Current Anthropology 1966
Arkell, A. J., Brian Fagan, and Roger Summers. The Iron Age in Sub-Saharan Africa. Current Anthropology, 1966. Vol.7(4):451-484.
“The Iron Age in Sub-Saharan Africa” actually consists of three separate articles, each by one of the authors.
A.J. Arkell’s “The Iron Age in the Sudan” begins with an account of the military conquest of Egypt by the Assyrians circa 700 B.C. through the technological advancement of iron weapons. What follows is a detailed, chronological description of the subsequent trends in control of this area and the development of iron weapons locally, with an emphasis on the Cushite culture. Since Egypt has limited deposits of ore and fuel, the geography of this region is of particular note. Arkell provides convincing archaeological evidence from various sites through the Sudan to justify this description. Arkell concludes by conjecturing that the early Iron Age of Central Africa was the result of diffusion from this Iron Age.
Brian Fagan’s “The Iron Age of Zambia” is a concise, but detailed overview of not only the Iron Age but the geography and history of Zambia. Fagan provides a detailed map of Zambia to refer to as he explains the geographical details and ecology of this portion of the Central African Plateau. He follows this introduction with a history of the archaeological research done in the area, admitting that more groundwork needs to be done in this respect, as the sites are still being excavated and many potentially fruitful sites have yet to be explored. Next Fagan discusses the history of the area itself, describing the archaeological evidence for early agriculture and stone tool use in the area before mentioning the limited facts concerning iron working by indigenous people. Fagan has much more to say about the Kalomo mound dwellers who migrated recently (1000 A.D.) into the area. The trade network of these people was extensive and noteworthy for the trade and mining of copper. A large section details the copper trade in respect to the technological aspects and evidence concerning it. A continuation of this trade, Fagan explains, promotes the arrival of Congo tribes, which begin the next significant phase in this area. This phase peaks in the 18th century with the iron-working center of Mwata Yamvo’s kingdom. Tribal warfare and later colonialism, however, disrupted and eventually destroyed the prosperity of this era.
The final article, “The Iron Age of Southern Rhodesia” was written by Roger Summers. While Southern Rhodesia has been made popular by its impressive stone workings and monuments, archaeologists have uncovered, beginning in 1950, the signs of an impressive iron working trade. Two main complexes of iron cultures have been identified. The earliest culture, Bambata, is often associated with highly detailed pottery and existed at least as early as A.D. 300. While Summers admits that the evidence linking this culture to iron is weak, he believes this is a relevant launching point in the discussion which spans several other cultures, with brief mention of carbon dating and site evidence. The later iron culture identified concerns sites in Zimbabwe beginning A.D. 1100, which Summers details.
Most of the comments of the reviewers concerned additional data not presented in the articles. While they tended to include minor critiques or refutations of some of the authors’ claims, they were for the most part decidedly neutral in terms of praise or blatant negativity.
In response, all three authors were extremely receptive to the ideas presented by the commentators. All of the authors’ responses appear every bit as dense as the original articles in terms of content, as they expand on points made in the original works.
CASEY WINDRIX University of Oklahoma (Karl Rambo)
Arkell, A.J. “The Iron Age in the Sudan.” Current Anthropology 7: 4 (October 1966): 451-2.
Fagan, Brian. “The Iron Age in Zambia.” Current Anthropology 7: 4 (October 1966): 453-62.
Summers, Roger. “The Iron Age in Southern Rhodesia.” Current Anthropology 7: 4 (October 1966): 463-8.
The study of the Iron Age in the three articles by archaeologists A.J. Arkell in Sudan, Brian Fagan in Zambia, and Roger Summers in Southern Rhodesia exemplify Processual archaeology, ethno-archaeological research based on the environment and materials found in the area of investigation. Their investigations into the Iron Age in Africa is based on scientific research that demonstrates the importance of paying attention to an interpretation of behavior based on artifacts and ecofacts (non-artifacts, organics and environmental remains). According to the authors, such artifacts and ecofacts help to better understand questions of economics, power, trade, and migrations for the period under research. The artifact on which they focus is the introduction and use of Iron in Africa, specifically in Sudan, Zambia, and Southern Rhodesia. Iron, thus reveals both environmental and cultural aspects of these regions.
The first article by A.J. Arkell examines the threat represented by the Assyrians in the 7th Century. Because of their access to iron, the Assyrians were able to dominate the Cushites who only had tools and weapons made of stone, wood, leather, bones, and copper, as well as the Egyptians, whose restricted access to fuel limited their ability to use iron ore. Because of the dominance of the Assyrians, the Cushites were forced to move their capital to Meroe, where they had access both to iron ore and to fuel. The state relied upon the skills of Greeks, who appeared in Meroe at that time and spread their skills to the Cushites. This article demonstrates the existence of complex societies at that time and the importance of tools and skills in preserving a society economically and politically, but also how immigration have a useful impact for the production and use of Iron. However, it is a short article that does not offer much evidence to support the author’s argument.
Fagan demonstrates through an analysis of artifacts (pottery) and ecofacts (agriculture) the use of iron in Zambia. He furthermore examines the practice of commercial trade and the impact of such trade in the decoration of certain pottery. Fagan’s “Interpreting the Iron Age in Zambia” presents evidence that the first people who introduced skills in the use of iron and agriculture entered from the Northwest approximately two thousand years ago. The use of a scientific approach and of the technology available at the time of Fagan’s study, such as the radiocarbon technique, helped to “read” found artifacts such as a Channel-decorated pottery dating from the 1st century A.D. which Fagan corresponded to the first use of iron in Zambia. However, at the time when this article was written it was not known who the producers of iron were in this period. The type of pottery found belonged to what was called the Kalambo culture, a hunter-gatherer tribe that cultivated crops and maintained herds of cattle and whose technology was integrated by arrowheads, razors, and wound copper bangles. Mounds have been found with copper ornaments, wire drawing tools, and a wealth of trade objects from Katanga. Later during the 16th century, copper became important for other Kingdoms from the Congo eastward to Katanga and Zambia.
The third article by Summers illustrates the two stages of the Iron Age in Southern Rhodesia, covering the period 300 A.D. until the 19th century. In contrast to Fagan’s research, Summers demonstrates that during the earlier stage of iron in Southern Rhodesia, pottery made by the Bambata was not associated with the use of iron but rather was linked to the Wilton culture of Upper Southern Rhodesia. It is in the mining cultures such as the Gokomere, a group that continued with the ceramic traditions of the Bambata group, where evidence of the use of iron has been found. This research reveals not only the use of iron, but also the commercial trade in iron by a group called the Ziwa culture (p. 464). The continuation of the Iron Age from the early stage to the later stage is illustrated by Summers in his example of the Leopard Kopje culture (c. 11th or 12th century A.D. to 18th to 19th A.D.) This culture shows evidence of the influence in their pottery by the Ziwa. Summers’s article demonstrates a good balance between theory and ethno-archaeological research. As the author himself acknowledges, for in that moment (1965) such research was relatively new and represents only the beginnings of research into the Iron Age in Southern Rhodesia. By now, further research has probably been done.
The response by different scholars to these articles coincides with the acknowledgement by the authors for the need for further research in the respective areas (Sudan, Zambia, and Southern Rhodesia). Most of these commentators, such as Chaplin and Colson, agreed with Fagan and Summers, perhaps because of those authors’ introduction of concrete evidence to defend their arguments. On the other hand, Arkell’s article was challenged even by scholars such as Davies who viewed his theory for the introduction of iron skills by the Greeks to be simply wrong. Overall, however, we can consider these three articles as an important stage in post-colonial research. Shaped by neo-evolutionist archeological theory, these researchers combined processual methodology based on a scientific approach to evidence with the interpretation of ecofacts and artifacts. Although my knowledge about this specific area of research is limited, reading these articles leads me to question their usefulness as a source of theoretical investigation. Their use seems more appropriate as a general introduction to the subject and to the field of archeology, in order to demonstrate the early debates surrounding the importance of the Iron Age in Sudan, Zambia, and Southern Rhodesia.
The authors A.J. Arkell (writing about Sudan), Brian Fagan (writing about Zambia), and Roger Summers (writing about Southern Rhodesia) welcome the discussion and continue the academic dialogue in their response to the comments by other scholars to their research. However, Arkell’s response to Davies’s comments challenges Davies’s lack of the latest knowledge regarding recent research done in Sudan that proves immigration by Greeks helped to introduce and thus spread skills with respect to the use of Iron. Nevertheless, all commentators and authors agree that the articles and the comments only reflect the need for more investigation about the use of Iron in Africa.
EMMY G. AVILÉS BRETÓN Temple University ( Prof. D. Augsburger)
Buhociu, Octavian. Folklore and Ethnography in Rumania. Current Anthropology. June, 1966 Vol 7(3):295-314.
This article is a synthesis of the study of folklore and ethnography within the area of Rumania. It is primarily concerned with the study of folklore tales, but also investigates the influence that folklore has had on literature and other cultural genres. Buhociu organizes this article in a chronological time line through which research in this area has progressed. Emphasized throughout the article are the various significant contributions different scholars have made, and the ways in which Rumanian folklore, and the study of it, differ from that of Western Europe.
