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Journal Article

Mapping the field of cultural evolutionary theory and methods in archaeology using bibliometric methods


Schmid,  Clemens       
IMPRS for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Institute of Geoanthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Matzig, D. N., Schmid, C., & Riede, F. (2023). Mapping the field of cultural evolutionary theory and methods in archaeology using bibliometric methods. Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, 10(1): 271. doi:10.1057/s41599-023-01767-y.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000D-4A6F-5
Bibliometrics offers powerful means of visualising and understanding trends within research domains. We here present a first exploratory bibliometric analysis of cultural evolutionary theory and attendant methods as applied specifically within archaeology across the last four decades (1981–2021). Bibliographic coupling network analysis shows that there exists a broadly successive series of author clusters making up the core of this research domain. A broader vernacular version of cultural evolution is also commonly used in thematic or regional research traditions that fall outside of cultural evolutionary studies in the strict sense. Our bibliometric networks trace the development of evolutionary archaeology over the last four decades and while they demonstrate the centrality of computational models, they also suggest a stagnation in the application of precisely that suite of methods—phylogenetics—that is central to evolutionary archaeology’s biological counterpart palaeontology. Recent methodological innovations in palaeobiology are, however, offering new ways of integrating artefact shape data directly with phylogenetic applications. This development may usher in a renaissance in artefact phylogenetics and appropriately marco-scale applications of cultural evolutionary theory in archaeology.