There has been a much-charted journey of the social sciences and humanities into the study of material culture in recent decades. In general these narratives continue a mostly human-centered perspective on history, and so have missed the importance of the ways in which material things draw us in, direct and define us.
In his new book, influential archaeologist Ian Hodder discusses our human “entanglements” with material things, and how archaeological evidence can help us to understand the direction of human social and technological change.
Using examples drawn from the early farming villages of the Middle East as well as from our daily lives in the modern world, Hodder shows how things can and do entrap humans and societies into the maintenance and sustaining of material worlds. The earliest agricultural innovations, the phenomena of population increase, settlement stability, domestication of plants and animals can all be seen as elaborations of a general process by which humans were drawn into the lives of things.
Using evolutionary theory, and ideas from archaeology and related disciplines, Hodder shows how the co-dependencies of humans and things are the hidden drivers of human progress.