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Cultural Ecology



Cultural Ecology is an anthropological theory put forward by Julian Steward and used widely by archaeologists. Steward defined cultural ecology in his 1955 book The Theory of Culture Change as "the study of the processes by which a society adapts to its environment."

Cultural ecology is still quite a useful concept as the basis for archaeological and geographical research, although its emphasis on environmental determinism has been softened by succeeding applications of anthropological theory.


Butzer, Karl W. 1996 Ecology in the long view: Settlement histories, agrosystemic strategies, and ecological performance. Journal of Field Archaeology 23:141-150.

Steward, Julian H. and Frank M. Setzler 1938 Function and configuration in archaeology. American Antiquity 4(1):4-10.

Thomas, David H. 1973 An empirical test for Steward's model of Great Basin settlement patterns. American Antiquity 38(2):155-176.

This glossary entry is part of the Dictionary of Archaeology.

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