Buhociu identifies the first interest in recording folklore with the Moldavian chronicler Gr. Ureche who recorded the myth of the state’s founding. True interest in folklore, however, did not develop until some time later when the first publications devoted exclusively to it appeared in the early part of the 19th century. During this period folklore of all varieties was published from every region of Rumania. Many folklore studies of this time had at their center a nationalistic goal to promote political unity via a common language and its Latin origin base.
B.P. Hasdeu followed by O. Densusianu largely introduced modern folkloric, linguistic, and historic research. Hasdeu, through his study of language, sought to understand the origins of the peoples of Southern Europe as a whole. Densusianu was more empirically founded, and grounded his theories in ethnography while taking special interests in the transhumant pastoral nature of Rumanian life.
In the early part of 20th century the ethnographers R. Vuia and S. Mehedinti along with the sociologist D. Gusti deepened the understanding of Rumanian folklore and ethnology. Gusti in particular, directed his studies toward the unit of the small family and village, and brought the studies of ethnology and folklore closer together. His system stressed the importance of four principle subjects; cosmology, biology, history and religious manifestations.
Lastly, there was the period after World War II in which political upheaval led to a radical transition in cultural studies. Buhociu sees this period as largely sterile and devoid of much active interpretation. In particular, the Marxist ideology used to interpret the ethno-historic research, was seen by Buhociu, as used to cover a misunderstanding of the evidence. Although, it should be noted that much research collection continued, and several scholars outside of Rumania continued to be actively involved in research.
Three individuals offer response to Buhociu’s article Linda Dégh, Milenko Filipovic, and Milovan Gavazzi. Dégh mainly focuses on Buhociu’s implications that the folklore of Rumania is fundamentally different from that of Western Europe, and cites contributions from other regions of Europe. She also comments on Buhociu’s mention of Rumania’s use of folklore as a source of nationalism pointing out that all folklore research had its roots in nationalistic movements. Filipovic’s criticism is minor focusing mainly on works he felt were neglected as well as criticizing Buhociu’s geographical description of Rumania. Both Filipovic and Milovan complain of a lack of more focus on material culture and other cultural tradition aspects.
Buhociu, in his response concedes some points to his critics but defends others. A list of texts is provided to appease complaints that he neglected certain contributions. He defends, however, his classification of Rumanian folk culture as being distinct from other regions of Europe and points to external political pressure as one of the principal reasons for such a difference. As to the lack of in depth study into material culture, he claims, it is a result of the late rise of ethnography as an important field in Rumania, and to the nature of his synthesis which is bound to omit some material.
CLARITY RANKING: ?
MATTHEW PAILES University of Oklahoma (Karl Rambo)
Buhociu, Octavian. Folklore and Ethnography in Rumania. Current Anthropology, June, 1966. Volume 7(3):295-314.
Buhociu’s main focus in this work is to educate readers about the folklore of Rumania and the history of its study, the path in which the study of folklore traveled through time, as well as the individuals who have studied it. He carries this out in great detail, examining numerous individuals who have worked on the subject and their publications. The primary discovery in the study of Rumanian folklore was the realization of its roots in pastoral society, as can be seen in traditional stories of the “Ewe- Lamb,” and “The Monastery of Arges.” This notion sparked many scholars to dedicate time to understanding the history and folklore of Rumania, and Buhociu outlines in great detail the scholars who contributed to what is known about the issue, as well as the many volumes that have been published about Rumanian folklore. He gives much credit to early scholars such as B.P. Hasdeu and O. Densusianu, who with many others, helped create a public and nationalist interest in the subject, which was reflected in a new wave of recreations and interpretive literature dealing with traditional folklore. He proceeds to point out that little original work has been done on the subject since World War II. He attributes this to little use of theory in the past two decades of research, which has been primarily about gathering information on various aspects of Rumanian folklore, such as music, epics, poetry, myth, and so on. The author adds that this is doing little to reveal new facts about Rumanian folklore and the approach need to be revised. He hopes the future will bring forth scholars who will work in the same way as early researchers did, and hopes they can include people other than Westerners who write research papers in their country about a land they have never visited.
The commentators agree that Octavian Buhociu has written a very informative work. On says that Rumanian folklore needs to be examined thoroughly because it is an almost exact representation of Rumanian archaic culture. She points out that this must be done without haste because the culture of Rumania is quickly changing with industrialization. Still, the commentators found many problematic issues with the piece. They point out that the author does not specify who is considered “Rumanian,” and should be done to avoid confusion. Also, Buhociu neglects ethnography and material culture. One commentator also felt that Buhociu’s of Rumanian scholars, he did not take into consideration social issues that would affect the way studies were conducted and their interpretations, such as the French Revolution.
Buhociu starts out by emphasizing his desire to inform with the paper, as well as to present approaches and problems with Rumanian scholars of the past and present. He addresses one of the comments by pointing out that scholars would agree that simply saying “Rumanians” is understood as inferring all of the groups who would commonly be considered Rumanian. He admits to not addressing the issues of material culture and ethnography with great detail, but does so because he feels those issues were not important until a fairly later time in Rumania relative to the rest of Europe.
MEGAN TRUITT Temple University (Deborah Augsburger)
Butzer, K.W. Environment and Archaeology. Current Anthropology, September 1966. Vol. 7 (4): 501-513.
This article is a book review of K.W. Butzer’s book, Environment and Archeology. The book is a discussion of the natural world during the Pleistocene and how it relates to prehistory. Butzer argues that, at the current time, studies focus on the geology of the Pleistocene, but evaluations based solely on stratigraphy and chronology are insufficient. He believes that a study of “Pleistocene geography” is necessary instead. To support this approach, Butzer discusses geomorphology and “modern mammalian distributions;” describes sedimentary layers and how they are studied; addresses “environmental reconstruction” using palynology and palaeontology; includes his own fieldwork as examples; and reflects on several “cultural problems…from the geographer’s perspective.”
A total of seventeen reviewers comment on Butzer’s work. Lionel Balout deems it “a very good book” that retains the intricacy of the topic without losing its clear focus. Pierre Biberson says that Butzer’s book “represents an extremely precise application of modern techniques of investigation” that is most definitely useful in science and anthropology. W.W. Bishop seems to think that the scope of this book is too broad. Its “value…lies in its spanning a large sector of an inter-disciplinary no-man’s-land.” G. Bond asserts that Butzer’s work is important because he “is a good linguist and has drawn on references which those of us less gifted with tongues and with less access to the literature will find an absolute godsend.” Robert J. Braidwood comments that “there is both discrimination and balance in Butzer’s handling of the material available to him.” Karl Brunnacker says the work “is a sound introduction to the Quarternary insofar as its aim is to show the relationship between man and his natural environment.” T. van der Hammen applauds Butzer’s efforts, saying, “There is no doubt that such a book has been badly needed by all those who work in the wide field of Quarternary geography.” Richard L. Hay describes Environment and Archeology as “an impressive contribution to the environmental analysis of Old World Pleistocene sediments.” Henry T. Irwin deem the book “unique and considerably more valuable to its audience than other available texts….” Marvin W. Mikesell comments that Butzer’s book “demonstrates very forcefully both the practical and the philosophical advantages of geographic training and the geographic point of view.” Karl J. Narr describes the book as “the work of an author well acquainted with several different traditions of learning and research.” H. D. Sankalia singles out the work as “the only book which deals with the subject so comprehensively, from several points of view.” Gunter Smolla asserts that Butzer’s book will “enliven and assist research…in the well-deserved status of a standard work.” J. E. Spencer suggests that “perhaps another specialist or two could be drafted into service to round out what the title declares to be a book devoted to general Pleistocene geography.” H. T. Waterbolk says that although he “admires the wide knowledge of the author…the book fail[s] to satisfy the reader….” R. G. West says that “the aim of this book is an admirable one, and the author is well qualified to undertake its accomplishment.”
Butzer then makes a short reply to his critics.
AUDREY COLWELL University of Oklahoma (Karl Rambo)
Colby, B.N. Ethnographic Semantics: A Preliminary Survey. Current Anthropology February 1966 vol.7(1)3-32
Colby, in his article titled Ethnographic Semantics: A Preliminary Survey, discusses the developments of the semantic aspects of descriptive ethnography. He speaks of words, meanings, and concepts in the terms of the word form, which is the spoken or written word, the lexical unit, in that the word forms have a meaning associated with them, the perceived and conceptualized reality, which is “perceived reality, the uniqueness of the moment,” the designated reality, and the conceptualized designated reality, or thought. He continues with Polysemy and Homonymy, and then definitions, specifically Denotation or extensional definition, and finally sense, or interpretation of a message. He then mentions that studies in semantics have had much more long lived success in Europe than in the Americas. He then moves on to Lexical sets, or a group of contrastive words with a defining feature in common. He then discusses the way in which the world is categorized by language, and the different types of taxonomical nomenclature used to define things in our world, such as why a fish is a fish and a dog is a dog. This also covers hierarchy, in that an animal is a dog, and a dog is an animal, but a corncob is not an animal. The main criticisms of this work state that the work is too new and oft times disregards older theories and works. Additionally they say that usually works such as this would focus more on world rather than on region. Another critique states that he omitted an important works such as Pike’s, whom did a similar work without calling it semantics. Colby responds with that he’s glad that everyone generally accepts the main points of his work, and responds to the mention that semantics is trivial, and responds that it is an extremely conservative viewpoint, and thus not as fruitful, and maintains his approach. He then makes his intentions clear on the means and ends of ethnographic semantics, and states that he is definatley on the ends point of the spectrum.
