Evolution of the Okvik/Old Bering Sea culture of the Bering Strait as a major transition

Anna M. Prentiss, Cheyenne Laue, Erik Gjesfjeld, Matthew Walsh , Megan Denis, Thomas A. Foor

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Great transitions are thought to embody major shifts in locus of selection,
labour diversification and communication systems. Such expectations are
relevant for biological and cultural systems as decades of research has
demonstrated similar dynamics within the evolution of culture. The evolution
of the Neo-Inuit cultural tradition in the Bering Strait provides an
ideal context for examination of cultural transitions. The Okvik/Old
Bering Sea (Okvik/OBS) culture of Bering Strait is the first representative
of the Neo-Inuit tradition. Archaeological evidence drawn for settlement
and subsistence data, technological traditions and mortuary contexts
suggests that Okvik/OBS fits the definition of a major transition given
change in the nature of group membership (from families to political
groups with social ranking), task organization (emergent labour specialization)
and communication (advent of complex art forms conveying social
and ideological information). This permits us to develop a number of implications about the evolutionary process recognizing that transitions may
occur on three scales: (1) ephemeral variants, as for example, simple technological entities; (2) integrated systems, spanning modular technology to
socio-economic strategies; and (3) simultaneous change across all scales
with emergent properties.
This article is part of the theme issue ‘Human socio-cultural evolution in
light of evolutionary transitions’.
TidsskriftRoyal Society of London. Philosophical Transactions B. Biological Sciences
Udgave nummer1872
Antal sider10
StatusUdgivet - 23 jan. 2023