Current Anthropology 1993

Atran, Scott. Itza Maya Tropical Agro-Forestry. Current Anthropology, December 1993. Vol. 34(5): 633-700.

In “Itza Maya Tropical Agro-Forestry”, Scott Atran attempts to discuss how the Itza Peten Mayan Civilization existed in regards to their agriculture system in a tropical forest environment. San Jose, which is located on the “northern shore opposite Tayasal Peninsula”(2), is the home of the last Mayans that are native to Peten’s forest regions. Itza farmers of today dedicate most of their time and activities in farming maize, which is also known as milpa. Concentration on this type of cultivation can “support 38-58 individuals per square kilometer”(3). This type of agriculture was referred to as “swidden agriculture”. There is some doubt as to how this could have supported the civilization. Atran goes on to describe more about the Peten Mayan background, conquests and chieftains. There were four chieftains of the Peten Itza: Canek, Cuouh, Cante, and Tut. These chieftains were around during the important development of their agricultural systems. He includes a table consisting of the different types of foods grown, like corn, wheat, and beans. Over time, these foods have been called many different names. He includes the English name, Itza Folk names, as well as each food’s scientific name. He compares the changes over the times and areas. For example, beans has also been called bul, buul, bu’ul, wolok che’, and Phaseoius.

There is a general consensus among the commentators that Scott Atran has successfully demonstrated the economic system of the Mayan Community. They agree that there is a connection between present Itza and past Maya tropical forestry. Atran has added great information to the studies of Mayan Civilization.

ANTONETTE CUNANAN University of San Diego (Alana Cordy-Collins)

Atran, Scott. Itza Maya Tropical Agro-Forestry. Current Anthropology, December 1993. Vol. 34(5): 633-700.

This article addresses the modern-day Itza of Petén in Guatemala, and how they utilize a system of ‘multicropping’ and forest tending. Their agriculture and forestry practices have links to prehistoric Mayan systems–by incorporating these practices, they sustain their culture as well as conserve the forests around them. Persistence of Itza Maya culture through this agro-forestry is now threatened by the encroachment on forests by modern civilization: loggers, farmers, modern cattle operations, et cetera.

Atran argues that Itza practice a form of forest management that is a tradition descended from pre-European Mayan ancestors. He also emphasizes the interconnected relationship between subsistence patterns, natural, and native environments. This article presents understandings of pre-European farming and forestry patterns. The archeology addressing this topic is insufficient or nonexistent; thus ethnographic examination of the Petén Peninsula in Guatemala is important. Ethnographic examination showed patterns that indicate a combined system of ‘agro-forestry’. The observed link between Mayan and modern Itza people is in word, legend, and rite similarities, shared architectural preferences, and political structures. The Itza people are some of the only remaining practitioners of combined agriculture and forestry practices. By examining the Itza, evidence was procured concerning Petén Mayan subsistence. In historic times, although indigenous foods were healthier and more environmentally friendly, the Spanish were culturally tied to specific foods. Thus they forced the growth of maize, cereals, and cattle that disproportionately impacted the ecosystem’s ability to sustain. Because of post-contact farming practices, much of the natural wealth the land originally possessed has been depleted. In modern times, people have moved to the Petén region under the understanding that it is a land of abundant and inexhaustible resources. However, the farms, housing, and cattle ranches accompanying migration have resulted in rapid deforestation. Atran believes apathy towards studying this problem, has helped spread these destructive effects. To addresses some of the deficiencies with past research, he points out, that previous ethnographic interviews were conducted in Spanish, eliminating interviews of Itza native language speakers. Problems with this include; Spanish speakers have assimilated with the Spanish conquerors, and have likely lost much of their pre-contact cultural understandings and practices. Finally, historical context of farming problems and economic markets–has not been considered; and examination of current farming practices and traditions, their relevance to the past, and importance for the future are examined, and emphasized.

