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The Foundations of Cognitive Archaeology

The Foundations of Cognitive Archaeology

Marc A. Abramiuk
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    The Foundations of Cognitive Archaeology
    Book Description:

    In The Foundations of Cognitive Archaeology, Marc Abramiuk proposes a multidisciplinary basis for the study of the mind in the past, arguing that archaeology and the cognitive sciences have much to offer one another. Abramiuk draws on relevant topics from philosophy, biological anthropology, cognitive psychology, cognitive anthropology, and archaeology to establish theoretically founded and empirically substantiated principles of a discipline that integrates different approaches to mind-related archaeological research. Abramiuk discusses the two ways that archaeologists have traditionally viewed the human mind: as a universal or as a relative interface with the environment. He argues that neither view by itself can satisfactorily serve as a basis for gleaning insight into all aspects of the mind in the past and, therefore, the mind is more appropriately studied using multiple approaches. He explains the rationale for using these approaches in mind-related archaeological research, reviewing the literature in both cognitive psychology and cognitive anthropology on human memory, perception, and reasoning. Drawing on archaeological and genetic evidence, Abramiuk investigates the evolution of the mind through the Upper Paleolithic era -- when the ancient mind became functionally comparable to the modern human mind. Finally, Abramiuk offers a model for the establishment of a discipline dealing with the study of the mind in the past that integrates all the approaches discussed.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-30527-3
    Subjects: Biological Sciences, Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. vii-xii)

    Broadly framed, the purpose of this book is to familiarize readers with the aims and foundations for studying the mind in the past. I expect that the interested reader will likely come from a background primarily in archaeology and secondarily in cognitive science. To write a book targeting essentially two audiences, I assume that the reader has at least a passing knowledge in both areas. For the archaeologist, this passing knowledge may include a familiarity with certain cognitive scientific and other associated extra-disciplinary research that might explain key archaeological observations. Whereas for the cognitive scientist, this passing knowledge may concern...

  4. 1 Toward a Study of the Mind in the Past and Its Relation to Developments in Archaeological Theory
    (pp. 1-20)

    Interest in the human mind of the past has been around, at least implicitly, since the first antiquarians began collecting ancient relics, many of which were presumed to have carried esoteric meanings that were lost to time. Therefore, cogitation about past humanmind frames, such as ancient religious beliefs, is by no means new. Archaeologists, and antiquarians before them, have for centuries speculated about ancient peoplesʹ beliefs, perceptions, and experiences. In 1840, the famous explorer and naturalist John Lloyd Stephens expressed the urge to view the world from the perspective of someone who lived in the past as he prosaically...

  5. 2 Archaeological Perspectives on the Mind and Associated Approaches for Studying the Mind in the Past
    (pp. 21-48)

    Throughout the history of archaeology, archaeologists have likened the general functioning of the minds of past peoples to that of people in the present. Archaeologists began questioning this uniformitarian assumption by the 1980s, and we will return to the questionability of theuniformitarian assumptionin chapter 7. However, for now, let us accept the validity of this assumption and discuss the ʺtypes of mindsʺ that archaeologists have generally attributed to the subjects they study. We do this not only for the sake of understanding how archaeologists have conceived of the nature of the mind, but also to appreciate how these...

  6. 3 Concepts and Their Reconstruction in Cognitive Archaeology
    (pp. 49-94)

    The first purpose of this chapter is to study human memory—how it works and whether it can be deemed universal or relative in its functioning. For the cognitive archaeologist, this is important because it can help us to understand how best to proceed in the reconstruction of the concepts—stored in memory—that informed people in the past. The second objective is to describe approaches that the cognitive archaeologist can use to reconstruct these concepts and to justify the approachesʹ use based on what we know of how memory operates from cognitive psychological and anthropological studies.

    Memory plays a...

  7. 4 Percepts and Their Reconstruction in Cognitive Archaeology
    (pp. 95-124)

    As in the preceding chapter, there are two goals for this chapter. The first is to relay to the reader an understanding of how humans perceive things in the world and how perception operates in different cultural environments. This knowledge of how human perception operates, and how it operates in different environments, is relevant for cognitive archaeologists who wish to reconstruct mind frames in an environment different from their own. The second goal is to describe the approaches that cognitive archaeologists use to reconstruct past peoplesʹ perceptions; I will substantiate their use by referring to supporting cognitive psychological and anthropological...

  8. 5 Reasoning and Its Role in Reconstructing Conceptual Products and Inferring Cognitive Capabilities in Cognitive Archaeology
    (pp. 125-156)

    The last two chapters described the nature of human memory and perception, respectively, and how these cognitive capabilities function in different contexts. From the evidence collected based on cognitive psychological and cognitive anthropological research, it was deemed that perception and memory can be seen, depending on the particular situation, as being both universal and relative. We then looked at how the products of these cognitive capabilities could be reconstructed from the archaeological record in a case-specific manner. This chapter will do the same for one more cognitive capability—namely, reasoning. We will focus on an inductive form of reasoning known...

  9. 6 An Introduction to the Evolution of the Mind
    (pp. 157-214)

    As was discussed at the end of the last chapter, understanding the evolution of the mind, and thereby uncovering the mindʹs modern origins, is crucial for legitimizing the utilization of most of the cognitive archaeological approaches presented in the last few chapters. With this said, we now turn to examining the course that the evolution of the mind has taken; a particular emphasis will be placed on the evolution of cognitive capabilities.

    The brain, although centrally responsible for the mental states we experience, is inextricably connected to the body, and the body to the environment. As such, the brain cannot...

  10. 7 An Introduction to the Emergence of the Modern Human Mind
    (pp. 215-254)

    In this chapter, the emergence of the modern human mind is discussed. Starting about 50,000 years ago, significant changes in human life ways took place. In particular, the period roughly between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago is often referred to as a ʺcultural revolutionʺ because we see, particularly in Europe, what appears to be an explosion in cultural variability or diversity. This diversity is incomparable to anything seen before this time in this region. Production of cultural forms increased exponentially during this time; this suggests to some that cognitive capabilities continued to evolve during this time as well.

    However, not...

  11. 8 A Vision for an Ongoing Discipline
    (pp. 255-262)

    In chapter 1, I defined cognitive archaeology as a branch of archaeology that makes use of several practical approaches in order to study the mind in the past. This definition is general enough to encompass how the mind in the past functioned (Renfrew 1994), how it evolved (Mithen 1996), and what mind frames past peoples maintained (e.g., Hodder 1982a,b).

    In this book, special attention was paid to discussing why investigators can use these cognitive archaeological approaches to shed light on the mind in the past. Inquiring about the explanatory scopes of these approaches as well as the support for using...

  12. Glossary
    (pp. 263-266)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 267-276)
  14. References
    (pp. 277-312)
  15. Index
    (pp. 313-316)