Darwin and Archaeology: A Handbook of Key Concepts

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

Chapter 2

Adaptation

Todd L. VanPool


INTRODUCTION

The 1996 edition of Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language provides three general definitions of the term adaptation that are of interest here. The first, and arguably most common meaning in the context of the social sciences is “a slow, usually unconscious modification of individual and social activity in adjustment to social surroundings.” The other definitions, more particular to Darwinian evolution, are (1) any alteration in the structure or function of an organism or any of its parts that results from natural selection, and (2) the act of adapting.


HISTORY

The importance of the term “adaptation” in archaeology and more generally anthropology is easily recognized, especially in the common definition of culture as “the extrasomatic means of adaptation” (Binford 1962:22; White 1959:8) and the use of terms such as “adaptive milieu, ” “adaptive systems, ” and “adaptive strategies” (e.g., Binford 1964:426; Kirch 1980:108). Despite the extensive use of the term, there is substantive disagreement among archaeologists concerning what the concept of adaptation really is, and by extension, what the term itself should mean (e.g., Dunnell 1980:77-82; Kantner 1999; Kirch 1980; O'Brien and Holland 1992). All three of the general definitions presented above are used in archaeological approaches that claim to be evolutionary. The unacknowledged nature of these different meanings has even led to contentious debates (e.g., Dunnell and Wenke 1980; Yoffee 1979, 1980). More specifically, two

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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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