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Lecture 8

Anthropology 2229F/G Lecture Notes - Lecture 8: Adaptationism, Eclecticism

Course Code
ANTH 2229F/G
Christopher Ellis

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Lecture 8 Theoretical Orientations
Modern theories follow a continue, very diverse views (two extremes)
o Called paradigms: over arching framework about how the world
works, different viewpoints on them
Two extremes:
o Processual Orientation
Also known as materialist or adaptationist
Put forward by people like Binford
o Post-Processual Orientation
Formed in reaction to development of processual
Also known as an idealist view of culture
o Whole set of different views that sit in the middle, incorporating ideas
of both extremes (whole continuum of ideas)
Known as eclectics or processualist plus
Use any kind of theory that works to explain the situation
Most archaeologists fall in the middle
o Believe that cultural variation, similarities, differences in terms of the
“material conditions of life”
o Role of culture is as an adaptive measure to survive, response to the
external world
Way to cope with the natural environment
o Stress the actual behaviour
o Basic assumptions of Materialists:
1. Culture of humans cannot be understood outside its context
of the “real world” (the environment), responsive to the “real
2. Culture is the adaptive mechanism, allows for survival of
3. Interlinked system between culture and the environment,
cannot be separated
o See culture as divorced from the environment
o What we do on a day-to-day basis is based on the world that we create
around us
We create ideas, meanings, symbols
Way to not see the world the way it is
o Doesn’t articulate people with their environment, doesn’t explain why
cultures change over time in accordance to their environment
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