By S. J. Shennan
Examines the serious implications of cultural identification from quite a few views. Questions the character and boundaries of archaeological wisdom of the prior and the connection of fabric tradition to cultural identification.
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Extra info for Archaeological Approaches to Cultural Identity (One World Archaeology)
Gellner (1983) takes the view that entities of the ethnic group type are essentially characteristic of the onset of industrialism and its impact—before that they did not exist. In the preceding agrarian civilizations it was class identity that mattered, with a clear distinction between an élite stratum and a peasantry, the former typified by widespread élite styles and the latter by the prevalence of village communities which were largely insulated from one another and which were differentiated only in the sense of the existence of a certain amount of spatial variation between them.
These are controversial, but essential, tenets of much archaeological methodology today and the remainder of this introduction is devoted to discussing them. However, first some short comments on each of them may be useful. (a) (b) (c) (d) (e) Spatial variation in human ways of life: there is no problem in accepting this, and it will be suggested below that it has some interesting evolutionary implications. ‘Cultures’ as a way of classifying spatial variation in the archaeological record: it can be useful to summarize spatial variation in this way for shorthand descriptive purposes, but it has been disastrous to use the results of this classification procedure for many analytical goals.
Of course, the result of this is the generation of areas of cultural uniformity with respect to the various phenomena in question, where people tend to do things in the same way. It follows from this that specific populations will tend to be far more homogeneous culturally than genetically. This kind of imitation may operate at various levels of consciousness, and at the conscious level may be accompanied by another phenomenon, which Boyd & Richerson (1985) called ‘indirect bias’: this is a tendency to imitate those who appear particularly successful in their society, not just in the specific aspects that are relevant to their success, but also in other aspects of their behaviour and appearance.
Archaeological Approaches to Cultural Identity (One World Archaeology) by S. J. Shennan