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Cultural Phylogenetics of Religion using Thai Bronze Buddha Statues

In recent years some archaeologists have analysed artifacts using phylogenetic methods to understand the history of changes in human culture. Phylogenetics provides a coherent method for quantitatively comparing variation between objects, systematically representing this variation over time, and generating novel hypotheses about historical relationships. The use of these methods is especially compelling in areas traditionally dominated by qualitative analysis, such as art-history. I evaluate the necessary conditions for a cladistic analysis of material culture and examine a case study of bronze Buddha statues from Thailand. I use a suite of statistical methods to test for the presence of a phylogenetic signal amongst the sample of statues. Using cladistic analyses I propose new hypotheses about the history of Buddhism in Thailand.