MATTHEW COLEMAN University of Oklahoma (Karl Rambo)
Colby, B.N. Ethnographic Semantics: A Preliminary Survey. Current Anthropology, February, 1966. Vol. 7(1): 3-28
Colby argues that linguistic anthropologists tend to preoccupy themselves with issues strictly related to linguistics, and do not concern themselves so much with the thought and meaning that is essentially linked to a word. Therefore, he finds it important to discuss the approaches to and developments of ethnographic semantics, especially for those ethnographers studying a culture with little known data. Ethnographic semantics, as Colby defines, is “the study of those aspects of meaning in a language that are culturally revealing.” Colby points out that ethnographic semantics provide the ethnographer specific, important elements to the culture being studied by analyzing the vocabulary, more importantly, the “lexical unit” or the meaning signifying a word or phrase. Distinguishing thought and meaning of a word, Colby clarifies different aspects of reality, i.e., perceived and conceptualized, as well as the idea of “sense” to assess the “interpretation” of a word. Colby also looks at early studies of semantic structure, as well as philological studies, which analyzed different meaning systems and illustrated a “cultural background.” In doing so, he provides a basis in the subfields of “kinship and folk science” for the four approaches to ethnographic semantics: contrast-level study, componential analysis, programmed specification, and semantic rules. Contrast-level study is the mapping of native words into a hierarchical level, and shows how words segment thought. Componential analysis is the breaking down of words into components or distinctive features to find “conceptual units” to distinguish them from each other. Programmed specification is a way to keep the native term in its true form for the ethnographer by reducing any biases through learning correct word usage in a specific domain, such as kinship. Semantic rules is more of a “reduction analysis” that allows an ethnographer to speak in a way that is acceptable to speakers of another language. Though some of these techniques might prove more beneficial to linguists, Colby claims they can be culturally revealing for anthropologists in terms of a culture’s psychological aspects, as well as their “structure of meaning.”
For the most part, the commentators seem to applaud Colby’s survey, and were glad to see these developments in ethnographic semantics made available to other anthropologists. A few questioned certain aspects of his article in terms of his distinction between “ethnologic” and “ethnographic” semantics, and others did not find much in his survey that was “new” to the study of language and culture, nor to an ethnographer of linguistics. Most felt the need to add more description or information to his survey, as this particular field was still in development. Also, many contributed additional bibliographical references for his developing study.
Colby basically summarized those comments made on his survey, and addressed those commentators that questioned his distinction of ethnologic and ethnographic semantics, and also added his additional thoughts and findings on ethnographic semantics. He also emphasized that this survey should be used as a way to help us understand culture, particularly for those more interested in semantic theory.
PATRICIA LEE, Temple University (Deborah Augsburger)
Dobyns, Henry F. Estimating Aboriginal American Population: An Appraisal of Techniques with a New Hemishpheric Estimate. Current Anthropology February, 1966 Vol.7(1):395-416.
Dobyn’s essay discusses the various methods used by anthropologists, historians, eyewitness accounts and others in determining the precolonial population of the Americas. Dobyn’s attempts to shed light on the faults of these methods and the reasons for the small estimates of the precolonial populous in the Western Hemisphere (396).
Dobyn’s attempts to reveal the flaws in these methods. Early “hemisphere wide estimates”, revealed inaccurate numbers ranging from 8.4 million to 75 million (396). In contrast to hemisphere wide estimates is the “area population estimates” such as James Mooney’s essay on North America that incorporates a total of “tribe-by-tribe” estimates (397). In relation to Julian Stewards estimations in South America, Dobyns accuses him of describing them from “his point of view” and not on reliable data (398).
Another estimation method is the “projection method” that utilizes the intense studies of smaller areas contrasted to larger, “less well studied” areas (398). Dobyns points out the flaw in George Brainerd’s work in the Mayan lowland population estimates by the lack of “actual archaeological survey data” (401). In relation to peak population, Dobyn’s criticizes Oliver G. Ricketson for the same reason by applying assumptions and not utilizing data.
The “dead reckoning” method used by Mooney looks at the continental population and dissects it into regional populations. The flaw in this method, according to Dobyns, lies in the ethnologies of these groups. He argues that an ethnologist can not truly “judge data on other groups” as “accurately” as the data of his own group under study (401). Another flaw that Dobyns focuses on is the lack of cross-comparisons of population estimations, which might or might not be “logically consistent” (402).
Other methods include the “cross-checking source consistency”, which relies on “what one says about a phenomenon against what another one says about it” (403), “resource potential estimation”, which utilizes the carrying capacity of a given area (409), and “direct observation”, by collecting information from informants (409).
Dobyns attempts to estimate aboriginal American population by utilizing a “depopulation ratio” (412). This method takes into account the various elements that contributed to lowering the population such as conquest itself but more so through the smallpox epidemic. The depopulation ratio, according to Dobyns “will be established between the known…preconquest population in 1 area and a known…nadir population in that same area” (412). Dobyns believes that by utilizing “a ‘standard’ Hemispheric depopulation ratio of 20 to 1 in relation to “population recovery” one can determine the aboriginal population of the Americas (414). Through this method, Dobyns argues that the original population of “preconquest societies” was much larger (412). He postulates that through this method of estimation the American population was “approximately 90,000,000 persons immediately prior to discovery” (416).
MICHAEL R. TAYLOR University of Oklahoma (Karl Rambo).
Doybns, Henry. An Appraisal of techniques with a New Hemispheric Estimate. Current Anthropology, Oct., 1966. Vol. 7(4):395-484
Henry F. Dobyns summarizes early attempts to estimate Native American populations in the New World. Having an idea of aboriginal populations directly affects our interpretations of New World civilizations and cultures. Dobyns uses several case studies to evaluate the mistakes of early population studies. In general the early estimates on population were extrapolations of historical accounts taken from Spanish records and/or early ethnohistorical approximations (i.e. Kroeber’s from California). These estimates were obviously faulty as pointed out by Julian Steward, who commented, “there are difficulties in estimating Native American population and such wide estimates indicate method or data was faulty” (Dobyns 1966:395). It is however, apparent that early observers underreported population estimates leading to unreliable data. While methods such as ethnohistorical crosschecking increase the accuracy of studies, models of projecting backward and dead reckoning are still inaccurate. Doybn proposes a depopulation model of modern tribes to help account for a major ethnohistoric estimate problem of disease; however, he notes that this method is still limited by the lack of secure census data. Depopulation models seek to estimate population by comparing relative numbers of a given group at two points in time, with one such time being the lowest numerical strength.
Many of the reviews compliment Doybns on providing a nice summary of anthropologists’, historians’ and others’ who have tried to estimate New World Native populations. The majority of the writers also agree on the importance that population has on our interpretations. Most reviews also agree that an accurate method has not yet been found to estimate pre-contact populations. Many offer insights to complement Dobyns work. Lastly while most commentators avoid direct critique many of them mention problems with the ratios developed by Doybns, reducing the validity of depopulation methods as they fail to deal with natural population fluctuations in a given area.
Doybns defends his depopulation ratio against reviewers, criticisms, stating that this is only the first of many estimates, and welcoming challenges to his population estimates. During his defense he systematically goes through each reviewer’s comments and either agrees or presents case studies for conflicting issues. Finally he thanks his commentators for their comments of methodological issues and statistical estimates and is pleased by this articles ability to stimulate fresh research on Indian population trends.
JOE GINGERICH Temple University (Deborah Augsburger).
Harris, Marvin. The Cultural Ecology of Indias Sacred Cattle. Current Anthropology February, 1966 Vol.7(1):51-66.
In this article the author tries to explain the Indian cattle complex and as a rational adaptive process of the ecological system of which it is a part, rather than a product of Hindu theology. To begin his argument Harris goes over the arguments of other authors, mainly that India’s excess cattle is not economically viable. Harris sets up his argument that the Indian cattle complex can be explained by rational measures in ten parts: milk production, traction, dung, beef and hides, pasture, useful and useless animals, slaughter, anti-slaughter legislation, old age homes and natural selection. In the section on milk production Harris states that cows contribute to human welfare in more important ways than milk production and that milk production is basically an added bonus of having cows. In the next section, dicussing traction, Harris discusses the great economic value of cattle as draught animals. The third section discusses the important role that cattle play in providing dung for cooking fuel and fertilizer. The next section argues that the economic system in India in not limited to Hindus and contains a large number of people in marginal or depressed castes who eat dead cattle for protein. Also, he states that the slaughter taboo does not prevent these depressed castes from utilizing the skin, horns and hoofs of these dead animals. In the section on pasture Harris talks about how cattle and humans are not in competition for food due to the fact that cattle subsist on food that is not required for human consumption. In Harris’ discussion on Useful and Useless animals, he says though cattle may not produce milk or work they still have the possibility to produce progeny thus making them economically viable. The slaughter section discusses the ways in which Hindus avoid the slaughter taboo via neglect and starvation of cattle. The slaughter section discusses the political importance of anti-slaughter laws. The section concerning old age homes for cows rejects the idea that these institutions are charity citing the payment of rent by the cows owners and the return of the animal if it should begin to lactate. Finally in the natural selection section Harris argues that smaller cattle are better adapted to the ecosystem and reproduce faster than larger high-quality cattle. In this article Marvin Harris presents a very systematic argument by laying out rational explanations for the many different parts of the Indian sacred cow complex.
