Current Anthropology 1975
Arnold, Dean. Ceramic Ecology of the Ayacucho Basin, Peru: Implications for Prehistory. Current Anthropology June, 1975 Vol. 16(2)183-205.
Ceramics have been used in a variety of different ways to help interpret what life was like in ancient civilizations. In the Ayacucho basin in Peru Arnold believes ceramics are the key to learning about its previous inhabitants, the Huari. He asserts that ethnographic research on ethno-ecology will unearth important factors that effected ceramic production, and caused the development into fulltime ceramic specialization. In the ethnographic portion of the article Arnold focuses on the Quinua villagers and their interaction with the environment.
Detailed ecological maps and charts become the focus of much of the article. He highlights the similar seasons and amount of precipitation for both areas, focusing on the types of clay that would be available in such climates, as well as the amount of agriculture such land could sustain. After illustrating that the Quinua and the Huari lived in comparable ecological conditions, Arthur states that similar systems of economy would have arisen. Due to the extreme wet and dry seasons, agriculture would only have been profitable half of the year, leaving the settlers in need of an income during the dry months. However, due to the ecological lay out of the area clay types are available. In ethnographic research Arthur found that the Quinua use this clay to gain income during their dry season. He believes that the manufacturing of ceramics in this manner could be very similar to the subsistence methods used by the Huari in prehistoric times.
COMMENTS: The comments attached to the article are overwhelmingly positive and complimentary. Hailed as creative and an ‘excellent example of ecological archaeology’ (B.K. Chatterjee), with some commentators going so far as to thank the author for such an interesting report. Regardless of the marked appreciation, there were still numerous questions regarding the Huari and available facts.
REPLY: Arnold briefly replied once to restate his main point when he felt that one commentator seemed to confuse ecological relationships with ecological determinism.
KRISTEN VENZKE University of Minnesota Duluth (Jennifer Jones)
Barkow, Jerome H. Prestige and Culture: A Biosocial Interpretation. Current Anthropology 1975 Vol. 16 No. 4 553-572.
The human elements of self-esteem and seeking prestige are compared to the non-human primate behavior of social dominance. Barkow proposes that through natural selection social dominance has become the self-esteem and prestige of humans. A biosocial analysis of self-esteem and prestige need to be in context with biosocial analysis of other primate behavior.
Male nonhuman primate social dominance for food and females has been replaced in humans with a social order of prestige. Prestige and self-esteem are seen as biological imperatives. Prestige can come from an individual or a group. The individual or group that provides prestige does not need to be physically present, as in the example of gods or ancestors. More often relation to a group is for the purpose of attaining prestige through membership. Individuals seek to increase their self-esteem through prestige as a result of their socialization. When prestige is not fulfilled, humans rationalize to protect their self-esteem. Another mechanism to deal with lack of prestige is “introjection”; in this case individuals or groups identify with people at a higher prestige level. An example given is of concentration camp prisoners imitating the guards to devalue their level of prestige.
Barkow also describes traditional societies where prestige and self-esteem are used to promote a way of life. For example, in a pastoral society large herds bring prestige. Likewise in a hunting society being a successful hunter brings prestige. These systems are vulnerable to the influence of newcomers with different ideas of prestige.
COMMENTS: Overall comments to Barkow’s article were positive. The article was described as “provocative” and “well-informed”. Several comments stated that prestige is variable and that what is prestigious at a given time can change. One concern was the view that Barkow oversimplified the situation by making self-esteem, prestige, and evaluating the self as above others as equal to each other.
LILA E. KAHMANN University of Minnesota Duluth (Jennifer Jones)
Bellwood, Peter. The Prehistory of Oceania. Current Anthropology March, 1975 Vol.16(1):9-28.
Peter Bellwood’s article is a broad summary of Oceanic history, drawn from the archaeological, physical, linguistic, ethnological, and ethnobotanical research of many other people. The article emphasizes that many sub-disciplines of anthropology must be used to understand the movement of people and the history of cultures in prehistoric Oceania.
The author first shortly discusses the migration of people throughout the islands which make up Micronesia, Melanesia, Polynesia, and Australia. He uses genetic studies to look at genetic and phenotypic similarities and differences from present inhabitants to explain how the Australoid people of Indonesia moved to Australia over 30,000 years ago and later settled the other regions of Oceania. Bellwood relates these people to the cultures of the ethnographic present, briefly describing various social structures, subsistence economies, technologies, and languages used on the islands now and in the past. The large number of languages suggests an origin of at least 5,000 years and he ties linguistic splits to genetic relationships and resettlements.
To relate the prehistory of specific areas such as New Guinea, Micronesia, Western Melanesia, and Easter Island, Bellwood mainly looks at archaeological evidence. This includes a chronology of Lapita pottery, which he sees as being produced and spread by groups of Australian seafaring traders. He describes contemporary pottery wares, which have similar decoration to the Lapita pottery, but also paddle impressed, incised, and appliqué decoration, characteristic of each native island. He also touches on the use of other prehistoric artifacts, such as shell adzes, fishing implements, stone pillars, tools, and grinding stones.
COMMENTS: In general, his contemporaries who reviewed this article praise him for his ability to summarize the complex details know about the area in a short space. However, many do have precise arguments concerning some of his interpretations of data such as his pottery classification, voyaging technology, and settlement patterns in Oceania. Others point out that recent archaeological work has brought about new evidence that would change some of his conclusions in the article. Overall, most wrote that it was a good introduction to the known prehistory of the region.
