Gary M. Feinman
In the anglophile scholarly world, the intellectual roots of evolutionary studies (including Darwinian approaches), anthropology, and archaeology are closely intertwined, extending back in their academic heritage for roughly a century and a half. Nevertheless, the appropriate and most scientifically productive relationships between these intellectual domains and the future agendas for them remain unresolved and a matter of significant current discussion and debate (e.g., Barton and Clark 1997; Gould 1997a, 1997b; Maschner 1996; Sanderson 1990; Spencer 1997; Wilson 1998). In this encyclopedic volume, key evolutionary constructs and concepts are explored to reflect on and clarify the potential for Darwinian evolutionary perspectives to inform and help chart a more synthetic course for contemporary anthropological archaeology.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I confess that I have never really considered myself a Darwinian archaeologist, nor has a reading of this set of papers caused me to have a midnight conversion. Yet as an anthropological archaeologist working in a natural history museum, who has interests in evolution, history, and change, it is impossible to remain dispassionate in regard to the central issues and questions raised in this text. After all, one day recently, the popular media trumpeted “academic warfare” (Shulevitz 2001) between scientific and humanistic intellectual streams in American anthropology, while practically the next day it speculated on the relationship between a simpler-than-expected human genetic code and the diversity that we recognize in our species (Karow 2001). With such pivotal and contemporary debates at stake, my aim here is to provide a somewhat critical commentary on the diverse range of theoretical perspectives offered in this compendium, while endeavoring to define a productive common