The Selfish Gene in the Prehistoric Mediterranean: Implications for Society

The Selfish Gene in the Prehistoric Mediterranean: Implications for Society

Zak Van Straaten

This paper was presented at a Conference on the Archaeology of the Prehistoric Mediterranean at the University of Malta, in November, 1988.
Published in the Journal of Mediterranean Studies, Vol. 1 number 2, 1991.


In this paper I extend the selfish gene theory of sociobiology to models of social organisation in the ancient Mediterranean. The method used is that proposed by Karl Popper for science, i.e. the attempted falsifications of the major implications of the chosen theory. I attempt to derive 'archetypical models' from a sociological base and then show that these are not falsified by the generally accepted archaeological thories or basic statements (unproblematic truths) applicable to paeolithic or neolithic cultures. The generality of the theory, which is reductionist, allows the claim that the social implications could apply to geographical areas other than the Mediterranean.

In particular in this paper I addressed the following issues:

a. the problem of methodology in archaeology
b. conjectures and refutations in archaeology
c. the relation between genes and culture
d. sociobiological categories applicable to archaeological data
e. what archaeologists of the ancient Mediterranean can learn about the concept of "human nature" from population biologists.
f. how some of the more basic population biology explanations may be applied in a hunter-gatherer population biology -economic model for the Prehistoric Mediterranean.

The selfish gene is the prehistoric Mediterranean
Implications for Society*

* I am grateful to Dr. A. Bonanno and to the Foundation for International Studies for financial assistance to attend the conference.

Zak Van Straaten
University of Cape Town

Structure of This Paper

I start with a sketch of the problem of method in archaeology. Two rival methodological strategies are delineated. I suggest a way to unify the methodological diversity by showing how we can use the method and methodology proposed by Popper for natural science; and the framework of explanation assumed by new science of socio-biology. Socio-biology assumes a uniform, relatively invariant set of behavioural parameters which are the foundation for culture. And insofar as archaeology attempts to understand and explain such concepts as ranking, resource, exchange, cultural change and social organization it needs to incorporate and use socio-biological strategies and explanations. Finally I attempt to use the fundamental concepts and theoretical strategies of socio-biology to conjecture a framework of explanation for hunter-gatherer social organisation in the prehistoric Mediterranean.

The Problem of Method(ology) in Archaeology

If Archaeology were a completely established science we would be in possession of a complete, consistent, and unified fundamental theory of all archaeological interactions. (2) The fundamental archaeological theory could be used to describe, not only actual observations, but all possible observations. It is a commonplace that in archaeology we do not have such a completed theory, and that we do not even have part of such a theory. Instead we have number differing perspectives and part of such a theory. Instead we have a number of differing perspectives and strategies for arriving at trustworthy explanations. Two these are as follows.

First Methodological Strategy

The first methodological strategy consists in the description of artefacts and the drawing of inferences from our knowledge, however derived, of the artefacts. There is usually no basic theory which licenses the inferences. There is instead a collection of ideas which forms a system of background knowledge. It is here that support is sought for drawing inferences about prehistoric social life. A basic assumption is that archaeological data are meaningful expressions of human culture and purpose. It is assumed that with sufficiently ingenious interpretations of the data, and with the assumption of an adequate sociological and anthropological interpretation of what we mean by ‘human’, we can apply this concept to the domain of human in prehistoric times. One basic problem with this model is that it cannot as it stands generate scientific explanations; another problem that it is mentalistic. It is mentalistic in the sense in which Parsonian sociology is mentalistic, i.e. it relies on the language of common sense or folk psychology to understand ‘purpose’, ‘intention’, ‘wishes’, ‘wants’, ‘goals’, etc., of social groups. And disciplines which rely essentially on what is mental cannot be turned into sciences, (i.e. into disciplines which base their explanations on law like universal generalizations, and can specify in advance what would falsify a hypothesis or theory) while retaining the mentalistic, non-law like component.

Second Methodological Strategy

Archaeologists study material phenomena. The relevant material things are in various configurations and forms. They are the matter and energy systems which are required for environmental adaptation. It is not necessary to presume on uniform concept of ‘human nature’ for linking the present to the prehistoric to analyse and assess biological and material adaptation systems. The mentalistic non-law like component of the first strategy is, in this model of explanation, apparently eliminable.

