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By J L Bintliff

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There appear to have been strict norms regarding band type choice in the early phases, followed by an assertion of distinctiveness at both the intra- and intersite level in the later ones. This argument is supported by a recent cladistic analysis of the ceramic assemblages from all the Merzbach settlements (Collard and Shennan 2000), which suggested that the ceramic assemblages from the newly founded settlements arose as a result of processes of branching differentiation from ancestral assemblages, despite the fact that all the sites concerned are extremely close together.

The discussion of Baupla¨ne, above). In fact, such demographic issues are more widely relevant. If a particular population is expanding, then much of its cultural repertoire will expand with it because of the importance of parent–offspring cultural transmission, even if that repertoire has nothing to do with the reasons why the population is expanding. Similarly, if it goes extinct, then those aspects of its cultural repertoire which have a strong element of vertical transmission will go extinct too, even if they were not the reason for the decline.

At this point then we need to outline a framework for understanding the processes responsible for the patterns of stability and change we observe. Our object of study is not past people but the traditions they were involved in perpetuating and changing. Archaeologically, as we have seen, it is the history of these practices, as represented in their residues, that we observe in the record from our privileged position. However, this is not the most important reason for adopting such a perspective, which is simply that traditions and social institutions are always prior to any individual: norms and social contracts are not invented anew each day but depend on those prevailing the day before.

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