APPRENTICESHIP, CULTURAL TRANSMISSION AND THE EVOLUTION OF CULTURAL TRADITIONS IN HISTORIC NEW ENGLAND GRAVESTONES
Committee ChairKuhn, Steven L.
Stiner, Mary C.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractCultural evolutionary models that relate spatial and temporal patterning in artifact sequences to human social learning processes and history have made many recent advances. Specifically, these models connect evolutionary forces and social leaning mechanisms along cultural pathways with expectations that can be assessed using material culture. In this dissertation, I use an historical archaeology case study of carved New England gravestones to evaluate three different aspects of cultural transmission and artifact patterns. First, I study the role of social network structure in the transmission of cultural information among carvers organized in workshops that were principally comprised of a carver and his apprentices. The results of this study suggest that the motifs reflect widespread similarity that transcends workshop organization. However, the finer grained decorative elements that make up these motifs correspond with cultural lineages of gravestone carvers. Second, I examine the relationship between the diffusion of innovations and cultural transmission mechanisms that result in spatiotemporal patterning. The spatial patterning suggests that social contagion among consumers created brief instances of wave-like diffusion from a distinct workshop, highlighting the role of consumer choice. A review of probate payments shows that gravestones were rarely purchased from distance sources, as transport costs could be prohibitive. The spatial patterning and historic record suggest that carvers also learned from other carvers creating a hierarchical diffusion process. These two populations created a feedback mechanism that leads to complex emergent phenomena, as illustrated by the rapid and widespread adoption of the cherub motif. Third, the neutral model of stylistic variation is applied to gravestone data to examine the ways that increased consumption and an expanding carving industry led to dominant decorative motifs. This study shows that neutrality can be a fleeting and transitional state between the dominance of single decorative styles. These three studies use New England gravestones to illustrate the evolutionary forces and cultural transmission mechanisms among artifact producers and consumers, which generated the stylistic patterning we observe in the archaeological record.