Current Anthropology 1970
Birdsell, Joseph B. Local Group Composition Among the Australian Aborigines: Critique of the Evidence from Fieldwork Conducted Since 1930. Current Anthropology April, 1970. Vol.11(2):115-142.
The author’s general issues in this article are that because of European expansion in Australia we have lost the chance to study Aborigines in their original context and environment, and that some anthropologists do not recognize or mention this fact when they write their articles on the Aborigines. The author presents fourteen cases of ethnographic fieldwork with Aborigines, then criticizes the cases in what he calls the “verdict” to make his argument concerning what European expansion has done to native people.
Birdsell also discusses Radcliffe-Brown and the University of Sydney’s school of anthropology. Birdsell criticizes the school, especially four anthropologist, Ronald Berndt, A.P. Elkin, Meggitt, and L.R. Hiatt. Birdsell then gives examples of each authors work on the subject.
At the end of the article the author presents the verdict on the fourteen ethnographic cases. “In the detailing fourteen cases given above, it becomes evident that conclusions about local group organization and Aboriginal ecology require more than the persistence of some traditional forms of cultural behavior as a base for investigations”(p.131).
In the abstract of the article Birdsell further supports his argument and extends his criticism of Hiatt. “He and a number of the other Australian workers have ignored the impact of post contact changes upon the people studied and so introduced systematic error and bias into their studies”(p.131).
This article receives several long comments from fellow anthropologists, three of whom are the people Birdsell criticizes. Berndt says “I find it difficult to see this as a serious contribution to our understanding of the local group in Australia”(p.132). Berndt says “Birdsell tables 14 disparate cases-disparate in that the data presented are not strictly comparable, but highly selective, incomplete, and often out of context”(p.132). Elkin says “It is not a positive contribution, but a diatribe against anthropologists associated with the University of Sydney”(p.133). In Birdsell’s lengthy reply he comments on the reviewers by making a conceptual framework of the critique. “The conceptual framework of the critique essentially involves the use of some demonstrated regularities against which examples presented by Hiatt are tested and largely found wanting” (p.138).
This article was well written and easy to understand.
FELICIA GRANT Michigan State University (Dr. Susan Applegate Krouse).
Birdsell, Joseph B. Local Group Composition among the Australian Aborigines: A Critique of the Evidence from Fieldwork Conducted since 1930. Current Anthropology Apr., 1970. Vol. 11(2): 115-142.
The author presents a paper that “defends” and “extends” the generalizations of Radcliffe-Brown’s research regarding the nature of Aboriginal local groups in Australia. Birdsell argues against the findings presented by scholars at the University of Sydney. The argument is centered in opposition to the Sydney school view of the Aborigines “as forever unchanging in spite of onslaughts of time, depopulation, and a shift from a pre-contact ecology to a food support base dependant upon European charity or exploitation” (Birdsell, 1970). The author calls for the establishment of a middle ground. Birdsell seeks a “position of balance” by critiquing each writer’s lack of ecological thought. The author’s claim is supported by the amount of distortion presented in each field report. The fourteen cases exhibit statistical demographic shifts and details of ecological relativity. However, the cases fail to examine fully the effects of postcolonial contact, namely “dislocation” and “depopulation.” Birdsell uses this conflict as an opportunity to support the work of Radcliffe-Brown and to promote the projection of the problem onto a broader ecological framework.
The varied degree of support and opposition presented by each commentator exhibits the vast divide present within the debate. Some regard Birdsell’s efforts as important contributions to the process of untangling the web created by postcolonial contact in Australia. However, a heightened awareness is promoted to ameliorate the educational entrapment created when the web itself becomes entangled in the process of disentanglement. Those in opposition and under critique backed their viewpoints with alternative revisions and alterations to the evidence under examination. Each commentator provided valuable insight in an effort to better understand of the role of ecology in historical land use assessments.
Birdsell begins by assessing the areas of disagreement. The author groups the comments made into three arguments: “conceptual framework of the critiques, the validity of the data presented, and the blurred area in which differences of opinion may be expressed” (Birdsell, 1970). With responses to each individual commentator, Birdsell eloquently dictates the purpose of the paper and attempts to correct disagreement with efforts towards contributing to the cohesive, broader, picture that encompasses anthropological study. Birdsell expressed that by working together, scholars can aim at the middle ground and learn from all aspects of integrated investigations.
