Current Anthropology 1989
Algaze, Guillermo. The Uruk Expansion: Cross-Cultural Exchange in Early Mesopotamian Civilization. Current Anthropology December, 1989 Vol. 30(5): 571-608.
This article is about the expansion of Uruk settlements in the second half of the fourth millennium BC, and how these settlements were situated along major trade routes in Mesopotamia. These settlements are thought to have been located in and also controlled economic trade nodes throughout Mesopotamia. The Uruk expansion settlements are also believed to have been founded and developed primarily for economic reasons and not based solely on political reasons. Algaze focuses the article on how the core Uruk civilization depended on the periphery nodes to gain territory, economic goods and to receive tribute from these people. The periphery also supplied workers for the core and some were even taken as prisoners of war. Algaze uses numerous archaeological artifacts found at different sites in Mesopotamia to back his theory on the Uruk expansion. Uruk style pottery sherds, as well as accounting practices and architecture that follow Uruk styles and types are found at numerous archaeological sites in Mesopotamia. From these finds, Algaze can determine when these sites were thriving and what part they played in the Uruk expansion. It turns out that from the data collected that the periphery sites tells a very interesting story. With what has been found and where these sites are located, Algaze has come to the conclusion that these periphery settlements were not a true expansion of the Uruk civilization but just trading posts that were meant to control economic goods for Uruk. In order to gain control of these trade nodes, Uruk style architecture and rule were brought to these areas but they were never meant to become part of the true Uruk civilization, they were solely for the economic prosperity of Uruk. These periphery nodes were all located along major land trade routes that intersect with rivers. These economic nodes dot the landscape along both the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The charts and maps provided in the article are an excellent reference to support the author’s theory as well as giving the reader a reference point in which to further enhance their understanding of the article.
Except for the first two replies made to the article, the commentators generally accepted the article. The first two replies believed the article to be disappointing in research because it didn’t show enough support of the research question. Both found the author’s work to be promising but not as complete as the title suggests. The other replies from commentators found the article to be complete in research. Many believe that the article put to rest any doubts about the Uruk period in the history of Mesopotamian civilization (Kotter 1989). Most agree that Algaze presented the evidence of Uruk expansion and long distance trade in a logical manor and did a good job when presenting the Uruk material culture found at these sites as the primary evidence supporting his theory.
Algaze wrote his reply to the commentators from the field in Turkey so he just addressed the major issues that were brought to his attention and answered them in the broadest of ways. Algaze defended his work in his reply but was also open to the critique from the commentators. Algaze agreed that geographical work needed to be done more in the north and northwestern Mesopotamian periphery and was open to doing this work. Algaze thought that this would help to give the area a better archaeological understanding and to help solidify his theory on Uruk expansion.
ED BROWN The University of North Carolina at Charlotte (Janet Levy)
Cannon, Aubrey. The Historical Dimension in Mortuary Expressions of Status and Sentiment. Current Anthropology, Vol. 30, No. 4 (Aug. – Oct., 1989), 437-458.
In this historical analysis Cannon compares the mortuary practices of three different cultures over time. He uses case studies of England, from Victorian to modern age; Northeast Iroquoian, prehistory to modern age; and Greece, ancient to 400 B.C.
Mortuary patterns are in a class with dress fashions and are seen as a way to express status or status aspirations. Mortuary expressions go in cycles of increasing ostentation to subsequent restraint. These cycles are reflective of the continuous transformations of culture. New forms of expression are usually adopted first by the most influential members of society. As the expressions become common practice new innovations are developed so that upper level society will not lose its symbolic status.
Cannon presents good comparisons to make his points about culture. For example the English would neglect their families and their own well-being in order to ensure that they had sufficient funds for a “proper” funeral. For the same purpose the Iroquoians would exert almost all of their labors, trading, and concern to the amassing of something to honor the dead, as if they had nothing sufficiently precious. He also uses historical fashions to help illustrate the many changes in the mortuary expressions. Some of these are the use of black crape or feathers, mourning cloths, beaver skin robes, shell beads, axes, kettles, metal grave goods, and the size, design and material for monuments.
His work is well written and easily understood. Most of the reviews are good complimenting him for focusing on the mourners rather that the deceased. There is complaint that he reduces mortuary practice to a consideration of fashion. His response is that fashion demonstrates the base pattern of change in mortuary practices.
DELECIA CURRIE University of North Carolina at Charlotte (Janet Levy)
Davidson, Iain and William Noble. The Archaeology of Perception: Traces of Depiction and Language. Current Anthropology Apr, 1989 Vol.30(2): 125-155.