Nirmal K. Bose Responds to this article by largely agreeing with him, only offering a difference of opinion on Harriss’ assessment of Anti-slaughter laws. Morton Klass responds to this article by stating that Harris is correct in his analysis and others in their observation but that he sees no neccessry paradox in what Harris sees as opposing views. Joan P. Mencher responds to this article with praise stating that Harris has made a great contribution to the study of the interrelationship of ecological and socioreligios systems and Indian studies in general. She also states that even though Harris’ data was limited, she has found data in other areas that supports Harris’ contentions. Kalervo Oberg responds to this article by applauding it as an important paper on analysing aspects of traditional Hindu cattle culture as well as indicating the signifigance of this approach to the interpretation of certain aspects of culture. Marvin K. Opler resonds to this article by thanking Harriss for his focus on human energy consumption and land use. Wayn Suttles responds to this article by stating that it is a model for a balanced ecological approach. Andrew P. Vayda responds by stating that he finds it unfortuante that Harris is at pains to dismiss the influence of ahimsa instead of inquiring if the doctrine itself has adaptive value.
Marvin Harris responds to the critiques by stating that he needs to examine Klass’ evidence closer before he can make an informed decision. Also, he states that examples such as Brazil show that the removal of a beef-eating taboo may not improve the Indian diet. Harriss also supports Mencher’s views of previous ecological balance in India and states that her finding support his hunches about cow protection being an idealogical issue. He continues by stating that he did indeed neglect to mention that the ahimsa makes adaptive contributions in the cattle complex. He concludes by commenting on Boses to remove Ghandi’s interest in cow protection from the political realm.
TIM LEHNER University of Oklahoma (Karl Rambo)
Harris, Marvin. The Cultural Ecology of India’s Sacred Cattle. American Anthropologist February, 1966 Vol.7(1):51-64.
Despite his admission that he has never studied in India, Marvin Harris provides an analysis of India’s cattle population focusing on their ecological role. According to Harris, the beef eating taboo in India has been overly exoticised. Many observers see ahimsa (the Hindu doctrine of non-violence which places a taboo on the killing of cows) as an irrational religious practice with no survival value, and hold that there is no good reason not to eat the cows in India. Some, such as the Food and Agricultural Organization, frown at what they consider to be an exceedingly high cattle population that puts a strain on India’s ecological resources. Terms such as “surplus,” “useless” and “uneconomic” all come into play in these critiques of the current bovine population. While this supposed mismanagement of the agricultural resources is usually blamed on ahimsa, Harris aims to find the ecological reasons and benefits of why India keeps such a large population of cattle. According to Harris, ahimsa and the beef eating taboo has a survival value in that it preserves the animals which provide a positive contribution to the ecological functioning of India. Harris references several specific aspects of the cattle population maintenance that benefit the Indian population. The principle benefit of the cattle is in the traction and maintenance of grain crops, which support 80% of India’s calorie ration. His arguments also cover the areas of cattle dung, useful versus useless animals and pastures. Arguments that India’s cows produce a low average yield of milk are irrelevant, according to Harris, because it is the buffalo, not the Zebu cow, which is the primary producer of milk. While India has a cattle population of 115 head of cattle per square mile, versus 28 per square mile in the United States, the United States has more cattle per people (58 cows for each 100 people) than India (44 per 100). Harris also comments anti-slaughter legislation laws, are misinterpreted and incorrectly cited as evidence against the “anti-economic” effects of ahimsa
Many comments agree with Harris’s argument that the sacredness of cattle can originate from utility and not just religious value. There are also several comments in-between the ecological and religious perspectives maintaining that the two are functionally interrelated. Harris was praised for using “concrete measurable factors of positive adaptive processes.” The reviews that were the most critical of Harris’s theory were based upon the belief that he dismissed the function of ahimsa in the Indian culture.
Harris’s comments reiterate his beliefs that ahimsa is not excluded in the argument, since he finds the doctrine having a survival value in that it has contributed in a positive-functional way with adaptive contributions to the ecological system. Since he found cattle production and population maintenance useful to the ecological system in India, he clearly believes that ahimsa as a religious belief was useful in regulating cattle. Harris response to the lack of “cultural” in part of “cultural ecology” was that it should have been renamed as “human ecology,” because the latter title fits the subject matter better.
ASHLEY KRAEMER Temple University (Deborah Augsburger)
Harris, Marvin. The Cultural Ecology of India’s Sacred Cattle. Current Anthropology, February 1966 Vol. 7: 51-64.
Historically, India’s high population of often malnourished cattle has been pointed to as an example of how culture and spirituality can negatively impact the economy of a nation. Harris argues that the Indian-cow complex needs to be seen within a “positive-functional” context; the relationship between India’s cattle and its people is much more complex and symbiotic then can be easily explained through religious custom. According to Harris, cattle establish an economic basis for their populations in India by providing the basic unit of agricultural production, contributing as traction and draught animals, providing protein through milk and meat, and by converting otherwise unused or underused resources into manure, fuel, hide, horn, and hoof. He describes a highly interconnected relationship in which farmers have become quite skilled at calculating the minimum required feed to keep a cow calving and in milk. Those who would point to the small stature, advanced age, irregular calving and milk production, or poor conditions of the animals as signs of their “uselessness” fail to understand the environmental stresses placed on Indian cattle. Far from competing with their human counterparts, the current numbers of cows are not high enough for 1/8th of India’s farmers to have the two animals considered the minimum necessary for cultivation. As a final repudiation, Harris points out that cattle are killed in India when it is economically justified, simply in more passive forms such as through sale to butchers or by starvation (under the euphemism of “neglect”). Therefore, within his theory for the India-cattle complex, the religious doctrines of Hinduism are buttressed by, instead of dictating, the economic and environmental role of cattle on the subcontinent.
COMMENTS: Harris’s commentators praise his paper as a clear, even, and insightful contribution to the discussion of Indian-cow complex, making only minor comments and clarifications concerning this and related topics.
REPLY: Harris’s reply clarifies his beliefs concerning the role of ahisma and the techno-environment within the human-cow symbiosis, creates room for further discussion on the role of protein within the Indian diet, and discusses the epistological basis for his paper.
AMY ROSE SPAMPINATO University of Minnesota Duluth (Jennifer Jones)
Henry, Frances “The Role of the Anthropologist in an Explosive Political Situation”, Current Anthropology 1966 Vol.7(5): 552-559
In the article “The Role of the Anthropologist in an Explosive Political Situation” by Frances Henry is not so much an article about hypotheses and theory as one with a more descriptive and narrative character. It seeks to represent itself not is much in terms of theory as it seeks to be more of a set of strategies when dealing with specific fieldwork related situations and problems. The situation talked about is one that has the actual characteristics of or has potential to be an “explosive” one politically. This concept of explosivity can be taken as meaning a situation of high political charge and/or overtone and one that can be potentially dangerous to both the fieldworker and to the process or continuation of research. These situations, specifically the one Henry finds herself in: being caught between two rival factions, are not presented as being new to the anthropological discipline and the process of field research, yet “when this occurs in the political arena and involves the policies and legislative program of the government of a country, these problems take on a new and sometimes threatening significance.”(557) Governments, especially of emerging or developing, post-colonial nations tend to be suspicious of researchers, especially anthropologists with a political or traditional bent to their research due to the disciplines ties with colonialism in the past. This is also not to mention the fact that most governments anywhere do not wish to have the specifics of “their political systems put under close scrutiny.”(552) Henry’s situation involves different factions that of the government and labor unions, caught in a dispute over labor rights and accusations of communist insurgency. Caught within this situation Henry uses the article to bring up the ethics and how personal beliefs might at times interfere with the expected objectivity of the anthropological fieldworker. It is nearly impossible for anyone to dismiss or ignore personal beliefs in order to remain fully objective especially in situations as charged as this on where both factions are vying for the researcher’s support on the issue. Henry uses the strategy of being sympathetic to both sides when pressed while still emphasizing neutrality in order to keep the process of research going and in order to not be associated with one side too much. This, she informs us, could be a problem when trying to gather information form a variety of informants in this kind of situation. She also mentions how much coercion from either side can be a pressing problem during the process of information collecting. Toward the end of the article Henry reflects on the even more pressing difficulty of remaining neutral and inconspicuous in such a situation involving a small country due to the relative ease you can interview the higher-ups. She also reflects on strategies specifically women can use when caught in such a politically charged situation.
The responses to Henry’s article are a mixed bag of praise and criticism. Most of the respondents praise the fact that Henry brings up such issues as she does because of the apparent ignorance they are treated with in the professional literature and in anthropological fieldwork training. The respondents seem to think that those issues are very important and need to be taken into consideration and studied more in depth by fieldworkers on all fronts. The criticisms Henry faces from the respondents tend to mostly deal with the role of any type of bias that could color the objectivity of the researcher and the occurrence of factionalism when trying to get information. They acknowledge the complications such situations occur but seem to be critical of the specific strategies Henry used, while a few offer alternate strategies and models of action to deal with such situations. Some other issues that come up are the validity of Henry’s comments on small nations and the ease of gathering certain types of research and her comments as to the use of naivetŽ being a specifically female strategy.