Conjecture and Refutation in Science

Popper has argued that the hypothetico-deductive method is the only adequate method for science.(3) The proposals have of course been modified by the debates on falsification and fallibilism since 1970. The method arises out of Popper’s attempt to solve the problem of induction. Popper notes the asymmetry between the conditions of truth and falsity of a universal generalization of the form (Vx) (Fx ? Gx). If the domain is potentially infinite, as it would be if the variables ranged over electrons or neutrons, then no number of confirming instances would logically imply truth of the generalization. However, one single counter-example would be sufficient to falsify the generalization. Suppose, we claim that for any electron its mass is 9.11 x 10-31kg., then even if we had examined 10 billion electrons and found that they conformed to the mass specification, that would not imply the truth of the generalization, (Vx) (Electron x ? the mass of x=9.11x10-31kg). But a single electron with mass 2x10-22 would falsify the generalization.
A naïve falsification believes in crucial experiments, and that the only acceptable counter-evidence to a theory is empirical evidence. This theorist draws a sharp distinction between the theoretical and the experimental. So when an experiment is performed with falsifies a theory, and the experiment is both crucial and empirical, the naïve falsification insists that the theory be abandoned forthwith.
The sophisticated methodological falsification separates rejection from refutation, and feels free to hang on to an apparent refuted theory, by use of ad hoc hypothesis, or by attacking the theoretical basis of the experiment which allegedly provided the refutation. Popper and the sophisticated falsificationist think of the growth of science as partly dependent on the policy of not counting a particular theory as falsified by an agreed upon observation, or basic statement, or experiment, unless there is a rival theory in which the observation statement or experiment can be turned into a successful prediction.(4) I shall give an example.
Newton’s theory has enormous explanatory power, and is able to generate extremely accurate calculations, especially in the realm of terrestrial measurement. Although many scientists had tried to refute Newton no falsifications of Newton’s theory were accepted from 1697 until 1905 when Einstein published his paper on special relativity. Although it had been accepted that Newtonian theory could not account for the shift of the perihelion of the planet Mercury, this had not been accepted as an anomaly sufficient to be a refutation of Newtonian theory. But Einstein’s new rival theory could not account for the shift (46 seconds of arc every 1—years), i.e. explain the falsity content of Newton, and successfully predict the shift in Mercury’s perihelion.
In Popperian method if a theory survives the ordeal of severe tests of that which is allows, predicts, and forbids then it is said to be ‘corroborated’. The more severely it is tested without being falsified the more highly it is corroborated. It is then said to have ‘verisimilitude’. Although corroboration is not the criterion of verisimilitude, it is an indication of it. All attempts at falsification which don not succeed become corroborations, and so increase our belief in the degree of verisimilitude of the theory. On Popper’s account growth occurs when one rejects a theory in favour of a rival theory, because the rival theory has greater empirical content, and it is more corroborated than the rival. And since Popper argues that corroboration is and indication of truth-likeness or verisimilitude, the rival theory has a higher degree of verisimilitude.
For Popper, all the as yet unfalsified, basic statements, hypothesis, and theories, are part of public objective knowledge and are members of the Popperian 3rd World.
Also important is the demarcation of those theories, hypotheses and ideologies which are not capable of potential or principle falsification. This is the realm of non-science.

Conjecture and Refutation in Archaeology

In my view those archaeologists and others who claim that there is no properly scientific methodology which is appropriate o archaeology as a whole are wrong. There is both a method and a methodology which is effective and suited to archaeology. It is Popperian method of conjecture and refutation which I have outlined above. It is a method which can apply effectively in those fields of archaeology where truth values and truth conditions are fundamental.
For brevity let us call the method outlined above AM (for archaeological methodology). Let us suppose that the hypothesis:
(a) that AM is the only correct method in archaeology for generating the non-false, well corroborated, high-verisimilitude archaeological theories/hypothesis/basic statements is itself well corroborated.
(i) the hypothetico-deductivism of AM would characterize the context of justification of an archaeological theory/hypothesis/basic statement. The strategies of AM and the implications which we may derive from it about how to proceed in a problem situation would also apply to the context of discovery.
(ii) we should expect in either the context of justification or of discovery of a theory or basic statement, that a great deal of time is devoted to attempted refutations and falsifications. Seminars and international conferences would (and should) be characterized by numerous and repeated attempts at falsifications or refutations.
(iii) we would not expect to find archaeologists having recourse to hundreds of cases of induction so as to be able to form one or more generalizations based upon them.
(iv) the history of archaeology would, like most history of science, contain mostly accounts of refuted theories.
I have assumed above, in accordance with the basic presupposition of the methodology, that archaeological theories/hypothesis/basic statements are falsified or refuted in a variety of different ways. The most obvious is by counter-example. Examples are either drawn from present day actual world cases, or from the archaeological record. I submit that this method occurs frequently in archaeological seminars, and at conferences.
Another type of refutation is to show that the proposed theory or hypothesis is incompatible with what is accepted as unproblematic current archaeological or scientific knowledge. A theory of hypothesis could be incompatible with general logical principles, or general archaeological/economic/anthropological principles, which we have no reason to suspect as problematic.
In order to establish AM as the only correct methodology for archaeology a great deal more would be required than I have been able to demonstrate above.