NATALIE FARIS Southern Illinois University Carbondale (Jonathan Hill)
James, Bernard. Continuity and Emergence in Indian Poverty Culture. Current Anthropology October-December, 1970 Vol. 11(4-5):435-452.
James examines the culture-personality theory and different arguments made for and against the continuation of native personality among the Ojibwa. In particular the paper looks at the idea of atomism, and how views toward the Indians come from empirical studies. The first part of the article examines research by numerous anthropologists. James points out fallacies of research done among the Indians and the false assumptions arrived at from this research. In addition to the misconstrued ideas James points out, he offers some support for some of the research. In the second section of the paper, James discussed his view on the formation of personality in modern Ojibwa culture.
To dispute previous methods of studying the Ojibwa, James raises questions that have been ignored but are imperative to the research. James claims his paper is the first to seriously consider the concept of atomism and its application. After raising objections to most of the other writers, James argues explains his model describing Indian personality. James argues serious scientific issues arise is the personality structure persists despite change in the culture. He does not think that personality can be defined without first considering observable behavior.
The commentators were split on their agreement or disagreement with James. Agagino claims the best way to study natives is with a selective approach, allowing for selective retention of native customs with selective acceptance of some white customs mixed in. He therefore agrees with James’s use of the beer-can measure as a means of determining reservation frustration and personal disorganization. Boissevain also agrees with James and thinks observing behavior in a straightforward manner in a socioeconomic setting is the best means for measuring the personality of an entire group. Faris supports James and agrees that economic pluralism cannot be covered up by cultural pluralism. Maher supports James’s argument and also stresses that the romantic-relativist view can turn negative even if it starts with good intentions. Bishop, Cohen, and VanStone, Driver, and Hickerson all agree with parts of James’s argument and disagree with parts of it. Most agree that James wrote a fine article and pointed out many methodological errors and overgeneralizations when studying Ojibwa culture and personality. Most of these writers disagree with the second half of James’s article, noting James has not done enough research to support his argument. Driver points out that no sample of cross-cultural study of all Indian reservations in the United States has been taken, so it is hard to determine if James is correct. Howard disagrees with James’s article although he thinks it was well written. He claims James does not have the slightest understanding of Ojibwa culture, and therefore he cannot make an accurate argument. Lurie argues James’s new article retreads his previous articles. Rubel disagrees because he feels the entire argument against the persistence theory of the formation of personality relies on James’s inflexible attribution to the formation of personality on the experience of the individual. Rubel claims this approach does not leave room for other socializing techniques.
James replies to the commentators, and he agrees that most of them were useful and insightful. He explains his ideas of atomism in more depth. He also defends his argument and claims he has ample appreciation of the Indian’s world because he grew up next to an Ojibwa reservation. He ends his reply with a hope for the future; he hopes that anthropologists will come to realize how fragile the life-sustaining properties of culture are.
CLARITY: 4 James’s article is sometimes unclear because he has few supporting details from his own research to defend his argument. He makes a vast number of claims without much support from evidence acquired through his own research.
JENNIFER BARKER Michigan State University (Susan Applegate Krouse)
James, Bernard J. Continuity and Emergence in Indian Poverty Culture. Current Anthropology Oct-Dec, 1970. Vol.11(4/5):435-452.
James argues that the Ojibwa culture-personality has gone through a radical cultural change on and off of the reservations. He begins by examining arguments for and against the persistence of the Ojibwa personality structure. By doing this, he raises three questions: 1) whether or not there are sufficient differences between the historical experiences of the northern and southern Ojibwa groups to make it hazardous to reason from the culture and personality of one area to the culture and personality of the other; 2) whether or not the persistency theory is a simplistic notion that fails to take into account modern conditions and distorts understanding of modern Indian personality; and 3) concerns over the policies that grows out of one or another interpretation of conditions of life among the modern Indians. He then goes on to answer these questions in detail and also tells us some of his ideas. Then he focuses the paper on the formation of the Indians personality and how it is shaped on the reservations today. He believes that there are two sets of values important to the social transition of the Indians. These are the negative stereotype, in which the Indian is thought to be dirty, lazy, drunken, immoral and lower class and the positive stereotype, which he says is the romantic stereotype of the Indian that portrays him as steadfast, truthful and the master of secrets of nature. The stereotypes, according to James, are a powerful force for social change among the Indians. In conclusion, he states that the Ojibwa have reached a point of no return. By this he means that the Ojibwa are being assimilated and acculturated into the larger American culture and thus are changing their culture-personality.
