Genes, Culture, and the Archaeological Record

Author(s): Michael O'Brien

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "The Extended Evolutionary Synthesis and Human Origins: Archaeological Perspectives" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

As archaeology increasingly turns to explanatory models of cultural evolution based on a Darwinian perspective, three processes—dual inheritance, cultural transmission, and, more recently, niche construction—have assumed prominent positions. Until the early 1980s, the behavioral sciences tended to draw a sharp distinction between biologically based behavioral traits and cultural traits, the former being a reflection of one’s genotype and the latter the result of learning. Things began to change in the 1970s and early 1980s, beginning with the mathematical-modeling work of Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman, who not only modeled the differential transmission of genes between generations but also incorporated cultural information into the analysis, which allowed the evolution of the two systems to be mutually dependent. Their work was followed by that of Boyd and Richerson, who laid a foundation for what they labeled "dual-inheritance theory," one important component of which was their emphasis on kinds of learning. Niche construction theory added a third dimension. It views niche construction as an evolutionary process—an initiator of evolutionary change rather than merely the end product of earlier selection. Understanding the interplay between genes and culture and their role in shaping and reshaping human behavior is the ultimate goal of archaeology.

Cite this Record

Genes, Culture, and the Archaeological Record. Michael O'Brien. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 450874)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -168.574; min lat: 7.014 ; max long: -54.844; max lat: 74.683 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 23428