02.09.2014 - 18:47
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Towards a Cross-Disciplinary Prehistory: Converging Perspectives from Language, Archaeology and Genes

Across the many disciplines that research the human past, all too often overlooked is how linguistics too can open up its own ‘window on the past’, in many respects just as surely as can our genes, or the ‘material culture’ that our ancestors left behind for archaeologists, or even early historical records. But these disparate data sources, and the analysis methods corresponding to each, are all very different from each other, and each can uncover but a fraction of the full story. And while that should in principle only make the various disciplines all the more complementary, in practice the sub‑plots seem to contradict one another as often as they concur. Still, there was only one past, so our common ultimate goal must be to converge our disparate, partial perspectives on a more holistic understanding, coherent across all of our disciplines, of what really went on in human prehistory.

This research theme aspires to contribute particularly from the linguistic angle — and in each of the two cross-disciplinary directions:

  • Other disciplines have much to gain from what linguistics can tell us of (pre)history, in ways that they often appreciate too little. A key objective here is to contribute to a better understanding outside linguistics of precisely how, and how much, the languages we speak can tell us about our origins.
  • Conversely, even for linguistics, to interpret what the language record really means for our past necessarily calls for a sound grasp of the basic tenets, findings and insights of its fellow disciplines, and all that they entail for how linguists should interpret their own record of the past. Certainly, that record can only safely be read when set coherently within the broader contexts of human population prehistory.

This research theme targets both of these audiences, and explicitly aims to foster and facilitate this much-needed cross-disciplinary interaction. It does so firstly through publications co-authored and co-edited with specialists in disciplines other than linguistics, both within and outside mpi‑eva, and especially with Prof. Colin Renfrew and Dr David Beresford-Jones, both at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge. Publications are targeted, moreover, at a wide range of venues across the disciplines, amongst them: Current Anthropology, the Cambridge World Prehistory (CUP), Encyclopaedia of Global Human Migration (Wiley), Encyclopaedia of Global Archaeology (Springer), Handbook of Historical Linguistics (Routledge), Proceedings of the Royal Society (B), Human Biology, American Journal of Human Biology, Cambridge Archaeological Journal.

Secondly, this research theme has convened a series of explicitly cross-disciplinary symposia and conferences on population prehistory, in this case with a particular regional focus on the Andean region, one of the earth’s rare hearths of agriculture and civilisation, but hitherto especially understudied from an explicitly cross-disciplinary perspective. Publications within this focus include the proceedings volumes Archaeology and Language in the Andes (British Academy/OUP, 2012) and History and Language in the Andes (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2011)

As illustrations of specific themes within this broad topic, just two example cross-disciplinary topics are:

  • The much debated farming/language dispersals hypothesis, within the wider issues of whether broad worldwide patterns in linguistic diversity and relatedness might still retain some signal of the likewise debated Neolithic ‘Revolution’, and teasing apart proximate vs. ultimate causation in language dispersals.
  • How our languages offer pointers to human migrations, from identifiable small-scale movements such as the forced ‘resettlements’ within the Inca Empire, to the broadest patterns in language diversity, relatedness, divergence and convergence on a global scale.

Conferences/Symposia Organised within this Research Theme

11–13 Sept. 2008 Archaeology and Linguistics in the Andes, McDonald Institute, University of Cambridge.
15 Sept. 2008 History and Linguistics in the Andes, Institute for the Study of the Americas, University of London.
16 Sept. 2008 The Prehistory of the Andes (public lectures day), British Museum, London.
28–30 Aug. 2009 Lenguas y sociedades en el antiguo Perú: hacia un enfoque interdisciplinario.
vii Simposio Internacional de Arqueología PUCP. Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, Lima.
27-29 Nov. 2011 Population Prehistory of the Andes — A Cross-Disciplinary Conspectus, Linguistics Department, MPI-EVA.
13-15 June 2014 The Incas and Their Origins:  A Cross-Disciplinary Conspectus, Linguistics Department, MPI-EVA.
16-17 June 2014 Rethinking the Andes~Amazonia 'Divide':  A Cross-Disciplinary Conspectus, Linguistics Department, MPI-EVA.

Publications within this Research Theme

Forthcoming (2013)

Heggarty, P., & Renfrew, C. forthcoming a.
Introduction: Languages.
In C. Renfrew & P. Bahn (eds) The Cambridge World Prehistory, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
http://www.cambridge.org/gb/knowledge/isbn/item6803160/

And in the same publication, seven further chapters:

Heggarty, P., & Renfrew, C. forthcoming b. East Asia: Languages.

Heggarty, P., & Renfrew, C. forthcoming c. Europe and the Mediterranean: Languages.

Heggarty, P., & Renfrew, C. forthcoming d. Africa: Languages.

Heggarty, P., & Renfrew, C. forthcoming e. South and South-East Asia: Languages.

Heggarty, P., & Renfrew, C. forthcoming f. The Americas: Languages.

Heggarty, P., & Renfrew, C. forthcoming g. The Pacific: Languages.