Most of the commentators agree with James pointing out methodological errors and some of the overgeneralizations regarding the Ojibwa culture and personality. Some say that he doesn’t quite understand the Ojibwa culture and others say that he hasn’t researched enough about the Northern groups. Points are made as to what needs to be researched further, such as the subject of atomism.
James starts by discussing the matter of atomism and breaking it into two categories. He then comments on measurement problems and the fact of using the work on Chippewyan people to add value to his argument. He goes on to say that he had grown up near an Ojibwa reservation and should therefore know about their culture and personality. He closes by stating that he hopes we come to realize how important and fragile the life-sustaining properties of a culture can be.
TWANA JILL AUD (email@example.com): Southern Illinois University Carbondale (Jonathan Hill)
Katz, Ruth. Mannerism and Cultural Change: An Ethnomusicological Example. Current Anthropology Oct.-Dec., 1970. Vol. 11, No. 4/5: 465-475.
The primary notion that pervades Katz’s argument is that attempts by a minority group to preserve any aspect of their culture while facing the overwhelming forces of change by a majority are, through their preservation of certain cultural traits, contributing to change. By organizing priorities of what cultural characteristics are to be saved, minorities are transforming the structure established in the past. Re-focusing on certain aspects places new emphasis on those aspects thought significant or descriptive of the culture in need of salvation. Katz seeks to support this claim she calls “mannerism” by using an example of Aleppo Jewish music traditions; a culture displaced from the homeland thus trying to retain its identity. Younger generations showed an attraction to certain musical qualities, emphasizing the ornamentation within each song. Older, more traditional, generations conceive of ornamentation as having designated placement, while younger generations use it more freely. Katz’s evidence points towards her assumption that emphasis on certain traits facilitates cultural change: the younger singers ornament the songs to distinguish themselves from a “Western” style, since ornamentation is an Eastern tradition. In this instance, distinction from a Western style is made through the conceptions of what Western ideas of Eastern traditions tend to be.
Most of the commentators to Katz’s article commend her for an interesting study on the modes of retaining cultural traits despite assimilation into another dominant culture. Many of these supportive comments include various other examples of “minority mannerism” in instances where the culture of a majority is forced upon distinctive, proud minorities. Opposition to the argument presented by Katz is raised by a few of the commentators, who attack her ethnomusicological example as no basis for her claim. These writers question the validity of her evidence as explanatory of her hypothesis. They stress the importance of accurately reflecting the various other factors involved with cultural change, such as the necessary information regarding the social and political environment
Katz responds to these comments with a gratitude for the congruent evidence, but she warns that “they refer to seemingly similar cultural dynamics in the case of groups in very different social circumstances” (pg. 473). In light of the opposition, Katz relates her regret for not detailing the social and cultural atmosphere of the Aleppo Jews, and suggests other work for this information.
BROOKS LETCHWORTH Southern Illinois University (Jonathan Hill)
Polunin, Ivan. Visual and Sound Recording Apparatus in Ethnographic Fieldwork. Current Anthropology February, 1970 Vol.11(1):3-22.
Polunin discusses how technological advances are allowing for an increased use of recording machines in ethnographic fieldwork and research. He considers advantages of visual and sound recording apparatuses to be the large amount of information that can be stored, and the ability to recall information completely and repeatedly. He claims these records are completely objective in what they record and only subjective to the point of what is and is not recorded by the operator. Polunin lists disadvantages of these tools as cost, maintenance, transportation, misuse, and distraction (of both subject and observer). He describes how ethnographers can optimize their use of devices through learning proper usage, foreseeing situational factors, and minimizing distraction from machines in events being recorded. He offers habituation (desensitization through repeated exposure) as a remedy for such distraction. Polunin states that knowing the purpose the recording will serve is critical when deciding which apparatus to use. He discusses the importance of integrating records of single events from multiple sources. From here, the article focuses on pairing proper equipment with various specified circumstances.
