Macroevolutionary archaeology recognizes that evolutionary forces act in complex ways on cultural entities spanning a range of scales from simple artifact-based traits to population-held emergent characters like socioeconomic strategies. Evolutionary origins of these complex characters can be difficult to identify and understand, particularly in ancient contexts lacking written records. This chapter outlines theories of emergent fitness, emergent characters, and adaptive landscapes as a step toward explanation of cultural macroevolutionary process. Case studies consider the evolution of complex hunter-gatherer societies from North America's Pacific Northwest. The study indicates that new socioeconomic strategies evolved in short-lived events resulting from fortuitous decision making by small groups in patchy, sometimes socially isolated ecological contexts. Once present, the strategies dispersed into adjacent areas probably via actual population expansion but also via cultural transmission. Study results suggest that both biological and cultural fitness may play significant roles in the emergence and dispersal of complex cultural variants when examined on macroevolutionary scales.
|Title of host publication
|Macroevolution in Human Prehistory
|Subtitle of host publication
|Evolutionary Theory and Processual Archaeology
|Springer New York
|Number of pages
|Published - 2009