What is the Point of the Kind of Study?

Arthur Keene said of his study of ‘Economic optimization models and the study of hunter-gatherer subsistence settlement systems’ in C. Renfew and K. Cooke (1979):

‘What is the point of our kind of study? To produce models which can serve as complements to information desired from archaeological record.’ (6)

The information and theoretical view is larger than that which can be obtained from archaeological record alone.
And as Colin Renfew points out in his introduction to Transformations: Mathematical Approaches to Culture Change it is to attempt to move from ‘anecdote to analysis,’ from pictures and descriptions to explanations, and the analysis of material systems and behaviour. The point is to try to move away from a merely descriptive and eclectic methodology.(7)
My assumption is that human sociobiology, resting on a base of microbiological and biochemical theory can be directly applied to humans now. I further assume that the theory of human sociobiology can be projected back in time to say 10,000 B.C. to apply to hunter-gatherer subsistence and settlement systems, or to later settled agricultural systems. In this respect I assume that human sociobiology will preempt some domains of existing social theory, which are incompatible with sociobiologiy. (On this issue see Rosenberg, 1981).
The relationship between culture and genetics is such that they are both necessary. They both require each other. Sociobiology sets the framework, and culture must say at least how the universal structures of sociobiology are realized. The relation may, with apologies to Immanuel Kant, be expressed as follows: "Culture without sociobiology is blind, and sociobiology without culture is empty".
And it is a natural requirement of archaeological methodology that not only must the theories of culture and sociobiology be consistent with the archaeological record: the archaeological record must be consistent with our accounts of culture and sociobiology. This is on the assumption that none of the fundamental theories has yet been falsified. I give a graphic representation to these inter-relationships in diagrams (a) and (b) below:

What basic behaviour patterns did the Mediterranean hunter-gatherers (circa 10,000 B.C.) have?
What social organization did the Mediterranean hunter-gatherers and the Maltese (circa 5,000 B.C.) have?

To answer these questions within the frames of Popperian methodology and sociobiological theory I first set out some of the generally accepted descriptions and predictions of sociobiological theory as conjectures. I then conjecture that these structures can be used to explain social organization in the prehistoric Mediterranean. The explanation is effected by extending selfish gene models of social organization in human socio-biology to the ancient Mediterranean. I assume the reader is familiar with the three theoretical possibilities that unit of selection could be the group, or the individual, or selfish bits of chromosome. I am assuming the viability of the third case, and following Dawkins (1976) calling this selfish gene interpretation. The so-called ‘archetypical models’ are therefore derived from a sociobiological base, and it is then claimed that these are not falsified by the generally accepted archaeological theories (which have not yet been falsifies) or basic statements (unproblematic truths) applicable to paleolithic or Neolithic cultures. And here we might take the work of Evans (1971), Renfrew (1973), and Trump (1980), as the example of received archaeological wisdom about prehistoric Malta or the prehistoric Mediterranean. The implication for the religious life and temple building in prehistoric Malta, and in the prehistoric Mediterranean, is that any fundamental religious activity would have had to be compatible with the modal, and indeed serve the basic human interests posited by the sociobiological model.

What is the relation of genes to culture?