REPLY: Bellwood’s reply includes new discoveries and hypotheses that he was aware might change or support his article. He addresses some of his critics, but does not change many of his view points which they see as problems in his paper concerning chronology and social structure, for instance. For some problems, such as his brief discussion of Micronesia, he apologizes. He also replies to those critics with whom he agrees.
HEATHER KENNELLY University of Minnesota Duluth (Jennifer Jones)
Douglass, William. Issues in the Study of South Italian Society. Current Anthropology, (Dec., 1975) Vol.16 (4): 620-625
Douglass gives his opinions on the strengths and weaknesses on studies of South Italian society done by two social anthropologists. Brogger, J did research in the village of Aspromonte in Montevarese and Davis did research in the village of Pistici in Basilicata. Their fieldwork questions were very similar with a focus on peasant life, the relationship between land tenure and family organization, and marriage as an integral institutional linkage.
Douglass feels that anthropologists must be willing to spend time in the library as well as in the field in order to obtain sufficient and accurate information. He sees this as a strength in Davis’s work and a weakness in Brogger’s work. Davis uses archival- based research to show that property exchange of commodities and land at marriage has occurred for the past 150 years parallel with the many different types of the local economy. Brogger uses information based on three case histories to show the relationship between land tenure and family organization.
COMMENTS: Jan Brogger disagrees with Douglass’s emphasis on data from the archives and records.
REPLY: Brogger states that his findings were similar to Davis’s with regard to the property exchange so not using archival data did not have an effect on his research.
JAMILA GAIDI University of Minnesota Duluth (Jennifer Jones)
Freilich, Morris. Myth, Method, and Madness. Current Anthropology June, 1975 Vol. 16 (2): 207-229.
In this article, the Levi-Straussian structural analysis of myth, called “non-sense-in-myth,” is tested by Freilich with the story of “Adam and Eve.” He seeks to show the ability of this method to find the message in myth, which is often buried in “non-sense” details. The messages can then be compared with others throughout the world to find cross-cultural similarities.
Freilich begins his article with a discussion of the difficulties in and the strategies for myth analysis. He follows with a lengthy use of the method, analyzing the text from Genesis. Through the story, he separated which concepts he thought were part of the message and which are added to the story and are not central to the meaning. Freilich admitted that there are still many obstacles to developing structural analysis, but he stated the method can find similarities in the messages of myths cross-culturally.
COMMENTS: The comments critiqued various assumptions and interpretations made by Freilich. One critic disagreed with his interpretation of Genesis, and several others found the article more a theological study than anthropological myth analysis. One reviewer was thoroughly satisfied with Freilich’s analysis and agreed that structural analysis of myth is especially important for anthropology.
REPLY: He replied by emphasizing that his attempt to analyze the “Adam and Eve” story was based on his understanding of the method. He added that structural analysis of myth was a promising approach, but needed more effort and thinking than he had time to give.
EMMA BISSONETT University of Minnesota Duluth (Jennifer Jones)
Gellner, Ernest. The Soviet and the Savage. American Anthropologist. December, 1975 Vol.16(4):595-617.
Gellner’s article details the differences between the British and Soviet anthropology. The Soviet ethnographer, the term used in Russia instead of anthropologist, is not separated from the archaeologist or historian. British and Soviet anthropologists study of social structure and use Marxism.
Gellner explains in depth the use of Marxism in both worlds and the problems within Soviet anthropology. Gellner argues that Marxism in Soviet anthropology is not functionalist like it is in British anthropology. The Soviet anthropologists use an evolutionary approach to studying societies. Among the many problems that Soviet anthropologist face, is how to apply the Marxist typology and how to define the different stages of the typology. Soviet anthropologists are well aware of the benefits and problems associated with the Marxist typology and are improving and refining their use of the typology.
COMMENTS: Some of the scholars commented on the lack of information provided in the article about the current work and theoretical concerns of the Soviet ethnographers. Others comment on his correctness in reflecting the real situation in Soviet ethnography. One scholar commented on his objection to the title in that the word ‘Soviet’ cannot refer to individual human beings. Many of the comments surround differences in opinion of the problems with the Marxist typology.
REPLY: Gellner recognizes the faults within the article but confidently thinks that he succeeded in laying out the basic framework of the Soviet ethnographer and the main issues facing Soviet anthropologists.
KATHERINE ARNDT University of Minnesota Duluth (Jennifer Jones)
Gjessing, Gutorm. Socio-archaeology. Current Anthropology January 1975, Vol. 16(3) 323-341.
Gutorm begins this article with an introduction of socio-archaeological reconstruction, and then explains each aspect of the process, which are environment, estimating populations, reconstructing trade patterns, and occupational specialization.
The introduction stresses that we need to look at archaeology as one of a number of sciences in a broad pattern of disciplines that all are needed to reconstruct a society. Analysis must start from the whole, or from the complex which is comparable with the ethnic group, and must explain and reconstruct the ways in which prehistoric peoples arranged their lives.
V. Gordon Childe is considered the pioneer of socio-archaeology, and some of his most important contributions to the field were his theories about the food production revolution, the urban revolution, and the idea of studying currently surviving cultures and how they value materials. Archaeologists must realize they deal with the concrete evidence of not only ancient peoples existence, but also their beliefs, institutions, and behavior, however fragmented.
The ecosystem of an area is usually relatively easy to determine by using paleo-geology, refuse and tools. It is important to study the ecosystem to determine what parts of the environment that the society used and how they were used. Gjessing stresses the importance of water to human societies, and also notes that the consumption of fruits and vegetables were probably much higher that previously thought due to the lack of preservation of organic matter.
