Get access

Shared Social Fields: Evolutionary Convergence in Prehistory and Contemporary Practice



ABSTRACT  In this article, I distinguish between evolutionary and historical perspectives on the past, adopting the concept of “social fields” to argue for a macrohistorical interpretation of the archaeological record. The unit of analysis is not an archaeological culture or civilization but social groups inextricably involved with other groups in weblike interconnections in which technologies are diffused and modified by other groups caught up in these same processes. Such interconnections can best be traced archaeologically by examining the spread of technologies and subsistence practices. Other macrohistorical perspectives on the past, such as world systems analysis, often demand too much of the archaeological record and are used anachronistically. Prehistory documents the ever-increasing participation of groups in social fields that ultimately converge. I conclude by emphasizing the need for a perspective on the past that emphasizes its shared nature in which all peoples have contributed and benefited from interactions with their neighbors.

Get access to the full text of this article