From Neural Synapses to Culture-Historical Boundaries: An Archaeological Comment on the Plastic Mind

in Journal of Cognition and Culture
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This paper contributes with a study of how something that is initially introduced as a ‘technology of spatial distribution’ develops into a ‘technology of the mind’. Boundaries are a phenomenon deeply rooted in social perception and cognitive categorization, which also involves material processes that can sometimes be studied in an archaeological record. In later prehistory, the physical instantiation of this technology offered a solution to a wide range of economic and social problems, posed by an increasingly filled-in and more permanently settled landscape. Important aspects of its initial conceptual and cultural incorporation lasted more than a millennium. However, once this technology attached conceptually as well as culturally, it entailed a quantitative acceleration and became part of a long-term development, the social and juridical consequences of which can be traced far up in historical times. This case is used to discuss the importance of unfolding both the plastic aspects of human cognition and the slow, protracted and long-term aspects involved in cultural changes.

From Neural Synapses to Culture-Historical Boundaries: An Archaeological Comment on the Plastic Mind

in Journal of Cognition and Culture

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Figures

  • View in gallery
    (A) The common-fenced settlement at Hodde, western Jutland (ca. 150 bc–0) (Flemming Bau). (B) Farmsteads consisting of longhouses and various outbuildings (rectangles) situated within a Celtic field system (grey lines) and fence lines (black lines) at Hijken, Drenthe (Arnoldussen and Jansen, 2010, after Waterbolk, 1995).
  • View in gallery
    (Top left) 1100–700 bc (top right) 700–300 bc, (bottom) 300 bc–1AD. Black triangles, enclosed field systems and landscape boundaries; white squares, enclosed farmsteads and settlement boundaries; grey triangles, fossilized field systems ( field systems that were not necessarily constructed any longer but nonetheless continued as a visible, structuring element in the landscape).

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