Macroevolutionary Theory and Archaeology: Is There a Big Picture?

  • Robert L. Bettinger


In contrast to evolutionary ecology and evolutionary archaeology, macroevolutionary archaeology argues that human evolution is the result of more than just natural selection and selection-shaped decision making acting on individuals and that its broader trajectory is not random but structured. The rugged fitness landscape featured in Sewall Wright’s (1931; 1932) shifting balance theory provides a strong warrant for these arguments; forces other than natural selection are needed to move populations from lower to high fitness peaks. The analogy is particularly apt for humans because the bulk of human behavior is acquired by social transmission and has payoffs that hinge on the result of social interaction, producing many different adaptive equilibria. Groups that make their way to superior equilibria are selected for, resulting in group selection, the pace of which is hastened by cultural transmission.


Group Selection Fitness Landscape Cultural Transmission Adaptive Landscape Social Transmission 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA

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