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ARCTIC SEMINAR SERIES: The Application of Phylogenetic Analyses to Studies of Cultural Evolution: An Example from Blackfoot Material Culture

By postdoc. Matthew Walsh, Arctic Research Centre, School of Culture and Society

2015.11.02 | Susanna Pakkasmaa

Date Tue 17 Nov
Time 14:00 15:00
Location Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies, Høegh-Guldbergs Gade 6B, bldg. 1632, room 203

Title: 

The Application of Phylogenetic Analyses to Studies of Cultural Evolution: An Example from Blackfoot Material Culture

Abstract:

Archaeologists and Cultural Anthropologist are increasingly focused on understanding the implications of social learning on the development of material culture.  Such studies look to establish the roles of social learning, individual choice, and information transmission within cultural contexts. This study examines the contents of Blackfoot ceremonial bundles to investigate whether heritable continuity is evident in their assembly, allowing for inferences regarding social learning, cultural transmission, and transmission bias among proto-contact Blackfoot bundle-holders of the North American plains.  Social learning is the process through which cultural inheritance is transmitted, vertically, obliquely, or horizontally, and learning enables individuals to respond flexibly when presented with historical, environmental, and social contingencies.  A central aspect of Blackfoot ceremonial practice has been the traditional maintenance, use, and transmission of ceremonial bundles, a medicinal economy related to bundles, and the ceremonial practices associated with them.  The goal of this research is to provide a preliminary understanding of the relationships between material culture and its distribution as an indicator of socially-prescribed and maintained phenomena – the implications of which can be applied to cultural phenomena on various scales and contexts, including the arctic.

Seminar, Speech