Neo-Darwinism is becoming an increasingly important influence on archaeological theory, as a number of recently edited books on `Darwinian archaeologies' make clear. However, many of these volumes are internationally inconsistent and reflect the muddled understanding many archaeologists have of the potential of Darwin's thought for interpreting material culture. Ben Cullen's book starts by critiquing some recent neo-Darwinist approaches, including cultural evolutionism and cultural sociobiology. He then presents a neo-Darwinian paradigm of extreme power, which he has termed the Cultural Virus Theory (CVT). This focuses on explaining the transmission of ideas by comparing cultural memes wit natural genes. In the final section he takes the important step of applying this theory to real materials; demonstrating how CVT can be used to understand the spread of megalithic monuments in prehistoric North-West Europe, the diffusion of the renaissance in medieval Europe and the basis of stylistic change in pottery. Tragically this collection of brilliant thoughts is published posthumously. Ben Cullen was close to finishing a major book when he died suddenly in 1995 and his writings have been gathered into a consistent whole by James Steele, Richard Cullen and Christopher Chippendale.
Publisher: Oxbow Books
Number of pages: 300
Weight: 476 g
Dimensions: 180 x 155 x 18 mm
This is an excellent, interesting, clever, important book, which has taught me much, made me think more, and differently, and made me wish I had been able to read it years ago.'
'Many authors have attempted to tackle the problems involved with the culture-biology dichotomy, either as biological anthropologists foraying into cultural theory or vice versa. Not many of them have made as good a job of it as Cullen ...'
'This is the sort of book which seems to articulate what you have always known, but could never quite get a handle on.'
'I would recommend this book to anyone who actually wants to understand, explore and work on the relationship between the cultural and biological elements of human life ...'--Jennie Hawcroft"Assemblage" (06/01/2001)