V. Gordon Childe saw cultural evolution as the successive inclusion of technologies, which first appeared in a central region and were diffused over several overlapping networks, into the European periphery. Childe’s model – while very elegant and elaborate – conflicted with the archaeological reality when calibrated radiocarbon data became available en masse in the 1980s and 1990s. Nevertheless many scholars stress that the diffusionistic approach is still possible, however, under completely new frame conditions.

Between 3,500 and 2,000 BC social systems in large parts of Europe and the Southwestern Asia are drastically changed. Not only do we see the appearance of large-scale communication networks as the Baden-style or the Corded Ware culture, but also the transformation of concentrations of power into the first city states in Egypt and Mesopotamia. Another perspective stresses the introduction of technical innovations and the use of secondary products which steadily change the relations of productions. The diffusion of many key-technologies like writing, weighing and sealing was made possible by early state societies, while other innovations like specialised weapons or wheeled vehicles had a much wider repartition.

Can we, therefore, go back from local traditions to a modified diffusionistic view in the tradition of Gordon Childe, Sophus Müller and Oscar Montelius? Or has archaeology moved far beyond both diffusion and localised histories of technique and must use completely new approaches to understand the past?

Understanding the specific archaeological as well as socio-political contexts and their local technological traditions is a key issue in our understanding. We want to analyse the contexts of technical innovations in Eurasia, Northern Africa and the American Continent. A special focus will be put on possible modes and routes in which these innovations were transferred between groups, cultures, time and regions. We aim to re-think their diffusion by close analysis of the archaeological record on the one hand and the specific methodology of a sociology of technique (Techniksoziologie). While there is a strong focus on the 4th and 3rd millennia BC, other regions and periods will be essential to question the models used and gain a wider understanding on the way in which technique shaped human histories.

In our understanding “context” does include the archaeological sources (grave, hoard, settlement, single-find) as well as the different ecological, economical and political contexts of societies adopting an innovation and its technical context, i.e. which techniques were necessary as prerequisites for an innovations successful diffusion. Finally, we want to understand the communicational context of the diffusion of prehistoric innovations.

Program

24.11.2014
09:00 - 09:20
Greetings and Introduction
Gerd GraßhoffInstitut für Philosophie, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
09:20 - 09:30
Welcome and Introduction
Svend HansenDAI Eurasien-Abteilung, Deutsches Archäologisches Institut
Florian KlimschaDAI Eurasien-Abteilung, Deutsches Archäologisches Institut
Jürgen RennMax-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Berlin
09:30 - 10:15
Palaeolithic Innovations and their Relation to the Evolution of Modern Human Beings
Miriam HaidleInstitut für Urgeschichte, Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen
10:15 - 11:00
The Role of Technical Innovations in Models of Cultural Evolution
Steven ShennanInstitute of Archaeology, University College London
11:00 - 11:30
Coffee Break
11:30 - 12:15
Technical Innovation as Extended Evolution
Jürgen RennMax-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Berlin
12:15 - 13:00
The world’s oldest pots: On the dispersal of the ceramic innovation in Northern Eurasia since the Late Glacial period
Henny PiezonkaLehrstuhl für Ur- und Frühgeschichte, Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universität Greifswald
13:00 - 14:30
Lunch Break
14:30 - 15:15
Abstract Labor: An Innovation of Fourth Millennium Mesopotamia
Reinhard BernbeckInstitut für Vorderasiatische Archäologie, Freie Universität Berlin
Susan PollockInstitut für Vorderasiatische Archäologie, Freie Universität Berlin
15:15 - 16:00
Why innovate?
David Alan WarburtonExcellence Cluster Topoi
16:00 - 16:30
Coffee Break
16:30 - 17:15
Innovations in Cultural Systems of the 4th and 3rd Millennia BC in Europe
Tim KerigArchäologisches Institut, Universität zu Köln
17:15 - 18:00
Diffusion Processes and Autochthonous Evolutions in the Prehistory of Western Eurasia
Florian KlimschaDAI Eurasien-Abteilung, Deutsches Archäologisches Institut
25.11.2014
09:00 - 09:45
Technical Innovations and Social Dynamics as Evolutionary Factors
Valentine RouxInstitute Archéologie et Ethnologie, Maison René-Ginouvès
09:45 - 10:30
Large-scale Networks and the Diffusion of Innovations in 4th and 3rd Millennium Europe
Martin FurholtInstitut für Ur- und Frühgeschichte, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel
10:30 - 11:00
Coffee Break
11:00 - 11:45
The Social Context of Innovations in Metal Working and Metal Use in Southwestern Asia
Barbara HelwingMaison de l'Orient et de la Méditerranée Jean Pouilloux, Université Lyon 2
11:45 - 12:30
V. Gordon Childe and Innovation
Svend HansenDAI Eurasien-Abteilung, Deutsches Archäologisches Institut
12:30 - 14:30
Lunch Break
14:30 - 15:15
Invention and Innovations in European Prehistory
Christian JeunesseInstitut Archéologie et histoire ancienne, Université de Strasbourg
15:15 - 16:00
Technical Innovations in the American Southwest
Barbara MillsSchool of Anthropology, University of Arizona, USA
16:00 - 16:30
Coffee Break
16:30 - 17:15
Interaction and Technical Innovations in the Indus Valley
Randall LawDepartment of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Madison
17:15 - 18:00
Cross-cultural Perspectives on Technical Innovations and their Connection to Social Inequality
Gary FeinmanThe Field Museum Chicago
26.11.2014
09:00 - 09:45
Cross-craft Tradition and its Meaning for Technical Innovation. A Case-study from the 2nd Millennium
Ann BrysbaertFaculteit Archeologie, Universiteit Leiden, Netherlands
09:45 - 10:30
Modes of production in the Copper Age of the southern Levant, techno-social innovations in time during the 5th to 3rd millennia BC
Ianir MilevskiIsrael Antiquities Authority
10:30 - 11:00
Coffee Break
11:00 - 11:45
The Introduction and Development of Wheeled Vehicles in Ancient Egypt
Heidi Köpp-JunkFachbereich Ägyptologie, Universität Trier
11:45 - 12:30
Mapping Prehistoric Innovations in the Iron Age
Olivier BüchsenschützDépartement de Archéologie et Philologie d’Orient et d’Occident , École normale supérieure, France
Katherine GruelDépartement de Archéologie et Philologie d’Orient et d’Occident , École normale supérieure, France
12:30 - 14:30
Lunch Break
14:30 - 15:15
The Economic Contexts of Balances and Weight Systems in Protohistory
Jochen BüttnerExcellence Cluster Topoi
15:15 - 16:00
The Repurposed Domesticate: Animal Wealth, Herder Taskscapes, and the Emergence of Non-kinship based Institutions during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B
Cheryl A. MakarewiczInstitute for Prehistoric and Protohistoric Archaeology, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel
16:00 - 16:30
Coffee Break
16:30 - 17:15
Testing Theories of Technological Evolution with a Massive Historical and Archaeological Database (SESHAT)
Peter TurchinDepartment of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Conneticut
17:15 - 18:00
Final Discussion