In her reply Henry defends her approaches to the situations she encountered during her fieldwork. She reiterates the general consensus that such issues have not been given much attention in the professional literature and proceeds to take up criticism one at a time, giving her side of the issue and clearing up confusions that took place in the interpretations of some of her actions by the respondents. Specifically, she defends her “playing both sides” highlighting that often times in such situations a “verbal commitment by the fieldworker is almost essential…”(558) She also defends herself form accusations of weak ethical views and the possible biases that might have colored her fieldwork. The final major issue she deals with is the criticism that her article was too personal and did not contain anything of value to the realm of theory or the understanding of Trinidadian culture or political culture. To this she again emphasizes the scarcity of literature on this kind of issue and its need as yet another aspect in need of exploration in all of the facets of fieldwork and anthropology as a discipline.
DANIEL ACEVEDO University of Oklahoma (Karl Rambo)
Henry, Francis. The Role of the Fieldworker in an Explosive Political Situation. Current Anthropology, December 1966. Vol. 7(5): 552 – 559.
While Henry conducted fieldwork on political development in Trinidad in 1965, an anti-strike act that was in progress and then passed fueled conflicts between the right wing government and leftist oriented Union members. She sensed her research was unsupported by the government because Trinidad was a new nation and their defenses of national policies were intensified. Henry explains the inherent dilemmas and her tactics for coping with them in a context where political stakes are high. Appearing to be neutral was difficult since informants sought her approval of their positions and often used persuasive techniques to convince her to publicly defend their side. To avoid conflict, she often sympathized with her informants regardless of her beliefs. Henry felt uneasy because she held passionate liberal values. She decided to avoid speaking with right wing informants when her subjectivity could not be controlled. Her usual mode was to maintain the appearance of neutrality by emphasizing her role as an anthropologist when questioned. She tried to appear in public forums with both factions equally and avoided the press who may have reported her in association with either side. The scale of the location made it impossible to remain inconspicuous but it also facilitated easy access to informants. High-ranking informants were difficult to work with because they were paranoid of spies but because Henry is a woman, she could easily “play dumb” to obtain information from them. Henry also remarks on the difficulties of assembling an historical analysis by using shallow archival data in conjunction with her informant’s biased recollections of the past.
Commentators confirmed the reality of these dilemmas, noted additional contemporary problems with political research, and offered more tactics for coping. One commentator noted that these problems are quite common and that Henry may have been ill prepared for fieldwork. He then chastised her as being unethical for pretending to favor her informant’s positions and he suggested that she avoid working in areas where her emotions are involved. Another commentator remarked that instead of focusing on fieldwork dilemmas, it would be more beneficial to analyze the significance of reactions to her presence. Another advised her to calm emotional informants by bringing neutral aspects of their culture into interviews.
Henry is quite aware that these situations are common but found this context especially tricky due to the controversial legislation in progress. She admits that she was unethical in some cases but that this was necessary and kept to a minimum. She agrees that there are benefits to analyzing informant’s reactions to researchers but asserts that her purpose was to prepare future fieldworkers. Henry says it would have been impossible to soften political conversation since the issues saturated Trinidad. She reminds her critics that it is almost impossible to work on emotionally neutral topics when working with humans.
DANIELLE K WESTERGOM Temple University (Deborah Augsburger)
Howells, W.W. Population Distances: Biological, Linguistic, Geographical, and Environmental. Current Anthropology December, 1966 Vol.7(5): 531-540.
This somewhat technical article discusses the populational distances of Bougainville in the Solomons using biological, ecological, and cultural variables reduced to a single measure of differences between populations in order to investigate the correlations of these differences. The word distances in the case of this article refers to Biological, linguistic, geographical and environmental distances. The data used in this article is from the work of the author’s colleague Douglas L. Oliver. To begin, Howells talks about the methods used to determine population distances. He focuses on two reaserchers, Livingstone and Hiernaux. Livingstone, using material from the Eastern Highlands of New Guinea, determined intergroup distances in miles, blood group frequency and language and got low correlations.
Hiernaux used measures of “distance” in athropometric traits and in blood traits to gather evidence relating to environmental effects, persisting genetic differences, and gene flow. Next, Howells discusses the data for Bougainville. The data consists of visual morphological observations about 1,300 males aged 20-49 who were assignable to 18 ethnic groupings that represented most of the island. This data includes “distances” computed amoung these 18 diffeent groupings and includes 9 characteristics. These characteristics are: geographic distance, topographic distance, group boundries distance, altitude distance, linguistic distance, cognate distance, size distance, shape distance and morphological observations.Geographic distance is the crude distance in miles between these groups. Topographic distance is the ease of distance of actual human traval according to terrain. Group boundries distance is the count of boundries between groups. Altitude distance is the altitude of the groups territory. Linguistic distanceis the proportion of shared cogantes between languages. Cognate distance is the actual percentage of shared cognates. Size distance is based on eight measurments: sitting height, arm length, chest breadth, head length, head breadth, minimum frontal, bigonial, and total face height. Shape distance is based on the same measurments as size distance. Finally morphological observations include hair form, hair texture, hair color, etc.
By using this large amount of data in correlation with a complicated mathematical process Howells arrives at several key statements. First, that while there is definite patterning in the distributions of body size and form on the island, there are no consistant clines in body measurment etc., with relation to altitude or other environmental factors.
Second, that there is good specific evidence that main physical differences on Bougainville are those resulting from original genetic differentiation of populations and gene flow amoung them. Third, that distances on the island are due to preexisting differences. Finally, the correlations, where comparable, do not agree with those of Livingstone and Hiernaux which shows generalizations cannot be made of special cases.
J. Lawrence Angel responds to this article by stating that Howells’ paper supports a traditional anthropological point of view. Joseph B. Birdsell responds with sympathy of Howells frustration at the conclusions presented in his paper. Alice M. Brues comments the most interesting aspect of the paper was the realtive importance of clinal variation. A. Capell poses questions of a linguistic nature he says he would of found helpful in the article. Carletonn S. Coon comments that Howells paper shows the value of being a profesional in both physical and cultural anthropology. Eugene Giles states that if Howells’ techniques are correct, the methodological advancemnets are clear and signifigant. J. Hiernaux states that he fully agrees with Howells’ method of approaching a complex situation. I. Karve agrees with Howell in some areas but suggests his notion on language is oversimplified. B. Lundman says Howells elaborate method is out of proportion with the amount of material he uses. Peter A. Parsons comments he appreciated the attempt to ask definitve questions concerning physicall anthropology.
W.W. Howells Replys with the statement that he has little to say in specific reply. He goes on to say that the important part is the deficiences in data and method that physical anthropologists are faced with. He generally discusses the comments on his paper and concludes by saying experiments such as his should be made in order to work out new methods.
TIM LEHNER University of Oklahoma (Karl Rambo)
Howells, W.W. Population Distances: Biological, Linguistic, Geographical, and Environmental. Current Anthropology December 1966. Vol.7. (5): 531-540.
Howell, a physical anthropologist, main purpose for writing this article is to explain how several factors can be used to explain the concepts genetic drift, genetic differences, and environmental effects. In the past, there have been a few studies that attempted to correlate several factors at once when explaining the concept of genetic drift, genetic differences, and environmental effects. These factors are Geographic distance, Topographic distance, Group boundaries distance, Altitude distance, Linguistic distance, Cognate distance, Size distance, Shape distance, and Morphological observations. Furthermore, these factors are grouped together into three areas: Geographical (GEOG, TOPOG, TRIBE, ALT), Language (LING, COGN), and Physical (SIZE, SHAPE, SCOPIC). Howell believed that if he correlated these factors, it will show him that these factors have some sort of relationship between one another when it comes to population distances. Howell also believes that anthropologist are not advanced methodologically in applying operation of several factors, in a case in which controls are not good but deals with a definable population area. The population area used in this study is Bougainville in the Solomons. Howell finds out that out of the eighteen ethnic groups; eleven correspond to linguistic divisions while the remaining seven are only subdivisions of two other linguistic divisions. Also the results showed that there are many similarities and differences between each of the factors once they were correlated, but as a result it was quite difficult for Howell to see whether or not these factors explain how genetic drift, genetic difference, and environmental effect occur. Plus it was difficult to use such a small area to conduct this study. In conclusion, the study seemed to be invalid, Howell was not able to prove anything; therefore, Howell’s evidence from Bougainville took us back to the beginning of time when the early anthropologist had concluded that differences are due to pre-existing differences.
While several commentators agree with Howell for trying to make an effort in explaining that variation between groups have a clear historic, micro-evolutionary, and complex explanations based ultimately on factors of selection, both environmental an social, many either suggested things or found faults in whole or in part of Howell’s argument. Also some found it to be helpful also if discrimination were made between major linguistic differences, indicating diversity of the original colonizing populations, and lesser differences. In conclusion, many of the commentators agree that the data presents was good for many purposes, but most of the data do not approximate the conditions to be hoped for in a definitive experiment in nature.
Howell points out that all the comments were dealing with deficiencies, in both data and analysis, and this is an issue that many physical anthropologists have to deal with when they are trying to get into the realm of population theory with practical efforts. Howell agrees with Birdsell’s objection to “ summary figures”. In response to Capell’s queries, Howell concluded that the physical differences do not neatly follow any Melanesian non- Melanesian division. As a result, Northern Melanesian speakers do differ from southern non- Melanesian speakers, but there are northern non- Melanesian speakers who differ from both of these groups. Also Howell replied to Giles comment because Howell wanted to make clear that he had treated all of the groups differences as “ distances” that is, as quantities increasing with unlikeness, and so in order to arrive at a linguistic distance, Howell changed the signs of the percentage of shared cognates, which is a measure of likeness.
