaeological data suggest that a chain of sea-level refugia around the North Pacific coast could have provided a real alternative to the interior “ice-free” corridor and that maritime cultural adaptations may have been among the first to arrive south of Canada.
Aquatic fauna, and fish in particular, have had an important place in a number of theories of the development of complex cultural manifestations. Using experimental data, a number of specific characteristics of fish usage in riverine evironments have been evaluated. In one case 45.5 kg of fish were harvested in 4 man-hours from a floodplain slough using only two logs. The energy represented by the catch was sufficient for 9.9 man-days or a return of 60 to 1 [60 hours of energy per hour of labor]. Sufficient protein was produced for a return of 384 to 1 [384 hours of protein per hour of labor]. The species composition of the catch was also informative, with 50% of the weight contributed by gizzard shad, Dorosoma cepedianum, a small fish. It is demonstrated that archaeological recovery techniques are heavily biased against the recovery of gizzard shad and other small fish remains. The nature of this bias and considerations for compensation are discussed.
Despite their growing importance in the study of prehistoric human ecology, regional subsistence-settlement models continue to be developed and justified largely on intuitive grounds. This shortcoming can be at least partially overcome by using multivariate statistical techniques to clarify and refine these models. Such an approach is illustrated using classical factor analysis and discriminant analysis to explicate and improve a regional subsistence-settlement model previously developed for Owens Valley, eastern California.
The existence of climatic oscillations during the Quaternary in the Neotropics was inferred from the distributions and diversities of the modern flora and fauna. Recent data on soils, geomorphology, palynology, and paleoclimatology confirm the existence of periods of aridity and permit more accurate definition of their durations and impacts. A review of linguistic and archaeological evidence reveals patterns similar to those exhibited by a wide range of biological phenomena. The significance attached to these similarities depends on the theoretical paradigm by which they are judged.
While Hall's (1977) recent paper addressed the origins of calumet symbolism, it did little to explain (or even to acknowledge) the rapid expansion in the usage of the Hako-type calumet and its accompanying ceremony after the opening of the historic period. It is suggested here that this calumet emerged in the role of a stability-enhancing mechanism within precisely those societies that were experiencing rapid sociocultural change and fragmentation. Both the calumet and the tobacco pipe, singly and in combination, constituted cultural elements that had had long identification with the sacred sphere. Not only were calumets and pipes and native tobacco preserved in the new situation, but their conservative ritual significance was greatly emphasized and formalized until they increasingly came to symbolize and embody the old way of life. Archaeological and historical data are used to support this argument.