Review genes, memes and human history

Archaeology, of all the human sciences, can dodge this problem the least, and the great virtue of Shennan’s Genes, Memes and Human History is that he confronts it directly. For though humans are now both cultural and ecological beings, it was not always so. Once our hominid ancestors had a social organisation and a material culture roughly equivalent to that of today’s chimpanzees. Chimps are not encultured in the sense that we are encultured: their social life and their ecology does not depend on the accurate and extensive transmission of information from parents to offspring. It falls to archaeology to document and explain the transition from merely social hominids to encultured hominids. Archaeologists cannot escape our dual nature, for they must explain its coming into being. Thus for an evolutionary archaeologist like Shennan, the evolutionary facet of human nature and human history must be geneologically primary. For our enculturation is the product of a continuing evolutionary process grafted onto the top of a pre-existing set of ecological and social relations.
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