Evolution of Cultural Complexity III

27th of September 2018 Thessaloniki, Greece


The book of abstract is now available here

9h - 9h15: Opening – Sergi Valverde
9h15 - 9h40: Elizabeth Hobson, Dan Mønster and Simon Dedeo. Detecting the Basis of Sociocultural Complexity in Animals and Humans
9h40 - 10h05: Thibaud Gruber and Dora Biro. Efficiency as a driver of cultural evolution: from birds to primates
10h05 - 10h30: Dries Daems. Materialising complexity. A conceptual model of material culture, social complexity and mechanisms of change
10h30 - 11h00: Coffee Break
11h00 - 11h45: Invited Speaker – Peter Turchin
11h45 - 12h10: Kaarel Sikk, Geoffrey Caruso and Aivar Kriiska. Conceptual framework of assessing the influence of cultural complexity to settlement pattern formation
12h10 - 12h35: Dion O'Neale, Caleb Gemmell, Thegn Ladefoged, Alex Jorgensen, Hayley Glover, Christopher Stevenson and Mark McCoy. Constructing socio-political networks from obsidian artefacts in pre-European Aotearoa/New Zealand
12h35 - 13h00: Jelena Grujic, Miljana Radivojevic and Marko Porcic. The concept of archaeological cultures – an inside from complex networks approach
13h00 - 14h30: Lunch
14h30 - 14h55: Francois Lafond. The evolution of classification systems as indicator of cultural evolution
14h55 - 15h20: Christopher Watts. Simulating institutional innovation and the collapse of complex societies
15h20 - 16h05: Invited Speaker – Anne Kandler Inferring processes of cultural transmission: the critical role of rare variants
Understanding how social information is used in human populations is one of the challenges in cultural evolution. Fine-grained individual-level data, detailing who learns from whom, would be most suited to answer this question empirically but this kind of data is difficult to obtain especially in pre-modern contexts. Therefore inference procedures have often been based on population-level data in form of frequency distributions of a number of different variants of a cultural trait at a certain point in time or of time-series that describe the dynamics of the frequency change of cultural variants over time, often comprising sparse samples from the whole population. In this talk we demonstrate that there exist theoretical limits to the accuracy of the inference of underlying processes of cultural transmission from aggregated data highlighting the problem of equifinality especially in situations of sparse data. Crucially we show the importance of rare variants for inferential questions. The presence, or absence, of rare variants as well as the spread behaviour of innovations carry a stronger signature about underlying processes than the dynamic of high-frequency variants. On the example of the choice of baby names, we illustrate that the consistency between empirical data, summarized by the so-called progeny, and hypotheses about cultural evolution such as neutral evolution or novelty biases depends entirely on the completeness of the data set considered. Analyses based on only the most popular variants, as is often the case in studies of cultural evolution, can provide misleading evidence for underlying processes of cultural transmission.
16h05 - 16h30: Coffee Break
16h30 - 16h55: Iza Romanowska, Simon Carrignon and Tom Brughmans. When culture meets economy: modelling cultural complexity in an economic setting
16h55 - 17h20: Clemens Schmid. A computational Cultural Transmission model of Bronze Age burial rites in Central, Northern and Northwestern Europe
17h20 - 18h00: Closing