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The Betty Behrens Seminar on Classics of Historiography

Paul Seaward on "The History of the Rebellion" by Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon

Garrod Research Seminar - Thinking evolutionary laws: technological trajectories and anthropological regularities

Thu 30 November 2023

McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research

In order to understand the past, archaeology has always been concerned with how culture arises, how it is defined and how it changes through time. Several theoretical and methodological approaches have been proposed within the field to do so, one of the most promising ones being Cultural Evolutionary studies. Rooted on the biological concept of descent with modification, this specific theoretical approach analyses how different factors (environmental, social, psychological, biological...) interact with the transmission of social items to shape human cultures.

In this series, we welcome to Cambridge some of the foremost cultural evolutionary archaeologists and social scientists. Valentine Roux (CNRS Director of Research, Paris) is a worldwide leader in ceramic technology. She conducts researches on the evolutionary trajectories of ceramic traditions and related social groups in the southern Levant between the 5th and 3rd millennium BC.

Abstract: In social sciences, it is possible to think of evolutionary laws in terms of regularities. By regularities I mean recurrentcross-cultural phenomena that can be observed in the present and in the past, and whose emergence can be explained and, therefore, the conditions for their actualization characterized, in present-day contexts, using an interdisciplinary approach. The study of the conditions for the generation of regularities involves different scales of observation, starting with the individual, and then examining how an individual process can generate atemporal regularities on a group scale. Understanding the mechanisms that generate regularities in turn makes it possible to explain past situations, without obliterating socio-cultural and historical particularities. I will discuss in these terms some aspects of the evolution of technologies. It is marked by recurring phenomena, which will be reduced, for the purpose of clarity, to the stability of technical traditions and their intrinsic variability, on the one hand, and to changes brought about by innovation or borrowing, on the other. Characterizing the conditions for their recurrence reveals true “laws” rooted in psycho-social universals.

Cost: Free

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Thu 30 November 2023 4:00PM - 5:30PM


Address: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
Seminar Room
Downing Street
Telephone: +44 1223 333538
Fax: +44 1223 333536