Contagious Ideas: On Evolution, Culture, Archaeology, and Cultural Virus Theory
Neo-Darwinism is becoming an increasingly important influence on archaeological theory, as a number of recently edited books on `Darwinian archaeologies' make clear. However, many of these volumes are internationally inconsistent and reflect the muddled understanding many archaeologists have of the potential of Darwin's thought for interpreting material culture. Ben Cullen's book starts by critiquing some recent neo-Darwinist approaches, including cultural evolutionism and cultural sociobiology. He then presents a neo-Darwinian paradigm of extreme power, which he has termed the Cultural Virus Theory (CVT). This focuses on explaining the transmission of ideas by comparing cultural memes wit natural genes. In the final section he takes the important step of applying this theory to real materials; demonstrating how CVT can be used to understand the spread of megalithic monuments in prehistoric North-West Europe, the diffusion of the renaissance in medieval Europe and the basis of stylistic change in pottery. Tragically this collection of brilliant thoughts is published posthumously. Ben Cullen was close to finishing a major book when he died suddenly in 1995 and his writings have been gathered into a consistent whole by James Steele, Richard Cullen and Christopher Chippendale.
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The untried theory
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adaptationism adaptive anthropology appear approach archaeological artefacts basic Betzig biology body chapter complex concept context Cullen cultural assemblages cultural change cultural equivalent cultural evolution Cultural Evolutionism cultural fields cultural phenomena cultural process Cultural Selectionism cultural selectionist Cultural Sociobiology cultural transmission Cultural Virus Theory Darwin Darwinian Dawkins Dawkins's Delius discourse discussed Dunnell Edelman environment erectus eusocial evolutionary biology evolve example extended phenotype fact fields of enquiry framework frequent house type genealogical independence genes heritage constraint Hodder hominid Homo erectus host house type Variable human behaviour human culture human individuals ideas Inclusive Phenotype inheritance Lamarck Lamarckian Leonard & Jones Meme memetic mutation natural selection neo-Darwinian theory neo-Darwinism Neolithic neuronal neuronal groups notion organismic organisms orthogenesis parasites particular perspective phenomenon population predators principles produce psychological replicator reproductive success Rindos similar social societies Sociobiology specific survival symbiotic traits transmitted unit of selection variation viral phenomena words