Polunin stipulates that this article is meant for beginners, and those who desire more detailed information should review commercial brochures and specialized periodicals. He then discusses advantages and disadvantages of specific techniques and the devices to be used for each. For example, sound recording devices can be used to “speed up fieldwork” (6) by allowing ethnographers to observe first and transcribe events and conversations later when reviewing tapes. When actions need to be seen as well as paired with sounds, sound films are more appropriate. Techniques mentioned include sound recording, still photography, silent film, sound films.
Several of Polunin’s discussions revolve around topics that are now archaic because of technological advances. These discussions include the elimination of camera motor noise, the complexity of sound filming, V.T.R. (videotape recording) systems, and sources of power and light.
Comments include several supportive ethnographers discussing their own experiences with and uses of recording apparatuses. One commentator criticizes that Polunin raised more questions than he answered as to what field workers can do with this type of data. Another mentions that in some cultures, people do not like to have their pictures taken. Another comment describes the need for ethnographers to first understand cultures to know what interactions are worthy of recording.
I found Polunin’s article very easy to read. He motives were clear and descriptions concise.
MICHAEL DI LORETO Michigan State University (Susan Applegate Krouse)
Polunin, Ivan. Visual and Sound Recording Apparatus in Ethnographic Fieldwork. Current Anthropology Feb. 1970 Vol. 11, No. 1: pgs.3-22.
The central purpose of this paper was to introduce the potential uses of various types of visual and sound equipment while doing fieldwork research. Polunin speaks of a technological lag within the realm of anthropological research, and stresses how visual and sound apparatus can facilitate great improvements within ethnographic fieldwork. Though this new technology has much potential, Polunin also mentions the possible adverse effects of using such technology. Beneficial aspects of using this technology can be found in the lasting, accessible data it produces: “producing permanent and recallable traces of some real situations and events” (pg. 4). Having visual or sound data accessible after an ethnographer leaves the field creates a more accurate way for the researcher to review what was researched. Polunin warns, however, that technology brought by an ethnographer to a society with lesser technologies will serve as a major distraction to those being observed; so they change the behavior trying to be observed. Also, subjects might become intimidated or fearful of such equipment and reject an interview. Other problems result from the ability of the researcher to choose what is recorded, possibly placing too much focus on certain areas and too little on others; the threat of inaccuracy during research is of great concern to most scholars. The bulk of Polunin’s article is to present the array of visual and sound technologies available to ethnographers (while discussing potential benefits or drawbacks), such as: sound recording, still photography, silent film, sound films, and sources of power and natural or artificial light.
Almost all of the commentators agree that visual and sound recording apparatus is of great value to ethnographic fieldwork, and commend Polunin on his guide to different types of equipment available. Comments frequently mentioned the importance of training to use the often technologically-complex apparatus, as well as, training to minimize the effect of distraction upon the subjects. One commentator adamantly wrote of the necessary use of visual and sound recording to preserve those cultures that are threatened by extinction or massive change. While another stresses that an ethnographer should not replace the “human capacity and talent” with modern technological advances to facilitate good research; always rely on the teachings of what is deemed the “pencil and paper school”.
