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Lightfoot_Luby_Pesnichak_in_press - Evolutionary Typologies...

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Evolutionary Typologies and Hunter-Gatherer Research: Rethinking the Mounded Landscapes of Central California Kent G. Lightfoot, Edward M. Luby, and Lisa Pesnichak Evolutionary perspectives continue to play a fundamental role in how archaeologists interpret hunter-gatherer economies and social organizations. For the last half century evolutionary typologies have been particularly influential in structuring our perceptions of foraging peoples in North America. Following the band-level description outlined by Service (1962:60- 109), archaeologists in the 1960s perceived most hunter-gatherers as simple, diminutive, and highly nomadic. Fried (1960) fostered this perception by labeling most hunter-gatherer peoples as egalitarian, which in his evolutionary scheme relegated them to the simplest non-rank, non-stratified societies. The landmark publication of Man the Hunter (Lee and Devore 1968) and Richard Lee’s later work among the !Kung (Lee 1972, 1979) reinforced the belief that hunter-gatherers lived close to nature, maintaining simple technologies and rudimentary political organizations while pursuing their day-to-day quest for food and shelter by foraging for resources across the landscape. With the growing recognition and interest in so-called complex hunter- gatherers in the 1970s and 1980s, archaeologists broadened their scope of research and theoretical approaches. Price and Brown (1985) defined complex hunter-gatherers as non-agrarian people with high population densities, facilities for food storage, relatively sedentary settlement systems, intensive harvesting practices, and hierarchically organized political and ritual systems. However, the advent of this new line of investigation did not diminish the influence of previous evolutionary thinking. Archaeologists differentiated affluent hunter-gatherers from mobile foragers by simply substituting many of the pertinent attributes used to distinguish band-like societies from tribes, chiefdoms, and states. Many of the core
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characteristics of affluent hunter-gatherers, such as sedentary villages, ranked or socially stratified class structure, agrarian-like (protoagriculture) management practices, and simple chiefdom-level organizations, were taken almost directly from the evolutionary literature that discriminated simple from complex societies. As a consequence, many of the fundamental building blocks that we employ in the study of complex hunter-gatherers tend to be water-downed concepts derived specifically from complex agrarian societies. The above points are exemplified by hunter-gatherer studies in California. With the growing interest in affluent hunter-gatherers in the 1970s and 1980s anthropologists began to rethink traditional models of California Indians. In making the case that Alfred Kroeber and other earlier anthropologists had underestimated the sophistication and complexity of Native California, these revisionists emphasized that its people were “analogous to many primitive agriculture societies elsewhere” (Bean and Lawton 1976:48).
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Lightfoot_Luby_Pesnichak_in_press - Evolutionary Typologies...

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