The purpose of this article was to explain a new hypothesis (developed by the authors) concerning the evolution of language. The authors attempt to demonstrate how depiction transforms communication into language. They then continue by explaining how the evolution of language eventually led to the rise of modern Homo sapiens. Their hypothesis is that communication made depictions possible, and depictions eventually led to the development human of language. The authors use data gathered from the archaeological record, such as stone tools and cave paintings, to illustrate their point. They mention several artifacts (stone tools, statues) and list them in chronological to represent them increasing in complexity. For example, they demonstrate that stone tools increase in complexity since their development, and the authors conclude that this could be a result of mimicry or communication through language. A more useful example that they give are cave paintings. The authors explain how early hominids could have communicated through depictions by cave paintings. The need for more elaborate communication gave rise to human speech.
These archaeological data came from previous work done on the subject, and the authors mention no research, if any, that is particularly their own. Their data came from other sources which they used and analyzed to support their hypothesis. They also mentioned other theories on the subject and demonstrated their incoherencies. Rather than providing raw data for their hypothesis, the authors’ entire argument was mostly spent mentioning these incoherencies. They also propose alternatives to these theories to make them more credible. In short, the majority of their paper is based on reviewing past theories, analyzing them for inconsistencies, and proposing alternatives that agree with their (the authors’) hypothesis, and was more of a presentation of ideas than a research paper. The use of raw data and detail would have made it a better argument.
Commentaries: The commentators generally agreed and applauded the research, but each had his/her own ideas about the topic. The commentators agreed with certain aspects of the authors’ hypothesis, but were in disagreement with others. For example, the commentators were not in agreement as to when and how human language arose, and use archaeological date to support their claims. The commentators agree that it is an interesting theory, but disagree that it is the sole reason for the evolution of human language. No commentator made mention of the use of data or of the structure of their argument.
In response, the authors reply in the same manner, by using current evidence to refute their comments. They do exactly as the commentators do by using the evidence to support what they believe is true. It appears that the authors and the commentators are in complete disagreement.
EDWARD BENITEZ University of North Carolina at Charlotte (Janet Levy)
Davidson, Iain; Noble, William. The Archaeology of Perception: Traces of Depiction and Language Current Anthropology April, 1989, Vol. 30(2):125-155.
Davidson and Noble’s theory states that depiction is the precursor to language and culture, and with depiction, early hominids had a way to reflect upon themselves and their environment. They also propose that before the Upper Pleistocene (2mya- 10,000 yrs BP) modern human beings were still becoming “modern”. Evidence before the Paleolithic era does not show repetitious marks or engravings, like those during the Upper Pleistocene period, therefore, suggesting that grammar had not yet developed fully past nonverbal communication. Thus, any attempts at attributing meaning to the time period before the Upper Pleistocene is nothing more than speculation on how language developed. Furthermore, Davidson and Noble cite ethnographic data from Mead that points out that “languages…depend upon a capacity to perceive” and it is early depiction that gave early hominids the ability to perceive (131).
In Davidson and Noble‘s hypothesis, they use early childhood psychology to support how early hominids may have developed from abstract representation to a more definitive representation of reality. With depiction, Davidson and Noble postulate, early hominids had a way to reflect upon themselves. Through this self-reflection, meaning emerges, thus leading to the syntactical control of reading, writing, and communicating. Although depiction may have started the path to language, the real question is; was there more that jump-started the thoughts to language besides depiction?
Davidson and Noble suggest that, although depiction played a pivotal role in the development of language, other factors also speed up language development. Tool making and the “sequencing of actions entailed in their manufacture” (135) helped language develop because of its stimulation to the “complex sequencing…necessary in production of speech”(136). However, Davidson and Noble quickly point out that although tools were used before the Upper Paleolithic era, the tools developed were not similar enough to claim that language developed before the Upper Paleolithic era. They also state that these tools could have been developed through means of continuous repetition and, therefore language’s development did not fully occur until much later.
Davidson’s and Noble’s hypothesis is speculative and abstract. The real reason for their theory is not in arguing against other anthropologists or to exercise the mind, but to “explain the associations between features in the archeological record” and to propose that depiction provided the “behavioral context” for thought and language (136).
ADAM VALDEZ Valdosta State University (Melissa Rinehart)
Gargett, Robert H. Grave Shortcomings: The Evidence for Neandertal Burial. Current Anthropology April, 1989. Vol.30 (2):157-190.
Robert Gargett examines Neandertal burials from a geoarchaeological view to prove that not all Neandertal burials were purposeful, as has formerly been believed. Gargett believes that just because Neandertal fossils exist, that does not necessarily prove that Neandertals participated in rituals or that they purposefully buried their dead. Gargett says that in the reports of Neandertal finds, the researchers infer purposeful burial when he feels the stratigraphic evidence does not support that theory.