The number of fire pits in a settlement is used to estimate the number of families in the area because each family would require at least one fire pit. He uses a few examples of how excavations on several sites in Europe provide good examples of how to accurately estimate population size, although they are financially difficult and time consuming. He believes that technological development only occurred when the ecosystem changed and forced a shift in innovation. He states that the originally affluent societies took only what they needed from the environment and no more. Some goods were traded over great distances and Gjessing gives a few examples of items in the archaeological record that crossed thousands of miles, including walrus tusks found in southeast China, and a 7th century bronze Buddha figurine found in Norway.
Occupational specialization has its roots in the Paleolithic, but he cautions that they were not “full-time” specialists, and that they also participated in the hunting/gathering of food. He states that if technological change is unnecessary in the affluent society, then social change is as well. Sociopolitical research has mostly focused on the rich and Gjessing states that in the postwar period, an increased amount of emphasis has been placed on the common people and the lower and middle classes. He gives three case examples of studies that have taken place where there was a clear division of classes; Great Zimbabwe, Norwegians and the Saamish, and Honan, China.
Gjessing spends several pages on a case study of northern Norwegians, who, he asserts, were very closely tied to the sea, and used tools of antler and bone. He states that not much can be told about their sociology or culture, and that most information is extracted from the present conditions of the peoples living there. He also spends a great amount of time describing the size and dimensions of the structures that have been excavated there.
COMMENTS:: In the comments section, most of the critiques found the ideas that he postulated very favorable, and those that criticized it said that he had a lack of basic knowledge in the field of “new archaeology.” One commentator said the article left him confused.
REPLY: Gjessing replied to the comments with agreement that he indeed has very little knowledge of new archaeology, but he defends himself by asserting that all we are dealing with are hypothesis.
JAKE ANDERS University of Minnesota Duluth (Jennifer Jones)
Gregory, James. Image of Limited Good, or Expectation of Reciprocity? Current Anthropology, (March., 1975) Vol. 16 (1) : 73-92.
Gregory’s paper offered an alternative to Foster’s idea of ‘the limited good’ which stated, peasants behave like there is a shortage of good things including love, land, wealth, respect. Under Foster’s theory they have a fixed amount of economic and emotional commodities like friendship and do not have the power to get more. Gregory’s alternative is called expectations of circumstantial balanced reciprocity or (ECBR), which states that those who have more should share with those who have less. Gregory based his research on Mopan Maya Indian village of San Antonio in southern Belize.
Prior to the 1930’s the Mopan reservation was isolated from nearby cities, and they continued to live a traditional life. Their isolation was broken by the construction of a road that connected San Antonio and the costal town of Punta Gorda. Some villagers started businesses and traded goods within the city for profit but, the majority still focused on a traditional way of life.
Sharing was a major part of Mopan life and occurred as balanced reciprocity, generalized reciprocity, and market exchange. Fiesta sponsorship was one way that rich men shared their wealth with the community. The younger generation of men did not want to sponsor the fiesta, because they wanted to accumulate money and keep it for themselves. ECBR occurs in many forms of wealth including money and education. Gregory, for example, was considered a big man and the Mopan felt he was obligated to help them because he was educated. Villagers also thought the government was obligated to help them because it had more wealth than the Mopan.
COMMENTS: The comments ranged from the idea that the two concepts complement each other, to the criticism that both ECBR and limited good did not serve justice to peasant life and reciprocity in general. The most common comment was that the image of limited good and ECBR could be used to define more than just peasants, for example, any population that is oppressed in the world.
REPLY: Gregory replies, that the Mopan are slowly leaving the traditional ECBR and are moving to a more ‘every man for himself’ attitude. It is becoming more common for younger men to make the bulk of their money outside the village. The young men still experience some disapproval for not sharing, but this is not a major cultural way of surviving anymore. Gregory agrees that ECBR and limited good are similar in many aspects, and he did not devote more space to Foster’s idea or the ideas of other critics because his research was based the Mopan.
JAMILA GAIDI University of Minnesota Duluth (Jennifer Jones)
Jonas, David and Doris Jonas. Gender Differences in Mental Functions: A Clue to the Origin of Language. Current Anthropology, (Dec.,1975) Vol. 16 (4) : 626-630.
This article assumes that evolutionary transition stages towards language exist from primate ‘language’ to human language. There are key differences between the male and female brain which contribute to evolutionary differences.
There is visible evidence in the human body that can tell us important evolutionary information in regards to the formation of language. If you trace the evolutionary development of speech it will show you that humans and animals only develop the organs that they need to survive. When those organs do not serve their main purpose they stay dormant or take on other functions. For example, humans no longer use the larynx for its original function to let air into the lungs and keep other objects out but, this is still a function important for primates. With the diminishing importance of the larynx’s original function in humans it has moved farther down the throat making it possible for us to make a larger number of sounds compared to primates.
The author highlights research that shows different mental capabilities in the brain functions of males and females. For example, girls excel in language and boys excel in viso-spatial abilities, differences which are due to the cerebral organization of their brains. During the development of the brain, boys are at a greater risk of brain damage because their brain matures at a slower rate than girls. The author speculates that since girls excel in skills from the dominant hemisphere of the brain, this might be related to reproduction.
The authors believe that language evolved from mother infant communication, rather than from sounds used by males who were hunting cooperatively. They believe silent communication would be more productive for hunting. They also believe that because human females need to hold their child with one arm and use the other to perform other activities, females might have needed and developed tools. Since one arm was carrying a baby, this might have promoted functional specialization of the left hemisphere of the brain.