It was easy to claim above that, culture without socio-biology is blind, and socio-biology without culture is empty. What one means by that is at least in part that a culture with negates the fundamental posits of socio-biology is blind, and a socio-biology which is at odds with historical cultural record is empty, or from a theoretical point of view valueless.
However, the relation between genes and culture or between the results of animal socio-biology and human socio-biology admits of different stances. Some of these are as follows:
R.L. Trivers holds that

‘The chimpanzee and the human share about 99.5 per cent of their evolutionary history, yet most human thinkers regard the chimp as a malformed irrelevant oddity while seeing themselves as steeping stoned to the Almighty. To the evolutionist this cannot be so. There exists no objective basis on which to elevate one species above another. Chimp and human, lizard and fungus, we have all evolved over some three billion years be a process known as natural selection. Within each species some individuals leave more surviving offspring than others, so that the inheritable traits (genes) of the reproductively successful become more numerous in the next generation. This is natural selection: the non-random differentials understand if we are to comprehend our own identities.’(8)

And according to R.D. Alexander, ‘A Darwinian model seems to me to be established beyond doubt as an appropriate hypothesis for the background of a significant, if not major, function of the proximate behavioural tendencies and motivations of humans.(9) But, the father of socio-biology E.O. Wilson is more cautious. He says: ‘It is part of the conventional wisdom that virtually all cultural variation is phenotypic rather than genetic in origin.’ And he admits ‘the gene has given away most of “their Sovereignty”!’ But Wilson also believes that small genetic effects can have large scale behavioural effects, not only for animals but also for humans.(10)
At the sceptical end of the scale is Maynard-Smith. He does not see his work on insects contributing to the understanding of human socio-biology and denies that his ideas about insects or animals may also refer either directly or by material analogy to humans. (Ruse 1985:53).

Sociobiological Categories

Some of the extremely basic categories (which are fundamental to socio-biology as a research programme) for explaining the behaviour of the phenotypic effects of the selfish gene in the prehistoric Mediterranean are as follows: AGGRESSION, SEX, PARENTHOOS, KIN SELECTION, PARENTAL MANIPULATION, and RECIPROCAL ALTRUISM.
There is a vast and quickly growing literature on these categories, and I have space in this paper to present only a small fraction of the available results. The interested reader is referred to Michael Ruse’s excellent and clearly written, Sociobiology: Sense or Nonsense? (1985) for an extended account of human socio-biology; and to E.O. Wilson’s On Human Nature (1975). The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins, (1976) has rapidly become a classic textbook on the subject.
I now proceed to conjecture that the models of human sociobiological behaviour which are used as explanatory structures within the categories mentioned above can be extended to prehistoric hunter-gatherer bands and other social groupings/communities in the ancient Mediterranean. What are these models, and what can they tell us about prehistoric behaviour patterns? In presenting the models I shall closely follow the exposition given in Dawkins (1976) and Ruse (1985).


A great deal of aggression in both humans and animals is adaptive. It is directed towards acquisition of limited or scarce resources. As Wilson says ‘non-sexual aggression…within a species serves primarily as a form of competition for environmental resources including especially food and shelter,’ (1975:243)
Aggression in both humans and animals is caused by a number of factors, most particularly by the action of strangers. One doesn’t have to take a position on whether aggression is innate or learned. The function is important. When individuals have their food supply of living space or reproductive strategy threatened, they respond aggressively. And, with some qualification, it is true that human and animal responses to strangers are similar. We distinguish between us and them; family, friends, colleagues and others; people who look and behave like us and anyone who dresses, speaks and behaves differently. According to a leading sociobiologist, R.D. Alexander, the capacity to live socially together is the product of aggression. Two of the bad effects of social living are diseases and parasites. They conspire to reduce the size of a band/group. So there has to be a good reason for large groups/bands. Alexander has suggested that aggression, sociability and intelligence are adaptations to an environment with predators competing for relatively scarce resources: ‘I suggest that, at an early stage, predators became chiefly responsible for forcing men to live in groups, and that those predators were not other species, but larger stronger groups of men.’(11)
The alternative explanation that prehistoric man needed to band together to secure larger or more powerful prey is not as convincing as Alexander’s. Smaller groups could have been just as effective.


