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Style, Function and Cultural Transmission

Shennan, S; (2020) Style, Function and Cultural Transmission. In: Groucutt, HS, (ed.) Culture History and Convergent Evolution: Can We Detect Populations in Prehistory? (pp. 291-298). Springer: Cham, Switzerland. Green open access

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Recent evolutionary approaches to the understanding of lithic variability take us back to long-standing issues in lithic studies to do with the claimed contrast between style and function and the Binford-Bordes debate of the 1960s concerning the factors that affect inter-assemblage variation. In fact, the style and function contrast is an unhelpful one, not least when considering the question of convergence. Taking the definition of style as ‘a way of doing’, all functions are carried out in locally specific ways that have a transmission history, although the extent to which the history of the attributes relevant to the function have been subject to random drift and innovation patterns, as opposed to selection, will vary. Moreover, in a subtractive technology like lithics the extent to which a transmission signal will be visible in an attribute like the angle of a cutting edge is unclear. The contrasting view is that, in the case of lithics, functional requirements will always call into existence the technical innovations to satisfy them, which in any case are not that difficult to find. The paper addresses these and related issues with reference to previous work by Shennan and colleagues on the use of material culture to identify within and between group variation, the extent to which isolation-by-distance in space and time can account for the similarities and differences between assemblages, and the role of phylogenetic methods.

Type: Book chapter
Title: Style, Function and Cultural Transmission
ISBN-13: 978-3-030-46128-7
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-46126-3_15
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-46126-3_15
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10107913
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