Genes, Memes and Human History: Darwinian Archaeology and Cultural Evolution
As biological information is passed through genes, so cultural information is passed through what Richard Dawkins has termed memes'. In this theoretical but readable study, Shennan explores the potential for a neo-Darwinian evolutionary approach to some of the major concerns and issues within archaeology in recent times. Drawing on the work of Richard Dawkins as a stimulus, Shennan reviews the concept of memes as applied to animal behaviour and critiques their role in relation to human populations. Arguing that archaeologists are currently struggling with a lost past, this study reinforces what should be the prime concern of archaeology - to search for valid knowledge and to seek to make sense of long-term patterning and material culture. Shennan puts forward a framework to this end and applies it to looking at how humans exploit resources, population histories, the transmission of cultural traditions, male-female relationships and social evolution, competition and warfare.
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