Presentation Title

Phylogenetic and NeighborNet Analysis of Harpoon Heads from Archaeological Arctic North America

Presentation Type

Poster Presentation

Abstract

This study explores the use of phylogenetic and neighbornet analysis, which are traditionally used in biology, in the study of archaeological materials, namely harpoon heads from the North American arctic. Such an approach tests how cultural transmission occurs with a branching signal indicating vertical transmission of cultural information from parent to child - the biological form of transmission - and a non-branching signal indicating horizontal transmission between peers of the same generation and/or oblique transmission from members of an older generation to unrelated members of a younger generation. Also examined in this study is the possibility of mosaic evolution being present within the arctic harpoon head assemblage. In general, mosaic evolution argues that different characteristics of an organism (in this case, an artifact) will evolve separately from one another. Additionally, this study also examines the Theory of Punctuated Equilibria and its relevance to the subject matter of arctic harpoon heads. The Theory of Punctuated Equilibria, which argues that evolution is rarely disrupted by rapid and episodic events of speciation, opposes the phyletic gradualistic view of speciation, which argues that new species arise from the slow and steady transformation of entire populations over time. The overarching hypotheses tested in this study include the 'branching' (phylogenesis) hypothesis, in which cultural information is obtained through vertical transmission, and the 'blending' (ethnogenesis) hypothesis, in which cultural information is obtained through horizontal and/or oblique transmission. Three other hypotheses are used to determine possible factors that could have affected the evolution of the harpoon heads under study, specifically the factors of cultural affiliation/isolation, time and distance. The archaeological cultural groups from which the harpoon heads under study originated from include the Okvik, Old Bering Sea, Ipiutak, Punuk, Birnirk and Thule. These cultures existed on the arctic landscape between 600BC and 1800 AD. The harpoon head characteristics analyzed in this study included socket type, lashing carving type, lithic blade slit type, barb presence, spur presence, angle of blade (lithic or organic) in relation to line hole axis, and plughole presence. These traits were imputed into the phylogenetic and neighbornet analysis to study the branching and blending signals present within the dataset. Overall, this study supports the branching hypothesis of cultural evolution with a greater degree of branching being present within one socket type (closed socket) lineage. Additionally, the results of this study also indicated that there was a greater degree of blending, borrowing and/or innovation present early on in the evolution of these arctic harpoon head types, which may represent a case of punctuated equilibria. Mosaic evolution may also be represented in the late evolution of the harpoon heads. Lastly, the data from this study indicates that these arctic harpoon head types did not evolve in cultural isolation and that time and distance may possibly be factors that effected the evolution of this material culture, but they were not the only contributing factors.

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Apr 27th, 11:00 AM Apr 27th, 12:00 PM

Phylogenetic and NeighborNet Analysis of Harpoon Heads from Archaeological Arctic North America

UC Ballroom (Center)

This study explores the use of phylogenetic and neighbornet analysis, which are traditionally used in biology, in the study of archaeological materials, namely harpoon heads from the North American arctic. Such an approach tests how cultural transmission occurs with a branching signal indicating vertical transmission of cultural information from parent to child - the biological form of transmission - and a non-branching signal indicating horizontal transmission between peers of the same generation and/or oblique transmission from members of an older generation to unrelated members of a younger generation. Also examined in this study is the possibility of mosaic evolution being present within the arctic harpoon head assemblage. In general, mosaic evolution argues that different characteristics of an organism (in this case, an artifact) will evolve separately from one another. Additionally, this study also examines the Theory of Punctuated Equilibria and its relevance to the subject matter of arctic harpoon heads. The Theory of Punctuated Equilibria, which argues that evolution is rarely disrupted by rapid and episodic events of speciation, opposes the phyletic gradualistic view of speciation, which argues that new species arise from the slow and steady transformation of entire populations over time. The overarching hypotheses tested in this study include the 'branching' (phylogenesis) hypothesis, in which cultural information is obtained through vertical transmission, and the 'blending' (ethnogenesis) hypothesis, in which cultural information is obtained through horizontal and/or oblique transmission. Three other hypotheses are used to determine possible factors that could have affected the evolution of the harpoon heads under study, specifically the factors of cultural affiliation/isolation, time and distance. The archaeological cultural groups from which the harpoon heads under study originated from include the Okvik, Old Bering Sea, Ipiutak, Punuk, Birnirk and Thule. These cultures existed on the arctic landscape between 600BC and 1800 AD. The harpoon head characteristics analyzed in this study included socket type, lashing carving type, lithic blade slit type, barb presence, spur presence, angle of blade (lithic or organic) in relation to line hole axis, and plughole presence. These traits were imputed into the phylogenetic and neighbornet analysis to study the branching and blending signals present within the dataset. Overall, this study supports the branching hypothesis of cultural evolution with a greater degree of branching being present within one socket type (closed socket) lineage. Additionally, the results of this study also indicated that there was a greater degree of blending, borrowing and/or innovation present early on in the evolution of these arctic harpoon head types, which may represent a case of punctuated equilibria. Mosaic evolution may also be represented in the late evolution of the harpoon heads. Lastly, the data from this study indicates that these arctic harpoon head types did not evolve in cultural isolation and that time and distance may possibly be factors that effected the evolution of this material culture, but they were not the only contributing factors.