JAMILA GAIDI University of Minnesota Duluth (Jennifer Jones)
Keith-Ross, Jennie. Social Boundaries: Definitions of Diversity. Current Anthropology March, 1975 Vol. 16 Issue 1: 53-72.
Jennie Keith-Ross makes the case that since anthropologists are studying things which have not been studied before; new definitions for what constitutes the boundaries between groups need to be constructed. There are four categories she devises: categories, collectives, intense contacts and formal associations. She proceeds to explain how a group might evolve through these stages, from a loose-knit cluster that only featured a couple of minor, broad characteristics, such as height or nationality, to a highly organized group with set boundaries. Several paragraphs are then dedicated to defining these boundaries, both from the outsider’s perspective and the insider’s. Her use of examples, ranging from those found in American society, such as AARP to a local women’s club, to those found in other countries, such as warrior societies in African countries and Untouchables in Hindu caste system, does a fair job of explaining what she means by each stage and type of group. In the next section she classifies different responses to these boundaries, if they are negative or positive, and what sort of response this will generate from the group and the people outside the group. These range from emphasis to rejection.
COMMENTS: There are eight pages of writing about the piece and they range from approving (“They should initially best be appreciated for their heuristic value.”-Frank Bessac) and agreeing that yes, this is a valuable way to view social boundaries. Others criticize her research and data (“The great amount of work was useless because she brings nothing to the understanding of social boundaries.”-Burchard Brentjes), or, to use one of her descriptions, “evoked the same range of responses that the three bear’s porridges got from Goldilocks: [X] thinks there’s not enough phenomenology, [Y] thinks there is too much and [Z] think it’s just right.” Some are confusing and make very little sense, others do a good job of raising points they feel the piece neglects or go against their way of thought.
REPLY: She spends the last two pages responding to their concerns, and this is divided into two sections, since the criticisms mostly fell into two distinct categories. These she addresses first on a broader level, then on an individual one.
CLARITY: 3 for the article, 2 for the comments
SARAH NISKANEN University of Minnesota Duluth (Jennifer Jones)
McAlpin, David. Elamite and Dravidian: Further Evidence of Relationship. Current Anthropology March, 1975 Vol.16(1):105-115.
McAlpin’s detailed study complements the existing linguist hypothesis that Elamite is a cognate of the Dravidian language family. McAlpin incorporates R.T. Hallock’s The Alcheamid Elamite (AE) Glossary and P.S. Surbrahmanyan’s work Dravidian Verb Morphology into his study and concludes that Elamite and Dravidian were cognates because they share many root words and morphemes. The author closes by mentioning that the study of Dravidian language is only in the beginning stages and he hopes his research will entice others to further develop his hypothesis.
Elamite is the major language of ancient West Asia, while Dravidian was a language family from Southern Asia. Elamite exists in different versions, the most important of these being Alchaemenid Elamite (AE) followed by Middle Alchaemenid (ME). AE was the ancient language of bureaucracy in the Alchaemenid Persian Empire and bilingual texts in AE and Old Persian still exist. McAlpin compares AE to Dravidian because of the lack of written ME text.
McAlpin hypothesizes that AE/ME or Dravidian and Elamite are descendents of a common ancestral language, possibly a version of Proto-Dravidian. McAlpin compares ancient Elamite and Dravidian through lexical and verbal samples. Based on the Elamite Glossary, McAlpin removed all words borrowed from other languages and personal names, to reveal 270 “pure” lexical items, generally verb stems. Twenty-five percent of the Elamite verb stems had strong phonological similarities with items in the Dravidian language. Words with no clear connection to Dravidian were fifty percent of the total, and twelve percent have doubtful links with Dravidian. McAlpin states that many phonological parallels exist between the two languages and are further proof that they are cognates. McAlpin also describes similarities between the two basic tenses of both languages.
COMMENTS: Comments by scholars include various insights into the ongoing research on the relationships between Dravidian and Elamite. Some commentary suggests that McAlpin’s findings are not fully established. McAlpin is praised for producing a concrete starting point for further research into the relationship between the two cognate languages.
REPLY: In his reply McAlpin reiterates that limited resources exist on the topic and stresses that further research will provide a more detailed picture.
LEAH HAUGE University of Minnesota Duluth (Jennifer Jones)
Mendez-Dominguez, Alfredo. Big and Little Traditions in Guatemalan Anthropology. Current Anthropology December, 1975 Vol.16(4):541-552.
In this article, Mendez-Dominguez argues that Guatemalan anthropology is separated into a big tradition and a little tradition. The former is what he calls the mass of anthropological studies that have been conducted by foreigners, mostly from America and Europe, and the latter refers to the studies that have been conducted by national researchers. He notes that members of one tradition tend to dismiss the findings from the other, but hopes to reconcile the two groups by openly studying their differences and similarities.
The author examines the work of national researchers in relation to the work of Sol Tax, an American anthropologist who represents the big tradition. Focusing on the often-overlooked little tradition, he compares the way the two traditions define the people being studied, classify social units, and measure change.
In considering these three subjects, Mendez-Dominguez reveals a general but important characteristic about the little tradition. Studying within their own country, national researchers are unlikely to be impartial or gather true objective data. As a result, they tend to emphasize an inside view and subjective aspects. The author provides a partial solution to the problem of subjectivity; he suggests that instead of studying the individual views, the diversity of views should itself be the subject of study.
