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  • Author or Editor: Stephen J. Lycett x
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Abstract

In recent years, an increasing range of scientists from the fields of psychology, anthropology and archaeology are recognising the value of utilising Darwinian theory to study cultural transmission and evolution. Such an approach is based on recognition that culture involves a mode of inheritance (social transmission), variation of practice, and the differential representation of particular variants in subsequent generations due to a variety of sorting mechanisms. In other words, culture evolves via a process of “descent with modification”. Two immediate analytical implications arise from this. The first of these is that ‘population thinking’ must be applied to the study of cultural evolution; the second is that understanding the historical process of lineage decent and diversification (i.e. phylogeny) becomes an imperative research goal. Methodologies and principles designed to address these issues in biology can profitably be used to address such questions in cultural data. Here, case studies of Palaeolithic stone tools are used to demonstrate how these principles and methodological approaches may be applied to some of these early artefactual products of the human lineage. Such methods are shedding new light on this “most beautiful and most wonderful” of legacies left to us by our fossil relatives and ancestors.

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