Heggarty, P., & Renfrew, C. forthcoming h. Western and Central Asia: Languages.

 

Heggarty, P. forthcoming
Commentary on: Chen, Sokal & Ruhlen (1995), Worldwide analysis of genetic and linguistic relationships of human populations.
Human Biology (Special issue in honor of Robert R. Sokal).

 

Heggarty, P. 2013
Europe and Western Asia: Indo-European linguistic prehistory.
In I. Ness & P. Bellwood (eds) The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration, 157–67. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/9781444351071.wbeghm819

Heggarty, P., & Beresford-Jones, D. 2013
Andes: linguistic history.
In I. Ness & P. Bellwood (eds) The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration, 401–09. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/9781444351071.wbeghm852

Beresford-Jones, D., & Heggarty, P. 2013
Andes: archaeology.
In I. Ness & P. Bellwood (eds) The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration, 410–16. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/9781444351071.wbeghm853

 

Heggarty, P., & Beresford-Jones, D. forthcoming a
Farming-language dispersals:  principles.
In C. Smith (ed) Springer Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology, New York: Springer.
http://refworks.springer.com/archaeology

Heggarty, P., & Beresford-Jones, D. forthcoming b
Farming-language dispersals: a worldwide survey.
In C. Smith (ed) Springer Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology, New York: Springer.
http://refworks.springer.com/archaeology

2012

Heggarty, P., & Beresford-Jones, D.G. eds. 2012.
Archaeology and Language in the Andes.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.
http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0197265030/
http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780197265031.do

and within the above book, the following chapters:

Beresford-Jones, D., & Heggarty, P. 2012a.
Introduction — Archaeology, linguistics, and the Andean past: a much-needed conversation. pp. 1–41.

Beresford-Jones, D., & Heggarty, P. 2012b.
Broadening our horizons: towards an interdisciplinary prehistory of the Andes. pp. 57–84.

Heggarty, P., & Beresford-Jones, D. 2012.
Conclusion — A cross-disciplinary prehistory for the Andes? Surveying the state of the art. pp. 409–436.

2011

Heggarty, P., & Pearce, A. eds. 2011.
History and Language in the Andes.
London: Palgrave Macmillan.
www.palgrave.com/products/title.aspx?PID=397842

and within the above book, the following chapters:

Pearce, A., & Heggarty, P. 2011a.
History, linguistics, and the Andean past: a much-needed conversation. pp. 1–16.

Pearce, A., & Heggarty, P. 2011b.
‘Mining the data’ on the Huancayo-Huancavelica Quechua frontier. pp. 87–109.

 

Kaulicke, P., Cerrón-Palomino, R., Heggarty, P., & Beresford-Jones, D.G. eds. 2011.
Lenguas y sociedades en el antiguo Perú: hacia un enfoque interdisciplinario.
Lima: Fondo Editorial de la Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú.
http://revistas.pucp.edu.pe/boletindearqueologia/es/numero-14

and within the above book, the following chapters:

Beresford-Jones, D.G., & Heggarty, P. 2011a.
Broadening our horizons: towards an interdisciplinary prehistory of the Andes. pp. 61–84.
http://revistas.pucp.edu.pe/index.php/boletindearqueologia/article/download/
1184/1143

Heggarty, P., & Beresford-Jones, D.G. 2011.
Archaeology, language, and the Andean past: principles, methods, and the new ‘state of the art’. pp. 29–60.
http://revistas.pucp.edu.pe/index.php/boletindearqueologia/article/download/
1181/1142

 

Beresford-Jones, D.G., & Heggarty, P. 2011b.
What role for language prehistory in redefining archaeological ‘culture’? A case-study on new horizons in the Andes.
In B. Roberts & M. Vander Linden (eds) Investigating Archaeological Cultures: Material Culture, Variability and Transmission, 355–386. New York: Springer.
http://www.springerlink.com/content/978-1-4419-6969-9#section=902000&
page=1&locus=0

Barbieri, C., Heggarty, P., Castrì, L., Pettener, D., & Luiselli, D. 2011.
Mitochondrial DNA variability in the Titicaca basin: matches and mismatches with linguistics and ethnohistory.
American Journal of Human Biology 23: p.89–99.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ajhb.21107

2010

Heggarty, P., & Beresford-Jones, D. 2010.
Agriculture and language dispersals: limitations, refinements, and an Andean exception?
Current Anthropology 51(2): p.163–191.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/650533

2009 and earlier

Heggarty, P., & Beresford-Jones, D.G. 2009.
Not the Incas? Weaving archaeology and language into a single new prehistory.
British Academy Review 12: p.11–15.
http://www.britac.ac.uk/pubs/review/12/index.cfm

Heggarty, P. 2008.
Linguistics for archaeologists: a case-study in the Andes.
Cambridge Archaeological Journal 18(1): p.35–56.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0959774308000036

Heggarty, P. 2007.
Linguistics for archaeologists: principles, methods and the case of the Incas.
Cambridge Archaeological Journal 17(03): p.311–340.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S095977430700039X