New Perspectives on the Archaeology of Technological Change

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015)

In the last 35 years, technology has been reclaimed as a worthy focus of study in anthropological archaeology. Yet despite a broad consensus that technology is deeply intertwined with social and cultural processes, archaeologists have developed widely varying approaches to the analysis of technological behavior. Archaeologists studying technology are often divided by geographical scope, theoretical approaches, and materials specialization. The proposed session seeks to highlight the variety of perspectives on one dimension of this multi-faceted topic: the study of technological change. Drawing on their particular areas of research, participants will develop and explore common themes in the study of technological change. The papers will address the following broad thematic questions: How is technological change addressed at different temporal and spatial scales? What methodologies do archaeologists use to analyze behavior from the level of individual decision making to macro-scale adoption patterns? What features of technologies, their practitioners, and their social contexts affect spatial and chronological patterns of adoption? Conversely, how does the study of technological adoption patterns modify our understanding about the social structure of a society? How does the spread of technology across significant social, cultural and geographic boundaries differ from the spread of technology within social groups?

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-11 of 11)

  • Documents (11)

  • Applying Innovation Diffusion Theory to Archaeology: a Case Study on the Rise of Iron Technology in Western Asia (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Nathaniel Erb-Satullo.

    For a variety of historical reasons, the interdisciplinary field of innovation diffusion research has been underutilized by archaeologists examining technological change. Yet there is much to be gained by engaging with the predictive models produced by hundreds of investigations of technology adoption. Using the case of iron adoption in Western Asia, I demonstrate how an approach utilizing these concepts, with some modifications, provide a more complete perspective on technological change. ...

  • Beyond Provenance: Using the chemical composition of copper-alloys to explore technology and metal flow (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Peter Bray.

    The vast chemical datasets for copper-alloy objects are a tremendous, but underused, opportunity. These data were often considered objective fixed points that represented chronological sequences and geographical provenance. Recent work has demonstrated that, though the object composition is fixed, it is only a final characterisation. Bringing together material science, archaeological, and conceptual approaches, we discuss the life histories of units of metal. Before being cast into the final...

  • Bodies of Technology: Dress in Colonial Peru (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Carrie Brezine.

    The textiles of Magdalena de Cao Viejo provide an opportunity to study technological changes in one coastal Andean settlement between the late 16th and the early 18th century. As a colonial reducción, Magdalena was home to people of both Andean and Spanish descent. Among the more than 3,000 textile artifacts are examples of cloth woven with pre-Columbian methods and indigenous fibers, fabrics created on European-style floor looms, and examples which combine Andean and European techniques and...

  • Carnelian Beads of the Indus Tradition and West Asia circa 2600-1900 BC: A comparative study of technological stability and change (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jonathan Kenoyer.

    The production of stone beads involves multiple stages of manufacture determined by the available raw materials as well as technological choices made by bead makers and their communities. This paper focuses on technologies associated with the production of carnelian beads during the Harappa Phase (2600-1900 BC) of the Indus Valley region of Pakistan and Western India, and parts of West Asia. Technological change in production and trade can be shown through materials analysis and provenance...

  • Horseback riding and the unintended consequences of innovation (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only David Anthony. Dorcas Brown.

    Every technological innovation carries a social agenda, usually one that was not intended or even foreseen by its inventors. The domestication of the horse in the Eurasian steppes probably was initially an attempt to secure winter-adapted meat animals, but horseback riding transformed the initial innovation into a revolution in transport. Riding made steppe herding more efficient, transformed tribal raiding, and eventually was combined with wagon transport to create a new way of life based on...

  • Invented, Adopted, Shared, Acquired, Inspired? Technological Change and the Talc-Faience Complexes of the Indus Valley Tradition (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Heather Miller.

    A bewildering assortment of materials utilizing siliceous pastes were used to make small objects such as figures, beads and containers, in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, the Mediterranean, and regions beyond and between. From very early beginnings in the sixth millennium BCE or earlier in some regions, the assortment of these materials reached great diversity of production technique and material in the third and second millennia BCE, with much less diversity of appearance. In...

  • Investigating the Social Dynamics of Iron Age Copper Production: Preliminary Results from New Excavations at Khirbat al-Jariya, Jordan (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Matthew Howland. Brady Liss. Craig Smitheram. Mohammad Najjar. Thomas E. Levy.

    This paper presents preliminary results from the 2014 Edom Lowlands Regional Archaeology Project (ELRAP) excavation at Khirbat al-Jariya (KAJ), an Iron Age copper production site in southern Jordan’s copper ore-rich Faynan region. To complement earlier work on copper production activities at KAJ, industrial and administrative areas were sampled. Stratigraphic excavations in both these areas applied a cutting-edge cyber-archaeology workflow in order to ensure the best-possible spatial...

  • Large-scale Prehistoric Water Management Projects by Small Cooperating Corporate Groups in Mexico and Arizona (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only James Neely.

    Two large-scale water management systems, one in the Tehuacán Valley of Puebla, Mexico and the other in the Safford Basin of southeastern Arizona, are briefly described and compared. In the Tehuacán Valley, the Purrón Dam exhibits a massive construction effort totaling about 370,000 m3 of earth and stone. In contrast, the 28 "hanging" canals of the Safford Basin are small but extensive in nature, with the longest about 9.5 kilometers in length and the total length of all canals exceeding 80...

  • Lithic technology transfer and the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition in the South Caucasus (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Bastien Varoutsikos.

    Recently, several discoveries in Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan have shed new light on the processes involved in the development of food production economy in the South Caucasus. If a series of excavations using modern techniques have provided an improved chronological and cultural framework for this complex phenomenon, several interrogations remain. What is the role of the hunter-gatherer population in the domestication process? Is the presence of Neolithic cultures in this area the result of...

  • Reverse Engineering Ancient Pyrotechnologies (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Pamela. Vandiver.

    Technological change is driven by social context and perceived needs, but technological changes are also driven by seven other factors: materials constraints, especially composition and microstructure and availability and ease of processing raw materials, as well as the properties of the materials and the finished products, the nature and complexity of the materials transformations, the methods and sequences of processing, and the suitability to use and performance. Examples will be drawn from...

  • Social Processes and Technological Change (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Michael Schiffer.

    Archaeologists are much concerned with, and often have evidence for studying, the effects of technological change on social processes. In this paper, I reverse the causal arrow and examine social processes that can initiation technological change. Among these varied social processes, I discuss here peer competitions; social role expectations; new social groups, social roles, and activities; and maintaining a system of status differentiation. Each of these processes can serve as fillips to...