The modern study of cultural evolution, emerged around 1970's, has attracted researchers from various fields and is increasingly widening its scope. Unlike the historical attempts at describing "metamorphoses" of societies under the rubric of evolution, the modern theory sees cultural evolution primarily as temporal changes in cultural variation within a population due to innovation and transmission between individuals. The endeavor to reconstruct cultural evolution in prehistoric societies is by nature interdisciplinary. Archaeology, among all, has the most direct access to records of past cultural evolution, which have been investigated within the analytical framework developed in evolutionary biology. A more recent move is toward behavioral experiments on individual-level learning biases, which are the fundamental drive of population-level cultural phenomena. This symposium emphasizes the interdisciplinary nature of the study and aims at providing the most recent developments in the related fields.
13:30-13:40 Opening remarks
15:00-15:15 Coffee break
Geometric morphometrics of keyhole-shaped mounds
Abstract: Kofun or keyhole-shaped mounds are monuments characterizing the Kofun period or the period of the state formation in Japan. They have been a subject of intensive research because similarities in shapes of the mounds have been considered to be a proxy of political connections. As a notable exception in Japanese archaeology, a series of studies on shapes of the keyhole-shaped mounds have used quantitative methods since Ueda’s (1963) pioneer work. However, the majority of the previous studies have several limitations such as being based on a few morphological attributes and over-dependence on typology. The present study analyzed the shapes of keyhole-shaped mounds by using methods in geometric morphometrics, which have been developed to analyze biological shapes in a quantitative manner. Our results quantify and visualize the relationships between the shapes of the mounds, indicating a large amount of morphological diversity of the mounds which have not been fully captured by typological understanding.
Systematic thinking in archaeology and prehistory: Toward a general theory of cultural phylogenetics
Abstract: Phylogenetic reconstruction in general aims at estimating the most plausible tree or network based on character data of spatiotemporally evolving objects. In evolutionary biology, textual stemmatics, historical linguistics, and cultural evolution researchers have independently and repetitively developed a set of rules for building phylogenetic diagrams from data on organisms, manuscripts, languages, and cultural constructs, respectively. All these sciences have in common the basic features of historiographic sciences. Estimating evolutionary history searches for the best solution among alternative phylogenetic hypotheses. However, the best solution isn't necessarily true in a historical sense because we can't observe directly or experimentally the past evolutionary processes and its consequent patterns. All we can do is to find the best estimate as accurately as we can by comparing all possible trees or networks on the basis of some optimality criterion such as parsimony, or (if possible) likelihood, etc. An iconographical survey of historical development from ancient times to the present of phylogenetic diagrams reveals a wider array of various graphical tools (chain, tree, and network) for visualizing object-diversity and its spatiotemporal modification. These graphical tools could be used for selecting efficient structural models for estimating phylogenies and constructing classifications of evolving objects. All these historiographic sciences share not only basic principles for reconstructing the past but also practical methods of visualizing object-diversity. The historical development of a general theory of systematics is better considered within the context of genealogical visualization and information graphics.
10:00-10:50 Thomas E. Currie (University of Exeter)
10:50-11:40 Enrico R. Crema (University of Cambridge)
Can we infer patterns of cultural transmission from archaeological data?
Abstract: The field of cultural evolutionary studies has developed a rich repertoire of mathematical models of social learning. Early foundational works have laid the foundation of more recent endeavours, and several studies have attempted to infer patterns of cultural transmission from empirically observed frequencies of cultural data, from decorative motifs on potsherds to baby names, musical preferences, and dog breeds. While this wide range of applications provides an opportunity for the development of generalizable analytical work-flows, archaeological data present new questions and challenges that require further methodological and theoretical discussions. What are the inferential implications of relying on the changing frequencies of artefacts rather than ideas? How do we deal with issues of taphonomic bias and time-averaging? Can we safely assume that the recorded frequencies are from a system at its equilibrium? This paper will overview some recent attempts based on a generative inferential framework that could overcome some of these issues. Within this framework, competing hypothesis are formulated as computer simulations and compared against the archaeological record within an approximate Bayesian framework. I will illustrate this approach through a case study from Neolithic Germany, discussing how it tackles some of the most challenging aspects imposed by archaeological data.
11:40-13:00 Lunch time
13:50-14:40 Alex Mesoudi (University of Exeter)
15:30 Concluding remarks