By Michael J. O’Brien, R. Lee Lyman (auth.)

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Phillips et al. 1951:65) Such decisions do beset the classifier at every step, and they do so for one simple reason: The boundaries of a kind emanate from the sample at hand; that is, specimens are observed, those that look alike are placed in a pile separate from other, dissimilar, specimens, and the essence of each kind is extracted from each pile. In most cases, at least a little variation can be tolerated within each kind or pile, though it is important to realize that to an essentialist the variation is, as Lewontin (1974a:5) put it, an “annoying distraction”—something to be put up with but that is viewed as having no explanatory value.

1 One might well debate whether Mayr’s was indeed the “first full articulation” of the revolutionary change ushered in by Darwin, but there can be no denying the significance of what Mayr had to say in the article: Darwin changed forever the way organisms were viewed, by shifting analytical emphasis from individuals to populations and from essentialist types to materialist variation (Lewontin 1974b; Mayr 1972). But what does it mean to say that emphasis was shifted from individuals to populations and from types to variation?

This situation changed after the Modern Synthesis in the 1940s. Things might seem even worse in archaeology, given that Darwin did not even have the archaeological record in mind when he formulated his theory. But having said that, we cannot, as David Rindos (1989:5) once pointed out, blame Darwin for not doing our work for us. It is up to us to devise and systematically use methods and units that allow us to incorporate archaeological materials into evolutionism. In Chapter 6, we first examine how biologists and paleobiologists have constructed historical lineages and then use that examination as the basis for exploring how archaeologists can best construct artifactual lineages using the units discussed in Chapter 5.

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