Chapter 16 - Explanation and Archaeology

As we learned early in the course, the most difficult, most interesting, and perhaps most important question that archaeology has to answer is "Why did a specific cultural behavior occur?" Throughout this course we've been examining the processes of culture change. First, we concentrated on just describing this change through time. Then, we examined how change occurs in the individual sub-systems. Chapter 16 concludes the book by synthesizing the subsystems to explain how why the whole cultural system changes.

Population Pressure: Malthus - people will always be looking for more food: drives technology

Boserup: high pop. density in productive zones results in complexity

Conflict Theories (Netting): high pop density causes breakdown of kinship.

Hydraulic (Wittfogel):

Warfare (Carneiro): env. and soc. circumscription

Exchange (Rathje): symbiosis of communities trading for important resources.

Information Systems (Flannery):

Level 1: Socio-Env. conditions (warfare, pop growth, irrigation, etc.)

Level 2: Mechanisms


Linearization: (martial law)

Level 3: Processes


stresses select mechanisms that then effect evolutionary processes.