A cladistic evaluation of ancient Thai bronze Buddha images: six tests for a phylogenetic signal in the Griswold collection
Fine art objects are often described as representative of certain craft or artistic traditions. In the case of Thai bronze Buddha images, art historical scholarship suggests that new styles often emerged from combinations of older styles transmitted between craft specialists. This process of transmission with modification is a key attribute of darwinian evolutionary processes and suggests that lineages of artistic traditions such as Buddha images may be fruitfully investigated using quantitative evolutionary methods. The dominant method for reconstructing evolutionary lineages is cladistics. A cladistic analysis of 42 well-provenanced images in the griswold collection is presented here to evaluate the usefulness of this approach. Six statistical tests are employed to determine if historical lineages can be reliably reconstructed using cladistic methods. All tests support the robustness of the results of the cladistic analysis. Quantitative evolutionary methods are concluded to be suitable and useful for understanding the evolution of craft traditions such as Thai bronze Buddha images
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