Schiffer (1996) recently proposed that, despite some incompatibilities, considerable common ground exists between behavioral archaeology and evolutionary or selectionist, archaeology. He concludes that there is no fundamental reason why the two approaches cannot work in concert to explain human behavioral change. There are, however, several important reasons why the two programs, at least as currently conceived, cannot work together in any thoroughly integrated fashion. Although both programs employ inference, behavioral archaeology conflates the distinct roles of configurational and immanent properties, searches for nomothetic answers to questions about human behavior, overlooks historical contingency when inferring and explaining the nature of past behavior, and in some cases seems to fall back on vitalism as the mechanism of change. Evolutionary archaeology employs immanent properties inferentially, explicitly acknowledges the importance of the historical contingencies of configurational properties, explains human behavior as being time- and spacebound, and calls upon selection and drift (transmission) as the mechanisms of change. Any attempt to integrate the two approaches must begin by addressing these basic differences.
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
O'Brien, Michael J.; Lyman, R. L.; and Leonard, R. D., "Basic Incompatibilities Between Evolutionary and Behavioral Archaeology" (1998). History Faculty Publications. 15.