Article

Expanding Ethnoarchaeology: Historical Evidence and Model-Building in the Study of Technological Change

Michael B. Schiffer

in The Oxford Handbook of Engineering and Technology in the Classical World

Published in print December 2009 | ISBN: 9780199734856
Published online September 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199734856.013.0034

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Expanding Ethnoarchaeology: Historical Evidence and Model-Building in the Study of Technological Change

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This article suggests that an expanded ethnoarchaeology that exploits evidence from the historical records of both ancient and modern societies can become an important research strategy to obtain, refine, and evaluate general models and heuristics for investigating technological change. It then shows the vision of an expanded ethnoarchaeology by presenting models and heuristics derived from research on electrical technologies of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The key framework that informs many behavioral models of technological change is the life history of artifacts and technologies. The article turns to three examples of an “expanded ethnoarchaeology”: technological differentiation, differential adoption, and the cascade model of invention processes. Working with historical materials as a historian, the researcher fashions explanatory narratives; working as an ethnoarchaeologist, that same researcher can build and evaluate models, theories, and heuristics of potentially widespread applicability.

Keywords: expanded ethnoarchaeology; technological change; behavioral models; technological differentiation; differential adoption; invention cascade; heuristics

Article.  5800 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Greek and Roman Archaeology ; Historical Archaeology

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