Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology

pp 1522-1530

Cognitive Archaeology

  • Antonis IliopoulosAffiliated withKeble College, University of Oxford Email author 
  • , Lambros MalafourisAffiliated withKeble College, University of Oxford

Introduction and Definition

Cognitive archaeology, or the archaeology of mind, has been broadly defined by Colin Renfrew as the study of past ways of thinking through the material remains that have been unearthed (Renfrew 1982, 1993, 1994). Important to note at the outset is that cognitive archaeology does not attempt to identify what people thought, but rather how they carried out their thinking in interaction with others and the material world. In other words, the archaeology of mind is primarily interested in learning about the different situated processes of human thought as they emerge and take shape in the different cultural trajectories of our species.

The spectrum of abilities that archaeologists have delved into has been wide. Given the position of tools at the starting point of the archaeological record, the technological capacities that were required to manufacture and use them were among the first to be examined. However, it is later-emerging cognit ...

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