Studying Technological Differentiation

A process of large-scale behavioral change commonly encountered in the archaeological and historical records is technological differentiation (Schiffer 1992:107). This process has contributed greatly to technological variation, and so its study should be accorded a high priority. This chapter supplies investigators with the theoretical tools for explaining, in proximate fashion, any technology’s differentiation. Such proximate explanations become the foundation for fashioning behaviorally grounded historical narratives.

In the process of technological differentiation, a new technology appears, usually at first in a small number of functional variants. Over decades, centuries, even millennia, that technology becomes diversified as people create and adopt new varieties. As was shown in Chap. 6, Anasazi pottery manufacture began in the first centuries AD initially with a few jar forms, but by AD 1000 jars had been joined by more varied jars, bowls of many sizes, effigy vessels, ladles, and so forth. During the following centuries other variants were adopted, which differed on the basis of shape as well as slip color and painted decoration. By the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, potters on the Colorado Plateau were making and using dozens of ceramic variants having many utilitarian and symbolic functions. Similar processes of functional differentiation are discernible in other Anasazi technologies, such as ground stone (Adams 1994), ritual artifacts (Walker 1995a), and architecture (Lipe and Hegmon 1989).


Technology Transfer Eighteenth Century Electrical Technology Electrical Machine Situational Factor 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

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