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Cultural transmission of architectural traits: From the Near East to the Meroitic kingdom

  • Author(s): de Voogt, A;
  • Maillot, M;
  • Lang, JWB;
  • Eerkens, JW
  • et al.

Architecture is a complex cultural trait that lends itself to the analytical methods developed for cultural transmission theory. We analyze a dataset of palace structures that gives insight into horizontal transmission processes between Sudan, Egypt, and the Near East during the Meroitic and Greco-Roman time periods. High similarity between buildings in the same region suggests that building activities required social coordination between builders, as predicted by cultural transmission theory. Similarity in the expression of coating layers and coating thickness both within and across regions also confirms that the iconicity of palaces correlates with the dominance of prestige bias during transmission. Finally, similarity in bricks, mortar, and coating ingredients between buildings in the same region, but significant variation across regions, confirms the prediction that building materials are locally sourced. Results establish a baseline of horizontal transmission for architecture more generally, contrasting traits associated with the outer appearance of buildings, versus those less visible and related to construction design. Additional studies of different regions or with a diachronic perspective may show if hypotheses about the cultural transmission of architecture can be generalized across time and space.

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