Darwin and Archaeology: A Handbook of Key Concepts

By John P. Hart; John Edward Terrell et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 1

Introduction

John Edward Terrell and John P. Hart

Dictionaries tell us that archaeology is the scientific study of material remains, such as graves, tools, and pottery, of past human life and activities. They also say that evolution is about life's unfolding story, a word referring to a gradual process of change in a certain direction during which something changes into a different and usually more complex or better form, an account of continuous change from “a lower, simple, or worse” into “higher, more complex, or better state.” The first definition scarcely begins to account for what archaeology today is all about. These several definitions of evolution are not only misleading, but—from a Darwinian point of view—are also fundamentally wrong. The proposition of this book is simple. We think a good way to do archaeology well is to study archaeological evidence—“the material remains of the past”—the way that Charles Darwin studied the origin of species. These various dictionary definitions, however, are disconcerting. If most people would agree with these definitions, then we need to begin this book by saying why we do not.


ARCHAEOLOGY AND EVOLUTION

For archaeologists—and for many who enjoy reading about archaeology—much of the excitement of this science comes from the discovery of relics from bygone times. But make no mistake. Regardless of what dictionaries say, most archaeologists are looking for more than ancient remnants and elusive signs of prehistoric people. Most archaeologists also want to write HISTORY, 1 and so they are looking for things that are profound and worth saying about the past. Furthermore, many archaeologists want to discover whether the past has lessons to teach us that can help us better

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Darwin and Archaeology: A Handbook of Key Concepts
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword vii
  • Table of Key Words xv
  • Chapter 1 - Introduction 1
  • Chapter 2 - Adaptation 15
  • References 26
  • Chapter 3 - Biological Constraints 29
  • References 46
  • Chapter 4 - Cause 49
  • References 65
  • Chapter 5 - Classification 69
  • Chapter 6 - Complexity 89
  • Chapter 7 - Culture 107
  • References 123
  • Chapter 8 - Descent 125
  • Chapter 9 - History 143
  • Chapter 10 - Individuals 161
  • References 180
  • Chapter 11 - Learning 183
  • References 198
  • Chapter 12 - Models 201
  • Chapter 13 - Natural Selection 225
  • Chapter 14 - Population 243
  • About the Contributors 257
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