Abstract and Keywords
Revisionist emphasis on the specificity of extant hunter-gatherers and examples of post-modernist approaches in recent European Mesolithic research illustrate some of the theoretical foundations of an emerging historical orientation in hunter-gatherer archaeology. Comparison with earlier anthropological efforts to develop more contextual, ‘humanist’ approaches to the study of hunter-gatherers shows common interest in explaining actions in relation to the perceptions and motivations of people in particular cultural and historical contexts. Contrasts with approaches that focus on general categories of behaviour such as ecological adaptation and social aggrandizement emphasize the broader empirical and holistic perspective of archaeological histories. Examples of long-term hunter-gatherer history highlight their dependence on a rich empirical base and construction in relation to particular patterns of structure, agency, and contingency. A discussion of the value of archaeological histories of hunters and gatherers considers their role in developing a comparative understanding of human response to changing circumstances.
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