SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: diffusion CATEGORY: term DEFINITION: In anthropology, the transmission or borrowing of certain culture traits from the group of origin into a foreign group; usually technological elements rather than those of social organization. This term defines the spread of ideas, traits, or people from one area to another -- not necessarily implying the movement of people, since trade and the adoption of new ideas from neighboring cultures are reasonable explanations of diffusion. The diffusion of new ideas can come, however, from the peaceful or warlike expansion of a population into new territory. The theory of diffusion was used in the past to explain the beginning of most new ideas: it was assumed that technological skills such as metalworking, or the building of large monumental structures, could only have begun in one place, whence they diffused to other areas. It is now clear, through the use of new dating techniques, that independent invention was certainly possible and probable for many new ideas.
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: cultural diffusion; diffusionism; diffusionist approach; diffusionist CATEGORY: term; technique DEFINITION: The process whereby cultural traits, idea, or objects are spread or transmitted from one culture or society to another. It may be carried by folk movement, war, or trade, or imitation. Diffusion has played a major part in human development by spreading ideas and techniques more rapidly than they could have spread had they been independently invented. Primary diffusion occurs when people migrate and take their habits with them. When ideas or customs, but not the people who have them, move, it is secondary diffusion. The spread of agriculture in North America was secondary diffusion. The burden of proof is on the diffusionist to show that the trait is the same in the two areas, that communication between the two was possible, and that there are no difficulties in the relative dates. In a great number of cases these criteria can be met and diffusion is an important explanatory concept in culture history. The theory popularized by V.G. Childe, who said that all the attributes of civilization from architecture to metalworking had diffused from the Near East to Europe.
CATEGORY: term DEFINITION: A form of diffusionist theory, espoused by V. Gordon Childe and others, that allowed for some local cultural evolution.
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: (antonym: diffusion) CATEGORY: term DEFINITION: The adoption of a trait or traits by one society from another and the results of such changes. This is a consequence of contact between cultures, usually with one being dominant, and is a process by which a group takes on the lifeways, institutions, and technology of another group. There are two major types of acculturation: free borrowing where one society selects elements of another culture that they integrate in their own way, and directed change, where one group establishes dominance through military conquest or political control. Though directed change involves selection, it results from the interference in one cultural group by members of another. In anthropology, the change is considered from the point of view of the recipient society.
CATEGORY: chronology DEFINITION: The second age of the Three Age System, beginning about 4000-3000 BC in the Mideast and about 2000-1500 BC in Europe. It followed the Stone Age and preceded the Iron Age and was defined by a shift from stone tools and weapons to the use of bronze. During this time civilization based on agriculture and urban life developed. Trading to obtain tin for making bronze led to the rapid diffusion of ideas and technological improvements. The Iron Age began about 1500 BC in the Mideast and 900 BC in Europe. Bronze artifacts were valued highly and became part of many hoards. In the Americas, true bronze was used in northern Argentina before 1000 AD and it spread to Peru and the Incas. Bronze was never as important in the New World as in the Old. The Bronze Age is often divided into three periods: Early Bronze Age (c 4000-2000 BC), Middle Bronze Age (c 2000-1600 BC), and Late Bronze Age (c 1600-1200 BC) but he chronological limits and the terminology vary from region to region.
Childe, Vere Gordon (1892-1957)
CATEGORY: person DEFINITION: Australian-born British historian whose study of European prehistory in the 2nd and 3rd millennia BC brought his development of the diffusionist theory which was to explain the relationship between Europe and the Middle East. Childe introduced the concept of the archaeological culture. The Diffusionist view interpreted all major developments in prehistoric Europe in terms of the spread of either people or ideas from the Near East. Childe was professor of prehistoric archaeology at the University of Edinburgh and then director of the Institute of Archaeology, University of London. His many publications include The Dawn of European Civilization (1925; 6th ed., 1957), The Danube in Prehistory (1929), The Bronze Age (1930), Man Makes Himself (1936), What Happened in History (1942), and Society and Knowledge (1956).
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: convergent evolution; antonym: diffusion CATEGORY: term; technique DEFINITION: Term used to describe the appearance of similar traits in different areas or at different times or in different contexts, as a result of parallel or converging evolution. For example, rocker pattern was used for decorating pottery in widely separated contexts.
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: cross dating CATEGORY: technique DEFINITION: A correlationdating technique that can yield a relative or absolute age or chronology. The basis of cross-dating is the occurrence of finds in association. The assumption is that a particular type of artifact, for example a type of sword, when found in an undated context will bear a similar date to one found in a dated context, thus enabling the whole of the undated context to be given a chronological value. The method is based on the assumption that typologies evolved at the same rate and in the same way over a wide area or alternatively on assumptions of diffusion. Many of the chronologies constructed before the advent of chronometric dating techniques were based on cross-dating. New techniques such as radiocarbon dating showed some of the links established by cross-dating to be invalid, so the method has become somewhat discredited. However, its use is still helpful where recognizable products of dateable manufacture are found in undated contexts with no possibility of using a chronometric dating technique. So in the absence of geochronology, two cultural groups can only be proved contemporary by the discovery of links between them. If in culture A an object produced by culture B is found, A must be contemporary with, or later than, B. The term cross-dating ought strictly to be used only when an object of culture A is also found in proved association with culture B, when overlap of at least part of the time span of each is proved. Items having an established date, such as dated coins or buildings, or ceramics of known manufacture are most often used. By itself, a cross-dated chronology does not give absolute dates, but it may be calibrated by reference to other dating methods. A type of cross-dating has always been used in geology and stratigraphical sequences are often correlated by the assemblages of fossils they contain; this is known as biostratigraphy. The archaeological versions of cross-dating may have been developed directly out of the geological method and may have been based on a false analogy between biological fossils and archaeological artifacts.
