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Abstract

Keywords: Human Ecology, Cognitive Development, Universal Values, Behavioral Motivation, Interdisciplinarity, Celto-Germanic, Iron Age, Roman This dissertation offers an interdisciplinary approach to studying the interplay between human ecological variables and motivational preferences that shape all human action and interaction, and, in the aggregate, socio-cultural formations. While the capacity for conscious reflection on value priorities is universal, much human behavior occurs unreflexively, the result of socialization and habit formation. Furthermore, values also regulate all social relations, in that social life would not be possible without (explicit or implicit) reference to them. Values also inform ideal (‘good life’) constructs that people aspire to realize, including preferred ways for achieving this. It is rather surprising, then, that no ‘Archaeology of Values’ has so far been formulated. To be sure, archaeologists do deal with values, but mostly indirectly and implicitly. Whenever they note socio-cultural variability, whenever they talk about socio-cultural change in terms of complexification, differentiation, or individualization, they are in fact talking about shifts in value emphases, or how past peoples chose to realize similar values in different ways. Yet, such efforts rarely involve close engagement with value concepts themselves, their motivational content (e.g. bravery or generosity), relational dynamics (compatible or conflictual), or socio-historical significance (in terms of adaptive efficacy and developmental impact). In taking a value-centric approach to archaeological inquiry, I want to understand the value-driven behaviors that manifest in particular human ecologies. I seek to comprehend why certain values are consistently prioritized over others under certain socio-historical conditions, and how this manifests at the level of lived experience for groups and individuals. If some values can be shown to have universal valence, can the same be said about the particular ways in which people choose to realize them? If societies are formed through the numerous actions and interactions of individuals, if cultural constructs are constituted in the context of social life, how do society and culture link to individually experienced and conceptualized motivational values? How can we move beyond interpretations that remain too strongly focused on ‘Ideology’ (i.e. elite domination and mystification) and ‘Identity’ and instead examine how new and existing constraints and affordances were negotiated by local agents with diverging interests, outlooks, and levels of empowerment? How might we replace frameworks that contrast simple-complex, egalitarian-stratified, colonizer-colonized, or elite-subordinate with one that recognizes that people are variably motivated to engage in complex and dynamic social relations at various levels of lived experience? The aim to engage in an ‘Archaeology of Values’ has encouraged interdisciplinary engagement with social scientific scholarship, most pertinently Social Psychology and Developmental Psychology. Reference to globalization ethnographies further substantiates the theoretical-methodological framework while guiding data analysis and interpretation. In the study area of this dissertation, archaeological research has adequately shown how important socio-historical transformations occurred during the Iron Age and Roman period. Yet, the closest that prehistorians and Romanists have come to explicitly engage values is in studies of ritual and religion, or when values feature implicitly in developmental narratives that describe how societies become more complex (e.g. Iron Age complexification) or culturally different (e.g. Roman period acculturation). This is typically done by making reference to phenomena like social stratification or political centralization, processes implicitly understood to have involved important shifts in value systems. This dissertation contributes to this field of archaeological scholarship by assessing the material record of the study area in Northwest Europe through multi-thread, multi-scalar, and comparative analyses. Doing so allows demonstrating how Iron Age ‘complexification’ and Roman period ‘acculturation’ processes changed how people prioritized and realized a limited range of basic human values, and how this reshaped social norms and cultural ideals.

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