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date: 06 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter starts by distinguishing the Darwinian evolutionary approach from other meanings of the word ‘evolution’ in archaeology. It goes on to distinguish three different strands of Darwinian evolution in the social sciences—evolutionary psychology, human behavioural ecology, and dual inheritance theory—the first of which has seen relatively limited application in archaeology. It is only the latter that gives a significant role to culture, distinguishing as it does between people’s genetic inheritance and what is transmitted to them culturally. Culture is regarded as a domain in which evolutionary processes operate at least semi-independently from their operation on genes. The chapter then describes these processes, explaining how some of them have no analogy in genetic evolution. The methodology for the archaeological application of the ideas is then outlined, and examples are presented. The chapter goes on to outline the theoretical framework of human behavioural ecology, a version of rational choice theory assuming that humans, like other animals, have evolved under the pressure of natural selection to maximize their reproductive success, and that behavioural plasticity enables them to respond speedily and adaptively to changes in the environment. This provides a basis for setting up cost–benefit models of what is optimal in specific circumstances. The theory has been extensively used by archaeologists, especially optimal foraging theory, but increasingly other areas as well, and examples are given. Finally, niche construction theory and gene-culture co-evolution, topics that have emerged more recently in archaeology, are presented.

Keywords: evolutionary psychology, human behavioural ecology, dual inheritance theory, phylogenetic methods, neutral models, optimal foraging theory, niche construction, gene-culture co-evolution

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