COMMENTS: Critics of this article believe that there have not yet been enough studies conducted by Guatemalan researchers to adequately use the term ‘tradition.’ They also believe that it was a mistake to limit the discussion of the big tradition to Tax’s work. One critic also says the article is “geared toward big words rather than social reality.”
REPLY: Mendez-Dominguez replies that, on the national level, ‘tradition’ is meant only in a limited sense. He also points out that Tax’s work was uniquely important, and that other big tradition researchers went beyond the scope of the article.
LEAH TACHENY University of Minnesota Duluth (Jennifer Jones)
Nag, Moni. Population Anthropologists at Work. Current Anthropology, (Jun., 1975) Vol. 16 (2): 264-266.
This paper describes the increase in international population studies done by anthropologists since the conference on “Anthropology and Social Problems” held in Chicago in May 1971. Examples of conferences related to population issues and family planning include a Population Commission that was approved by the Permanent Council of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Science in September 1973, the Oshkosh conference in 1973, and the Bucharest, Romania conference in 1974.
JAMILA GAIDI University of Minnesota Duluth (Jennifer Jones)
Petersen, William. A Demographer’s View of Prehistoric Demography. Current Anthropology June, 1975 Vol.16 (2) 227-245
Estimating the population of prehistoric peoples has been a prevalent problem for many ethnographers, anthropologists and demographers. In this lengthy article, Petersen discusses how to use techniques available to demographers to judge the validity of archaeological estimates of population size. He discusses the use of ethnographic analogy but eventually concludes ethnographic analogy alone is not sufficient to construct prehistoric demography because it lacks reliable numbers.
The majority of his article is a discussion of demographic estimates, including what actually forms a population, how the size of a population is calculated, natural increases in a population, mortality, fertility, depopulation and migration. The articles is filled with examples of studies that Petersen feels were close to being correct but were missing one or two key factors.
While information on prehistoric population size is too unreliable to use on its own, there are other tools that may be used to assist in the calculation and description of prehistoric peoples. Petersen cautions that the tools can distort results very easily. He believes that conscious control of population size was widely practiced by a variety of methods, that sedentary life caused an increase in fertility, and that the age of death fluxuated for different groups. He ends his article by asserting that in the coming decades, we will develop many more accurate techniques for analyzing the demography of prehistoric populations.
COMMENTS: In the comments section, the letters seemed to be evenly split between those that agreed with Petersen’s assertions, and those that thought he was merely looking at archaeology from a demographer’s viewpoint and had little knowledge of archaeology. One comment however, offered a question not covered by Petersen: What was the role of religion in population control?
REPLY: The reply from Petersen is very respectful in response to the assertions made by the commentators, and he even addresses the question posed about religious superstitions and population control.
JAKE ANDERS University of Minnesota Duluth (Jennifer Jones)
Read, Dwight W. and Catherine E. Read-Martin. Australopithecine Scavenging and Human Evolution: An Approach from Faunal Analysis. Current Anthropology, September, 1975 Vol.16(3):359-368.
In their article, Dwight W. Read and Catherine E. Read-Martin argue that faunal analysis is useful for determining the behavioral patterns of australopithecines from South Africa. The authors begin by exploring the advantages and limitations of faunal analysis. They admit that the study of animal remains does not completely reflect the diet or environment of past groups, but maintain that, when properly conducted, it can reveal much about patterns of subsistence. To ensure that studies of faunal assemblages are somewhat systematic, they propose a series of general propositions about the relationship between patterns of fauna and of culture.
In an attempt to illustrate the value of faunal analysis, the authors analyzed the Makapansgrat faunal assemblage from South Africa, where the distribution and types of animal remains was considered quite unusual. The authors proposed three hypotheses to account for this variance, but found considerable support for just one: the Makapansgrat australopithecines were primarily scavengers rather than hunters.
Read and Read-Martin go on to suggest that scavenging may have been a significant impetus for the development of bipedalism. They cite the need to cover large areas and the need to carry animal remains or plant foods as sources of pressure for adopting a two-legged posture. The authors suggest that hunting would have become a primary means of subsistence only when bipedalism progressed into an advanced stage.
COMMENTS: Critics point out the need for additional lines of research to test the arguments presented. They claim, for example, that faunal remains alone don’t accurately reflect the food eaten by a group because they are subject to natural modifications. Several critics mention that the study would benefit from comparisons to assemblages of known scavengers and the scavenging habits of nonhuman animals.
REPLY: The authors respond by reminding the readers that the article is not meant to be a study about the habits of australopithecines, but a demonstration of the merits of faunal analysis. They admit that faunal remains are often modified by natural processes, but point out that all archeological data are subject to the same criticism and shouldn’t be disregarded because of it.
LEAH TACHENY University of Minnesota Duluth (Jennifer Jones)
Sheets, Payson D. Behavioral Analysis and the Structure of a Prehistoric Industry. Current Anthropology Sept, 1975 Vol.16(3):369-391.
Sheets presents a behavioral classification scheme for chipped-stone tool industries. This model is illustrated by chipped-stone data from El Salvador, Central America. Basic principles of classification are explored, as well as a theoretical framework for behavioral classification. An overview and history of common lithic classification objectives is discussed to offer the reader a basis for distinction.
