Twelve Thousand Years of Non-Linear Cultural Evolution: The Science of Chaos in Archaeology

Ioannis Liritzis

Synesis: A Journal of Science, Technology, Ethics, and Policy 2013; 4: G19-31

The evolution of human societies and in general of human history, do not follow a liner trend but rests mainly on mutual interactions amongst different components. Identifying the meanings of complexity in human processes which involve material, energy, and environmental factors, the cultural evolution is viewed via a complex system approach of a collective result of non-linear interactions making a series of successive transitional phases along a trajectory. The interacted multi-factorial issues derive from three concentric circles or dynamical systems, a) the internal (issues derived from within a given society), b) the external (issues derived from interaction with neighbor societies) and c) the environmental (issues related to the context and other geological phenomena). The cultural evolution of the last 12,000 years is mainly considered. This is the Holocene which defines the onset of interglacial period until present era, and we focus on some exemplary cases from Mesolithic to Roman period from Mediterranean and the world. The theory of chaos is intermingled with various identified attributes that define and affect the cultural evolution of a human organized system. The presented cases are sufficient to stress the naturalistic methodology, which serves as the basis of a synoptic and synthetic philosophy that involves art and science corresponding to classical techne and logos.


Keywords: culture, societies, complexity, environment, non-linearity, archaeology, chaos, equilibrium