The comments to Atran about the article can be summed up as follows: the reviewers were glad to see work being done on the Maya, and were glad that someone was doing an analysis on the farming habits of the pre-contact Maya. However, the main disagreements were with the impact of the change that occurred because of contact with Europeans, the method of change, and the ability of the researcher to ‘test his hypothesis’. Also, Schwartz drew a social and cultural aspect from Atran’s writing–Schwartz believed that Atran wished to benefit the Itza and in so doing separate them from the main portion of the culture.

Objections included disagreements over Spanish impact on the native population. In reply, Atran cited pre and post-contact conditions of Mayan food production systems. He believed his analysis of changes due to over-use were valid. Data collection was performed with precision for maximum defensibility of the data. Finally, Atran sites personal interviews with Itza people to defend his stance on proper respect for these people. The Itza were not allowed to use their knowledge, language, and were not recognized in committees concerned with proper management of the forests. Atran wished to amplify their voices, enabling them to be heard over the deafening volume of modern society.

K. NAOMA STALEY California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. (Mark W. Allen)

Boehm, Christopher. Egalitarian Behavior and Reverse Dominance Hierarchy. Current Anthropology June, 1993 Vol.34(3):227-254.

Egalitarian societies are comprised of people who are considered to be equal amongst one another and choose the amount of power given to individual members of a certain group. This article explores the idea that egalitarian societies create their own hierarchical system by choosing or electing a leader. This type of societal structure is attempting to create equality; but at the same time, the process has reverted to creating a similar system to those practiced by dominance-based hierarchical systems.

The leader of the egalitarian society is recognized as a peer and the members of his society choose the amount of power given to the leader. Despite some of the characteristics of the dominance system being lost within the egalitarian society, the “main political actors” still have power over the peers.

This article also gives the reader different perspectives of what egalitarian societies are and how they have come into existence. It also explores the different types of groups that build egalitarian societies and the effects of this type of organization. Regardless of the reasons or results, the egalitarian society can only be created by a group who is cooperative and can agree on how much power should be instilled by certain members of the group. Without these characteristics, a dominant figure evolves, asserting their own power structure, creating a society of dominance in which its members have little say as to the amount of power that should be given to the leaders.

In conclusion, the author illustrates how egalitarian societies are structured and simultaneously demonstrates their stratification by relationships of dominance.

KELLEY SIBLEY University of San Diego (Alana Cordy-Collins)

Boehm, Christopher. Egalitarian Behavior and Reverse Dominance Hierarchy. Current Anthropology June, 1993 Vol.34(3): 227-254.

According to Boehm, societies remain egalitarian by controlling the amount of power attainable by leaders. Although leaders are present in most egalitarian societies, cultural disapproval of hierarchy and personal power prevents ambition from creating dominant figures. The mechanisms in place to limit the power of emerging leaders are, in effect, a form of reverse dominance imposed by the society.

Egalitarian societies limit the power accessible to leaders, either through the intentional means of public opinion, criticism, disobedience, and sanctions, or by “automatic leveling mechanisms.” Automatic mechanisms are components of the cultural fabric that prevent a hierarchy from emerging through predefined relationships. Egalitarian societies oppose dominance, but not leadership. As long as leaders remain peers within the exiting structure, they are respected and are able to persuade the group to follow advice. Social controls are implemented only when leaders attempt to overstep peer expectations.

The presence of limitations to dominance demonstrates that members of egalitarian societies share a common innate desire for power with members of more structured societies. Boehm also observes that comparison of the behavior of the primate groups most closely related to humans adds support to the contention that tendency toward social dominance hierarchy is a genetic trait inherited from the common ancestor of humans and African great apes.

