Institute of Archaeology


AHRC Centre for the Evolution of Cultural Diversity

The Centre for the Evolution of Cultural Diversity (CECD) was a Phase Two AHRC Research Centre (January 2006-June 2011), building on the earlier work of the AHRB Centre for the Evolutionary Analysis of Cultural Behaviour.

The main purpose of the Centre was to accelerate the development of the new discipline of cultural evolutionary studies. This is emerging in the interstices of several existing fields, including archaeology, anthropology, linguistics, human genetics and mathematical modelling, with the aim of understanding the evolution of human cultural diversity. Centre members set out to achieve this:

  • By setting up collaborative research networks with other groups and individuals currently working in relative isolation from one another, in order to produce a critical mass of workers and projects in this field.
  • By working with these networks to carry out a series of research projects on key issues for the understanding of cultural evolution.
  • By training a new generation of researchers, not just within a single institution but through the holding of open international summer schools and exchange visits.
  • By developing and disseminating new theoretical ideas and methodological tools.
  • By fostering the building of publicly available databases of the kind that are now mandatory in evolutionary biology.
  • By setting up administrative structures that support the maintenance of long-term links between researchers and institutions.
  • By making the wider academic and non-academic community aware of the new discipline and its significance through an outreach programme.


Three key themes were identified on which the collaborative programme has focused:

  • The role of demographic expansions and contractions in accounting for major cultural changes in the past
  • The links between the processes producing cultural and linguistic diversity and how patterns in the two relate to one another
  • The dynamics by which innovations arise and diffuse in complex social networks

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