Most sociobiologists think that theories of sexual behaviour first conjectured for animals can be applied to humans. In both animal and human socio-biology mating and sexual behaviour is construed as a strategy where each sexually active adult tires to maximize his/her own replicational success.
Even though it is true that human life id determined (and in many cases ‘over determined’) by culture, human sexual behaviour despite cultural determinants is not falsifier of the general sociobiological predictions. In the case of the female she must contend with a 9 month pregnancy and approximately 12 years of childe rearing. After impregnation she it literally left holding the baby. So her best strategy is, either, according to Dawkins (1976), to offer ‘domestic bliss’ or to choose ‘he-men.’ The ‘domestic bliss’ strategy is to attempt to get the male to provide some parental care. The female can offer the male sexual favours before impregnation, with the promise of more in return for ‘domestic bliss.’ Females who are very attractive can offer less, and unattractive females probably have to raise the threshold of sexual giving. Wilson points out that the human female is sexually receptive at times other than the periods of ovulation. This is connected to the fact that she needs help for 12 years or more.
The ‘he-man’ strategy is to marry ‘upmarket’, i.e. up the socio-economic scale. To do so is to ally yourself with economic success, and to choose genes from the sort of mate whose genes maximise the potential replicational success of the progeny. There is some kind of symmetry in the ‘he-man’ strategy. The most desirable females get to choose the most successful males; and the most successful males get to choose from the pool of the most attractive and desirable females.

In the case of the male he can impregnate with little effort and his inventory of sperm is large. Whereas the average female can bring approximately 15 eggs out of about 400 produced during her lifetime to maturity, the male inventory of sperm over a lifetime is in excess of 1.560,000,000,000 and of those about 60% are usable for impregnation. The New Scientist (1988) reported on research in Manchester which found that about 40% of the average ejaculate is used to form a barrier over the entrance of the womb (cervix) to stop other sperm entering while the 60% of the usable sperm attempt fertilization.
So males ought to try and invest as little time and effort as they can get away with. Females have to try to prevent them from doing so by the ‘domestic bliss’ or ‘he-man’ strategy. There should be a selective adaptive disposition towards adultery, where males can have reproductive success, but where the females have other partners who will help raise the offspring. And we should also expect to find a selective adaptive disposition towards not being a cuckold. According to Trivers anthrolopological data do not falsify this prediction. Trivers shows that where the cause was known, the overwhelming cause of fatal fights among Bushman was adultery. The same is true of certain Eskimo tribes, and Australian aborigines.
In the female there is selective adaptive behaviour which shuns adultery. It runs counter to either the ‘domestic bliss’ or ‘he-man’ strategy to allow impregnation by random males not prepared to invest time and money in offspring.
So the male is thwarted by the already mated females pursuing their best strategies. It is therefore easier for the male to get sexual favours from his mate, who will expect help with the offspring in return for sexual favours. The male also has an interest in a period of time to be spent with the female of his choice, before impregnation. If all these push-pull forces commit him to some care of the offspring then it is in his interest to be relatively sure that it is his own gene that he is committed to caring for. Here the male strategy complements the female strategy ‘coyness’, where she is ready to offer attractions before impregnation, but not too eager to start breeding before she has established that the male has the potential for some child care and faithfulness to her (Ruse 1984:57-61).


The dominant theme here is that of ‘reproductive self-interest.’ And the question is: What strategy will best maximize my genes in future generations? There are different strategies depending on the number of children involved.
The one child case: Conflict will arise between the parent’s interest and the child’s interest. At some stage it is better to invest less in an only child and more in a second child. But from the point of view of an only child it is best to demand as much as it can get. The parent and child are in some senses genetic rivals.
Altruistic behaviour by an offspring might benefit a parent more than the offspring. When an individual helps a first cousin it is helping an individual related by 12.5% to itself. However, that individual is related by 25% to the parent. In some cases it is in the parent’s interest to push the offspring to altruism, but not offspring’s interest to comply.
A fundamental conflict is expected during socialization in the in two or more children case over the egoistic/selfish and altruistic/non-selfish impulses of the offspring. Parents are expected to socialize their offspring to act more altruistically than they would otherwise act, that is at in such a way as to benefit the other offspring; and the offspring should resist because they are related genetically by 50% to other full siblings, but are related by 100% to themselves. The story of Cinderella is a mythical case in point of this kind of phenomenon. As Michael Ruse shows, the teachings of honesty, decency, generosity, is not a question of introducing children to culture, or to civilization, but pushing the children to support the parent’s biological or replicational interests. The conflict is not between the culture of the parent versus the biology of child. It is instead a conflict based on the socio-biology of the parent versus the socio-biology of the child. (1985:61-63).