Since egalitarian systems contain a pull toward dominance from two directions, it is remarkable that they are able to avoid slipping toward hierarchy. To some extent, environment and group size must be significant in selecting for the egalitarian structure. Egalitarian structure is most often found in small societies utilizing environments with low resource density. Social pressures against hierarchy and the need to spread over large amounts of territory to forage are probably both responsible for division of groups that become too large. Boehm believes further investigation into how psychological forces in these societies self-reinforce to prevent change is merited. However, societies do move from reverse dominance hierarchy to orthodox dominance hierarchy, and this has been observed to correspond with several changes, including sedentism, military threat, increased population density, and influence of a uniquely charismatic leader. It is not yet clear, however, whether this is a usually a sudden or gradual transformation.

Boehm’s thesis meets with substantial support, but his arguments are not universally accepted. In emphasizing the innate quality of dominance, Boehm has failed to address ideological support for egalitarianism or the significance of materialist dialectic. By using only the quarter of his initial sample that provided clear evidence of checks on leadership, Boehm has biased the evidence to support his hypothesis. If Boehm’s analysis is correct, then the value of the term “egalitarian” to describe societies comes into question. There is too great a variance in means of controlling leadership to summarize all patterns under a blanket term.

Boehm admits his reservations in using the term “egalitarian”. However, describing societies as egalitarian, while imprecise, is common. It is therefore important to understand the underpinnings of this model. The presence of an innate tendency toward both seeking and restraining domination does not preclude other cultural or material traits from affecting the dynamic. With regard to sample bias, while it was necessary to discard studies with ambiguous descriptions of leadership, Boehm claims that he maintained a close watch for any evidence that might contradict the hypothesis.

GREGORY R. BURNS California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Mark W. Allen)

Burling, Robins. Primate Calls, Human Language, and Nonverbal, and Communication. Current Anthropology Feburary, 1993 Vol. 34 (1): 25-53

People communicate in two ways: language and nonverbal. This sounds simple but Robbins Burling does a good job of breaking down this complicated and controversial issue. Many people believe that primates and human beings communicate similarly and conversely many feel that this is not true. The author expresses her opinion, clearly believing that primate communication is very divergent from that of people.

Some people believe that we evolved similar communication patterns with that of the apes, “the hominoid system of the Miocene.” However, many humans do not give credence to the fact that apes helped shape our history or origins of communication. Human’s communication differs to that of primates. The “gesture call” systems, which are nonverbal actions such as pointing, laughing, crying, and smiling are exclusive to humans, which primates cannot do. It appears animals communicate only with voices and people use their voices solely for that of language. People and animals do share forms of alarm calls. Animals can indicate to others by noises or grunts if danger is approaching. People verbally communicate to one another danger, news, or so on. Both primates and people communicate but there communication varies in complexity. Humans can linguistically communicate for example what the danger is and where it is located. Primates can only or yap about a danger.

Primate communication can be said to only include vocal and audio. They do not have the complex language and signals that humans have. They can possibly signal or gesture, but not to the degree and complexity that people can. Additionally, primates do not posses the aptitude for conventional gestures, for example the ability to shake hands, nod, and use their hands to signal words. The latter example also could fall into iconic calls which primates do not have the capability of demonstrating. They use hand signals to represent gestures or signals. This all could be incorporated into the complexity and variance of human communication.


The reviews of the article written by Burling vary from both positive and negative. The many who disagree with Burling say that there is no way that we share or have similar gesture call systems to that of animals. Also, some critics view this article as difficult to follow, and not enough adequate examples to back up opinions and observations. Some of the critics thins oppositely, that Burling should be commended on his difficulty and complexity of the topic. Another reader states that he made valuable points but there are problems with his defining of language. Finally, one person admits that many will disagree with Burling’s opinions and he fails to back up claims for the gesture language.


Burling notes that there is a variation of opinions and welcomes them. He notes that the complicated topic will have people that disagree with his opinions. The data he has and the observations that he has witnessed, has backed up his claim of humans having similar communication system with that of primates. Burling goes on to argue points brought up against his argument, and clearly states that it is his opinion and something that he personally believes. He finishes up by talking about how he got at different conclusions and discusses the difference of theories people might have about the topic of primate calls, human language, and nonverbal communication.