EULALIA HAMILTON Temple University (Deborah Augsburger)
Leach, Edmund & Jarvie, I.C. Frazer and Malinowski: A CA* Discussion. Current Anthropology December, 1966 Vol. 7 (5): 560-575.
This article is a reprint from Encounter of a discussion between Edmund Leach and I.C. Jarvie that questions the level of contribution by Sir James Frazer to anthropological knowledge. It begins with an article by Edmund Leach titled “On the Founding Fathers;” in which Leach raises the questions “Why every now and then, does a professional anthropologist rate as a celebrity?” Leach mentions Margaret Mead, but chooses James Frazer and Bronislaw Malinowski to emphasis his point that popularity does not imply or entail professional admiration. Leach’s article begins and ends with his argument that Frazer and Malinowski used the outrageous to enhance their popularity and lost sight of the anthropological goal; and although very different they had this common interest. In an attempt to prove his point, Leach tries to disprove someone else’s. The body of Leach’s article focuses on disproving Dr. I.C. Jarvie. Dr. Jarvie feels that Malinowski was a “false prophet” that took anthropology towards fact-collecting and that Frazer was a “hero of righteousness” who had original theories that influenced anthropological thought. Leach does not share Jarvie’s high opinion of Frazer. Leach supports his disagreement by discussing others like Andrew Lang that share his opinion and explains how many basic anthropology text books also give Frazer little acknowledgement. By bringing Jarvie into his discussion Leach jerks his article towards the direction of disproving Jarvie; therefore Jarvie responds in his article “In Defense of Frazer”, Leach responds to Jarvie and this article turns into a discussion focused in the significance of Frazer’s contributions. To disprove Jarvie’s high opinion of Frazer and emphasis his original point Leach belittles Frazer’s book The Golden Bough and the ideas within by saying that it was “polite porn.” Leach explains it was only Frazer’s “polite porn” and writing style that got him publicity needed to disguise his brief importance because his work had a lot of bulk but little content. Leach also discusses the bad reputation of Frazer’s associates like W. Robertson Smith, and discredits his professorship at Trinity College because he had no part in the development of anthropology around 1898 and did not pass on anything through his teaching. Leach concludes his argument by stating that Malinowski and Frazer have public fame because they made generalizations about human nature that the public can recognize within ourselves that excite us.
I.C. Jarvie has a direct response to and about Leach’s article, which Leach in turn responds to. Edwin Ardener, J.H.M. Beattie, Ernest Gellner, and K.S. Mathur then remark about the scholar battle. Jarvie responds to Leach’s article by saying Leach contradicts himself, doesn’t criticize Frazer’s theories just his academic reputation, had weak evidence, overlooks the point that Frazer’s theories may have been wrong but still influenced anthropology through their faults, and “condemns himself out of his own mouth” in his main solution. The positioning of the outside authors was 3 to 1 in favor of Frazer. They seem to agree that Leach shows Frazer had no establishment that Malinowski could overthrow and that Malinowski admired Frazer, however 3 out of 4 think Leach overstresses Frazer’s lack of influence. There’s mixed feeling about his main argument that scientists become celebrities by making generealizations.
Leach recognizes the scholar-bashing that’s occurring and reminds the readers the article was intended to discuss Frazer and Malinowski. To disagree with Gellner Leach reiterates his point that Malinowski was an evolutionist. Leach also defends himself against Gellner and Jarvie’s accusations of inconsistency, arguing that they misunderstood his explanation of Malinowski’s eagerness’ towards Frazer, which was based on their shared investment in publicity, not that Frazer was still so strongly influential.
CLARITY : 3
NICOLE NARDONE Temple University (Deborah Augsburger)
Levi-Strauss, Claude. The Scope of Anthropology. Current Anthropology April, 1966 Vol.7(2):112-123.
Although published in Current Anthropology in 1966, Claude Levi-Strauss originally delivered this article on January 05, 1960, as “Inaugural Lecture” at the College de France to commemorate the creation of a chair of social anthropology in the previous year of 1958. After trudging through this deceptively short, yet dense article, I found that it states no overall problem or argument, because it is mainly a review of the history and resulting scope of social anthropology.
Levi-Strauss begins this article by naming three anniversaries that he considers especially important including the inaugural lecture of the first chair of social anthropology by James Frazer in 1908, and the births of Franz Boas and Emile Durkheim, both in 1858. Although Levi-Strauss considers Frazer and Boas important to anthropology, he believes that Durkheim is even more imperative, especially to the formation of social anthropology. Levi-Strauss then moves on to discuss the importance of Marcel Mauss, Durkheim’s nephew and collaborator, to the field of social anthropology. Aside from being a relative, Mauss was connected to Durkheim on another level in that he translated and rendered Durkheim’s work into something more suitable to the field of social anthropology. Mauss is important because he completed the work of Durkheim and he liberated anthropology from the false dichotomy between explanations of the physical sciences and explanations of the human sciences.
Levi-Strauss then progresses to the definitions of social anthropology, several of which have been given throughout the years. Ferdinand de Saussure’s definition of semiology as the study of the existence of signs at the heart of social life is how Levi-Strauss feels that anthropology is best described. The next topic Levi-Strauss discusses is the uniqueness of social anthropology beginning with the statement that in anthropology experimentation precedes both observation and hypothesis. He also suggests that in comparison with the natural sciences, social anthropology is fortunate in that the experiments are already prepared, but unfortunate in that the experiments are ungovernable and we are forced to substitute models that can be manipulated. Levi-Strauss explains that it is the alteration between the deductive and the empirical and the strictness with which each is practiced that give social anthropology its distinctive character. To him, anthropology is unique in, “making the most intimate subjectivity into a means of objective demonstration.” After a discussion of structure and process, Levi-Strauss goes on to demonstrate how social anthropology deals with various topics, using the incest prohibition and mythic reflections on incest as examples.
Levi-Strauss concludes the article with a discussion of his theory that social anthropology would be more respectable today if the official recognition of the field had come sooner. However, he also suggests that maybe this late recognition is what gave social anthropology some of its unique characteristics. Also in the concluding paragraphs is an observation that, “If society is in anthropology, anthropology is itself in society.” A final thought is mentioned upon the linkage between the development of social anthropology and colonialism.
JENNIFER WILLIAMSON University of Oklahoma (Karl Rambo).
Levi-Strauss, Claude. The Scope of Anthropology and Anthropology: Its Achievements and Future. Current Anthropology April, 1966 Vol. 7(2): 110-129
The first part of this summary is on an inaugural lecture given by Levi-Strauss. The father of anthropology decides to let loose some nostalgia, history, and evidence in an argument defending, not only structuralism, but also the science of anthropology itself. He starts at the beginning with Frazer, Mauss, and Durkheim; the latter, a fellow countryman that Levi-Strauss felt did not get enough credit. Levi-Strauss goes on to explain he has no aversion to history, but feels that it has no place in his work. He suggests adopting a method of transformations rather than fluxions. Knowing his audience, he did not go into this in depth. He uses the examples of incest, marital laws, and mythic reflections to show the progress made in the field of social anthropology in order to justify it as a science. Towards the end Levi-Strauss confronts the criticisms of studying only primitive tribes. He says that it is quite important to study a society that has a structure that resists historical modification. The article is quite packed and reads much like his book Tristes Tropiques.
The second Levi-Strauss article we are treated to is a lengthy plea for the recognition of anthropology and the understanding of the importance of primitive societies given at the bicentennial celebration commemorating the birth of James Smithson of the Smithsonian Institution. Levi-Strauss, in this article, is primarily concerned with the extinction of societies and he cites some important and successful ethnographies that have been completed on their behalf. He then asks the audience, and I am sure the scientific community in general, to understand the importance of anthropology so as not to slack on the funds.
WILLIAM L. WACKER Temple University (Prof. Deborah Augsburger)
Mead, Margaret. A CA Book Review: Continuities in Cultural Anthropology. Current Anthropology, 1966. Vol.7(1):67-82.
This review of Margaret Mead’s Continuities in Cultural Evolution begins with a précis by Mead and contains thirteen reviews from associates across the world. According to Mead’s summary the book deals with how culture change occurs; the importance of small groups of individuals surrounding gifted leaders, which she terms “evolutionary clusters,” in this process; and how these clusters can be formed to induce directed cultural change. Mead promises these points are thoroughly supported by her consider and, no doubt, impressive 38 years of fieldwork.