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: distributional archaeology; distribution patterns CATEGORY: term; technique DEFINITION: Simply, the spatial location of archaeological sites or artifacts. More specifically, a definition of the spatial location of artifacts, structures, or settlement types over a landscape. Analysis of the distribution of a particular artifacttype may lead to conclusions about the nature of the industry or culture which produced or used it. The distribution of objects is studied by the plotting of an artifact's find-places on a distribution map. This is the visual representation of the distribution of some archaeologically significant trait or traits. The relationship of the find-spot symbols to the natural environment may reveal something about communication networks, economic subsystem, cultural or technological entities. The distribution map should show the extent of a culture of which the traits are distinctive, outlying occurrences being explained by diffusion, especially if spread along natural routes. The origin of more localized traits may be defined. The overlaying of one trait on another may suggest association or sequence, while mutually exclusive distributions can imply contemporaneity. The emphasis is on individual parts of archaeological deposits rather than on the site as a unit.
Elliot Smith, Sir Grafton (1871-1937)
CATEGORY: person DEFINITION: Australian-born anatomist who, with his student W.J. Perry, espoused a theory called hyper-diffusionism" which said that all civilizations if not all cultures (including the New World) originated from ancient Egypt. He was involved in the examination of the remains from Piltdown and it has been suggested that he may have been involved in the forgery."
CATEGORY: term DEFINITION: Belief in an extreme form of diffusionism that all culture developed in Egypt and spread out through space and time.
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: parallelism CATEGORY: term DEFINITION: A theory that a few of the total mass of cultural traits possessed and shared by the peoples of the world have been invented more than once. The theory maintains the likelihood of new ideas, such as the invention of copper and iron working, or the erection of particular types of monumental building, were invented in more than one place at the same or different times, opposing the theory of diffusion. New chronometric dating techniques have shown the probability of independent invention for at least some of these ideas.
CATEGORY: language DEFINITION: Languages of the Indo-European family used by those settled in eastern Iran and Afghanistan, probably in the 3rd millennium BC. Some of these people, who called themselves Aryans, seem to have gradually worked their way into the Indian world. In the first millennium BC these groups of Indo-Aryans seem to have been responsible for the diffusion of the Vedic culture and of Sanskrit throughout northern India.
Late Woodland period
CATEGORY: chronology DEFINITION: A period of time, c 400-1000 AD, in the American Midwest, when populations spread west to the eastern slopes of the Rockies and were in contact with eastward-moving Puebloan people. A favorable agricultural period was indicated by the marked increase in village size and in population density. Areas along major streams were occupied by various interrelated cultural groups collectively known as the Plains Mississippian cultures. Part of this complex was connected to the developing Mississippi complexes to the east by diffusion and, to some degree, by a migration of such groups as the Omaha and Ponca from the St. Louis area by about 1000 AD. It follows the Middle Woodland era but lacks the elaborate Hopewellian artifacts and structures.
Montelius, Oscar (1843-1921)
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: Gustav Oscar Augustin Montelius CATEGORY: person DEFINITION: Swedish archaeologist who constructed a chronology for prehistoric Europe and who developed typological schemes for the European Neolithic and Bronze Age. He divided European prehistory into numbered periods (four for the Neolithic, five for the Bronze Age) and to these periods he gave absolute dates by extending cross-dating from Egypt across Europe. Montelius believed in the diffusionist view (called ex oriente lux) that all European culture in later prehistoric times was derived from the ancient civilizations of Egypt and the Near East. Still controversial is his theory, the Swedish typology suggesting that material culture and biological life develop through essentially the same kind of evolutionary process. He published Om tidsbestämming inom ronsåldern" (1885; "On Determining the Periods Within the Bronze Age") "The Civilization of Sweden in Heathen Times" (1888) and "Die älteren Kulturperioden in Orient und in Europa" (1903-23; "The Older Cultural Periods in the Orient and Europe")."
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: fossil directeur CATEGORY: artifact DEFINITION: A tool characteristic of a particular archaeological era" a dated concept borrowed from geology. A particular artifactform used to define a specific period or culture such as an Acheulian handax; a specific artifact which serves to represent the taxon of which it is a member. Such an artifact would have a wide distribution in space but a restricted one in time. Its value is for correlating cultural sequences over large areas as in cross-dating. In archaeology the time taken for a type to spread by diffusion must be allowed for and if possible calculated from outside evidence."
Worsaae, Jens Jacob Asmussen (1821-1886)
CATEGORY: person DEFINITION: Danish archaeologist who laid the foundations for the study of prehistory. He was the successor to Christian J. Thomsen at the National Museum at Copenhagen and he applied the Three Age System to stone monuments. He wrote Danmarks Oldtid oplyst ved Oldsager og Gravhøie" ("The Primeval Antiquities of Denmark" 1843) which introduced such other concepts as nomenclature typology and diffusion and discusses the value and principles of prehistoric research. He focused on the study of excavated artifacts particularly in their geographic and stratigraphic contexts. His standards and professionalism put him ahead of his time."