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13 - Cognitive aspects of ‘technique’

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 December 2009

Colin Renfrew
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
Ezra B. W. Zubrow
Affiliation:
State University of New York, Buffalo
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Summary

Introduction

In trying to isolate reasons for the fact that archaeology has, for so long, ignored the cognitive aspects of material culture studies, one can point to the following - not necessarily in order of appearance or importance:

  1. - The once dominant determinist streak in archaeology often saw ‘us humans’ as forever trying to adapt to circumstances beyond our control. This attitude has wilfully ignored the reciprocal nature of the relationship between people and what surrounds them, which is at the core of cognition (see below), and has underrated the impact of long-term human activity on the material and natural world, the degree to which human beings have created their surroundings by direct action or selection.

  2. - The predominant evolutionary perspective underwrites a strong theoretical sense of common origins and has led archaeologists to look for, and stress, human universals, both physical and cultural. At first sight, this conflicts with the importance of observed variations, and this apparent conflict has led to a yes-or-no debate on the existence of such universals, for example in material culture. The debate has precluded a more nuanced position, which would entail investigating whether similar processes might underlie very different results.

  3. […]

Type
Chapter
Information
The Ancient Mind
Elements of Cognitive Archaeology
, pp. 135 - 142
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1994

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