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Approaching social and technological change in human society

This book is the first monograph-length investigation of innovation and the innovation process from an archaeological perspective. We live in a world where innovation, innovativeness, creativity, and invention are almost laughably over-used buzzwords. Yet comparatively little research has been carried out on the long-term history of innovation beyond and before the Industrial Revolution. This monograph offers both a response and a sort of answer to the wider trans-disciplinary dialogue on innovation, invention, and technological and social change. The idea of innovation that permeates our popular media and our political and scientific discourse is set against the long-term perspective that only archaeology can offer in dialogue with a range of social theory about the development of new technologies and social structures. The book offers a new version of the story of human inventiveness from our earliest hominin ancestors to the present day. In doing so, it challenges the contemporary lionization of disruptive technologies, while also setting the post-Industrial-Revolution innovation boom into a deeper temporal and wider cultural context. It argues that the present narrow focus on pushing the adoption of technical innovations ignores the complex interplay of social, technological, and environmental systems that underlies truly innovative societies; the inherent connections between new technologies, technologists, and social structure that give them meaning and make them valuable; and the significance and value of conservative social practices that lead to the frequent rejection of innovations.

Catherine J. Frieman

extended period of contact and colonialism in the modern era. On the one hand, this interaction provides archaeologists with a conspicuous and easily accessible case study of innovation adoption, but, of course, on the other it is also deeply complicated by the violence and power imbalances that characterized the European hegemonic domination of colonized peoples, not to mention the frequent inability of colonized peoples to present their own experiences of adoption and innovation. Yet it is actually these contradictions – so close to the surface in archaeological

in An archaeology of innovation
Catherine J. Frieman

(both those who are members of the actor’s community and those who are not); as well as with the future. This complex view of tradition is in line with Indigenous perspectives on how we should understand innovation and resistance in the colonial process. Building on Native American critiques, Lee Panich ( 2013 , 2020 ) suggests that decolonizing our ideas about innovation and conservatism means re-framing narratives of contact and colonialism as persistence narratives. In other words, by focusing on European innovations and how Native Americans responded to them

in An archaeology of innovation