Our aim is to create a centre for interdisciplinary research that will use cutting-edge evolutionary biological methods to advance understanding of the evolution of human cultural behaviour, especially those practices that are connected with subsistence, and the manufacture and use of artefacts.
The Centre will provide a strategic institutional identity on a world scale for the evolutionary analysis of human culture, a developing area of research whose practitioners are dispersed in different departments around the world.
* To catalyse collaborative projects that break down traditional disciplinary boundaries. We are keen to foster projects that bridge the arts-science divide within archaeology and anthropology, and to encourage collaborations with researchers in other disciplines.
* To create a global 'hub' for the evolutionary analysis of culture. We will (1) use information technology to create a 'virtual community' of researchers; (2) share our ideas and methodologies with other scholars; and (3) disseminate the results of our research to the public.
* To consolidate the UK's position as a world-leader in the evolutionary analysis of culture. The UK has a strong international reputation for research applying evolutionary methods to cultural data. The Centre will further enhance this reputation.
* To produce a body of empirical work that will complement the current theoretical focus of evolutionary analyses of culture. To date, most work on the evolution of culture has been theoretical, with only a few attempts to address the issues empirically. We will favour research that is data-oriented.
* To identify the evolutionary processes that are responsible for patterning in subsistence practices and material culture. So far, the evolutionary analysis of culture has focused on social structure, language and belief systems, and has ignored subsistence practices and material culture. We will preferentially support projects focused on the latter.
* To delineate the similarities and differences between biological and cultural evolution. We will examine the similarities and differences between cultural evolution and the evolution of genes, morphology and non-cultural behaviour. We will also support projects that explore the similarities and differences between the evolutionary histories of the different aspects of human culture.
* To determine the relative importance of contingent and non-contingent processes in cultural evolution. Researchers working on cultural evolution have emphasised the role of natural selection, and therefore historical contingency, in human cultural affairs. We will explore the extent to which self-organisation and non-contingency are also involved in cultural evolution.
* To support projects that adapt existing biological methods to address problems concerning cultural evolution. We are particularly keen to exploit recent developments in phylogenetics, computer modelling and complexity theory.