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The CECD is an AHRC funded research group dedicated to examining the evolutionary underpinnings of human cultural behaviour, past and present. more>

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Exhibiting the Evolution of Artefacts: a workshop

Tuesday 4th July 1.00-5.00 p.m. Institute of Archaeology (UCL), 31-34 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PY

The AHRC Centre for the Evolutionary Analysis of Cultural Behaviour was set up in January 2001 to advance the application of evolutionary approaches to human cultures – their diversification, the dynamics of cultural convergence and blending, and the association between cultural, linguistic and genetic measures of relatedness. In a new phase of funding (2006-2010) the re-named AHRC Centre for the Evolution of Cultural Diversity (CECD) will continue this mission, while also undertaking a major outreach programme to convey the significance of its work to a wider audience.

Aims of the workshop:

• To enable Centre researchers to exchange ideas with museums professionals involved in exhibiting artefacts and in explaining design history

• To identify the most useful resources that the Centre could develop for museums professionals and educators, based on research projects carried out during the Centre’s first phase (2001-2005)

The following Centre researchers will present their work:

Jamie Tehrani has used biological methods for reconstructing the relationships among species to study how craft traditions are related to one another. Using these techniques, he has investigated whether tribal weaving traditions in Iran and Central Asia evolved through ‘descent with modification’ from ancestral populations or through borrowing and blending among neighbouring populations.

Peter Jordan’s work at the Centre is also concerned with identifying patterns of cultural inheritance using evolutionary methods. He has investigated the extent to which artefact traditions in Siberia and in indigenous California coincide with or cut across specific ethno-linguistic and ecological boundaries. The Siberian work includes analysis of costume, sledges, skis, and religious structures and the Californian work includes analysis of cradles, earth lodges and baskets.

Peter Schauer is investigating stylistic change in classical Greek pottery, such as the transition from ‘red-figure’ to ‘black-figure’ vase painting in the 6th and 5th centuries BC. He takes a quantitative approach to address whether such changes can be explained by the cumulative effects of random sampling of different styles or whether they are driven by rules of Darwinian selection and competition.

Mark Lake and Jay Venti have applied the concept of ‘adaptive radiation’ that was originally developed in paleontology to examine the evolution of bicycles from the time of their invention to the present day. They compare the processes through which early bicycle types explored design space to the famous Cambrian explosion that gave rise to whole new types of organisms, which later sub-divided into more closely related forms.

Other invited speakers will present a professional perspective on exhibition techniques. We invite your participation in this informal, closed-format small group forum. Please reply to the co-organizers: James Steele ( and Jamie Tehrani ( Telephone: 020 7679 4773 Fax: 020 7383 2572