The common classifications follow on or more of these objectives: “to simplify description, to ascertain ethnic affiliation, to isolate chronological indicators, to determine the nature of social ranking, to investigate idiosyncratic patterns, to identify external cultural influence, to understand the functions of tools, and to explicate the structure of an industry via technology.” Sheets claims that that this last objective is fundamentally a behavioral study. A technological analysis would be a natural, or inherent, classification because the boundary between two analytic categories reflects a qualitative change in the behavior of the artisans in manufacture.
He claims that lithic industries are better suited for this type of classification than ceramics or other industries. The argument is that chipped-stone industry is fundamentally a subtractive one, and that the artisans require more planning. If that planning is translated into behavioral reduction strategies and recorded on the products and wastage of the industry, than it would be inherent, and the primary focus of this technological analysis.
Short mention is made of the role of behaviorism vs. mentalism in typology. Sheets believes that mentalism is missing the point and says that, “We should classify people by what they did, not what they thought, and particularly not what we think they thought.” The data used to demonstrate the behavioral model is from the pre-Columbian Southeastern Mayan highlands. The lithic analysis focuses on stages of production, from core to tool, by looking at the behavior of the artisans.
COMMENTS: Marcus Winter questioned at whether this classification is actually inherent, and Chatterjee claims that it “lacks clarity of exposition.” Scott Cook says that Sheets should incorporate the Marxist intellectual tradition. Richard Forbis refutes the degree of importance of lithic data says focus should move elsewhere. Some critics merely wanted to here more about the obsidian industry that Sheets highlighted.
REPLY: Sheets’ reply reaffirms the importance of his behavioral classification and particularly the significance of lithic data. He does not respond to anyone that had problems with the clarity of the paper. He acknowledges the requests for more information on obsidian tool industries and directs his readers toward more information in that area.
STEFAN LIWINCZUK University of Minnesota Duluth (Jennifer Jones)
Strauss, David J. et al. Mighty Sifts: A Critical Appraisal of Solutions to Galton’s Problem and a Partial Solution. Current Anthropology December 1975 Vol. 16(4)pp. 573-594
The author sets out to identify problems with the different approaches to solving Galton’s Problem, and shows the reader another solution, the Cluster-Reductionary method, while providing empirical evidence to support this theory.
Galton’s Problem is a statistical dilemma that comes from the historical connectivity of societies that renders statistically independent variables impossible. Without being able to accurately denote unique societies due to diffusion, migration and societal fission, it becomes impossible to have a standard sample size for the societies being studied and the result are problems of exogamous replication, where the researcher ends up with an image that only reflects the society being studied and is useless in determining social constants or in achieving the goal of making generalizations about human societies in comparison to one another over time and space.
Strauss breaks down his opponents’ arguments, pointing out that there are major flaws logically and in terms of statistical errors in how the data is divided and how they each deal with Galton’s Problem by trying to eliminate exogamous replication.
Of the seven solutions that have been offered to Galton’s Problem, three suffer from “systematic sift fallacy,” where a sample of societies is produced by thinning out a list in order of cultural interconnection by taking every nth society or using a fixed interval. Strauss argues that such a solution only yields an unbiased representation of the original cultures from which it was drawn and cannot be used to make generalizations about all cultures.
Strauss demonstrates through more graphs and statistical writing that his predecessors have all disregarded the failings of their respective methods, and he concludes by giving a partial solution to Galton’s Problem in his own “Cluster-Reduction Method” that focuses on dividing cultures using a periodic space/time sifting method.
COMMENTS: Many pages of comments focused on whether or not it was still pertinent to deal with Galton’s problem, with some arguing that there is no reason for researchers to focus so greatly on finding pristine cultures to compare, and others arguing that exogamous replication has not been proven to actually weight the results of cultural studies in a negative way. All but a few reviewers mentioned the difficulty they had with following Strauss’s writing because it was so technical.
BRIAN BLAKELY University of Minnesota Duluth (Jennifer Jones)
Valentine, Charles A. and Bettylou Valentine. Brain Damage and the Intellectual Defense of Inequality. Current Anthropology March, 1975 Vol.16:117-150.
This paper was written in response to a request by Ashley Montagu that the authors comment in print on his discussion of “sociogenic brain damage” (SBD). The essay addresses the issues of nutritional deprivation and “sociogenic brain damage”, psychological impoverishment and brain damage, the equality debate, alternative understandings of inequality and group differences, and expert apologetics for oppression. The authors base their opinions primarily on their five years of ethnographic research in an unspecified urban Afro-American community.
The Valentines confront the issue of human sciences working to perpetuate inequality and try to open up a debate on the subject. The authors believe that different theories on human development such as biological determinism and environmentalism are nothing more than rationalizations for the status quo.
The essay is especially concerned with contemporary theories resulting from what the authors feel are broad generalizations regarding “low-status” groups, particularly the idea that poor people as a whole suffer from nutritional deficiencies that cause organic damage and dysfunction of the central nervous system. The authors hope to stop prejudice and oppression against the poor by addressing what they believe are inaccurate, yet popular beliefs about low-status groups.
COMMENTS: The article is concluded with comments on the paper by several scholars from Canada, France, Mexico, and the United States. Most of the comments praise the ideas that the Valentines are presenting, but are critical of the steps (or lack thereof) that the Valentines suggest for making their ideas reality.
REPLY: The Valentines respond to the comments by welcoming constructive criticism. They acknowledge that their subject of study is highly politicized and note that change towards equality does not need to involve suffering as long as all parties involved in the change refrain from using violence.
AMANDA LYNN JOHNSON University of Minnesota Duluth (Jennifer Jones)
Wallace, John A. Did La Ferrassie I Use His Teeth as a Tool? Current Anthropology September, 1975 Vol.16(3):393-401.
