The Archaeological Evidence for Social Evolution
Posted: 6 Jun 2008
Social evolution is the appearance of new forms of social or sociopolitical organization, without necessarily implying changes in overall culture or ethnicity. Evolution is most successfully studied when ethnologists or ethnohistorians collaborate with archaeologists. While ethnologists can provide unequaled detail on agents and institutions, many evolutionary transitions took longer than any ethnologist's lifetime. The archaeological record therefore provides an important proving ground for evolutionary theory. In this paper, I synthesize some of the supporting evidence for social evolution from both Old World and New World archaeology. I also argue that for the study of social evolution to advance, the field of anthropology must outlast postmodernism, political correctness, antipathy to generalization, and denial of comparisons and contrasts.
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