Archaeological culture

Archaeological culture

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An archaeological culture is a recurring assemblage of artifacts
Artifact (archaeology)
An artifact or artefact is "something made or given shape by man, such as a tool or a work of art, esp an object of archaeological interest"...

 from a specific time and place, which are thought to constitute the material culture
Material culture
In the social sciences, material culture is a term that refers to the relationship between artifacts and social relations. Studying a culture's relationship to materiality is a lens through which social and cultural attitudes can be discussed...

 remains of a particular past human society
Society
A society, or a human society, is a group of people related to each other through persistent relations, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or virtual territory, subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations...

. The connection between the artifacts is based on archaeologists' understanding and interpretation and does not necessarily relate to real groups of humans in the past. The concept of archaeological culture is fundamental to culture-historical archaeology.

The concept of an archaeological culture




Different cultural groups have material culture
Material culture
In the social sciences, material culture is a term that refers to the relationship between artifacts and social relations. Studying a culture's relationship to materiality is a lens through which social and cultural attitudes can be discussed...

 items which differ both functionally and aesthetically due to varying cultural and social practices. This notion is observably true on the broadest scales. For example the equipment associated with the brewing of tea
Tea
Tea is an aromatic beverage prepared by adding cured leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant to hot water. The term also refers to the plant itself. After water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world...

 varies greatly across the world (see images). Social relations to material culture often include notions of identity
Identity (social science)
Identity is a term used to describe a person's conception and expression of their individuality or group affiliations . The term is used more specifically in psychology and sociology, and is given a great deal of attention in social psychology...

 and status
Social status
In sociology or anthropology, social status is the honor or prestige attached to one's position in society . It may also refer to a rank or position that one holds in a group, for example son or daughter, playmate, pupil, etc....

.

Advocates of culture-historical archaeology use this notion to argue that sets of material culture can be used to trace ancient groups of people that were either self-identifying societies
Society
A society, or a human society, is a group of people related to each other through persistent relations, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or virtual territory, subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations...

 or ethnic groups
Ethnic group
An ethnic group is a group of people whose members identify with each other, through a common heritage, often consisting of a common language, a common culture and/or an ideology that stresses common ancestry or endogamy...

. The classic definition of this idea comes from Gordon Childe:
The concept of an archaeological culture was crucial to linking the typological
Typology
Typology is the study of types. More specifically, it may refer to:*Typology , division of culture by races*Typology , classification of things according to their characteristics...

 analysis of archaeological evidence to mechanisms that attempted to explain why they change through time. The key explanations favoured by culture-historians were the diffusion of forms from one group to another or the migration
Migrationism
Migrationism is an approach to explaining changes in past societies based on the theory that movements of people from one region to another can account for changes in the culture of the second region....

 of the peoples themselves. A simplistic example of this process might be that if one pottery-type had handles very similar to those of a neighbouring type but decoration similar to a different neighbour the idea for these two features might have diffused from the neighbours. Conversely, if one pottery-type suddenly replaces a great diversity of pottery types in an entire region this might be interpreted as a new group migrating in with this new style.

Archaeological cultures were generally equated with separate 'peoples' ([ethnic groups] or [Race (classification of humans)|races]) leading in some cases to distinct nationalist archaeologies.

Terminology


Most archaeological cultures are named after either the type artifact
Artifact
- Objects :*Artifact , an object formed by humans, particularly one of interest to archaeologists*Artifact , one of many kinds of tangible byproducts produced during the development of software...

 or type site
Type site
In archaeology a type site is a site that is considered the model of a particular archaeological culture...

 which defines the culture. For example cultures may be named after pottery types such as Linear Pottery Culture
Linear Pottery culture
The Linear Pottery culture is a major archaeological horizon of the European Neolithic, flourishing ca. 5500–4500 BC.It is abbreviated as LBK , is also known as the Linear Band Ware, Linear Ware, Linear Ceramics or Incised Ware culture, and falls within the Danubian I culture of V...

 or Funnelbeaker culture
Funnelbeaker culture
The Funnelbeaker culture, short TRB from Trichterbecherkultur is the principal north central European megalithic culture of late Neolithic Europe.- Predecessor and successor cultures :...

. More frequently they are named after the site at which the culture was first defined (not necessarily first found) such as the Halstatt culture or Clovis culture
Clovis culture
The Clovis culture is a prehistoric Paleo-Indian culture that first appears 11,500 RCYBP , at the end of the last glacial period, characterized by the manufacture of "Clovis points" and distinctive bone and ivory tools...

.

Development of the concept


The use of the term "culture
Culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

" entered archaeology through 19th century German ethnography
Ethnography
Ethnography is a qualitative method aimed to learn and understand cultural phenomena which reflect the knowledge and system of meanings guiding the life of a cultural group...

, where the Kultur of tribal groups and rural peasants was distinguished from the Zivilisation of urbanised peoples. In contrast to the broader use of the word that was introduced to English-language anthropology
Anthropology
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

 by Edward Burnett Tylor
Edward Burnett Tylor
Sir Edward Burnett Tylor , was an English anthropologist.Tylor is representative of cultural evolutionism. In his works Primitive Culture and Anthropology, he defined the context of the scientific study of anthropology, based on the evolutionary theories of Charles Lyell...