Gargett feels that the criteria for classifying Neandertal remains as a burial site need to be explicitly addressed. He says that purposeful burial should not even be considered unless the archaeologists can unequivocally prove that there was a new stratum created specifically for interring the body. Only then, he says, can other factors such as position of the body, protection of the corpse and evidence for ritual or magical manifestations be considered. In his opinion, the sites that have been classified as burials actually result from natural sedimentation and geographical changes. Gargett says that the appearance of most Neandertal fossils found in burial like situations can be explained by natural, geoarchaeological phenomena. He believes that setting the archaeological record straight regarding Neandertal fossils will confirm the perceived cultural differences between Neandertals and anatomically modern humans who lived at the same time.
Gargett goes on to explain how sediments settling over time combined with trampling by humans and animals can create an environment that mimics the appearance of a purposeful burial. He uses natural mechanisms to explain how over time, the interiors of caves change and expand. He also explains that the different materials in different caves can create different situations for the fossils in the caves.
In his article, Gargett uses Lower and Middle Paleolithic Neandertal finds to prove his point. He reevaluates several of these burial sites in order to show what natural phenomena could have occurred to create the appearance of a purposeful burial. In all of the cases he reviews, he feels that the simple and probable natural explanations were ignored in favor of an explanation that promoted the otherwise unknown spirituality of Neandertals. However, in his reevaluation of these sites, he relies upon limited research that does not include the original field notes from the initial excavations. This poses a problem for his analysis because he is unable to consider the excavator’s descriptions of stratigraphy and context first hand. Instead, he has to depend on secondary sources and the authors of those secondary sources accurately depict the information regarding these burials.
This paper would have been clearer if the author had addressed some of the research more directly instead of having to rely on secondary sources. Also, he did not explain the geological terms that he was using to describe the caves where fossils were found. It was very easy to get caught up into the details of the article.
Though most of the commentators were positive about the methods Gargett used for his analysis of the limited data, all of them were ultimately negative about his conclusions. One commentator says that Gargett has misinterpreted data that he translated from original French documents. The commentator was prompted to reevaluate one of the burial sites based on Gargett’s analysis but concluded that the evidence clearly shows that a new stratum was clearly created for the explicit purpose of a burial. Several commentators mentioned that Gargett’s attempt to clarify cultural differences between Neandertals and anatomically modern humans fell very short of being convincing. They all agreed that Gargett did not consider enough sites and completely ignored Near Eastern sites. Another commentator accuses Gargett of confusing ritual rites and burial practices, which the commentator believes cannot be effectively compared to prove Neandertal behavioral systems. Possibly the biggest criticism was that although Gargett sets out to disprove the existence of ritual Neandertal behavior, he does not explain why some fossils are so well preserved even though Gargett himself recognizes some action had to take place to ensure the protection of a skeleton.
In his reply to the commentators, Gargett stands behind his research and conclusions. He acknowledges the four main criticisms and spends four pages addressing each issue and contributing more proof to reiterate his stance. He even uses the reply to reevaluate remaining Neandertal discoveries that he did not address in the body of his article.
ANNE PAYNE University of North Carolina at Charlotte (Dr. Janet Levy)
Gudeman, Stephen and Alberto Rivera. Colombian Conversations. Current Anthropology, June 1989. Vol.30(3): 267-281.
The general issue which the authors of this article address is discourse through time as it is related to cultural models of economy. Their fieldwork takes place among rural populations of Andean Colombia. The authors argue that the population’s economic terminology was influenced by economic models at time of conquest, and has, consequently influenced modern Euro economic discourse. The evidence is based on comparing folk economic language to the Physiocratic model of economy and analyzing similarities. Through extensive participant-interactive fieldwork, the authors verify their argument. Also, central to their case is justifying interpretative anthropology as a valid theory. The authors do this in two ways: 1) By dissecting at-the-time current theories of post-modern anthropological theory; and 2) By explaining the relevancy of interpretative theory in their research.
The evidence is slightly disorienting in its organization. The authors first begin discussion of anthropological theory and how it relates to their fieldwork. Their site and methodological problems encountered are then related. It is at the end of this discourse that the reader is truly introduced to the actual economic model of rural Andean Colombia. By this I mean the authors clarify key elements of the structure, explaining their meanings, and comparing them to the Physiocratic model. In the authors’ conclusion they state the three issues they have wished to address in the essay. Due to lack of cohesion, it would have been helpful to read this first. Also, the authors first mention “Physiocrats” on page 270 of the text but do not define the term until page 273.
Most commentators agreed with either the authors’ interpretative approach, conclusion, or both. However, each comment included suggestion or questions. These included the need to relate the rural economic model to current politics and making clearer the link between rural and modern economic models. The authors of the original article noted significant “implications” due to their conclusion, but were vague in defining what these were. A commenter asked for specifics. She also pointed out their lack of “precision in constructing” the essay and questioned how evidence was collected. The reason for this last point is a differing opinion of the fieldworker role. Gudeman and Rivera traveled between communities in an automobile and were upfront in their roles and expectations as anthropologist. The commentator, Hirschkind, criticizes them for this approach suggesting their responsibility is to be more participatory within a community rather than separate themselves from it.
