Introduction to Archaeology: Class 17
Copyright Bruce Owen 2002
Cognitive archaeology is a hot topic, but no one is exactly sure what it is
Basically: What people thought in the past, when they thought it, how they came to think it,
and how that affected other things
Two broad foci:
Origins and development of modern human thinking abilities
When did people start thinking like we do, why, how, etc.
Content and influence of thought, as opposed to environment, economics, etc.
What religious ideas have people had, why, and how did that affect their lives and
developments in their societies?
How did people understand and explain their world, both the physical world and the
social (economic, political, etc.) world?
that is, what have people's ideologies been?
In part, this is a reaction to the excesses of the New Archaeology and the processual
approach, which tended to emphasize
adaptation to the environment
economic or material determinism
a systemic view of society in which subsystems or subgroups acted in certain ways in
response to certain conditions
instead, the cognitive archaeology approach emphasizes individuals and what they think as
being of interest and having a causal role
in order to understand what people were doing in the past, cognitive archaeologists say you
have to understand what they were thinking
their cognitive abilities (in the case of very early humans who may or may not have been
fully modern in their psychology)
their ideology and cosmological framework for the world
which shapes their understanding of and response to conditions they encounter
Thomas divides cognitive archaeology into four areas, which blend together somewhat
he emphasizes astronomy here, incorrectly
cosmology is the understanding of the cosmos, the whole universe.
it includes ideas about the origin of the world, how the world and living things were