Invention as process
in An archaeology of innovation
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This chapter explores the idea of invention and asks what, if any, insight archaeology can offer into something that is often considered both momentary and rare. The invention of metallurgy in Eurasia is explored both to delineate the variety of archaeological tools applied to understand this phenomenon, and to demonstrate that invention is considerably less transient than typically imagined. Taking a social approach, the chapter argues that invention is a process with both spatial extent and time depth, and one that involves a network of people, crafts, and ideas. To explore this further, a discussion of imitation and emulation is developed. This brings together archaeological and anthropological narratives of technological imitation with more recent work on iterative processes and re-combination in the digital sphere. The chapter argues that the idea of parsimonious inventions developed by singular (male) individuals is a myth that elides the complex social networks and historical processes that shape this creative process.

An archaeology of innovation

Approaching social and technological change in human society

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