The authors agree that the rural economic model could have been better situated within a political context, but were unable to due to space constraints. Hirschkind pointed out three areas in which the “implications” of research could be further clarified. The authors address one of these issues. However, they very clearly defend their theoretical perspective during fieldwork as “non-activists,” thus defending their methodology. Commentaries were at time buried in unfamiliar economic jargon situated within specific historical contexts, as were replies, making clarity more difficult.
CLARITY: article: 3.5, commentary: 3, reply: 2.5
JESSICA TOTH University of North Carolina at Charlotte (Janet Levy)
Headland, Thomas N.; Reid, Lawrence A. Hunter-Gatherers and Their Neighbors from Prehistory to the Present. Current Anthropology February, 1989 Vol.30(1):43-66.
The major issue in this article is that hunter-gatherer societies are thought to have been isolated from food-producing societies. It is also widely believed that they did not practice cultivation, pastoralism or trade. This view is carried on by negative Western stereotypes about “primitive” societies.
Headland and Reid disprove this negative image and show that many, if not all, hunter-gatherer societies relied heavily on trade with food-producers and practiced part-time cultivation or pastoralism. Some people still say that the integration of “isolated” hunter-gatherer societies and more “modern” groups was recent.
The article points out how Westerners generally think of tribal people as “primitive,” “isolated,” “not yet fully evolved,” and “incomplete.” This point of view has been perpetuated by stereotypical works like: Land That Time Forgot, The People That Time Forgot, Primitive Worlds: People Lost in Time, Children of the Forest, and the 20 ethnographic films about the Yanomamo. Napoleon Chagnon has studied the Yanomamo since 1964. They are a horticultural people of the Amazon and have been called “fierce people.” When Chagnon first arrived in the Amazon to study the Yanomamo, he claimed that they were living in pristine isolation from Western influence. In actuality, American missionaries had been there since 1950. In his popular book about the Yanomamo, Chagnon even calls them “our contemporary ancestors.”
According to Headland and Reid, an “isolate model” is the notion that tribal peoples lived until recently in isolation from their neighbors. An example of the “interdependent model” is the idea that tribal peoples have typically been in essentially constant interaction with their neighboring groups. The interdependent model is supported with several current ethnographic descriptions of hunter-gatherer societies conventionally thought of as isolated and primitive.
Headland and Reid gave six case studies to support their interdependence model. The Philippine Negritos case study was very well supported with ethnohistorical, archaeological, linguistic, and botanical evidence. The other case studies included: the San, the Mbuti pygmies, Cro-Magnons, Eskimos, and the Malayan forest people. These case studies were also supported, but not as thoroughly as the first.
They summed up the article by explaining why the isolate model persists even though it is incorrect. They pointed out key facts that built their case in favor of the interdependent model. They also included some reasons why Westerners feel the need to search for “savages.”
There were several words that never were defined in this article and that makes it a little harder to read.
The commentators were mostly positive about the article. The authors were praised for doing “a good job of increasing our appreciation of cultural variability.” One critic said that the article “challenged the isolationist view of hunter-gatherer societies.” A few other kind words included: “empirically well-supported;” “valuable;” and “convincing.” There were, however, a few scolding notes such as: “far from concrete;” “(Headland and Reid) mar a thought-provoking paper;” “Eurocentristic;” “an injustice to the intellectual history;” and “the thesis is too general.” Overall, the collective opinion was constructive and polite.
Headland and Reid thanked their commentators for their helpful critiques and ideas. The authors were pleased that all of the commentators, no matter what their opinion about the article, rejected the isolate model. In addition to rejecting the isolate model, the commentators also agreed with the interdependent model, which delighted the authors. Headland and Reid were aware that the critics brought up some very important questions and listed uncertainties about several details in their article. The authors do admit that in a few areas they may have over inflated their results.
EMILY HOUSER University of North Carolina at Charlotte (Janet Levy)
James, Steven R. Hominid Use of Fire in the Lower and Middle Pleistocene. Current Anthropology Feb 1989 Vol. 30 (1) :1-26.
The author explores the archaeological evidence of fire use by hominids during the Lower and Middle Pleistocene in Africa, Asia, and Europe. The concern of the author is that the evidence of early hominid use of fire in this time period is indirect and natural processes may be the creators of the findings. In East Africa, Oldowan stone tools found along with reddish-brown clay in various sizes, and animal remains belonging to Homo erectus. In other areas of East Africa it has been postulated that the red patches, from campfires is really from bush fires, and that the bones, tools, and clay were deposited via water erosion.
