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Anthropology 250, Intro notes

by: James Varner

Anthropology 250, Intro notes 250

James Varner
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Notes on Archaeology as a social science. you should refer to these notes throughout the entirety of the course.
Prehistoric north america
Dr. Berrey
Class Notes




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This 4 page Class Notes was uploaded by James Varner on Saturday January 30, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to 250 at Clarion University of Pennsylvania taught by Dr. Berrey in Spring 2016. Since its upload, it has received 24 views. For similar materials see Prehistoric north america in anthropology, evolution, sphr at Clarion University of Pennsylvania.

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Date Created: 01/30/16
1-26-16 Archaeology as a Social Science Anthropology 250 I. Building up to a social science a. Cultural History i. Cultural history was the approach to archaeological study people took prior to a more modern view. ii. It was based on a normative rule of culture 1. Normalcy in any given culture is based on arbitrary rules 2. This negates the possibility to observe cross cultural traits due to observing each individual culture in its own iii. Based on style 1. Cultural history tried to say that a change in style of artifacts found indicated changes in society and culture. This can be a wildly inaccurate assumption iv. Cultural history is inductive 1. It makes broad general statements based on very specific circumstances. 2. Completely opposite of traditional scientific method b. Processual archaeology i. Emphasizes changes in social processes and culture 1. Instead of making broad generalizations it takes what was found and tries to find changes in society. ii. Emphasizes systematic change 1. Doesn’t focus too much on the individual in history but entire societies 2. Many argued that it took the humanity out of the science. c. Postprocessual Archaeology i. Born out of a reaction to processual archaeology ii. Focuses on ideology, religion, and gender roles. iii. Brought more attention to the individual while still trying not to make broad generalizations II. Archaeology as a Social science a. Advantages of archaeological data i. Unique data sources 1. Archaeological sources are all non-written since archaeology focuses mostly on societies before the advent of writing. ii. Socially representative 1. Informs about all segments of society including commoners, peasants, underclass, and slaves. All groups often left out of written sources. iii. Long-term perspective 1. Provides a long term perspective on societal change and transformations iv. Methodological (and conceptual) advancement 1. Use of random sampling methods and analysis allows rigorous conclusions of the past a. Basically jumping from hunks of rock and pottery to economic analysis. v. Global coverage 1-26-16 Archaeology as a Social Science Anthropology 250 1. Allows comparative analysis of changes and social patterns vi. Societal variations 1. Allows people to understand that there were many different types of culture since most social sciences focus on non-western society. b. From material remains to social behavior i. Ethnographic analogy 1. Using ethnographic data from modern societies to help infer patterns of organization and behavior among prehistoric societies which exhibit broadly similar patterns a. Ex. Tribal societies in the Amazon and in Africa can be used as an analogy to what society was like in prehistory 2. However some prehistoric cultures do not have modern day analogies such as chiefdoms. ii. Direct Historical Approach (DHA) 1. Using ethnographic data from a particular area to infer patterns of organization and behavior among prehistoric cultures in that same area. a. Ex. Looking at culture in a Native American reservation to figure out how Native Americans lived in the past. iii. Experimental archaeology 1. The study of patterns left by human activities (such as flint knapping) within a controlled or experimental context. a. Basically doing the things we think they did in the past to figure out if that is actually what they were doing. iv. Ethno-archaeology 1. The study of spatial and material patterns among modern societies and the social behaviors that produce them a. Ex. Watching a modern tribe society flint knapping III. Understanding Social evolution a. “nothing in society makes sense except in the light of evolution” b. How did we get from a millennia old hunter gatherer society to the immense civilization of today i. Settlement and demographic structure 1. Societies have increased tremendously in size 2. Population growth ii. Subsistence strategies 1. Hunting and gathering to farming to grocery stores iii. Technology and systems of exchange 1. Exponentially changing 2. From spoken word to written word to the internet iv. Conflict and warfare 1. Are we becoming more peaceful or more violent as a species 1-26-16 Archaeology as a Social Science Anthropology 250 v. Ideology, ritual, and religion 1. From small regional religions to worldwide religions vi. Social differentiation and inequality 1. From egalitarian society to huge differences between rich and poor c. The teleological roots of evolutionary theory i. The teleological perspective (the religious perspective of social evolution) 1. Evolution driven by design with a preset destination 2. Savagery > Barbarianism > Civilization a. Obviously a flawed perspective d. Marxism and the evolution of material conditions i. Historical materialist perspective (the perspective of Karl Marx) 1. Primitive communism > Slave society > Feudalism > Capitalism > socialism > communism a. Most likely a very accurate view point of social evolution. i. We have moved over the last century or so from capitalism to a more socialist society and it is possible that society will continue to follow this model e. The early anthropological perspective i. Evolution is marked by increased levels of social complexity 1. Band > tribe > chiefdom > State a. North American social structure never really progressed pass the chiefdom stage f. Action theory i. An approach to social evolution without stages 1. Puts more focus on the brief transitional periods in between stages. Periods in which change is taking place rather than the long periods of stability where a society fits into a stage. g. Exploring different levels of evolution i. Specific evolution 1. Evolution of a single society with a single evolutionary trajectory. ii. General evolution 1. Evolution of society as a whole rather than specific societies h. From specific to general i. The search for patterned variation 1. Basically looking for patterns in specific societies that repeat all over the world to attain a broader perspective of societal evolution as a whole i. Forces of societal change i. What has been the catalyst that sparked social change 1. Increased population/demographic 1-26-16 Archaeology as a Social Science Anthropology 250 a. More people means new systems have to be put in place to manage those people and maintain structure 2. Access to resources a. Less resources can prompt societies to change things to provide more (agriculture) b. Some people having more starts a system of inequality among individuals 3. Technological change a. Provides an environment in which change can happen faster i. Ex. The internet 4. Outside influence a. As other societies progress it pushes surrounding societies to follow suit 5. Warfare a. One of the most influential forces of change 6. Individuals a. Individuals have ambitions to progress their societies further.


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