Sibel Barut Kusimba and Chapurukha M. Kusimba
Although recent American archaeology has sought to distance itself from the concept of history, this concept is crucial to the way archaeologists think about what they are doing as researchers and why they are doing it. Therefore, it is not surprising that archaeologists have worked with many definitions of history and have suggested numerous ways of studying it. For example, archaeological culture historians as a rule see history as a richly detailed story about our past, a story that can be characterized by a uniquely varying succession of changing artifact types, settlement patterns, subsistence practices, and the like. In contrast, processual archaeologists are likely to see the historian's job as the rigorous accounting of certain identifiable processes of change leading human history to unfold in similar ways in different places on earth. In a volume such as this, however, the key issue is not the historian's famous question What is history? (Carr 1961), but instead the archaeologist's inquiry What does evolution have to do with history?
History can be defined as “action in time, ” be it the action of humans, other species, or matter and energy in space. Thus one can talk about human history and about the history of the universe. In many ways, history is the broadest concept in this book. Concepts like descent, chance, selection, environment, adaptation, learning, and evolution are concerned with influences on action in time, or how action in time happens.