A Hunter-Gatherer Model for the Prehistoric Mediterranean

The success of the socio-biology as applied to archaeology is, from a theoretical point of view, dependent on generating predictions of expected behaviour in the present which can be retrodicted into the past. Arthur S. Keene in his Economic optimization models and the study of hunter-gatherer subsistence settlement systems makes certain assumptions.(6)

Assumption 1 Economic activities among Hunter-Gatherer are organized (Sociobiological activities are organized).
Assumption 2 The primary goal among Hunter-Gatherer is to provide the basic nutritive and other raw materials necessary for the survival of the population. (The interests of survival, adaptation, and replication are pre-eminent.)
Assumption 3 When faced with a choice between two resources of equal utility, the one lower cost will be chosen. Economic behaviour is both satisficing and optimizing. (Sociobiological behaviour is satisficing and optimizing). The remarks in parenthesis are a reinterpretation of Keene’s assumptions on the sociobiological model.
Using these assumptions and his deductive model Keene is able to account for behaviour in a Netsilik social economy both pre-rifle and post-rifle. The model account for usage of caribou, musk-ox, ringed seal, bearded seal, polar bear fish, birds etc. Of course is it simplified model. But it is potentially falsifiable. It cannot be overstressed from the point of theory how important in this context this latter fact is.
On the sociobiological model we would make different assumption to arrive at an efficiency optimisation model of gene-replication. These would involve the question of the optimum number or babies given survival conditions. Religion and social organization would have to be arranged to optimize and maximize this central concern of socio-biology.
There is a general problem about making cultural predictions or retrodictions. It is referred to as the problem of the hermeneutic circle. The problem can be expressed as follows: a theorist can only understand a whole culture by understanding the ‘discourse’ or ‘meanings’ in the social interactions. And to understand the whole culture you need to understand some part of it. Understanding some part of it requires a knowledge of the terms and usage of that part of the language which capture the meanings of the part of the culture you wish to understand. But in the case of the prehistoric Mediterranean it is clearly impossible to understand the language of e.g. the prehistoric Maltese. And since you cannot break into the hermeneutic circle you cannot understand the culture. Furthermore, the theorists who appeal to the problem in a sceptical fashion are usually theorists who assume that there is jut one general concept of ‘human nature’, but that in any particular culture what is meant by human nature is to be understood by the particular mix of psychology, mythology, religion politics and family life which is current at some date in that culture. So again, we would not understand what prehistoric Maltese meant by human nature because of our ignorance of the language which was used at the time.
If the only way into a culture, or if only understanding of human nature were an internal linguistic one then no important cultural projections could be made back into the prehistoric of the Mediterranean. And we would in the dark about human nature.
I hope it is clear that the model of socio-biology adjoined to Keene’s model of hunter-gatherer behaviour can circumvent the hermeneutic circle problem.
Sociobiology gives us an account of human nature which bypasses most of the assumptions made by the statement of the hermeneutic circle problem.
It should be clear that articles of culture recovered from a dig will in general have to be consistent with the basic statements, hypothesis and theories within the framework of socio-biology.
Archaeology appears to be on the road to becoming a science subject. To become a science it will have to acquire a methodology which is genuinely scientific. I submit that the methodology of Karl Popper will be both useful and necessary if the subject of archaeology is to become a science. The theories and hypotheses of archaeology must be open to refutation and falsification as intellectual honesty in the sciences require. One of the virtues of the Popper approach is that it can also cope with many parts of archaeology which for the moment will remain outside the domain of science. An overall archaeological perspective will have many sub-components: linguistic, anthropological, ethnographic, art-historical, religious, philosophical and historical. But these will co-exist with scientific techniques where the Popperian method obviously applies: techniques for geophysical surveys, isotopic and analytic chemical analyses, techniques from environmental zoology, and geological techniques for the analysis of ceramics and ancient stones. It seems best to regard the most accessible parts of the non-scientific sub-components as sets if hypothesis and theories which are conjectured for potential refutation. Alternative methodologies for Archaeology should been seen in the perspective of Popperian evolutionary epistemology. The fittest methodologies will adapt and survive.(14)


