A companion to archaeology by J L Bintliff

By J L Bintliff

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The central assumption was that the spatial or chronological entities identified represented human group traditions. It followed from this that major changes occurred through the replacement of one tradition by another and therefore of one people by another, at least where material culture production was domestic rather than in the hands of specialists. Within the European tradition, this idea suited the relatively short timescales available for change, and the nationalistic view of peoples as historical actors having pasts and destinies.

At all levels beyond the ‘‘atomic’’ one of the attribute itself, key attributes could be identified whose continued joint covariation expressed the survival of a particular inner pattern or structure (Clarke 1968: 71). These covarying sets were characterized by strong negative feedback processes, which ensured that they stayed in the same relation to one another over time. Cultural entities, whether artefact types or cultures, ceased to exist when a specific set of through-time correlations between attributes disintegrated, and new cultural entities came into existence when new relatively fixed constellations of attributes emerged.

Clarke summarized his approach by suggesting that archaeology has a small number of regularities useful in archaeological interpretation (Clarke 1968: 435–6). The inherent space-time population regularities of archaeological entities. These include the battleship curve pattern in which attribute and type states increase then decrease in popularity through time, and the patterned intercorrelation through time of attributes forming particular types at low levels of the hierarchy of entities, or of types forming particular cultural assemblages at a higher level.

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