In this brief article Wallace contradicts C. Loring Braces hypothesis that there is a causal relationship between incisor rounding and tool use for Neanderthals. Wallace suggests that incisor rounding was caused by abrasives in the diet of Neanderthal. Thus, he provides evidence he has observed against Brace’s hypotheses to show that La Ferrassie I had rounded incisors due to the teeth coming into contact with abrasives in the diet.
Wallace explains that the modern groups, as well as Neanderthals had rounded incisors. He uses evidence from the Raymond A. Dart Skeletal Collection in the Department of Anatomy at Witwatersrand University. Under a binocular microscope, the author asserts that one American Indian and four Bushmen also had rounded teeth and fine scratches indicating that the enamel and dentine were rounded due to tiny, hard dietary grit in the food that these Homo Sapiens ate.
The author also explains that he has examined Bushman dental casts collected by Van Reenen. Reenen observed that often, the upper and lower incisors and canines do not come together when the mandible is fully closed; this is called an anterior open bite. Wallace found that individuals with rounded incisors also had an open bite and identified this open bite in the American Indian and Bushman skulls as well. He determines that the open bite was “almost certainly” due to contact with abrasives in the diet causing the incisors to be worn down and thus, unable to have “contact with one another when the mandible is fully elevated”.
COMMENTS: Many of the commentators challenge the hypothesis that La Ferrassie I has rounded incisors due to abrasives in the diet. One commentator in particular, states that we need to look at biological, physical and cultural determinants in deciding why incisors were rounded. Brace says he had not ignored the fact that it was probable the front teeth were used in food processing. The incisors were used to hold the food in place as the hominid used a knife to cut the food. Another commentator disagrees with both Wallace’s and Brace’s hypotheses and argues that we need to conduct much wider investigations on this matter. Other commentators said that the casts that Wallace viewed were not complete and that his argument too simplistically excludes using the teeth as a tool completely. One commentator agrees completely with Wallace that Brace’s argument has no logical foundation.
REPLY: Wallace responds that many people use their teeth as a tool and that a person’s incisors are a multi-purpose tool. However, he states that using teeth as a tool is not the hypothesis he is testing. He is rebutting Brace’s hypothesis that Neanderthals habitually used their teeth as tool. Wallace suggests the dispute between he and Brace is based on the type of evidence used to support or denial of each hypothesis. Wallace maintains his stance that Brace provides no evidence for his hypothesis. Wallace explains that the evidence he presents is testable and that his hypothesis is falsifiable.
LAURIE SCHMITZ University of Minnesota Duluth (Jennifer Jones)
Watson-Franke, Maria-Babara and Lawrence C. Watson. Understanding in Anthropology: A Philosophical Reminder. Current Anthropology June, 1975 Vol.16(2):247-262.
Watson-Franke and Watson reflect on the purpose of anthropology from a philosophical standpoint. They affirm that anthropology is a tool to describe and explain culture and stress the importance of studying a culture within its context, following Malinowski’s principles of participant observation. Understanding is the basic element of human interaction; the interpretation of cultures has always been a significant challenge. Hermeneutical principles provide a means for interpretation of cultures.
Hermeneutics is defined as the process of bringing a thing or situation from unintelligibility into understanding, through interpretation. The principles of hermeneutics began with interpretation of biblical texts and development of general hermeneutics philosophy is accredited to the German theologian, Friedrich D. Schleirmacher (1778-1834). Anthropologists have paid little attention to the idea of hermeneutics despite the fact that the concepts embrace many of the problems faced by anthropologists today. The authors speculate that anthropologists may have overlooked these principles because of the evolutionist preoccupation of the 1700’s. Hermeneutics emphasizes a holistic interpretation of culture, which was not the anthropological focus in the late eighteenth century.
Hermeneutics is the idea that through studying archeological remains, written texts or other artifacts one can bring alive a lost culture through analysis and interpretation. Under a functionalist hermeneutical definition, culture is not simply a sum of its parts but is instead made of mutually interdependent meaningful units. Hermeneutical anthropology takes into account an anthropologist’s “pre-understandings,” or biases. Watson-Franke and Watson emphasize that researchers must be aware of their “pre-understandings” in order to begin to ask the right questions. The authors use a case study by Reichel-Dolmantoff entitled People of Aritama, to illustrate the use of hermeneutical principles. The case study incorporates archeological data, ethnohistory and contemporary ethnography to paint a picture of the present. Hermeneutics allowed Reichel-Dolmantoff to realize that “real” cultural situations are often different then the anticipated situations that exist in the anthropologist’s mind. The authors reject theoretical models, prefer a rich array of detailed description, and suggest that the real quest in anthropology is to seek the right questions not just correct answers.
COMMENTS: Comments by scholars include various references to Kroeber’s involvement in hermeneutical studies. Some commentary suggests that hermeneutics is far from being a precise set of rules and should not be viewed as a methodology. Watson-Franke and Watson are praised for reviving a neglected theory which many anthropologists view as applicable to ethnography.
REPLY: In their reply, Watson-Franke and Watson state the importance of hermeneutic principles when interpreting cultural realities. They explain that through the use of contextual analysis both the researchers and the informant’s views are taken into account. The use of hermeneutic philosophy can aid in defining problems that anthropologists face when unraveling cultural meanings.