JAMES MONACO University of San Diego (Dr. Alana Cordy-Collins)

Burling, Robins. Primate Calls, Human Language, and Nonverbal, and Communication. Current Anthropology February, 1993 Vol. 34 (1): 25-53

In this article, Burling attempts to clarify and differentiate human communication into two categories. The first category is that of language and language-like communication. The other category of communication, which includes non-verbal communication, is referred to as “gesture-calls.” It is also pointed out that the human gesture-call system is similar to that of other primates in message and means, so therefore human gesture-calls should be viewed as the primate communication for humans as a species. It is doubtful that human language is derived from our gesture-call system; for that reason it is baseless to look to other gesture-call systems, such as chimpanzees, for our linguistic origins. The basis of human language is not in the act of communication, it is in the cognitive structures of the human mind. A search for the origins of human language should be centered not on primate communication; the search should be focused on the way primates think.

Burling compares linguists who view human language as emerging from a call system (Hockett, Cheney, and Seyfarth) with those who dismiss that possibility (Bickerton). Burling also expresses the importance of non-verbal communication in both animals and humans in a discussion about a book by Cheney and Seyfarth, How Monkeys See the World (1990).

The article describes the difference between language and non-language as analogous to the difference between digital and analog, digital being contrastive in meanings, such as language, and analog being a continuum, i.e., the gesture-call system. Burling points out that everything that he considers language or language-like is learned; the difficulty lies in that nothing is solely learned or solely inherited. Nevertheless, the digital or language side of communication is more heavily influenced by learning than is that of the analog side. Burling proceeds to break down human non-verbal communication into five major signal types: the Oh-oh expressions, conventional gestures, deaf signing, intonation, and iconic calls or gestures.

In comparing human language and primate communication, Burling asserts that primate communication can only be described as vocal and auditory, as is language, if the gestural communication is ignored. On the other hand, human gesture-call communication has more in common with primate communication than either one has with language. Language is tied more closely to human thought than is the gesture-call system. Burling maintains that language originated from a drastically evolving mind, not as an elaboration of the gesture-call system.

Burling is both criticized and commended for his work. Armstrong focuses on an example used by Burling to contrast in animal communication, as there is contrast between the three different calls for predator in vervet alarm calls, depending on the type of predator spotted. Wynn also criticizes Burling’s focus on cognition, stating that studies on cognitive evolution are too problematic to be effectively used. Burling is commended, however, on taking on a very difficult and complex topic, and for many of his ideas on digital versus analog communication.

Burling agrees with Blount’s assertion of the interrelation of gesture-calls and language in common practice but notes either one can be used devoid of the other. Burling responds extensively to King and clarifies that her argument was not stating that gesture-calls are impoverished but agrees that they can give more information that language in some cases. Responding to Armstrong, Burling restates the importance of flexibility, not only contrast, in language. He also addresses difficulties in his argument about iconicity and hopes that they will stimulate others to expand on the topic.

JOHN A. ELLIS California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Mark W. Allen)

Chisholm, James S. Death, Hope, and Sex: Life-History Theory and the Development of Reproductive Strategies. Current Anthropology February, 1993. Vol.34(1):1-24.

The author begins with an in-depth introduction explaining how he approaches the topic and the subjects he will be focusing on. Subjects include “evolutionary biology’s ‘adaptionists’ and ‘mechanists’” argument, life-history theory, mortality rates influence on variation, and alternative reproductive strategies (1). Wanting to synthesize life-history theory and human developmental psychology, the author argues that “early stress in human development [is correlated to] local high death rates” (1).

Distinguishing that there are two attitudes involved in evolutionary biology, the author explains their differences and similarities. Optimality models are explained and used on the basis that they will be “only working hypotheses” (2). The author suggests that an individual’s perceptions may be influenced by the individual’s exposure during development. Looking at long-term evolutionary success, the author finds that having a smaller number of offspring is better because there will be more “high-quality offspring” and will produce “more descendents” (3). Local mortality rates are discussed as having an impact on development. Along with this, the author presents the “bet-hedging model in which selection molds life-history traits according to variation in mortality rates” (4). Mortality rates are correlated with parental and mating efforts; when low, parenting efforts increase; when high, mating efforts increase.