, Kultur was used by German ethnologists to describe the distinctive ways of life of a particular people or Volk, in this sense equivalent to the French civilisation. Works of Kulturgeschichte (culture history) were produced by a number of German scholars, particularly Gustav Klemm, from 1780 onwards, reflecting a growing interest in ethnicity in 19th century Europe.

The first use of "culture" in an archaeological context was in Christian Thomsen
Christian Jürgensen Thomsen
Christian Jürgensen Thomsen was a Danish archaeologist.In 1816 he was appointed head of 'antiquarian' collections which later developed into the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen. While organizing and classifying the antiquities for exhibition, he decided to present them chronologically...

's 1836 work Ledetraad til Nordisk Oldkyndighed . In the later half of the 19th century archaeologists in Scandinavia and central Europe increasingly made use of the German concept of culture to describe the different groups they distinguished in the archaeological record of particular sites and regions, often alongside and as a synonym of "civilisation". It was not until the 20th century and the works of German prehistorian and fervent nationalist Gustaf Kossinna
Gustaf Kossinna
Gustaf Kossinna was a linguist and professor of German archaeology at the University of Berlin...

 that the idea of archaeological cultures became central to the discipline. Kossinna saw the archaeological record as a mosaic of clearly defined cultures (or Kultur-Gruppen, culture groups) that were strongly associated with race. He was particularly interested in reconstructing the movements of what he saw as the direct prehistoric ancestors of Germans, Slavs, Celts and other major Indo-European
Indo-European
Indo-European may refer to:* Indo-European languages** Aryan race, a 19th century and early 20th century term for those peoples who are the native speakers of Indo-European languages...

 ethnic groups in order to trace the Aryan race
Aryan race
The Aryan race is a concept historically influential in Western culture in the period of the late 19th century and early 20th century. It derives from the idea that the original speakers of the Indo-European languages and their descendants up to the present day constitute a distinctive race or...

 to its homeland or urheimat
Urheimat
Urheimat is a linguistic term denoting the original homeland of the speakers of a proto-language...

.

The strongly racist character of Kossinna's work meant it had little direct influence outside of Germany at the time (the Nazi Party enthusiastically embraced his theories), or at all after World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. However, the more general "culture history" approach to archaeology that he began did replace social evolutionism as the dominant paradigm for much of the 20th century. Kossinna's basic concept of the archaeological culture, stripped of its racial aspects, was adopted by V. Gordon Childe
Vere Gordon Childe
Vere Gordon Childe , better known as V. Gordon Childe, was an Australian archaeologist and philologist who specialised in the study of European prehistory. A vocal socialist, Childe accepted the socio-economic theory of Marxism and was an early proponent of Marxist archaeology...

 and Franz Boas
Franz Boas
Franz Boas was a German-American anthropologist and a pioneer of modern anthropology who has been called the "Father of American Anthropology" and "the Father of Modern Anthropology." Like many such pioneers, he trained in other disciplines; he received his doctorate in physics, and did...

, at the time the most influential archaeologists in Britain and America respectively. Childe in particular was responsible for formulating the definition of archaeological culture that is still largely applies today:
Though he was sceptical about identifying particular ethnicities in the archaeological record, and inclined much more to diffusionism than migrationism
Migrationism
Migrationism is an approach to explaining changes in past societies based on the theory that movements of people from one region to another can account for changes in the culture of the second region....

 to explain culture change, Childe and later culture-historical archaeologists, like Kossinna, still equated separate archaeological cultures with separate "peoples". Later archaeologists have questioned this straightforward relationship between material culture and human societies. The definition of archaeological cultures and their relationship to past people has become less clear; in some cases, what was believed to be a monolithic culture is shown by further study to be discrete societies. For example, the Windmill Hill culture
Windmill Hill culture
The Windmill Hill culture was a name given to a people inhabiting southern Britain, in particular in the Salisbury Plain area close to Stonehenge, around approximately 3000BC. They were an agrarian Neolithic people; their name comes from Windmill Hill, a causewayed camp...

 now serves as a general label for several different groups that occupied southern Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

 during the Neolithic
Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

. Conversely, some archaeologists have argued that some supposedly distinctive cultures are manifestations of a wider culture, but they show local differences based on environmental factors, such as those related to Clactonian
Clactonian
The Clactonian is the name given by archaeologists to an industry of European flint tool manufacture that dates to the early part of the interglacial period known as the Hoxnian, the Mindel-Riss or the Holstein stages . Clactonian tools were made by Homo erectus rather than modern humans...

 man. Conversely, archaeologists may make a distinction between material cultures that actually belonged to a single cultural group. It has been highlighted, for example, that village-dwelling and nomadic Bedouin
Bedouin
The Bedouin are a part of a predominantly desert-dwelling Arab ethnic group traditionally divided into tribes or clans, known in Arabic as ..-Etymology:...

Arabs have radically different material cultures, though in most other respects they are very similar. In the past, such synchronous findings were often interpreted as representing intrusion by other groups.

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