Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology

Living Edition
| Editors: Claire Smith (Editor-in-Chief)

Adaptation in Archaeology

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-51726-1_251-2


The theory of evolution is inherently attractive for archaeologists, who are concerned with the long-term history of humankind (Dunnell 1980). Changes through time during the long process of hominization are, by definition, adaptive. Adaptation is clearly one basic constituent of evolution. For that reason, the concept of adaptation – including the capacity for a cultural system to adjust to changes – is important in many approaches, particularly in ecologically oriented archaeology and, more recently, in evolutionary archaeology.


This variety of approaches using the concept of adaptation naturally leads to the existence of slightly different definitions (O’Brien and Holland 1992; Van Pool 2002).

Basically, adaptation refers to “the idea that organisms are fitted for the particular environments in which they live” (Alexander 1962: 826) or more directly to the “conformity between the organism and its environment” (Pianka 1983: 85).

It is accepted that an...

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CONICET-IMHICIHUBuenos AiresArgentina

Section editors and affiliations

  • Jordan Ralph
    • 1
  • Troy Lovata
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of ArchaeologyFlinders UniversityAdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.Honors CollegeThe University of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA