Catherine J. Frieman
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This chapter askes how innovations spread – both over space and through time. It attempts to bridge the distance between the individual-scale sharing of knowledge or skills and the regional scale patterning visible archaeologically. The case study explored in this chapter is the spread of Lapita material, people, and practices in the prehistoric Pacific. As the study makes clear, especially when small-scale and pre-modern societies are concerned, kin networks are crucial vectors for the dissemination of new ideas, technologies, and practices particularly through teaching and learning. This observation leads to an extended discussion of craft learning that explores the ways various training models identified ethnographically and historically encourage or discourage innovative practices. Evolutionary models of knowledge transfer are contrasted with more embedded approaches, such as models of situated learning and communities of practice. The discussion then broadens to explore the geographies of innovation dissemination. While archaeologists fixate on narratives of diffusion and migration, research in the contemporary world focuses on the development of regional innovation systems. The chapter argues that these dominant approaches overlook the role of peripheral populations and the creativity of marginal communities.

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An archaeology of innovation

Approaching social and technological change in human society


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