By S. J. Shennan

Examines the severe implications of cultural identification from various views. Questions the character and bounds of archaeological wisdom of the previous and the connection of fabric tradition to cultural identification.

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258): Desire to present a positive image to partners in reciprocity and to 22 INTRODUCTION members of the opposite sex was the most frequent motive for stylistic effort given by San informants…. If Crook’s hypothesis is correct, one would expect assertive style to appear first in the archaeological record with the origins of regular, delayed and unbalanced reciprocal relations. However, Darwinian explanations may also be adduced for the general phenomenon that differing areas of uniform ‘practice’—patterns of isochrestic variation—are a general occurrence.

However, first some short comments on each of them may be useful. (a) (b) (c) (d) (e) Spatial variation in human ways of life: there is no problem in accepting this, and it will be suggested below that it has some interesting evolutionary implications. ‘Cultures’ as a way of classifying spatial variation in the archaeological record: it can be useful to summarize spatial variation in this way for shorthand descriptive purposes, but it has been disastrous to use the results of this classification procedure for many analytical goals.

This further emphasizes the argument presented above that it is impossible to regard what goes on within social groups as independent of what happens in the relations between them, and again brings home the importance of detailed analysis of archaeological data and their social and economic implications. Darwinian models for style and isochrestic variation Archaeology has usually taken as the limit of its brief the description of the patterns of variation, most often in terms of ‘cultures’, and the explanation of the specific patterns observed in particular cases, traditionally on the basis of a ‘culture=people’ hypothesis.

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