The thirteen reviews of the article differ extensively on the scope of their comments and their disposition. Olga Akihmanova, the only one to comment at any length about the linguistic discussion in the book, treats this aspect as though it was the main emphasis of the text, for which she is almost resoundingly positive. Like Ernest Beaglehole and Nirmal Bose, however, she finds minor faults with the text. Still Beaglehole is mostly appreciative of the enormous scope of the book, seeing mainly problems with the lack of support of some of Mead’s claims and the difficultly of incorporating her concepts into fieldwork. Bose, while approving of Mead’s idea of the evolutionary cluster, believes Mead emphasizes too heavily the idea of historical determinism. Unfortunately the majority of this lengthy review appears to be merely a promotion of Bose’s own ideas on the subject. Eliot Chapple finds Mead’s emphasis of the evolutionary cluster inventive but believes Mead’s claims as to the evolutionary significance of modern institutions fail to consider the qualities of that made clusters successful historically. Charles Frantz provides the most scathing review of the book. Even though he finds insight in the evolutionary implications of Mead’s ideas, he considers her concept of the evolutionary cluster unoriginal, her reasoning faulty, and describes her viewpoints as typically American in her call for intervention in the cultural evolution of the world. This last point is repeated in Mary Holensteiner’s critique, which applauds Mead’s poise and the merit of her cluster concept, especially in regards to Southeast Asia; nonetheless, Holensteiner finds Mead alarmist and is “staggered by [Mead’s] ‘do-it-yourself’ handbook for saving homo sapiens.” Yet Doug Haring and Roger Wescott both see the book’s urgency to fix humanity’s destructive nature in the atomic age as appropriate and necessary to human survival. Without addressing this point, Sol Tax easily provides the most positive account and wholeheartedly agrees with every point that Mead makes in terms of scientific merit. Though David Kaplan is less convinced, and asserts that Mead naïvely tries to qualify aspects of human nature that are intangible, as well as ignores the importance of macro mechanisms of evolutionary change. Evelyn Wood and Roy Grinker are encouraging of the book’s ideas but both fail to review the book as much as indulge their own digressions on some aspect of the book. Only George Haydu seems to offer a balanced criticism of the book, in addition to giving an accurate of the structure of the book. Haydu finds Mead to be full of wisdom and her ideas exciting, but states that her theories require further development to be convincing.
Mead responds at length, exhibiting a quite exacting defense of her book to every instance of criticism by the reviewers. For the most part Mead is evenhanded here and attempts to make concessions and address the limitations of the work as much as she does outright defend the text’s intellectual and cultural merit. This section provides the most insight into the contents and intentions of the book, even more so than her original summary.
CASEY WINDRIX University of Oklahoma (Karl Rambo)
Pradel, L. Transition from Mousterian to Perigordian: Skeletal and Industrial. Current Anthropology February, 1966 Vol.7(1):33-50.
Within his short paper, Pradel addresses the industrial tool traditions and skeletal material associated with the Mousterian period and Perigordian period. Pradel is investigating this material to determine if there is evidence of a transition between the two periods represented within the artifacts. However, the Pradel asserts in the beginning paragraph that the “passage from the Mousterain to the Perigordian with the transition of Neanderthal to Upper Paleolithic Man raises particularly important problems” (33).
Pradel sets out to establish that the Mousterian tool traditions exhibit certain features among its assemblages from the initial development until its final stages. The final stages in Mousterian tool traditions appear to have some of the same characteristics as the Lower Perigordian traditions. After Pradel feels he has established the Mousterian and Perigordian tool transition, he then introduces the additional skeletal material to provide a reason for the tool evolution. Two different hypothesizes are proposed. First, that Neanderthal Man evolved in France and Palastine, both being locations claimed to have Mousterian and Perigordian transition tools. Second, that early Homo sapiens migrated and invaded into these areas initially occupied by Neanderthal. Pradel sides with the second hypothesis and also that the migrating Homo sapiens had developed their Perigordian tool techniques in a mild climate, such as Asia. Although Pradel claims he believes this statement, he also admits that the evidence to support his claim is “missing.”
To develop his argument, Pradel describes the physical and chronological aspects of both the Mousterian and Perigordian traditions. Various examples of each tool industry are cited from archaeological findings at a few sites in the Near East but mainly from different archaeological sites in Western Europe, especially France. After each tool tradition has been outlined, Pradel gives his reasons and evidence that suggest the transition of Mousterian to Perigordian.
The skeletal material is the last type of evidence used to confirm the conclusions made about the tool industry. However the skeletal material of both Neanderthal and Homo sapiens is highly problematic. The Neanderthal found in Western Europe are believed to be associated with Mousterian tools. These same types of skeletal remains are found at a site called Combe-Capelle as well as Homo sapiens. Pradel insists that Homo sapiens, along with their Perigordian tools, migrated and replaced Neanderthals leaving behind their Mousterian tool traditions. The similarities that do exist are caused perhaps by either similar needs producing similar styles, or similar influences that affected each group.
Comments: Concerning the comments made about Pradel’s article, there are a wide-range of opinions. The opinions vary from positive to negative criticisms. The majority of the commentators have written negative comments and have criticized Pradel’s assessments of the skeletal and industrial material. Several responses are positive and praise Pradel’s investigation. For example, Hallam Movius especially congratulates Pradel for writing “succinctly and clearly” about a topic of great concern in anthropology. However, the overall tone of the comments contains a negative opinion of Pradel’s investigation. Many of the commentators feel that Pradel has written about a topic that has been discussed previously and has not offered any alternative interpretation of the data. Gisela Freund even goes so far as to say that “Pradel’s paper throws only unsatisfactory light onto this complicated subject.”
Reply: To address his commentators, Pradel focuses on four points. First, he thanks those who have offered him constructive criticism and provided him with more questions concerning this subject. Second, Pradel admits that he did not cover the topic from every angle because it “would have required an entire book.” Third, Pradel explains that he has not employed the use of carbon-14 dating because the results are highly problematic. And finally, an additional emphasis is made on the Mousterian bifaces found at Fontmaure and Pradel believes that further investigations into this site will provide more answers to pressing questions.
ERIN EDWARDS University of Oklahoma (Karl Rambo).
Scheffler, H. W.. Ancestor Worship in Anthropology: or Observations on Descent and Descent Groups. Current Anthropology December, 1966 Vol.7(5):541-551.
In this article written by Scheffler, there is a debate between how descent and descent groups should be classified and the criteria in distinguishing the two. He suggests that some anthropologists argue whether some groups should be classified as descent groups. For some anthropologists, descent is characterized on genealogical criteria for membership and descent groups are corporate bodies that are mutually exclusive on genealogical grounds. This article suggests that descent cannot be classified just on filial ties, but descent groups are classified on how groups interact with each other and convene. It also says that no group is a descent group or kin group in any absolute sense. He then turns to a man named W.H.R. Rivers and the debate that he posed on distinguishing between descent and descent groups. He claimed that descent would refer to “the process which regulates membership of the social group” and descent would be “most appropriate when the community is divided into distinct social groups. Scheffler says that Rivers failed to take into account that descent also meant a “relationship by genealogical tie to an ancestor. In taking account River’s view of descent and descent group, Scheffler suggests that River’s should distinguish between the different types of cultural forms and social processes, and cultural or ideological constructs. He then brings up the topic of descent constructs which refer to “formulations of genealogical connections between persons and their ancestors that are recognized types of lines of serial filiation or genealogical continua. Descent constructs must be related to groups before they are able to be called descent groups. Descent groups must be specified in the way in which the group is a descent group. Scheffler also suggests that the classification of groups based on their descent ideologies is not the same as the classification of groups based on “functional” or “operational” grounds. To further summarize this article, Scheffler says that groups should not all be looked at the same and that they should not be defined universally. Descent groups should not just solely be based on genealogical lines, but on the functional grounds of the group and how they interact with each other. He claims that Rivers fails to see some of the problems associated with classifying kin groups. Scheffler says that each new culture must be understood in its own terms, although they have more or less familiar materials and that “one of our problems is to develop a metalanguage which will facilitate comparison and generalization while at the same time maintaining some respect for both the integrity of natural systems and the similarities and differences among them.
The commentators on this article were written by Robert F. Gray who suggests that he has some serious charges against some anthropologists. He claims that the article may have a bit of exaggeration which may distort the information a bit. He also says that his definition of descent can be confusing to some. Edmund Leach agrees with one aspect of Scheffler’s argument which is that “no immutable line is possible,” which referred to the line of distinguishing descent groups. However, overall he seems to disagree with Scheffler’s points of views. Lastly, the final commentator is Leonard Plotnicov, he claims that Scheffler’s article is not persuasive and offers suggestions on how to strengthen his argument, for example, he suggests that he could have dealt with the Leach-Goody-Fortes position in more detail and also by attempting to “demonstrate the superior utility of his approach by contrasting it with that of Goody-Fortes-Leach in application to particular empirical situations. In conclusion, Scheffler has said that he would modify some of the argument although he was surprised by some of the comments made by Gray and Plotnicov. He goes on to say that this is clear;” Since there is no simple association between structural ideology and group composition, there can be no simple association between unilineal versus non-unilineal ideologies and no-choice versus choice of affiliation with the groups that are significant social units. A problem that he sees now is to “ understand why some societies have found it advantageous to institutionalize a device for legitimating closure and others a device for legitimating openness.”
MELISSA ARDLE University of Oklahoma (Karl Rambo).
Scheffler, H. W. Ancestor Worship in Anthropology: or, Observations on Descent and Descent Groups. Current Anthropology, 1966. Vol.7(5):541-551.
The overall problem that this article addresses is whether or not social anthropology should use the term ambilineal, or cognatic, descent group to describe certain categories of people using W.H.R Rivers’ observations on descent and descent groups. A periphery issue of this article is how descent-constructs should be defined and, thus, distinguished from other genealogical forms.
