Archaeological Thought in America by C. C. Lamberg-Karlovsky

By C. C. Lamberg-Karlovsky

The purpose of the seventeen essays during this quantity is either to explain fresh theoretical advances in archaeological learn and to offer major interpretations of prehistoric facts drawn from various cultures and time frames, together with Mesoamerica, critical Asia, India, and China.

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Although this approach was labelled culture-historical, it had little in common with true history. Its only significant historical attribute was a concern with chronology. Change was attributed almost entirely to external factors. Nevertheless the culture-historical approach marked a definitive advance by comparison with the preceding paradigm inasmuch as it allowed archaeologists to take account of temporal as well as spatial variations in the archaeological record. Beginning in the 1930s American archaeologists and ethnologists became increasingly disillusioned with the sterility of historical particularism.

1979:360); although they had anticipated that four or five major ecological factors might account for 80 percent of the variability in their detailed settlement pattern data for the Valley of Mexico, they were unable to demonstrate such relations. On the other hand the application of General Systems Theory suggested unexpected constraints on human behavior. These constraints take the form of new structures for information processing and decision making that must evolve if the scale of the society (Flannery 1972a; Johnson 1973; Rathje 1975), or the number of units requiring coordination (Johnson 1981), is to increase.

Certainly the most comprehensive attempts have been those of Rindos (1980, 1984) in explaining the development of agriculture. Given the confusion that surrounds the term evolution in American archaeology, it is critical that the two kinds of explanatory systems be differentiated clearly and their relation to scientific inquiry understood. I have undertaken this task elsewhere in some detail (Dunnell 1980) so only an outline of that analysis need be presented here. The body of this chapter is directed toward elucidating the application of scientific evolutionary theory, as a generalization of biological evolutionary theory, to archaeology.

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