(View exact match)natural selectionCATEGORY: term
DEFINITION: The mechanism that leads to differential survival and reproduction of those individuals suited to a given environment in contrast to other less well adapted. It is the process that results in the adaptation of an organism to its environment by means of selectively reproducing changes in its genotype, or genetic constitution. Natural selection enhances the preservation of a group of organisms that are best adjusted to the physical and biological conditions of their environment and may also result in their improvement in some cases.
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Darwin, Charles (1809-1882)CATEGORY: person
DEFINITION: The founder of modern evolutionary biology and of the theory of the origin of species by means of natural selection. His "Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life" was published in 1859. His theory explained the origin of plant and animal species through a process of natural selection that tends to perpetuate adaptive variations. Its relevance for archaeology was to further the acceptance of the antiquity of man. In his book "The Descent of Man" (1871) he speculated that our closest relatives in the animal world were chimpanzee and gorilla and that Africa was our likely homeland.Lyell, Sir Charles (1797-1875)CATEGORY: person
DEFINITION: Scottish geologist largely responsible for the general acceptance of the view that all features of the Earth's surface are produced by physical, chemical, and biological processes over long periods of geological time (uniformitarianism). Lyell's achievements laid the foundations for evolutionary biology as well as for an understanding of the Earth's development. His work had a bearing on the development of archaeology at two points. His "Principles of Geology" (1830-1833) established the view that the earth had been in existence for very much longer than the 6000 years allowed by the biblical chronology and laid open the way for the later acceptance of the antiquity of man. In 1859 publication of Darwin's "Origin of Species" gave new impetus to Lyell's work. Lyell's "The Geological Evidence of the Antiquity of Man" (1863) tentatively accepted evolution by natural selection.cultural selectionCATEGORY: term
DEFINITION: The process that leads to the acceptance of some cultural traits and innovations that make a culture more adaptive to its environment; somewhat akin to natural selection in biological evolution. The process leads to differential retention of cultural traits that increase a society's potential for successful cultural adaptation, while eliminating maladaptive traits.evolutionCATEGORY: term
DEFINITION: A theory of biology about the gradual or rapid change of the form of living organisms throughout time that reflects adaptive change; it is the theory that all forms of life derive from a process of change via natural selection. Its great exponent was Charles Darwin, whose "The Origin of Species" appeared in 1859. It had an immediate impact on prehistory and the question of the antiquity of man. The Darwinian idea - of species generally over-reproducing themselves and only the better-fitted surviving to pass on their superior adaptation to the next generation - has been modified and amplified in the 20th century by new knowledge of genetics and especially of mutation and re-combination of genes. The newer view is often called Neo-Darwinism. Darwin's work laid the foundations for the study of artifact typology pioneered by such scholars as Pitt-Rivers and Montelius. The idea that the animals and plants of today originated from ancestors of a different kind goes back at least to early Greek philosophers.numerical taxonomySYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: cluster analysis; taximetrics
DEFINITION: A set of mathematical procedures for grouping individual items into classes. The technique used is cluster analysis, which produces groupings of items based on their degree of similarity. There are different ways of measuring the similarity between items, and different techniques of producing clusters from such measurements. Agglomerative techniques start with the most similar items and repeatedly add new members to existing clusters as the standard of similarity is lowered; divisive methods, on the other hand, start with the entire collection to be classified and repeatedly subdivide into smaller groups on the basis of certain attributes. The results of the analyses can be shown in the form of a dendrogram, but the interpretation of the groupings produced will depend on a detailed assessment of the archaeological data itself. Numerical taxonomy is also the multivariate analysis of many measurable features (taxonomic characters) to produce a biological classification. Because of the complexity of the analysis, the use of a computer is virtually mandatory. No attempt is made, as in evolutionary taxonomy, to weight characters on the basis of their presumed roles in natural selection. For this reason, numerical taxonomy produces a classification that reflects phenetic distances i.e., degrees of similarity. Such classifications are rejected by many conventional taxonomists who feel that the relationships expressed in a classification should be strictly evolutionary. The numerical evaluation of the affinity or similarity between taxonomic units and the ordering of these units into taxa on the basis of their affinities is used often in archaeology.