The "taskscape" and its effects on cultural diversity: A spatially explicit model of mobility and cultural transmission

Author(s): Luke Premo; Gilbert Tostevin

Year: 2015


Ethnoarchaeology has shown that culturally learned behavior is structured in its performance in many ways. For archaeologically-visible artifactual behavior, this performance is structured both geographically, in terms of where the artifacts are made and used on the landscape (what Ingold calls "the taskscape"), as well as temporally, in terms of the sequential nature of operational chains which can be distributed among taskscape locations. Yet cultural transmission theory has not yet explored how behaviors of mobile foragers are learned differently due to their enactment at different locations, what Tostevin calls "taskscape visibility." Here, we show how mobility affects the diversity of two selectively neutral cultural traits that differ only in the parts of the taskscape in which they can be transmitted between foragers. The trait transmitted only from residential bases shows greater diversity than the trait transmitted from residential bases and logistical camps. In addition, the former shows a positive effect of increased logistical mobility while the latter shows little to no effect. Without an appreciation for the ways in which mobility and taskscape structure cultural transmission in space, the differences in the diversity of the two traits might be incorrectly interpreted as resulting from qualitatively different mechanisms of cultural transmission.

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The "taskscape" and its effects on cultural diversity: A spatially explicit model of mobility and cultural transmission. Gilbert Tostevin, Luke Premo. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395364)