A Non-Phylogenetic Conceptual Network Architecture for Organizing Classes of Material Artifacts into Cultural Lineages


The application of phylogenetic techniques to the documentation of cultural history can present a distorted picture due to horizontal transmission and blending. Moreover, the units of cultural transmission must be communicable concepts, rather than conveniently measurable attributes, and relatedness between elements of culture often resides at the conceptual level, something not captured by phylogenetic methods, which focus on measurable attributes. (For example, mortars and pestles are as related as two artifacts could be, despite little similarity at the attribute level.) This paper introduces a new, cognitively inspired framework for chronicling material cultural history, building on Lipo’s (2005) network-based computational approach. We show that by incorporating not just superficial attributes of artifact samples (e.g. fluting) but also conceptual knowledge (e.g. information about function), a different pattern of cultural ancestry emerges.

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