Evolution of the slate tool industry at bridge river, British Columbia

Anna Marie Prentiss, Nathan Goodale, Lucille E. Harris, Nicole Crossland

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    The study of artifact variation with concepts from evolutionary theory has been front and center throughout nearly all of the published works in evolutionary archaeology. Since the early formulations examining the dichotomy of style and function (Dunnell 1978), researchers have developed a variety of sophisticated approaches to identifying and explicating variability in the histories of artifact traditions. Underlying much of this research has been the Neo-Darwinian assumption that evolutionary processes act on populations of the smallest underlying characters (genes in biology; variously, memes or traits in culture) and their phenotypic manifestations (e.g., artifacts in cultural contexts). Within this framework larger scale cultural phenomena identii ed by anthropologists as technological systems, subsistence strategies, and social organizations are viewed as ephemera, byproducts of more fundamental processes of change. Thus, artifact performance characteristics and style are considered markers of that fundamental process. Performance characteristics changed by virtue of a selection -like process while stylistic evolution is viewed as a product of drift (e.g., O’Brien and Lyman 2000). However, research in anthropological and linguistic phylogenetics (e.g., Mace and Holden 2005) point to the importance of evolutionary entities organized and evolving on higher scales. Macroevolutionary archaeologists (Rosenberg 1994 ; Spencer 1997) make similar arguments. The latter scholars argue that the evolution of functional designs may be af ected by the role of those designs in wider cultural matrices – for example, harpoon designs in the Arctic or cornet designs in nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (Eldredge 2009 ; Mason 2009). If this is the case then it is possible that artifact evolution could be overridden by processes of change on the scale of socioeconomic and political strategies. Likewise in the realm of style, evolution of style may be af ected by cultural matrix as human groups use styles as markers of identity and success (Bettinger et al. 1996). In this chapter we outline a study of slate tools from a prehistoric housepit village in British Columbia with the goal of examining the impact of dif erent scales of evolution on the history of a single lineage of artifacts. Results suggest that the evolutionary process was complicated with tool performance characters and social matrix playing equal roles.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationLithic Technological Systems and Evolutionary Theory
    PublisherCambridge University Press
    Number of pages26
    ISBN (Electronic)9781139207775
    ISBN (Print)9781107026469
    StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


    Dive into the research topics of 'Evolution of the slate tool industry at bridge river, British Columbia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this