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Durham University

Department of Anthropology


Publication details for Dr Jamie Tehrani

Tehrani, J.J., Collard, M. & Shennan, S.J. (2010). The cophylogeny of populations and cultures: reconstructing the evolution of Iranian tribal craft traditions using trees and jungles. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 365(1559): 3865-3874.

Author(s) from Durham


Phylogenetic approaches to culture have shed new light on the role played by population dispersals in the spread and diversification of cultural traditions. However, the fact that cultural inheritance is based on separate mechanisms from genetic inheritance means that socially transmitted traditions have the potential to diverge from population histories. Here, we suggest that associations between these two systems can be reconstructed using techniques developed to study cospeciation between hosts and parasites and related problems in biology. Relationships among the latter are patterned by four main processes: co-divergence, intra-host speciation (duplication), intra-host extinction (sorting) and horizontal transfers. We show that patterns of cultural inheritance are structured by analogous processes, and then demonstrate the applicability of the host-parasite model to culture using empirical data on Iranian tribal populations.