In response to support by the commentators, Polunin actually reveals disappointment of the lack of comments quantitatively. He wants a wider range of opinions, but also appreciates the accounts given to support the value of visual and sound recording apparatus in the field. Polunin once again relates the absolute need for audiovisual recording training before being used for fieldwork. In a final support of the traditional method of ethnographic research he says, “. . . I know of no other data-collecting device so cheap, light, and available, so simple to use, and so immune to errors of function. With such advantages, paper and pencil are unlikely to become obsolete” (pg. 21)
BROOKS LETCHWORTH Southern Illinois University-Carbondale (Jonathan Hill)
Ribeiro, Darcy. The Culture-Historical Configurations of the American Peoples Current Anthropology, Vol.11, No. 4/5 (Oct.-Dec., 1970), 403-434
Ribeiro gives a detailed account of the historical events that have led to the present-day cultures of the people of the Americas. Ribeiro sees that as different technological revolutions occurred, these changes had dramatic affects on the people that developed them, incorporated them, or were forced to undertake these new technological advancements. The term advancement is used to signify that these revolutions were part of “civilizational processes” or steps in the evolution of humans. These advancements can alter a societies entire understanding of the world around them. The incorporation (self-inspired or forced) of new technologies and people bring about a fusion of culture, religion, and worldview, all of which occurred to the people that came across them. These people were either “agents” of civilizing expansion (evolutionary acceleration) or they were the recipients of the civilizing expansion (historical incorporation). The former presupposes that these people willing adopted the new practices while the latter illuminates a radical change in a colonized or neocolonial culture from forceful exposure. Ribeiro defines these descendants of extra-European people into four categories. The first is the “Witness Peoples.” These are the representatives of the people who first succumbed to colonization. These people went through centuries of colonization, inferiority, and exploitation. These processes of technology not only stripped them of their highly developed societies, it dramatically changed their cultural life and understanding. “For the Witness Peoples of the Americas, the process of Europeanization resulted in a complete ethnic transformation,” (406). The second category of people is the “New Peoples.” These people are characterized as those “who have arisen from the conjunction, deculturation, and fusion of African, European, and indigenous ethnic matrices,” (408). These people are different from what they were before the colonization and during colonization. They are considered the by-product of the blending of peoples very different from one another. Examples include the “bringing together of Negroes, whites, and Indians to clear plantations or exploit mines to serve European markets and generate profits,” (408). Here, many diverse ethnicities were brought together under harsh conditions, adapted to one another, and eventually became an incorporation of all. The third category of people is the “Transplanted Peoples.” They include Europeans who fled their place of origin for religious purposes or instances such as the Industrial Revolution. They are characterized by their “cultural homogeneity,” their relatively egalitarian organization of institutions and their “modernity,” (412, 413). The last group is that of the “Emergent Peoples.” These people have come up the ranks from a tribal society to nationhood. They have overcome the oppression of other ruling states and have mustered their own identity of which they are still developing and trying to preserve.
Through the progression of technologies and the integration of different ethnicities, the generations descending have become a mixture of grass roots, ideas and beliefs of their ancestors, an amalgamation of the cultures combined over the centuries, as well as the particular societies’ reactions and developed understanding of the new world around them.
ELLEN LONGBUCCO: Southern Illinois University Carbondale (Jonathan Hill)
Shimahara, Nobuo. Enculturation- A reconsideration . Current Anthropology April, 1970 Vol. 11(2) 143-154
Enculturation boils down to the process of acquiring and learning culture from society one goes throughout one;s entire life. Nobuo Shimahara attempts to expand on the definition of enculturation that has been presented by previous scholars, particularly that of Herskovits who Shimahara claims has the most precise definition prior to his own.
Herskovits states that enculturation contains two different stages, an unconscious stage at childhood where children receive and learn culture from the world around them, and a second conscious adult stage in which adults choose and criticize which part of culture they will absorb.
Shimahara says that the “pre-adult” stage of enculturation is more conscious than previously accepted. He points out that children often times choose to learn culture from peer groups and as such play an active role in learning and teaching culture to the individuals around them. Examples given by Shimahara include that of the Japanese after their culture and society was radically reformed as a result of World War II. Japanese children may go through several different culture changes before finally reaching adulthood and deciding which culture they fully subscribe. Shimahara concludes that enculturation must me thought of as a two fold process containing not adult and child stages but conscious and unconscious aspects that act simultaneously upon individuals.
The critics of Shimahara have several grounds on which they contend. The first is that Shimahara ignores completely the role of language in culture formation. To this the author simply resonds that he did ignore the subject and thanks the critic for opening his eyes to the subject. Another large critique is that Shimahara uses “child” as a blanket term and does not consider the unconscious enculturation taking place at infancy. To this Shimahara responds that his article attempts to show enculturation at all stages as two fold. Unconscious childhood enculturation had already been accepted, therefore Shimahara must focus on the conscious aspect as this is the area he is presenting new ideas. Just because this article did not focus on that form of enculturation does not mean he disregards it completely.
