Dr. John Kantner, University of North Florida

Archaeological Theory

Dr. Kantner's contributions to archaeological theory focus on how biological evolutionary theory can be applied to archaeological problems, including comparisons of cultural vs. biological evolutionary processes and microeconomic vs. evolutionary game theory. Understanding human behavior is hard enough when working with living populations; it would seem to be that much harder to deal with people who lived hundreds or thousands of years ago. Dr. Kantner is therefore also interested in how modeling techniques used by human behavioral ecologists can be adapted to looking at complex prehistoric behavior. A sample of his writings on these topics is provided below:

Books

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The product of a School for Advanced Research Advanced Seminar, this 2010 edited volume brought together ethnographers and archaeologists to explore why and how leadership emerges and variously becomes institutionalized among disparate small-scale and middle-range human societies. Dr. Kantner co-organized the seminar, and co-edited this resulting book, with Jelmer Eerkens of UC-Davis and Kevin Vaughn of Purdue University.


Journal Articles

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Written with Dr. Kevin Vaughn of Purdue, this 2012 Journal of Anthropological Archaeology article considers the emergence of ancient pilgrimage centers from the perspective of human behavioral ecology, specifically employing costly signaling theory. To assess the proposed model, the archaeological and paleoenvironmental records from Chaco Canyon in the U.S. Southwest and Cahuachi on the south coast of Peru are compared.


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Implications of human behavioral ecology for understanding the development of "prestige goods" are explored in this 2010 Journal of Anthropological Research article. Through a consideration of the concepts of tolerated theft and package size, prestige goods are discussed as a mechanism for converting unequal horticultural productivity into a resource that can be differentially accumulated. A case study is presented on turquoise use in the ancient Puebloan Southwest.


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A 2008 article in the Journal of Archaeological Research provides a critical update on regional archaeology, a theoretical and methodological approach to understanding the past that was popular in the 1970s and 1980s. Dr. Kantner explores how the premise of regional archaeology -- that the past can be understood by looking at social and environmental phenomena across regional space -- today informs most archaeological research. On the other hand, many specific methods of regional analysis have not held up to analytical scrutiny. Both conclusions challenge the utility of distinguishing regional archaeology as a unique area of inquiry.


Book Chapters

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A collection of the papers presented at the Twentieth Anniversary Southwest Symposium, Movement, Connectivity, and Landscape Change in the Ancient Southwest tackles three contemporary domains in archaeology: landscape use and ecological change, movement and ethnogenesis, and connectivity among social groups through time and space. Dr. Kantner was the convener for the group of scholars who tackled the latter topic and wrote the introduction to that section of this 2011 book.

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Essential Tensions in Archaeological Method and Theory (2003) includes a chapter that considers different manifestations of biological evolutionary theory in archaeology -- adaptationism, selectionism, and human behavioral ecology -- and argues that the latter most effectively acknowledges the distinct decision-making capabilities of humans, which serves as an evolved proxy for the slow, painful process of natural selection.

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This 2002 book, Darwin and Archaeology: A Handbook of Key Concepts in Modern Evolutionary Archaeology, was edited by John Edward Terrell and John Hart. It includes Dr. Kantner's chapter on the concept of "complexity," a concept used in a multitude of disciplines, from biology to physics to computer science. These varying definitions are explored, with the goal of providing a broader context to how it is typically applied -- and often misapplied -- in archaeology.