Origins of Human Behavior and Culture

Published by: University of California Press

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Origins of Human Behavior and Culture

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Behavioral Ecology and the Transition to Agriculture

Douglas J. Kennett

This innovative volume is the first collective effort by archaeologists and ethnographers to use concepts and models from human behavioral ecology to explore one of the most consequential transitions in human history: the origins of agriculture. Carefully balancing theory and detailed empirical study, and drawing from a series of ethnographic and archaeological case studies from eleven locations—including North and South America, Mesoamerica, Europe, the Near East, Africa, and the Pacific—the contributors to this volume examine the transition from hunting and gathering to farming and herding using a broad set of analytical models and concepts. These include diet breadth, central place foraging, ideal free distribution, discounting, risk sensitivity, population ecology, and costly signaling. An introductory chapter both charts the basics of the theory and notes areas of rapid advance in our understanding of how human subsistence systems evolve. Two concluding chapters by senior archaeologists reflect on the potential for human behavioral ecology to explain domestication and the transition from foraging to farming.

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Emergence and Collapse of Early Villages

Models of Central Mesa Verde Archaeology

Timothy A. Kohler

Ancestral Pueblo farmers encountered the deep, well watered, and productive soils of the central Mesa Verde region of Southwest Colorado around A.D. 600, and within two centuries built some of the largest villages known up to that time in the U.S. Southwest. But one hundred years later, those villages were empty, and most people had gone. This cycle repeated itself from the mid-A.D. 1000s until 1280, when Puebloan farmers permanently abandoned the entire northern Southwest. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, this book examines how climate change, population size, interpersonal conflict, resource depression, and changing social organization contribute to explaining these dramatic shifts. Comparing the simulations from agent-based models with the precisely dated archaeological record from this area, this text will interest archaeologists working in the Southwest and in Neolithic societies around the world as well as anyone applying modeling techniques to understanding how human societies shape, and are shaped by the environments we inhabit.

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Friendship

Development, Ecology, and Evolution of a Relationship

Daniel J. Hruschka

Friends-they are generous and cooperative with each other in ways that appear to defy standard evolutionary expectations, frequently sacrificing for one another without concern for past behaviors or future consequences. In this fascinating multidisciplinary study, Daniel J. Hruschka synthesizes an array of cross-cultural, experimental, and ethnographic data to understand the broad meaning of friendship, how it develops, how it interfaces with kinship and romantic relationships, and how it differs from place to place. Hruschka argues that friendship is a special form of reciprocal altruism based not on tit-for-tat accounting or forward-looking rationality, but rather on mutual goodwill that is built up along the way in human relationships.

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Life Histories of the Dobe !Kung

Food, Fatness, and Well-being over the Life-span

Nancy Howell

Life Histories of the Dobe !Kung re-examines an important anthropological data set for the Dobe !Kung, the well-known "Bushmen" of the Kalahari Desert, collected by Nancy Howell and colleagues. Using life history analysis, Howell reinterprets this rich material to address the question of how these hunter-gatherers maintain their notably good health from childhood through old age in the Kalahari’s harsh environment. She divides the population into life history stages that correlate with estimated chronological ages and demonstrates how and why they survive, even thrive, on a modest allotment of calories. She describes how surplus food is produced and distributed, and she considers both the motives for the generous sharing she has observed among the Dobe !Kung and some evolutionary implications of that behavior.

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Orderly Anarchy

Sociopolitical Evolution in Aboriginal California

Robert L. Bettinger

Orderly Anarchy delivers a provocative and innovative reexamination of sociopolitical evolution among Native American groups in California, a region known for its wealth of prehistoric languages, populations, and cultural adaptations. Scholars have tended to emphasize the development of social complexity and inequality to explain this diversity. Robert L. Bettinger argues instead that "orderly anarchy," the emergence of small, autonomous groups, provided a crucial strategy in social organization. Drawing on ethnographic and archaeological data and evolutionary, economic, and anthropological theory, he shows that these small groups devised diverse solutions to environmental, technological, and social obstacles to the intensified use of resources. This book revises our understanding of how California became the most densely populated landscape in aboriginal North America.

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Pattern and Process in Cultural Evolution

Stephen Shennan

This volume offers an integrative approach to the application of evolutionary theory in studies of cultural transmission and social evolution and reveals the enormous range of ways in which Darwinian ideas can lead to productive empirical research, the touchstone of any worthwhile theoretical perspective. While many recent works on cultural evolution adopt a specific theoretical framework, such as dual inheritance theory or human behavioral ecology, Pattern and Process in Cultural Evolution emphasizes empirical analysis and includes authors who employ a range of backgrounds and methods to address aspects of culture from an evolutionary perspective. Editor Stephen Shennan has assembled archaeologists, evolutionary theorists, and ethnographers, whose essays cover a broad range of time periods, localities, cultural groups, and artifacts.

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Technology as Human Social Tradition

Cultural Transmission among Hunter-Gatherers

Peter Jordan

Technology as Human Social Tradition outlines a novel approach to studying variability and cumulative change in human technology—a research theme that spans both archaeology and anthropology.

Peter Jordan argues that human material culture is best understood as an expression of social tradition. Each artifact stands as an output of a distinctive operational sequence with specific choices made at each stage in its production. He also explores different material culture traditions that are propagated through social learning, factors that promote coherent lineages of tradition to form, and the extent to which these cultural lineages exhibit congruence with one another and with language history.

Drawing on the application of cultural transmission theory to empirical research, the book develops what Jordan describes as a descent with modification perspective on the technology of Northern Hemisphere hunter-gatherers. Case studies from indigenous societies in Northwest Siberia, the Pacific Northwest Coast, and Northern California provide cross-cultural insights related to the evolution of material culture traditions at different social and spatial scales.

Overall, this book promises new ways of exploring some of the primary factors that generate human cultural diversity, both in the deep past and through to the present.

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