This article and was clear and easy to read. I also found it interesting as it does break the norm of what I have previously learned about enculturation. The examples used by Shimahara were also used well, illustrating his points nicely.
CODY VAN DENHEUVEL Michigan State University (Susan Applegate Krouse)
Shimahara, Nobuo. Enculturation – A Reconsideration. Current Anthropology April, 1970 Vol.11(2): 143-154.
There are two key meanings that can define what enculturation means. The first equates it with “ the process of the acquiring of the existing culture” and the second includes “both the transmission of culture by its agents and the innovation of culture” (p. 143). This article, as the title suggests, compares the use of “enculturation” and argues for a clearer definition of the term. Shimahara’s concern is that the term, being a key concept in cultural studies, is being misused and even misunderstood by the majority of anthropologists. He contradicts ideas in the past usage of the term that would define it as a unilinear process in early stages of life in that it is an unconscious activity, disregarding the involvement of innovation and interaction. One such issue first put forth by Melville Herskovits in 1964, states that “enculturation in the early years of life is a powerful process of ‘unconscious conditioning’ involving such features as unconscious adjustment to social living and automatic conformity to the patterns of culture”(p. 144), while enculturation in later years is full of deliberate choices from among alternatives. Shimahara refutes this claim through examples using Japanese youth culture to show that enculturation is “reflective, conscious and active”(p. 148). Another issue that Shimahara brings up is the use of psychology within the construction of ideology and personality. He disagrees with the exclusion of behaviors relating to psychology in cultural studies, relying on Daniel Levinson (1964) for his analysis of psychological effects that “influence an individual’s selection, creation, and synthesis of idea systems”(p. 147). Shimahara agrees with Levinson’s conclusion that a personality involves the conscious and unconscious moral conceptions, feelings, attitudes, and desires as well as imitation, accepted rationality and group interest. Within Shimahara’s argument is the use of ethnographic studies as well as sociological and psychological examples to support his conclusion that enculturation is an active, creative, dynamic process throughout the entirety of life.
Of the six commentaries, there is only one common argument: Shimahara does nothing to simplify the situation. With the exception of Wallace and Basso (whose only contention is that Shimahara ignores language in the process of acquiring and transmitting culture) most think that he has not satisfactorily uncomplicated the definition or the usage. Brown and Fischer appreciate the question and the review provided but both think that his explanation is contradictory, and Fischer thinks it is an “unnecessary complication.” Horner questions the vocabulary used to “reconsider” the term; according to him, the final definition only adds to the confusion by using descriptions that he does not define. Gjessing accuses him of “hair-splitting” in the differentiation of the processes involved in the unconscious and conscious levels of enculturation. The only commentator to agree with Shimahara is Wallace, who has the same opinion that past usage implies that “soft plastic children are converted into hard plastic adults” and disagrees with Herskovits (as does Shimahara) about the passivity of pre-adult enculturation.
Shimahara reiterates that he is not trying to redefine “enculturation.” Instead, he is trying to point out the problems with the current understanding and contradictory uses of the term. He defends his critique of Herskovits’ unconscious and conscious processes and his explanation using Japanese culture. He contends that his true conclusion and purpose of the article is to show that the enculturation of children is a dynamic process of reflection and innovation. He does acknowledge Basso’s complaint about the absence of psycholinguistics and contends that such a study would lend support to his conclusion.
ERIN BILYEU Southern Illinois University Carbondale (Jonathan Hill)
Smith, C.T. Depopulation of the Central Andes in the 16th Century. Current Anthropology October-December, 1970 Vol.11(4-5):453-464.
The problem that C.T. Smith addresses is the inconsistency of estimates in the number of Indians in the Americas during the pre-conquest era. Smith more specifically looks at the numbers of Indians located in the Central Andes, and the inconsistent population numbers used by the anthropologists who have also studied this topic. Smith first takes a look at the numbers of the inland tribes and then also at the tribes located in the coastal region.
