Reconsidering the behavioral basis for style: A case study among the Kalahari San

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210 Scopus citations


In this paper, it is proposed that there is a behavioral basis for much, but not all, of the formal variation in material culture that has been called style by archaeologists. This aspect of stylistic behavior is founded on the basic human cognitive process of identification via comparison. Such stylistic behavior is argued to be one means by which people negotiate their personal and social identities relative to that of surrounding others. Thus, the process of social, and corresponding stylistic, comparison is proposed as the mechanism underlying stylistic development and change. This behavioral basis for style is explicated in a case study among the Kalahari San, in which the role of style in beaded headbands in regional, areal, and personal identity relations, as well as exchange, is investigated. Finally, the proposed behavioral basis for style is discussed in terms of what it can contribute to interpretation of variability in material culture, current approaches to style, and its implications for the development of a theory of style.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)190-234
Number of pages45
JournalJournal of Anthropological Archaeology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1984
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Archaeology
  • History
  • Archaeology


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