In Ethiopia, pieces of welded tuff look as though they have been burned, but paleomagnetic analysis cannot prove if they were burned with hominid fire or volcanic activity in the nearer past. The best explanation for the formation of the reddened patches, burned artifacts, and clay features in Africa are due to volcanic activity or natural fires. Southern Africa has more promising evidence to prove hominid use of fire including bone tools, burned animal bones, cut marks inflicted by hominids, and Acheulian tools. The author stresses that chemical test need be performed to make sure the finds were burned and not manganese-stained.
The strongest evidence for hominid fire use included charcoal, charred logs, reddened patches, and carbonized plants and wooden devices. This evidence would set hominid use of fire around 180,000 years ago in Africa. As for North Africa there is presently no evidence of early hominid fire use.
One site in Israel is the only evidence from the Near East of fire, where burned splinters and a tibia were found along with Acheulian cleavers and handaxes. In Asia, anthropologists agree that in Zhoukoudian there is burned bones, ash, stone tools, hearths, and charcoal dating 0.5 million years and is the earliest undoubted evidence for use of fire by early hominids. In Europe, two burned flints with dwelling foundations, hearth, burned lithics, burned shell, and charcoal were dated to 0.4 million years ago. The author makes it known that in order for the real dates of hominid fire use to be resolved there needs to be much more testing, whiter chemical or anthropological, and more detailed evidence from archaeological sites.
The commentators agree that the evidence for hominid fire use is lacking. Some stress the need for the author to be more descriptive in his conclusions. One person says that even though there are natural process that leave behind some evidence that can be confused with fire use by hominids, it takes a lot more effort and lots of evidence that just the burned substances found at these sites. Another commentator says that the early hominids of that time were capable of controlled fire use and most likely did use fire, and that an hominid intelligent enough to make tools is far capable enough to make fire.
As expected the commentators generally agreed with him and he was appreciative. He comments that one of the writers depreciated the natural fires started by lighting and states that they both must be reading different research. The author also states that just because natural occurring fires have not happened in the last few years that it doesn’t mean that they have not happened before. The author also takes into account that one commentator says that fire may have been used among the pongids or there hominoid ancestors and that the thought should be followed up on.
CLARITY RANKING: 5
AMANDA MIMS University of North Carolina at Charlotte (Janet Levy)
Keesing, Roger M. Exotic Readings of Cultural Texts. Current Anthropology, August- October, 1989 Vol.30 (4): 459- 479
With this paper, author Roger M. Keesing addresses the issue of misinterpretation of cultural texts. Keesing, an ethnographer and also professor of anthropology describes for the reader what he calls “The Quest for the Exotic”. The author explains that anthropologists (also known as dealers of the exotica), when studying a different culture, are impelled “to seek deep and cosmologically salient meanings where native actors may find shallow, conventional and pragmatic ones: to discover nonexistent philosophies.” Keesing explains that all of this is part of an anthropologist’s job description. He explains that the nature of the work, the endless research and the anthropologist’s orientation towards other languages and cultures makes it very easy for cultural mistranslations.
The author explains that not a lot of papers had been written on this matter because the idea of another culture not being as exotic as we thought or finding out that their lives are not radically different from ours, is an idea that is hard to swallow; this is based on the fact that anthropology is a discipline that revolves around diversity. The author goes on to explain how anthropologists prefer the exotic and try to ignore the mundane. Keesing writes his paper from and ethnographic point of view and explains that “we are impelled not only to choose the most exotic possible cultural data as our texts but to give them the most exotic possible readings-and, in doing so, often distort and mistranslate.”
In the second part of his paper, Keesing presents linguistic evidence of the mistranslation of exotic languages. He goes on to explain that for field working anthropologists one of the most difficult things is to learn the host culture’s language. This is based on the fact that most of these languages have no written grammar, no dictionary and no laws of writing. Even when the ethnographer learns to speak the exotic language semi-fluently it is still very difficult to fully understand and interpret figures of speech like metaphors. Based on his own ethnographic research of the Malaita people of the Solomon Islands, the author explains how he found errors in his own research. He states that many ethnographers (including himself), by using a systematic translation, loosed the essence of the language. He uses as an example the Oceanic Austronesian word mana. Keesing explains that the word is defined as: “be effective, be true, be realized, be successful”. He also explains that different group within the Malaita people use the word mana in different ways, some use it as a verb, some as an adjective and some even as a noun.
With all the evidence in hand, Keesing asserts that fully understanding a non- Western language is a major task. He also explains that even after years of ethnographic study and of learning a particular language it is still very difficult for the non-native to understand the context of a certain phrase. In conclusion, Keesing explains that in the 20th century the job of the anthropologist is to characterize and define the meaning of cultural differences. Anthropologists are looked at as the translators of the unknown, but this is somewhat difficult to do when the anthropologist himself does not fully understand what is going on.
Most of the commentators were pleased with Roger Keesing’s paper, while others didn’t seem as impressed. Some explained that the author stated incredible arguments and observations but he did not develop a discussion about them. Others explain that the topic is indeed very obvious: everybody makes translation mistakes and anthropologists are no exception.
With his reply, Roger M. Keesing seemed very please with the criticisms of his paper. He explains that he found certain comments “particularly illuminating” and that he agreed with most of them. The author also explains that the comments made him realize that there were many arguments implied in his paper that were not fully developed. Keesing concludes his reply stating that he is packing his bags and on his way to do more field work, in order to further understand language and culture.
NICOLLE M. ALICEA University of North Carolina, Charlotte (Janet Levy)
Roth, Paul A. Ethnography without Tears. Current Anthropology December, 1989. Vol. 30(5): 555-569.
Roth critiques ethnographic texts and argues in his paper “that the literary analysis of authority confuses literary, epistemological, and political issues.” He focuses his argument toward three issues: writing style, self-awareness, epistemological and political representation. The writing style, especially with self- presentation in the ethnography, deals with the role of the of author’s voice in the ethnography. The focus is on the relationship between the ethnographer and those studied. The authoritative voice is the main source of credibility of the text. Roth says that there is questioning of the authority when certain grammatical devices, such as third- person construction, are used in displaying the data from the ethnographers viewpoint. He also points out that misrepresentation of self can call into question the credibility of the entire text. The self-awareness with self- criticism stresses that the position of the author isn’t an adequate state for self-reflection in ethnography. Roth implies that authenticity is no more assured with self- reflection than with a pose of detachment. Using a detached observer will not prevent misrepresentation of the data. In “Epistemological and political representation”, Roth states that “ domination of ethnographers’ voices in their texts is equated with colonialism.” He also says that “the real sin in nondiscursive paradigms
is that they deny other voices.” Roth found that the problem is to avoid domination; authenticity of feelings solves this problem because it rejects a privileged position. Charges of misrepresentation are possible but epistemologically harmless. Most important, Roth says that the literary analysis of ethnographic text can have various perspectives and methods, but will still leave the questions of “ how properly to warrant claims within a chosen perspective and how to assess the political import of one’s position.”
The comments on Roth’s argument contained a mixture of negative and positive feedback. One of the negative comments by Sangren focused on Roth’s idea of plurality of voices and said it was “impractical and detrimental to the implementation of pluralism in the political context of the academy and wider social world.” Another commentator agrees in one aspect of Roth’s argument saying “ The epistemological sensitivity for which Roth is calling can only be realized if the project of the ethnographic analysis of what anthropologist do (not just the textual analysis of what ‘natives do,’ and here I agree with him) can be inserted into the wider comparative project that makes anthropology what it is.”
Roth responses to comments that were made and acknowledges their point of views. He comments on Clifford’s remarks about authority by saying they their debate lies with their different meaning to the term of “authority”. Roth continually defends his arguments but at the same time doesn’t disregard any of the others ideas. Roth says that “the realization that there is no neutral matrix of discourse encourages a hermeneutics of suspicion, it is not a license to reject theories because of the sins of their authors.”
I found this paper to be on an interesting topic but was lost in the overwhelming terminology that made my comprehension of the paper almost impossible.
BRIANA PETTIT, UNC Charlotte (Janet Levy)
Shott, Michael J. Diversity, Organization, and Behavior in the Material Record: Ethnographic and Archaeological Examples. Current Anthropology 1989. 30 (3): 283-315.
The primary focus of Michael Shott’s article is the study of “diversity and its determinates.” Shott uses an analysis of archaeological and ethnographic examples in order to show how diversity, behavioral processes, and organization appear in the archaeological record. Shott argues, “diversity is a product not only of behavior, but of organizational factors as well.” To analyze the data that are being used, Shott uses Binford’s forager: collector model to examine and explain the diverse patterns found among archaeological remains, specifically among the Paleo-Indian cultures of eastern North America. Binford’s technique is used in order to “structure comparisons, produce expectations, and interpret patterns observed in the material record.” According to Shott’s analysis, many factors can influence behavioral processes and formation processes of material remains. Shott argues that archaeologists must accurately interpret the material record in order to understand the organization and the behaviors that produced the remains. Likewise, researchers must also account for all possible formation processes in order to realize the potential of archaeology. Anthropologists need not only focus on the processes that most strongly influence the archaeological record, they must also take into consideration those processes that may not be visible through material remains.
Shott uses Paleo-Indian cultures in eastern North America to analyze the relationship between formation processes and the diversity that is evident in the archaeological record. His goal is to stress the importance of cultural processes and to explain how important it is to find a relationship between cultural formation processes, diversity of artifacts, and the material remains that specific processes produce.
Most of the commentators agree with the vast majority of Shott’s analysis. They agree that size: diversity relationships are an important part of archaeological studies and that it is, indeed, important to examine the correlation between the material remains and the processes that are responsible for producing those specific remains. One commentator in particular, however, considers Shott’s analysis to be “overstated” and “overwritten.” She (Sandra Bowdler) believes that Shott fails to find a connection between cultural processes, diversity, and organization.
In response to the commentators, Shott once again emphasizes that the study of diversity can introduce new perspectives into archaeology. Shott points out the goals of the paper, and strikes back at the commentators who failed to grasp the overall focus of his paper (which as he points out, is diversity and the processes that cause diversity). Shott admits that his paper is certainly not the “final word” on diversity, however, he does an adequate job of analyzing diversity and its appearance in the archaeological record.
ERIN LOWDER The University of North Carolina at Charlotte (Janet Levy)
Tambiah, Stanley J. Bridewealth and Dowry Revisited; The Position of Women in Sub-Saharan Africa and North India. Current Anthropology August-October, 1989 Vol. 30 (4): 413-435.
This article is a continuation and addendum to the research that Tambiah and Goody presented in 1973 with Bridewealth and Dowry. In this updated version, Tambiah presents two problems in trying to define the transaction that happens between a bride and groom’s families at the time of marriage. There is first a translation problem; that is to say, the myriad of terms used to describe this marriage transaction (bride-price, indemnity, marriage settlement) are problematic for the anthropologists themselves because of the social implications in their own cultures. Tambiah also focuses on what translates as female subordination in each of these culture groups.
The second problem with trying to define bridewealth and dowry is meaningfulness. Tambiah’s essay focuses on and compares the regions of Sub-Saharan Africa and Northern India; in both of these regions families are considered patrilineal. Tambiah suggests that the problem with using this broad term is that patrilineal means quite different things in both regions, as do the marriage transactions themselves. In the Sub-Saharan African groups that Tambiah looks at, the bridegroom pays a bridewealth to the bride’s father in order to secure that future children to be born will belong to his lineage. In contrast, in the strict high-caste Northern Indian groups the bride’s family pays an extravagant dowry to the bridegroom’s family in order to secure the bride’s place in the groom’s patriarchal line. Tambiah references Gulliver when he states that bridewealth payments serve many functions, vary from group to group, and therefore prevent a simple comparison of marriage transactions.
In this essay Tambiah focuses mainly on the different groups of the strict high-caste Hindu rural Northern India area. He discusses hypergamy and excessive dowries, female infanticide, and the neglect of infant females. The infanticide and neglect are due to the high dowries that very often financially ruin a family. Tambiah discusses, at great length, the complexity of the dowry-marriage system of the strict high-caste Hindus of Northern India, and also compares both the negative (infanticide and neglect) and positive (worship of virgin girls) treatments of women in these areas. He contrasts the treatment of women in Northern India with that of women in Sub-Saharan Africa and does cede that Indian women are at more of a disadvantage than their counterparts in Africa. In the conclusion of the article Tambiah reiterates that although both regions are patrilineal on the surface, they are actually very different, and the treatment of women cannot be so simplistically categorized.
In the comments, Goheen, Guyer, Olson and Van der Veen all applaud Tambiah on his work in this essay. They are particularly pleased that he attempts to sort out some of the complexities involved in describing women’s rights in these culture areas. Gottlieb, Piot and Vuyk disagree with Tambiah for a variety of reasons. Piot contends that Tambiah’s essay leaves out 300 years of (very different) European influences in these regions. Vuyk’s main concern is that the article is skewed towards the discussion of Indian women, and African women are “left to toil… in the soil.”
In his reply Tambiah immediately points out that the focus of the essay sets certain limits on the subject matter. He states that he was aware of the imbalance in his comparisons of Sub-Saharan African women and Northern Indian women, but offers no concrete reason why he did this. Tambiah replies to Olson’s constructive criticism with appreciation, and counter’s Vuyk’s assertion that African women are “left to toil… in the soil,” by saying that he is “… not waving the flag on behalf of Indian women.”
CLARITY RANKING: 3
TRACY CROWE University of North Carolina at Charlotte (Janet Levy)
Thomas, Nicholas. The Force of Ethnology: Origins and Significance of the Melanesia/ Polynesia Division. Current Anthropology Feb 1989 Vol.30(1):27-41.
Thomas, boldly, starts his essay with, “’Ethnology’ seems to be dead” He says that people no longer write ethnologies because they cannot write the correct information about the societies. People prove theories to be false. Thomas writes about three influential ethnologies on the Melanesian and Polynesian societies. Thomas writes about Sahlins’s “Rich man, poor man, big man, chief”(1963); The Cook Voyages and Forster’s Observations; Dumont d’Urville’s Defining Oceanic Races. These articles discuss how Melanesians and Polynesians are different, for example, Melanesians were considered very unattractive while the Polynesian’s were very pretty. The division is due to the islander’s occupation.
Thomas explains that many people found flaws with Sahlins’s political anthropology. Thomas explains that although there were ‘big-man’ as leaders in villages, it led anthropologist to “over look or distort” the political hierarchy among the Melanesian societies. Thus causing problems with ethnologies read today.
Encountering Difference: The Cook Voyages and Forster’s Observations are collections of observations of the very first contact among “varieties of the Human Species”. The observations described some of the Polynesians as being beautiful but other women, of particular areas, were hostile to the researchers so these women were labeled as “ill-flavored” and “ugly and deformed”. Thomas says that this style of classification discredits ethnologies. (The Cook Voyages and Forster’s Observations)
The third critique Thomas writes about is Dumont d’Urville: Defining Oceanic Races. The Melanesians were classified by their black skin tone. The women worked outside for long hours, weathering their bodies, Dumont d’Urville labels these women as “hideous” Dumont also labels the Polynesian as hospitable. The Polynesian women we light skin and willing to learn new traditions.
This paper is a wonderful paper for the critics of anthropology. Thomas is right that ethnographies do not perfectly reflect history; however it is very important to history because without anything written we have no history at all.
The comments were very skeptical and ridiculed Thomas’s paper. Sahlins wrote about Thomas’s paper and said Thomas has misinterpreted his quotes. None of the commentators really enjoyed this pessimistic view on ethnologies.
TERA CRUMBLEY The University of North Carolina at Charlotte (Janet Levy).
White, Randall. Husbandry and Herd Control in the Upper Paleolithic: A Critical Review of the Evidence. Current Anthropology December, 1989 Vol. 30(5):609-632.
White critically reviews the evidence presented by Higgs and Jarman and, later, Bahn for husbandry and herd control in the Upper Paleolithic. White states that close examination of the purported findings reveals evidence lacking in both material record and supporting archaeological data. In fact, he argues that the evidence presented by these researchers can be accounted for through more plausible explanations.
White cites the engravings of bison and horse heads that are believed to depict lines representing harnesses. While these few material pieces of art make up a large portion of Bahn’s argument, White points out that the lines are likely just stylized illustrations of muscular structures. White also refers to the fact that no art has been found depicting animals actually being haltered, ridden, or harnessed for traction, while much of the art recovered actually clearly depicts free-range animals without halters.
White also sites research that wild animals can heal from and survive serious injuries without human intervention or protection from predators. This is in response to another large component of Bahn’s argument that animal bones have been found which tell a story of hardship, which could only have been overcome through human intervention and nurturing. Another find used in the argument for herd control in the Upper Paleolithic are the four red deer skulls found with impact induced depressions suggesting that a fatal blow was made to dispatch the animal. White counters this agreeing that pole blows may have been used as a method for killing prey but only after the deer was likely brought down with primitive arrows, a hunting style that rarely ever lethally wounds the animal outright. White also addresses the so-called castrated reindeer antler addressing the not uncommon natural occurrence of accidental castration and hormone deficiency, which would result in the same findings that human husbandry might suggest.
Lastly, White evaluates Bahn’s evidence for crib biting, a condition in which horse’s teeth show a wear pattern consistent to chewing on their enclosures when restrained. White states that while this can be observed in modern equine behavior it is also common for horses to develop the same wear pattern in other circumstances such as when chewing on the bark of sweet trees. White summarizes his argument by suggesting that Bahn’s evidence for husbandry and herd control in the Upper Paleolithic is not evidence at all, but just a collection of possibilities that need to be systematically tested. White additionally points to evidence contrary to what you would expect if herd control were present, such as why would a mobile people support injured animals and why did the species of horses and reindeer disappear if being cared for by humans.
Much of the commentary is devoted to Bahn’s response to White’s critic of his work. Bahn believes that he has been misrepresented and that White did not fully understand many portions of his argument. He argues that more research has been done on the artifacts presented as evidence than White acknowledges. Bahn also counters all of White’s arguments that the evidence is more likely the result of natural occurrences than the result of human involvement. The other commentators tend to agree at least in part with White’s evaluation of the evidence and additionally provide suggestions for how more research ought to be carried out to better understand the significance of the archeological remains.
White replies by stating that at one time social organization was deemed an unexcavatable topic, and similarly herd control in the Upper Paleolithic is difficult to discern with only the limited current evidence. White also agrees that he should have taken more care in defining the terms that he used and that finding more artifacts would be beneficial to his case. White finishes by saying that his argument is superior to Bahn’s only because included with his hypothesis are suggestions through which it may be tested and potentially falsified. Bahn’s argument on the other hand interprets the archeological remains without sufficient scientific evidence to back his claims.
LISA ANN DE MURO University of North Carolina at Charlotte (Dr. Janet Levy)