Two archaeologies? Costly signaling and human behavioral ecology in archaeology

Author(s): Lisa Nagaoka

Year: 2015


Archaeological research using human behavioral ecology (HBE) models has significantly increased over the past decade both in number and scope. Originally most HBE research was relatively narrow, focusing on prey choice, diet breadth, and resource depression. Since then, it has expanded into areas beyond examining efficiency of foraging strategies. Driven mainly by anthropological and ethnoarchaeological research, these studies have investigated the influence of factors such as age, gender, and social capital in foragers’ subsistence decision making. Interpretations involving costly signaling, in particular, have become a popular alternative explanation for patterns in large game abundance. The utility and validity of costly signaling, however, within archaeological research has been questioned. In this paper, I examine why proponents and opponents of costly signaling find it difficult to reach a middle ground. The impasse can be explained by fundamental differences in how the two sides view the goals and methods of archaeological research. These differences are not limited to HBE and costly signaling but can be seen in many areas of archaeological research where "camps" have formed, such as the overkill debate.

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Two archaeologies? Costly signaling and human behavioral ecology in archaeology. Lisa Nagaoka. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396931)