“ Internal working models” (which come from the attachments formed with parental figures) and separation anxiety are explored to find the extent of the effect on sociability. Using evidence from another model, the author claims that “emotional stress in early development” can have an effect on sexual maturation, such as earlier menarche and age at the time of first sexual intercourse (8). Further, while these early stresses could influence their parenting, the effects are not seen universally. This is possible because “a change in one’s environment can change… one’s internal working model of the world” (10). Although the author agrees that additional studies have to be done, he pushes for the synthesis because he believes it will benefit evolutionary ideas.

Commentaries included concerns regarding empirical data and testing, using across-species data for theories regarding humans, reliability of conclusions based on a single population, r/K model usage, the linkage between reproductive strategies and mortality rates, and the model families at “such polar extremes… so stereotypic as to be meaningless” (16). Clearly defining the differing approaches to evolutionary biology and perhaps identifying them as they are typically referred to (“’deterministic’ and ‘epigenetic’”) was also commented on (12). A few of the commentators were skeptical of some of the author’s conclusions and evidence.

In his reply, the author wanted to only comment on things that could be resolved or clarified. He claims his approach is practical and sees “no reason that both between-species and within-species differences in life-history traits or reproductive strategy could not in principle be adaptive responses to variation in mortality rates and ratios” (18). He explains his use of the r/K model and why it may have been misconstrued. He continues, saying that the focus must include the “interactions” between “external environments [and] internal mechanisms” (19). He also brings up the issue of ‘imprinting’ as evidence that early stress, environment, and attachment do have effects.

ALYSIA WESCOAT University of San Diego (Alana Cordy-Collins)

Chisholm, James S. Death, Hope, and Sex. Current Anthropology February, 1993 Vol.34 (1):1-25

In this article, Chisholm tries to combine environmental biology and developmental psychology to find a mechanism to explain sexual reproductive traits and behaviors amongst humans. In the side of evolutionary biology there is a dualism of adaptationists and mechanists. The adaptationists focus on abstract mathematical models how gene pools change and what genotypes should be favored by selection. The mechanists school has its roots in anatomy embryology and physiology and focuses on the genotype in local contexts. These two schools of thought form the life-history theory which states that “broad characteristics of the anatomy, behavioral capacities, and development of species arise from natural selection for the optimal allocation of somatic and reproductive effort.” Further still is a difference in human and mammalian life-history theory and Chisholm uses both on the basis of human behavior and common mammal behavior which humans are a part of.

Mammalian life history theory states that animals tend to give birth and mature early with low gestation periods and larger litters. But, biologists Promislow and Harvey, two supporters of mammalian life-history find that larger litters have higher mortality rates because of the added attention and stress needed for rearing the extra offspring, where as a smaller litter allows for more personal contact between parent and offspring which allows for a higher survival rate. Offspring that are experience a death in the family will also be less likely to reproduce. On the end of the human life-history, Chisholm refers to the work of psychologist Belsky and tries to relate this to attachment theory which explains how children learn social addict from watching their parents. For example, using a chart he explains that men and women who come from unstable families will have a higher incidence of premarital sex, more partners and bearing children at a younger age than a one who grew up in a more stable home.

The comments presented on the article by Chisholm, commend him for taking on the hard challenge of trying to find a way to mix evolutionary biology and the social sciences. Most feel that it is an interesting concept and that it was masterfully done by Chisholm. P.C. Lee from Cambridge feels that the life-history theory approach gives him great strength because it allows for a priori predictions about what could be expected between reproduction and behavior. Another claims that trying to cross mammalian life-history with human life history only weakens his arguments.

During his reply, Chisholm applauds those who agree with him, however, argues that those who disagree with his information have misinterpreted or misunderstood the terms used. For example, Stini explains that Chisholm described the use of K-selection in his argument but Chisholm replies by saying that he understands that humans have not reached k-selection because of the advent of culture and that the confusion must have come from Chisholm’s unconventional use of r/k selection terminology.

CHRISTOPHER A. DURAN California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Mark W. Allen).

Frank, Andre Gunder. Bronze Age World System Cycles. Current Anthropology, 1993. Vol.34(4):383-429.

Frank explores the cyclical ups and downs of the Bronze Age world system, partially using archaeological evidence. He also delves into the “primitivist/substantivist argument” (385), center periphery world systems, and the identification of the cycles.

It is unclear to this reader what the article covers, its contents, or its evidence. Try as one might, it proved impossible to comprehend what the author was writing about. The verbose language and unnecessary run-on sentences only make this complicated idea even harder to understand. Beyond that, he admits in the second paragraph of the article that he “lack[s] the professional training or experience in archaeology and history . . . and [has] insufficient knowledge of the area, the period, the materials, and the problems and pitfalls of their study” (383). Elsewhere in the article, he continues to admit his ignorance. The conclusion is diminished because Frank introduces new ideas not found in the body of the article.

Many of the commenters disagree with Frank, explaining that he lacks evidence and makes substantial leaps and assumptions. Most agree that further study is needed, while a couple of the commenters found Frank’s article “stimulating” (407). In his reply, Frank attempts to clarify and expand his position.

ALYSIA WESCOAT University of San Diego (Alana Cordy-Collins)

Frank, Andre Gunder. Bronze Age World System Cycles. Current Anthropology August-October, 1993 Vol. 34 (4) :383-430

It is commonly accepted that since the Bronze age, there have been multiple systems which have contributed to the economic and political expansion of different regions. In this article, Frank explains the probability that there is a world system used today that first developed during the Bronze Age 5,000 years ago. Cycles of approximately 500 years are determined and used as primary evidence in the hypothesis of a world system. These cycles are shown as either periods of expansion, or periods of contraction throughout the developing world.

Frank has a main objective to provide the idea that there is an all encompassing world system. In this theory, if one group A, interacts with another group B, and if B interacts with a third group C, then A and C are interacting by association. The cycles continue to strengthen and support this idea by showing commonalities throughout the globe during specific times. This idea is used to compare the Bronze Age world system to our current global economic system.

The timeframe of the cycles are determined by several different methods. Frank uses data collected from secondary sources to first determine the periods of expansion and contraction. This is followed by a strong dependence on archaeological evidence to show the dispersion of metals and other goods through different areas of Europe, Asia, and northern Africa. The number of large cities determined by a census is used to determine times when different regions were under economical stress; fewer cities constitutes a period of stress. Finally the movement of cultures into different region is also a determining factor of the cycles. Expansion cycles are generally determined as periods in which the majority of all the regions involved in trade are thriving and economically, technologically, and advancing in other ways. Contraction cycles are defined by being periods in which trade slows, cities move or no longer exist, and generally end by one cultural group overtaking another.

Frank recognizes his weaknesses and states them clearly. He doesn’t not use this paper necessarily as something that should become fact and be accepted completely by all academia, but rather as a tool to promote further research into the possibility and to lay out a basis for research on a global scale rather than research that is confined to one specific location or region.

COMMENTS: The majority of the comments support Franks efforts to recognize the possibility of a world system as well as his attempt to focus on a global scale and make inferences on the data. However they point out that his data is primarily secondary sources and leaves out a large amount of sources that could otherwise go against his theory. The complete lack of involving climate and other factors as a possibilities of the cause of cycles is also a reason for disagreement with this article. A very good point is made in that the A, B, C interaction theory could be flawed because A and C should only be determined to be interacting if what A has that is transferred by B significantly effects C.