LEAH HAUGE University of Minnesota Duluth (Jennifer Jones)
Wilson, Peter J; Grant McCall; W.R. Geddes; A.K. Mark; John E. Pfeiffer; James B. Boskey; Colin M. Turnbull. More Thoughts on the Ik and Anthropology. Current Anthropology September, 1975 Vol. 16:343-358.
This article is a series of comments by various anthropologists concerned with the debate occasioned by Colin Turnbull’s book The Mountain People. The discussion raises general questions about the accuracy and fairness of Turnbull’s description and interpretation of the lives of the Ik, a tribe from Northern Uganda.
The anthropologists who contributed to this article are concerned with what they felt was “disgust and hatred” displayed by Turnbull in his account of the Ik. The anthropologists present several examples of statements taken from The Mountain People that appear to contradict Turnbull’s interpretation of the Ik life. For example, Turnbull argues that the Ik have no sense of family or group identity and that the people exist only as individuals. The authors of this article then contradict that idea with quotes and examples from Turnbull’s own book.
Those involved in the debate are also concerned with Turnbull’s methods in the field. They question his decisions to enter a sacred Ik cave without being invited and question his ability to speak the language of the Ik. The authors are also disturbed by the lack of statistical data presented in the book. The contributing anthropologists appear to raise general questions regarding fieldwork that could apply to any fieldworker in any location. Overall, this article is highly critical of Turnbull’s book and has few positive things to say about the work.
REPLY: The discussion is concluded by a reply to the anthropologists by Turnbull himself, who says that dramatist Peter Brook, who produced a French stage version of The Mountain People, “while being no less critical… could be so infinitely more perceptive and constructive than some of my colleagues” (p. 357).
AMANDA LYNN JOHNSON University of Minnesota Duluth (Jennifer Jones)
Wood, Corinne Shear. New Evidence for a Late Introduction of Malaria into the New World. American Anthropologist Mar. 1975 Vol. 16(1): 93-104.
Wood used blood-types and “host selection tests” to support her theory that malaria was introduced to the New World after the Spanish Conquest. She concluded that mosquitoes land and draw blood from O blood-type people more than other blood-types and that Central and South American people have almost exclusively an O blood-type which enhances their chances of being bitten by mosquitoes which could carry malaria. With her human subjects she took into consideration “skin pigmentation, age, sex, skin temperature, degrees of subcutaneous fat, and relative nutritional status,” but found there to be no link of those variables to the likelihood of becoming a victim of malaria.
Wood also evaluated the possibility that malaria existed in the New World before its suggested Spanish introduction. Linguistics information supports the theory that malaria was present and perhaps “rampant” in prehistoric Asian populations. The pre-Spanish theory is also supported by pictures of mosquitoes on prehistoric pottery and with words from the Mayan language that translate as “malaise, headaches, chills, and fever.” However, Wood feels it was extremely unlikely that malaria would be able to survive within the small bands of people traveling from Asia to North America.
COMMENTS: The reviewers brought up several issues about her study including the fact that she opened up new doors to studying malaria’s introduction. Another says that she enhanced her theory by including her opposing theorists’ views within the article. Most of the comments were positive, but a few stated that there was room for improvement and malaria needed to be studied more fully before any conclusions could be made. One particular example some were concerned with was the probability of all indigenous peoples having O blood-types when there have been examples of the Blackfoot tribes and others living in the Andes mountains who have A or B blood-types.
REPLY: In Wood’s reply she responded directly to questions posed by the reviewers. She was forthright that she did not know how the mosquitoes knew what blood-type the humans had when landing on them. However, whenever possible she answered the questions she knew she could answer in a knowledgeable fashion.
BETTINA KEPPERS University of Minnesota Duluth (Jennifer Jones)
Wood, Corinne Shear. New Evidence for a Late Introduction of Malaria into the New World. Current Anthropology March, 1975 Vol. 16 (1): 93-103.
This article gives evidence to support a post-Conquest entrance of malaria into the New World. Malaria has been well documented for thousands of years throughout the Old World of Europe and Asia and is found in all major groups of terrestrial vertebrates. It has been the single biggest destroyer of human populations and 6.3% of the worlds population is subject to the threat of malaria. Today malaria is only found in humans and a few other animals in the New World. This finding and several other factors point to a late introduction of malaria into the New World.
When outbreaks of malaria happened after the Conquest the native healers did not know about or use quinine, which is found in native trees, and is the standard medicine to treat malaria. Since native healers had a large and widespread knowledge of medicinal plants to treat ailments and diseases native to their environment, this suggests that malaria may not have been around long enough to bring about the use of quinine as treatment.
Another factor is that there has been found to be a large proportion of people with O type blood in the New World. Mosquitoes, the carriers of malaria, feed off of O type blood more than any other, and the A and B blood groups have a natural advantage in fighting off malaria compared to type O. This fact has been observed in the Old World where malaria had been around possibly as long as one million years. This suggests that blood types A and B have been naturally selected over time because of malarial infection causing death to a higher proportion of O blood types. Since populations in the New World have a much greater proportion of O blood types compared to A and B blood types, this points to the possibility of a late introduction of malaria to the New World.
The research conducted for this article included the numbers of malarial infections throughout the Old World, death rates caused by malaria, proportions of blood types, and the evolutionary effects of malaria on certain blood types. Tests using mosquitoes and human subjects of different blood types were conducted, counting the numbers of landings and feedings of mosquitoes on human subjects. The data were compiled and statistically analyzed to find that landings and blood feedings of the type O blood groups were proportionately higher compared to A and B blood groups.
CHRISTIAN STAUM Southwest Missouri State (William Wedenoja)