The main reason Smith is crunching these numbers is to figure out the historical and economical significance of specific areas in the Central Andean region. Smith provides the names of the five main provinces studied for this article, and also the numerous towns and villages located within these provinces, both inland and coastal. Smith also breaks down the population numbers into divisions of age and sex, from which he can ascertain the ways in which the Indian cultures utilized their populations in the ways of agriculture, military, and trade; also taken into account are the documentations of deadly epidemics, and the effects they had on the differing populations of the inland and coastal Indians.
To support his claims Smith cites many different estimations of the pre-conquest Indian populations in the Central Andes. He uses not only numbers provided by his fellow anthropologists, but also from censuses taken by the Spanish governors of the Indian provinces. Included in the text of the article are charts and graphs from Rowe and Espinosa, both of which Smith use as aides to his claims. Smith uses all these figures, along with the charts, to consolidate his views of the populations of the Central Andean Indians in the pre-conquest era; however, Smith himself admits that “unless and until more reliable material is unearthed for the coastal zone, estimates for the total pre-conquest population are bound to vary widely.”
Four anthropologists commented on Smith’s article and seemed pleased that someone had re-analyzed the information on pre-conquest populations. One area of Smith’s study which all the anthropologists possessed an interest in was his analysis of the coastal Indians being affected differently from the inland Indians. Although mostly in agreement with the article, there was a desire for more information on differentials in age groups and jobs.
C.T. Smith gracefully accepted his critiques and addressed each of them with care and precision. For most of the critiques he either commented on his fault for not emphasizing certain points more, or he apologized for not having information until after he published his article.
This article was hard to follow at times, and much of the terminology was confusing and hard to understand.
CHRIS SELJESKOG Michigan State University (Susan Applegate Krouse)
Smith, C.T. Depopulation of the Central Andes in the 16th Century Current Anthropology, Oct.-Dec., 1970 Vol. 11 (4/5): 453-464.
Citing previous studies in Andean depopulation by Dobyns and Denevan as focusing on coastal regions, Smith set out to calculate an accurate depopulation ratio for the central, sierra Andes based on censuses taken around 1520, 1566 an 1940 C.E. in the Chucuito district of southern Peru bordering Lake Titicaca. In addition to pre- and post-conquest censuses and a more modern census, the population centers in this district have remained the same since the Late-Inca times and the stable lakeside environment makes this, according to Smith, a more accurate area to study. In analyzing these censuses, Smith came up with a method in which the population of “tributary indians” was first calculated and then a multiplier which came to represent those who were non-tributary was established. With these two numbers a population could be established both pre- and post-conquest and compared to create an accurate depopulation ratio. Smith’s analysis also displays pan-census population trends in the Chucuito district which he attempts to explain.
Smith’s commentators praise him for distinguishing between the coastal and highland ecological zones and its effects on population, aptly broadening the understanding of conquest depopulation and realizing that depopulation may have started before conquest. They become critical of Smith when it comes to the scope of his analysis and state that there are other specific districts and censuses which could influence his results. His interpretations of population trends are other matters of debate between Smith and his critics where they believe he is shortsighted in looking at trends which extend into modern censuses. As well, commentators on Smith bring to light the idea of differences in interpretation and definition between Inca census takers and Spanish census takers in terms of their concepts of numbers and “tribute.”
With the criticisms towards him lined up, Smith touches upon each one. First he suggests that the other population centers brought up have other variables of depopulation at work operating before the conquest. Second, he posits that other censuses have had different magnitudes which can affect population trends and third that, even though some of the literature that was brought up by his commentator regarding differences in interpretation and definition were not available at the time of his study, his definitions, especially towards “tributary” people, were wide-based and open to more than what his critisc defined.
MATTHEW L. DIERKER Southern Illinois University Carbondale (Jonathan Hill)
Troufanoff, I. P. The Ahtena Tomahawks in the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R. Current Anthropology. April, 1970 Vol.11(2): 155-159.
Tomahawks were used by the native people of North America primarily as a weapon of close combat. The main focus of the article is on the tomahawks of the Ahtena and Tanaina people who were a part of the Athapaskan group in Alaska. In the case of these groups, the weapons were made out of the antlers of caribou. The main shaft or beam of the antler, along with the second tine, was soaked in oil for strength and weight before the end of the tine was opened for the insertion of a sharp point. The beam was wrapped and the weapon was then decorated with incision and paint (155).
