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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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Phase 1: Cultural diversification: Project 019
Investigating cultural evolution through biological phylogenetic analyses of Turkmen textiles
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SUPERVISOR: - Mark Collard

Jamshid Tehrani (Anthropology, Durham University)

PROJECT FUNDING: PHD supported by the Economic and Social Research Council, Wenner Gren Foundation, Royal Anthropological Institute and UCL Graduate School

Debate regarding the evolution of culture has focussed on two processes in particular, phylogenesis and ethnogenesis. Recently it has been suggested that the latter has probably always been more significant than the former. This proposal was assessed by applying cladistic methods of phylogenetic reconstruction to a data set comprising decorative characters from textiles produced by Turkmen tribes during the 18th and 19th centuries. The analyses focused on two periods in Turkmen history: the era in which most Turkmen practised nomadic pastoralism and were organised according to indigenous structures of affiliation and leadership; and the period following their defeat by Tsarist Russia in 1881, which is associated with the sedentarisation of nomadic Turkmen and their increasing dependence on the market. The results indicate that phylogenesis was the dominant process in the evolution of Turkmen carpet designs prior to the annexation of their territories, accounting for c.70% of the resemblances among the woven assemblages. The analyses also show that phylogenesis was the dominant process after 1881, although ethnogenesis accounted for an additional 10% of the resemblances among the assemblages. These results do not support the proposition that ethnogenesis has always been a more significant process in cultural evolution than phylogenesis.

Tehrani has extended his investigation into the diversification of tribal weaving traditions to include other rural populations in Iran. He has recently submitted a PhD thesis that combined phylogenetic analyses with ethnographic fieldwork to investigate patterns of craft transmission among Turkic and Farsi-speaking groups in the country. Tehrani is currently awaiting examination of his thesis, after which he plans to publish the conclusions of his research.

Collard, M. and J. Tehrani (2005).
Cladistic analysis of Turkmen textiles sheds light on cultural evolution. In: Mace, R., Holden, C. J. & Shennan, S. J. (eds.) (ed\s) The Evolution of Cultural Diversity: A Phylogenetic Approach. UCL Press: London. 109-131.
Tehrani, J. and M. Collard (2002).
Investigating cultural evolution through biological phylogenetic analyses of Turkmen textiles. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology. Vol 21:443-463.

April 2003. Annual Conference of the Society of American Archaeologists. Collard, M. and Tehrani, J. 'Cladistic Analyses of Behaviour in Anthropology'.

June 2001. Annual Conference of the Human Behaviour and Evolution Society. Tehrani, J. 'Processes of Cultural Diversification in the Evolution of Turkmen Textile Designs'.