Cognitive Archaeology: Mind, Ethnography, and the Past in South Africa and Beyond aims to interpret the social and cultural lives of the past, in part by using ethnography to build informed models of past cultural and social systems and partly by using natural models to understand symbolism and belief.

How does an archaeologist interpret the past? Which theories are relevant, what kinds of data must be acquired, and how can interpretations be derived? One interpretive approach, developed in southern Africa in the 1980s, has been particularly successful even if still not widely known globally. With an expressed commitment to scientific method, it has resulted in deeper, well-tested understandings of belief, ritual, settlement patterns and social systems. This volume brings together a series of papers that demonstrate and illustrate this approach to archaeological interpretation, including contributions from North America, Western Europe and sub-Saharan Africa, in the process highlighting innovative methodological and substantive research that improves our understanding of the human past.

Professional archaeological researchers would be the primary audience of this book. Because of its theoretical and methodological emphasis, it will also be relevant to method and theory courses and postgraduate students.

chapter 2|28 pages

Cognitive archaeology revisited

Agency, structure and the interpreted past

chapter 3|30 pages

Ethnographic texts and rock art in southern Africa

A personal perspective

chapter 4|37 pages

Cultural traditions on the High Plains

Apishapa, Sopris, and High Plains Upper Republican

chapter 5|20 pages

Paquimé’s appeal

The creation of an elite pilgrimage site in the North American Southwest

chapter 6|17 pages

Ntshekane and the Central Cattle Pattern

Reconstructing settlement history

chapter 7|32 pages

Homesteads, pots, and marriage in southeast southern Africa

Cognitive models and the dynamic past

chapter 8|17 pages

A cognitive approach to the ordering of the world

Some case studies from the Sotho- and Tswana-speaking people of South Africa

chapter 11|23 pages

Gates between worlds

Ethnographically informed management and conservation of petroglyph boulders in the Blue Ridge Mountains

chapter 12|41 pages

On the archaeology of elves

chapter 13|28 pages

Cognitive continuities in place

An exploration of enduring, site-specific ritual practices in the Shashe-Limpopo Confluence Area