The Birth of Culture History


As discussed in the preceding chapter, strata were used on a regular basis as artifact collection units during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but only occasionally were superposed artifact assemblages used to measure the passage of time and thus to discuss culture change. Such change was discounted as insignificant by Boas, Kroeber, and other leading figures in the discipline. What led to the shift in thinking and the eventual emergence of the culture history paradigm? Histories of Americanist archaeology (e.g., Browman and Givens 1996; Strong 1952; Taylor 1954; Willey and Sabloff 1993:97) typically refer to a “stratigraphic revolution” that took place in the teens, but, as we explain below, the revolution resided elsewhere.


Culture History Culture Trait Arbitrary Level Stratigraphic Profile Shell Mound 
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© Plenum Press, New York 1997

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