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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>

Page Title - projects
Phase 2: Theme B - Cultural and linguistic diversity: Project B005
Hunter-Gatherers, Technology and Cultural Transmission


Peter Jordan (Department of Archaeology, University of Aberdeen )

PROJECT FUNDING: Cards Against Humanity
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This project aimed to integrate culture-evolutionary theory with hunter-gatherer studies and the anthropology of technology through examination of the factors generating diversity in hunter-gatherer material culture. At its core, the research examined the factors structuring inheritance, practice and diversification of a range of craft traditions in different forager communities. Data were derived from the PI’s ethnoarchaeological fieldwork in Siberia, and from published ethnohistoric sources, and subjected to quantitative analysis using a methodology which integrated a range of analytical methods widely employed in the biological sciences.

Special attention was directed at understanding how specific patterns of variability in material culture had been generated by the intervention of hunter-gatherer social institutions like kinship, land-holding regimes and ceremonial complexes, which actively mediated between inter-generational cultural transmission, and the emergence of regional-scale patterns of cultural diversity. These inheritance and diversification processes were examined via a series of individual case-studies, published as stand-alone papers and chapters, each providing opportunities for developing and refining the project’s main methodological framework.

The general results of the project are now being published as a synthetic monograph. This aims to situate the research within wider debates and traditions of research, outlines the basic models and methods employed, and presents analyses of cultural transmission at ascending social scales, via three integrated case-studies: (a) micro-scale to macro-scale transmission in Western Siberia; (b) ‘gendered’ technology, kinship and settlement among the Coast Salish; (c) kinship, territoriality, ceremonial complexes and material culture diversity in Northern California. The book concludes with a discussion of avenues for further research.

A book contract has been offered by University of California Press in their ‘Origins of Human behaviour and Culture Series’ [], and a full manuscript was submitted for peer-review in August 2010, with comments expected in Fall 2010.

The project has generated a series of individuals papers and chapters as well as a monograph bringing together this PI’s main CECD-based work on hunter-gatherers, technology and cultural transmission. As such, the pilot-studies and main book aim to make a general case for the dissemination and application of evolutionary approaches to the analysis of cultural inheritance, with a particular focus on the development of material culture studies and hunter-gatherer research. Moreover, the core methodology and general approach developed by this project are readily applicable to other regional case-studies, which seek to integrate the analysis of craft skills, ethnoarchaeology, ethnography and the study of museum collections via a focus on inter-generational cultural transmission.

Jordan, P (in prep.).
Hunter-Gatherers, Technology and Cultural Transmission. Origins of Human Behaviour and Culture Series. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Jordan, P (2011).
Seasonal Mobility and Sacred Landscape Geography among Northern Hunter-Gatherers. In: D. Anderson (ed) (ed\s) The 1926/27 Soviet Polar Census Expeditions: Identity, Ethnography and Demography of Siberian Peoples. Berghahn Books.
Peter Jordan and Sean O'Neill (2010).
Untangling cultural inheritance: language diversity and long-house architecture on the Pacific Northwest Coast. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B. Vol 365: In: James Steele, Peter Jordan and Ethan Cochrane (eds.) (ed\s) Special Theme Issue: Cultural and linguistic diversity. 3875-3888.
Jordan P. and S.J. Shennan (2009).
Diversity in Hunter-Gatherer Technological Traditions: Mapping Trajectories of Cultural 'Descent with Modification' in Northeast California. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology. Vol 28 (3):342-65.
Jordan, P (2009).
Linking Pattern to Process in Cultural Evolution: Explaining Material Culture Diversity among the Northern Khanty of Northwest Siberia. In: S. J. Shennan (ed.) (ed\s) Pattern and Process in Cultural Evolution. University of California Press. 61-84.
Jordan, P. and Mace, T (2008).
'Gendered' Technology, Kinship and Cultural Transmission amongst Salish-Speaking Communities on the Pacific Northwest Coast: A Preliminary Investigation. In: M. Stark, Bowser, B and Horne L. (eds) (ed\s) Cultural Transmission and Material Culture: Breaking Down Boundaries. University of Arizona Press. 34-62.
Jordan, P (2008).
Hunters and Gatherers. In: Bentley, A. and Maschner, H. (eds) (ed\s) Handbook of Archaeological Theories. New York: Rowman and Littlefield. 447-65.
Jordan, P (2008).
Tracking 'Technological Choice' amongst Northern Hunter-Fisher-Gatherers. In: A. Olofsson (ed) (ed\s) Vuollerim papers in Hunter Gatherer Archaeology, Volume 2. Vuollerim, Sweden: Vuollerim Museum Press. 81-111.
Jordan, P (2007).
Continuity and Change in Different Domains of Culture: An Emerging Approach to Understanding Diversity in Technological Traditions. In: T. Kohler & S van der Leuuw (eds.) (ed\s) The Model-Based Archaeology of Socionatural Systems. Santa Fe Institute Press.
Jordan, P. and Mace, T (2005).
Tracking Culture-Historical Lineages: Can Descent with Modification be linked with Association by Descent . In: Lipo, C.P., M.J. O'Brien, M. Collard & S.J. Shennan (eds.) (ed\s) Mapping Our Ancestors: Phylogenetic Methods in Anthropology and Prehistory. Aldine Transaction: Hawthorne, NY. 149-168.