REPLY: Frank understands that his information is new and broad but he counters with the idea that his theory is meant to be a stepping stone for future research. Also, he believes it is undeniable that there are cycles of contraction and expansion in which there may be some that are less definite, but with further research he believes they will be defined more strongly, and uses the rest of his reply to further distinguish the cycles which were least clear.

RACHEL MANNING California Polytechnic State University, Pomona (Mark W. Allen)

Hall , K.R.L. Tool-Using Performances as Indicators of Behavioral Adaptability. Current Anthropology February, 1993 Vol. 4 (5) :479-494

Animals use various objects they can find as a way of getting food or for use in other manners. This has signified, in a sense intellectual capacity K.R. L. Hall does a nice job of displaying a plethora of examples illustrating this. There have been documented types of tool using: getting food and for defensive or offensive displays against attackers. This process could be considered by trial and error, but this data is not scientific and cannot be proven. Birds called Satin bowerbird use tools like bark to paint the inside of their homes. Another listed example of mammals doing the same is Burmese elephants that pick up sticks with their trunk to scratch themselves. A different example is using tools for combative behavior. Monkeys and apes roll stones or heave branches intentionally to ward off attackers and enemies. These studies have been conducted in labs or zoo’s where it has proven that animal behavior is dramatically different. This could mean that the data has the possibility of being altered or skewed.

The Galapagos woodpecker finch uses a cactus spine to fork out insects nestled in trees. This is an example of using object in their environment to aid them in catching their prey. Bears in the wild have been observed picking up large chunks of ice and throwing it onto the heads of unsuspecting walruses. This has been documented as another prime example of using tools for assistance in survival. Sea otters use rocks to crack open food on their stomachs. The rock is a specific tool for helping them acquire food. This method along with the previous examples, are used very effectively in obtaining food. Hall points out the faults of these observations are the reliability of the evidence mostly in primates, and overestimating the contents and failure to critically overlook behavioral data. Most importantly, this information could give evidence of the evolution of animals and possibly humankind.


The response of the article brought in mixed reviews from the qualified readers of this topic. Some of the people making responses said that they agree with the principle points of the article, but would like to see more explanations of the claims that Hall makes. One reader says that the article and the explanations seem too nebulous and ambiguous. On a similar note, a reader says that Hall oversimplifies the topic of tool using and that the article needs to be modified to address this need, possibly of going again into more depth on explanations and of the studies conducted in the field. It seemed that many of the readers concurred that the study was good but the overall explanations needed to be modified.


Hall acknowledges that more research can and will be done on this particular topic. Initially, Hall cleared up points that some of the readers were confused or wanted further information about. The author says that “thorough comparative studies” were done, and that limits of animal capacity were tested and observed and that is how the research was provided. Hall also backed up her claim, about the skill involved in toll using may be transmitted in the group the animal belongs to.

JAMES MONACO University of San Diego (Dr. Alana Cordy -Collins)

Hawkes, Kristen. Why Hunter-Gatherers Work: An Ancient Version of the Problem of Public Goods. Current Anthropology August-October, 1993 Vol.34(4):341-361.

Kristen Hawkes believes the hypothesis explaining differential sharing among hunter-gatherers as being perpetuated by obligation of future returns is not empirically supported. Rather, it is Hawkes’ contention that the cost of excluding others from a portion of large game is detrimentally high to the hunter that killed the game. Several hungry neighbors can afford to fight the hunter to such an extent that it is not worth the hunter’s energy to fend them off. This phenomenon, tolerated theft, therefore likens large to medium-sized game to public goods. That is, such game can be consumed by those that do not pay the cost of acquisition. Borrowing theory from economists, Hawkes postulates that “a public good will be undersupplied by self-interested actors without some incentive distinct from the consumption value of the good itself.” So why then, asks Hawkes, would a hunter-gatherer ever target a resource that goes more to support other people than it does the hunter and his family?
The alternative Hawkes offers is that hunters gain greater social benefits by acquiring medium to large game for public consumption. Providing public goods gains favorable attention among group members. This attention highlights the hunter, who provides public goods, as a desirable neighbor. Thus the hunter’s social pool, especially in regards to potential allies and mates, is greatly enhanced.

