Differences in manufacturing traditions and assemblage-level patterns: The origins of cultural differences in archaeological data


A relationship between behavioral variability and artifactual variability is a founding principle of archaeology. However, this relationship is surprisingly not well studied empirically from an explicitly microevolutionary'' perspective. Here, we experimentally simulated artifactual variation in two populations of artifact’’ manufacturers, involving only a single behavioral difference in terms of their tradition'' of manufacturing tool. We then statistically analyzed shape variation in the resultant artifacts. In many respects, patterned differences might not have been expected to emerge given the simple nature of the task, the fact that only a single behavioral variable differed in our two populations, and all participants copied the same target artifact. However, multivariate analyses identified significant differences between the two assemblages.’’ These results have several implications for our understanding and theoretical conceptualization of the relationship between behavior and artifactual variability, including the analytical potency of conceiving of artifacts as the product of behavioral recipes'' comprised of individual ingredient’’ behavioral properties. Indeed, quite trivial behavioral differences, in generating microevolutionarily potent variability, can thus have long-term consequences for artifactual changes measured over time and space. Moreover, measurable cultural'' differences in artifacts can emerge not necessarily only because of a strict mental template’’ but as the result of subtle differences in behavioral ingredients that are socially learned at the community level.

Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 24, 640–658. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10816-016-9280-4