1. Zak Van Straaten, Philosophical Paradigms of Fertility Cult Behaviour, 31-41, in Archaeology and Fertility Cult in the Ancient Mediterranean, (Ed) A. Bonanno, Amsterdam, Grüner, 1986,
2. The equivalent conjecture for theoretical physics is given in: S. Hawkings, Is the end in sight for theoretical physics? Cambridge, University Press, 1980, 1.
3. See K. Popper, Conjectures & Refutations, RKP, 3rd edition, 1969, chs. 1 & 10. K Poppes, Objective Knowledge, OUP, 1971, chs. 1 & 3. A. O’Hear, Karl Popper, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980. R. Ackerman, The Philosophy of Karl Popper, Massachusetts Univ. Press, 1976. G. Radnitzsky & W.W. Bartley, Evolutionary Epistemology, Rationality, and Sociology of Knowledge, La Salle, Illinois, Open Court, 1987, namely on evolutionary epistemology, which includes two by Popper, namely “Campbell on the Evolutionary Theory of Knowledge”, and “Natural Selection and the Emergence of Mind”.
4. I. Lakatos, The Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes, in I. Lakatos & A. Musgrave (eds.) Criticism & the Growth of Knowledge, CUP, 1970. It is reprinted in Philosophical Papers, J. Worral & G. Currie (eds.) CUP, 1978. This is a collection of Lakatos’ philosophical papers.
5. A. Einstein, Annalen der Physik, 1905L the first relativity paper is in vol. 7 p. 891 and the second which contains the equation E = mc2 is in vol. 17 p. 639. The rejection of the corpuscular theory of light in favour of the wave theory was not viewed as a falsification. An excellent explication of the ideas in these papers is given in Abraham Pais, Subtle is the Lord: The life and work of Albert Einstein, OUP & New York, 1982.
6. Arthur S. Keene Economic optimization models and the study of hunter-gatherer subsistence settlement systems, in Renfew & Cooke 1979:369-404.
7. Renfew & Cooke 1979:3ff.
8. R.L. Trivers, Foreword to Dawkins 1976:v.
9. R. D. Alexander, Natural Selection and the analysis of human sociality, in C. C. Goulden (ed.) Changing Scenes in Natural Science, Philadelphia, Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences 1977.
10. Wilson 1975:550
11. R. D. Alexander, The search for an evolutionary philosophy. Proc. of the Royal Society, Victoria, Australia 84 (1971) 99-120.
12. R. L. Trivers, Parental investment and sexual selection, in B. Campbell (ed.) Sexual Selection and the Descent of Man 1871-1971 Chicago, Aldine, 1972, 149.
13. Three recent critics of this model are Lewis R. Binford, Meaning, inference and the material record, pp. 160-163; Robert Whallon, Comments on ‘Explanation’ p. 155-158; and Colin Renfew, Socio-economic change in ranked societies, p. 1-8, in Renfew and Shennan 1982.
For a discussion of similar issues in methodology see: F. Plog, Laws, systems of law, and the explanation of observed variation, and Lewis R. Binford. Interassemblage variability – the Mousterian and the ‘functional’ argument, in Colin Renfew, (ed.) The Explanation of Culture Change, Models in Prehistory, London, G. Duckworth, 1973.
14. For a deft analysis of the practical problems in connecting science-based archaeology to so-called classical archaeology see M. Pollard, Archaeology in Ruins? Forthcoming in New Scientist January 21, 1989.


Dawkins, Richard 1976. The Selfish Gene. OUP
Evans, J. D. 1971. The prehistoric antiquities of the Maltese Islands. London: Athlone Press.
Renfew, C. and Cooke, K. L. (eds.) 1982. Ranking, Resource and Exchange: Aspects of the Archaeology of Early European Society. Cambridge: CUP.
Rosenberg, Alexander 1981. Sociobiology and the Preemption of Social Science. Oxford: Blackwell.
Ruse, Michel 1985. Sociobiology: Sense or Nonsense? Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 2nd edition/
Trump, D. 1980. The Prehistory of the Mediterranean. London: Allen Lane.
Wilson, E. O. 1978. On Human Nature. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

In his book Archaeological Theory: an introduction(1999) prof. Matthew Johnson's says that there are few sociobiological explanations in archaeology and mentions Falk's 1997 book which contains some.

This explanation using sociobiology or population biology for data in Mediterranean archaeology was read to The Second International Conference on Archaeology of the Ancient Mediterranean, November 1988, at the University of Malta. It was published in 1991. So it might be the first attempt to apply general explanations from sociobiology or population biology to general problems (like the problem of what 'human nature' was in neolithic societies) in archaeology.