While some tomahawks were not only used as a weapon for close combat, others were used as missile weapons, although it seems that those of the Ahtena and Tanaina were never used as thrown weapons. Tomahawks were used to produce particularly bloody battles for which battle prowess was highly valued.
The small collection discussed in the article consists of five (originally six) Ahtena tomahawks that can be found at the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R. These artifacts were collected by I.G. Voznesenskii on a trip to Russian America (Alaska) in the mid-1800s, and a pair of Tanaina tomahawks collected by H.J. Holmberg in 1853, which are held in Copenhagen.
Following the brief description of the general nature of tomahawks, the author gives a more detailed description of the five Ahtena tomahawks and drawings of the five tomahawks. Troufanoff offers details such as decoration, manufacture, stylistic features, weights, and measurements for the various artifacts. These features are useful for the identification of the Ahtena tomahawks. The author suggests that the ornamentation of the tomahawks are distinguishable because of their simple, geometric nature. Most commonly, these designs include “zigzags and triangles, crosshatching, spurs and related forms, parallel and oblique broken lines and meanders” (159).
The article presents little in the way of an argument, but does give a clear, detailed description of the small collection of artifacts. The author’s suppositions regarding the nature of the artifacts are well laid out and well supported. The article is easy to read and understand and the drawings of the tomahawks being discussed make the descriptions very useful.
ERICA BEGUN Michigan State University (Susan Applegate Krouse)
Wolberg, Donald L. The Hypothesized Osteodontokeratic Culture of the Australopithecinae: A Look at the Evidence and the Opinions. Current Anthropology, Feb., 1970. Vol.(11)1:23-37
The intent of Wolberg in this article is to review Raymond Dart’s hypothesis that, the Australopithecinae of South Africa possessed an osteodontokeratic, or bone, tooth, and horn culture. As a result of his review Wolberg will attempt to evaluate some of the objections to Dart’s interpretations and discuss some new approaches that shed further light on the matter. Wolberg gives an overview of Dart’s evidence and interpretation by focusing on direct quotes and data presented by Dart himself. Dart suggested that the “evolution of man is a result of adaptive responses, selectively advantageous, resulting in an aggressive if not predaceous ancestry, an early stage of which is represented by the remains of A. africanus and associated material”(p.__) Meaning, that fossil evidence pertaining to the remains of A. africanus is a product of major adaptive radiation in hominoid evolution.
Dart illustrates this matter by statistically examining bone material recovered from Makapansgat as direct evidence of osteodontokeratic tool industry. Dart points out that these bony materials contain systematic characteristics, which include spiral fracturing, rounded edges, smoothness and polish of the surface, as well as long bones of which the proximal epiphyses are lacking in or have heavily damaged tips and sharp edges. Which indeed as suggested by Dart advocates characteristics prescribing dexterity and usefulness for particular activities. Dart further suggested that because bony remains of Australopithecinae were excavated from this cave site, the Australopithecinae themselves were the inhabitants of the cave site, thus were the manipulators of the discarded “bone tools.” Further concluding that because of the selectivity of the bony remains, the Australopithecinae systematically “selected” the most fitting “species,” thus the most suitable “bones” for the use of tools, resulting in a “bone culture” or “osteodontokeratic culture.” Wolberg introduces the possibility of re-examining Dart’s evidence by introducing new approaches such as “Brain’s (1967b, 1969) work on the differential accumulation of bone material and Kitching’s (1963) detailed analysis of an osteodontokeratic assemblage from Mousterian times in England” (35), proposing that these new approaches will allow a new look on the subject at hand.
Although a few agree with Wolberg’s suggestion of re-examining Dart’s evidence in conjunction with other approaches, others, argue that the so-called “handmade” characteristics located on the bony remains, are simply the product of natural causes. Stating that the reason for the “accumulation at Makapansgat including the australopithecinae remains, were indeed the result of the activity of carnivores,” (25) such as hyenas. In addition others stated that the australopithecinae were the hunted and not the hunters based on the evidence provided by Dart, acknowledging that Dart’s claims are simply a direct result of Dart going beyond the limits of his own evidence.
PAMELA B. BELL Southern Illinois University Carbondale (Jonathan D. Hill)