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Lecture 9

Lecture 9 Part 1 – Cultural Theories - Processual-Materialists


Department
Anthropology
Course Code
ANTH 2229F/G
Professor
Christopher Ellis
Lecture
9

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Lecture 9 Part 1 Cultural Theories Processual/Materialists
Processual/Materialist
o 1. Culture is responsive to “real external world” (adaptive
mechanism)
Culture central to our essence to survive
o 2. Humans are rational beings: cultural acts are ones of self-
preservation
Find tools, floral/faunal remains in the archaeological record;
makes it easy to interpret what people were doing to survive
Assumes that people wont do something for long periods of
time that will impede our survival
Search to see how this is an act of self-preservation
Can look at illogical acts and see how it is an act of preservation
E.g. Australian Aborigines give rock to another group
and they get the same thing back; used to make social
ties, not goods
o Useful in times of food shortages, etc.,
mechanism of survival
E.g. Caches left by Clovis peoples in the Americas, date
to 13,500 BP; caches left in case of short fall in stone
needed for tools
People had to be doing these activities for long periods of time
if its preserved in the archaeological records, must have been
beneficial for survival
Record consists of mostly hunter-gatherers, which was a more
difficult lifestyle
Know if you need to adapt your behaviour more quickly
Not the case with large-scale political systems
Optimization models: outlines best solution, but people
unlikely to come up with the most ideal solution; use it to find
out what people were actually doing, testing method
o 3. Solutions to adaptive problems follow principle of least effort
Humans will often come up with the solution to the problem at
the least cost to them
Responses to the problem could be numerous, but the one that
humans will take will be at the least cost to them
When different groups are faced with the same problem, they
will come up with the same/similar solution
Most return for the least amount of investment (energy and
expenditure)
Movement towards more efficient systems
What is the locus of cultural reality?
Seen to reside in 2 sorts of locations
1. Human mind
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