Theoretical plurality, the extended evolutionary synthesis, and archaeology

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The study of cultural evolution now includes multiple theoretical frameworks. Despite common influence from Darwinian evolutionary theory, there is considerable diversity. Thus, we recognize those most influenced by the tenets of the Modern Synthesis (evolutionary archaeology, cultural transmission theory, and human behavioral ecology) and those most aligned more closely with concepts emerging in the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis (cultural macroevolution and evolutionary cognitive archaeology). There has been substantial debate between adherents of these schools of thought as to their appropriateness and priority for addressing the fundamentals of cultural evolution. I argue that theoretical diversity is necessary to address research questions arising from a complex archaeological record. Concepts associated with the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis may offer unique insights into the cultural evolutionary process.

Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 12 2021


  • Archaeology
  • Cultural evolution
  • Extended Evolutionary Synthesis
  • Modern Synthesis


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