Scheffler’s basic argument is that modern anthropologists should not follow the observations of Rivers, but should instead use descent to describe the process of regulating membership of social groups. Basically, Scheffler believes that social anthropology has evolved beyond the theoretical basis of Rivers’ terminological definitions. Concerning the definition of descent-constructs, Scheffler believes that it is essential to distinguish between ancestor-descendant and parent-child ties, or between seriality and continuity. Although anthropologists may use descent-constructs as criteria for group affiliation as a form of descent-phrased rule, they must reject phrases such as descent rule and rule of descent because these phrases perpetuate the confusion that Rivers failed to address in his observations. According to Scheffler, the anthropologist must always specify in what way the group is a descent group.
Scheffler supports his argument by presenting the viewpoints of several schools of thought on the subject, and then pointing out how the views of these schools conflict with his thoughts. For example, Scheffler illustrates the contrasting viewpoints on descent and the use of the term descent groups using the viewpoints of two basic groups; that of Goody, Fortes, and Leach and the contrasting views Davenport, Firth, Goodenough, Murdock, and Peranio. Scheffler then states that choosing between the above views on usage requires consideration of several matters. He then proceeds to show how the Fortes-Leach-Goody school dealt with these considerations. Next, Scheffler reveals the flaws in Rivers’ observations on descent and descent groups and proposes solutions to these flaws.
To prove his statements about descent-constructs, Scheffler discusses the resolution of definitional matters, which depend upon either ontological or methodological issues. When considering methodological issues, no one’s definition of descent is at stake, although the concepts or group and corporate group are at risk. This leads to a discussion of which concepts of group and corporate group are sociologically more useful, in which Scheffler reviews the ideas of Fortes and Firth. Scheffler also asks whether senior sibling succession and primogeniture could be viewed as variant expressions of descent. The author then goes on to discuss the confusion surrounding descent and how British anthropology contributes to the perpetuation of this confusion through the tendency of the discipline to leave terms like descent underdefined.
One of the commentators, Robert F. Gray begins his commentary by praising Scheffler for the service he has done for social anthropology in sorting out the differing usages and definitions of descent and related terms, and only criticizes secondary aspects of the article. The next commentator, Edmund Leach praises Scheffler for accurately diagnosing Leach’s views in the paper but disagrees with Scheffler’s comment that the Goody-Leach-Fortes school can only operate with holistic analytical models. Plotnicov, the third commentator, remarks that although he agrees with Scheffler’s main point that corporate kinship groups are analytically comparable once Rivers’ definition is discarded, he is disappointed that the article was not more persuasive and was taken aback by the nationalistic tone of the article.
In response to the remarks of his commentators, Scheffler admits that perhaps he dealt with some matters too concisely and says he is puzzled that Gray and Plotnicov were offended by his reference to certain arguments as confused or empirically indefensible. In his defense, Scheffler says that these are the hazards of scholarship, and indeed, his hopes had been to continue an important controversy by submitting this article and drawing valuable criticism. Furthermore, Scheffler states that it was his intent to sort out some of the sources of ambiguity on the subject of descent and is puzzled by Gray’s suggestion that he either created the confusion himself or exaggerated a minor issue. In conclusion, Scheffler says that this paper is now over two years old, and he would now alter some of the argument slightly.
JENNIFER WILLIAMSON University of Oklahoma (Karl Rambo).
Scheffler, H.W. Ancestor Worship in Anthropology: or Observations on Descent and Descent Groups. Current Anthropology, Dec, 1966. Vol. 7(5): 541-555.
Scheffler examines the nature of anthropological understanding of descent. He examines present scholarship in this area that grew out of the work W.H.R. Rivers. He is examining the school of thought which focuses on how decent groups are defined. Descent groups are roughly defined as groups where shared lineage is part of membership. He is attempting to clarify the way to understand groups with optional membership. To Scheffler terminology must be established in order to facilitate comparative study and meaningful discussion. Scheffler sees it as important to understand what function descent plays in the group rather than letting it always be the sole defining characteristic. He believes that Rivers definition of descent is: that which regulates admission into a social group is indefensible and does not take into account other evidence, because it assumes unilineal descent. He believes that descent and descent constructs exist in so many different ways that it is impossible to be as specific as Rivers. He believes that both Rivers’ and Fortes-Leach-Goody’s models are problematic because they define descent ideologically and structurally. Scheffler thinks that what is of premier importance is to understand how those in the group understand lineage and what function it serve for them. Scheffler cites “cognatic” and “ambilineal” descent types as examples of why it is inaccurate to always view things unilineally. Scheffler critiques the British schools assumptions of the differences of culture and asserts that most cultures are structurally similar. Scheffler thinks that the focus should be on the structural characteristics of groups and that descent should be understood inside the broader context of the group.
Commenters agree with Scheffler’s argument that study of descent groups has become a muddled process. Many of the holes he points out are agreed to be stumbling blocks to good ethnographic study. However all contend that he is unfair in his treatment of other views especially that of the British school. Leach comments that he and Fortes and Goody are not bound by viewing descent as both ideological and structural. They also do not think that his proposed solution is a fool proof change. They think that the article is useful for underscoring differences between British and American schools of thought.
Scheffler argues that he has not been read carefully enough. He responds that he was not trying to answer all question regarding societal study of descent but rather suggest a more helpful paradigm.
MATT LYKE Temple University (Deborah Augsburger)
Thompson, H Paul. A Technique Using Anthropological and Biological Data. Current Anthropology October, 1966 Vol. 7 (4): 417-424.
Mr. Thompson introduces a technique for developing an idea about the population levels of peoples living in aboriginal conditions. This technique uses the ecological population equilibrium of a group’s resource by discovering the non-human factors that lead to equilibrium and then establishing the remaining human factors. After the human factors that contribute to a resource’s population equilibrium are learned, a good mathematical method for determining the population size of the human group which uses the resource can result. Basically, the researcher is trying to determine the population of a human group by examining its impact on a living subsistence resource such as deer, buffalo, etc. A very important variable to be determined when using this technique is how much the human group relies on the resource being considered. It is important that the resource being considered is a primary subsistence resource. This is the anthropological data that is used in the technique; how many deer or buffalo or whatever the people need to feed, cloth, and shelter themselves over a specific time period. The biological data used in the technique is derived from research projects in the fields of zoology, biology, etc. This biological data is used to determine as comprehensive as possible the ecological population equilibriums for the organism or organisms being investigated. Once the anthropological data concerning the group’s reliance on the organism is determined, the biological data on the organism can be combined with the anthropological data into a mathematical function that will provide upper, lower, and mean population levels for the group using the resource. In the article, Mr. Thompson uses the Chipewyan Indians and their reliance on barren-ground caribou as a primary subsistence resource to illustrate the technique and arrives at a population figure in line with other anthropological accounts of Chipewyan population.
The advantages of using this technique include the researcher not having to rely on witness estimates or unreliable census figures, and the model can be adjusted as new data is collected. The population level results from the technique can also be compared to other methods for determining population to provide the researcher with additional population information.
The disadvantages of the technique center around the need for excellent accuracy in both the anthropological and biological data that must be collected to get an accurate population level estimation for the people living in aboriginal conditions. However, with increased knowledge about ecological population equilibriums and better anthropological data to go with it, this model will grow more accurate. It would be very interesting to see as archaeological data about past people’s use of resources and knowledge of past ecological systems grows if this model can be applied to archaeological data to gain better estimations of pre-historic populations.
CASEY DAVIS University of Oklahoma (Karl Rambo).
Van der Merwe, Nikolaas, J. New Mathematics for Glottochronology. Current Anthropologist. October 1966 Vol.7 (4): 485-500.
This article is part of a running discussion on glottochronology. At the time of the writing, there appears to be much opposition to the model. The major criticism listed pertains to: “processes of judgments of cognation, language splits and the point in time to which measurement is made, cultural attributes, rejection of the statistical techniques and a traditional linguistic bias toward ‘certainties’ rather than ‘probabilities’, and utilities of different tests.”(pp. 485)
The author argues that most of these critiques can be attributed to a lack of understanding of statistics. Thus, van der Merwe focuses on what he considers the most serious criticism, the utility of the test. As defined by the author the glottochronological time scale is based on a constant rate of morphemes decay over time. Therefore he compares language decay with radioactive isotope decay.
Merwe concludes with saying that the solution cannot be arrived at by using a basic mathematical model. He states that it will have to be generated by a computer. However he does give a list that he believes will solve this dilemma. First, develop a standardized test that all will use. Second, using languages with known history, the word list should be generated and divided into groups of similar viability. Third, comparing known language with dates, with the new languages, it will be possible to generate dates by computer and thus generate the rate of decay.
Generally the comments were not supportive, and the commentators were not convinced that a new model was needed and that van der Merwe even presented anything new. Many argue that morpheme decay (or even if there is a loss) cannot be described mathematically. One might consider reading the comments on the article first as it give lucidity to the subject as a whole and can catch the reader up on the issues very quickly. In many ways, they are better written then the article.
The author himself seems shocked that the article was not embraced by more of the commenters and spends considerable time rebutting his critics as once again unknowledgeable, fight the changes that math will bring to a historically based discipline. He does; however, explain his model better in the defense. He concludes with praising those that supported, corrected and added to his hypothesis.
CYNTHIA HENGGE University of Oklahoma (Karl Rambo)