These fourteen original essays accept a dual premise: technology pervades and is embedded in all human activities. By taking that approach, studies of technology address two questions central in anthropological and archaeological research today-accounting for variability and change. These diverse yet interrelated chapters show that to understand human lives, researchers must deal with the material world that all peoples create and inhabit. Therefore an anthropology of technology is not a separate, discrete inquiry; instead, it is a way to connect how people make and use things to any activity studied, ranging from religion, to enculturation, to communication, to art.
Each contributor discusses theories and methods and also offers a substantial case study. These detailed inquiries span human societies from the Paleolithic to the computer age. By moving beyond the usual approach of examining ancient technologies, particularly chipped stone and low-fired ceramics, this volume probes for the construction of meaning in the material world across millennia. The authors of these essays find technology to be an inclusive and flexible topic that merges with studies of everything else in human activity.
"A provocative and powerful discussion of the role of technology in human cultures. At a time when archaeology has become less focused on theory, and archaeology and social anthropology seem to fracture farther and farther apart, the book is a breath of fresh air."--Professor John Douglas, University of Montana
Michael Brian Schiffer is professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona.