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date: 16 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Anthropological theory helps explain behavioural variation among living humans; archaeologists add a time dimension to this aim. Nevertheless, no single theory used by archaeologists can account for why or how there is change through time. This article examines the use of ethnography, middle range theory, cognitive archaeology, and ecological and demographic theories. Societies still largely dependent on indigenous animals and plants live in widely separated parts of Africa. The questions asked by an archaeologist before the start of a project ultimately determine the choice of theory. Those questions are in turn framed by the paradigm embraced by the archaeologist. Theory needs support from ‘middle range’ methodology that might include experiments, data analyses, or other types of empirical evidence. The choice of theory and a structured programme linking this to archaeological data through inferential steps and bridging theories is the basic requirement for telling the story of Africa’s hunter-gatherer past.

Keywords: middle range theory, archaeological theory, Africa’s hunter-gatherer, time dimension, ethnography, cognitive archaeology

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