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Operationalising archaeological taxonomies using cultural evolutionary approaches – and why it matters

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Simon Carrignon.

Like it or not, classification is a key component of archaeological research. For most archaeologists working with artefacts, typology is unquestionably the means by which such classification is conducted. Typology, however, is critically flawed epistemologically, although it ironically often works in practice. In my seminar, I seek to explain this seemingly paradoxical situation through a brief historical analysis of how typology has developed as a method. Against this background, I will then argue that cultural evolutionary theory, with its focus on the social transmission of learned information and know-how provides a useful conceptual foundation for more robust classification practices. Drawing primarily on our case study work focused on the Final Palaeolithic in Europe, I show how collaborative scientific practice and computational methods can powerfully enable novel classification approaches and how evolutionary archaeological taxonomies may thus be operationalised. In doing so, I also argue for the importance of theoretically as well as empirically rich and defensible archaeological taxonomies in interdisciplinary research on contemporary topics such as population genomics and migration, and in the context of open and reproducible scientific practice.

This talk is part of the Department of Archaeology - Garrod seminar series series.

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