For data, Hawkes examines three different modern hunter-gatherer cultures: the !Kung, the Ache and the Hazda. When a man in any of these cultures chooses to pursue medium to large sized game rather than plants or small game, the man is choosing to share his success with the community at the expense of his family. Hawkes makes this clear first by constructing a payoff matrix examining units of return and second by comparing the caloric pay-off the hunter could receive if he pursued alternative resources. Both models suggest that the hunter would be better able to provide for his family if he pursued more private goods.

Nine people responded to Hawkes’ article. Altman, Jeske, Peterson, and Smith all felt that Hawkes did not provide enough evidence to support her claim. In particular, Smith contends that three ethnographic cases do not present a strong enough case. Grinker and Peterson believe she oversimplified her model. Grinker observes that the Hunter Gatherer’s interactions with non-foraging neighbors may come into effect and Peterson notes the complexity of a behavior such as sharing. Smith and Yellen contend that more attention needs to be paid to the idea of delayed reciprocity. Smith contends that the social benefits incurred by procuring public goods are a form of delayed reciprocity. Several other criticisms of Hawkes article come from Beckerman, Harpending, and Wenzel. Beckerman does not believe that the variance hypothesis is incompatible with the acquisition of social benefits; Harpending is intrigued by the idea of h-g’s pursuing mega-mammal nutrients; and Wenzel declares that large game hunting is often a group effort.

Hawkes agrees more data would be nice, but notes that many of the objections to her article are a result of differing theoretical perspectives. To Grinker and Peterson, Hawkes replies that she is specifically “ripping subjects out of their regional contexts” in order to focus on the specific relations of the variables in question. Responding to Altman and Peterson, Hawkes acknowledges that sharing does reduce risk but not to such an extent as to explain sharing in and of itself. As to the issue of reciprocity, Hawkes believes that too often, obligations of social relationships are mistaken for reciprocity. To Harpending, Hawkes cautions that sociobiologists should expect conflicts of interest within groups and those conflicts of interest tend to cause inefficiencies. Acknowledging Wenzel, Hawkes concedes that sealing tends to be cooperative but big game hunting is not. Hawkes response to criticism is professional.

BARRY J. OLSON JR. California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Mark W. Allen)

Hays, Terrence. The New Guinea Highlands: Region, Culture Area, or Fuzzy Set? Current Anthropology April, 1993 Vol. 34(2): (141-164)

This work discusses the Melanesian Anthropology of the New Guinea Highlands as they are commonly referred. Hays depicts this agricultural community, of sweet potatoes and pig herding, as a vast cultural region that has been inadequately described in the past. The “Highlands” area was a term that arose in the 1960s to describe this area, but showed little accuracy in this designation. Hays objections to the classification system were dependent on that social processes lead to the development of a culture area. Hays also states that anthropologists should concentrate more on the processes than the actual morphology of the ‘Highland’ peoples. The designated highland region, was a chain of valleys that were 4,000 to 7,000 feet above sea level, and was home to numerous tribes. These tribes included the Enga in the west, the Fore in the east, the Mendi and Huli in the south, and the Maring in the north. However the similarities that Hays draws is that there is a close connection to these highland tribes to the tribes situated on the fringes of New Guinea. There was the emphasis of clanhood that was evident, and the general acceptance of new religious practices throughout the region. Also seen throughout the New Guinea tribes was that all held great importance in their trade and movement of goods. Certain characteristics such as these have led Hays to establish the idea that certain anthropological groupings should not be based on morphology, but rather on the cultural ties that united them. Hays argues that these ties to one another have in fact affected the development and history of the tribes. Hays shows the Highlands exude a commonality of diverse yet unified characteristics that need to be restructured in order to be truly accurate in description.

BRIAN REBOLLEDO University of San Diego (Alana Cordy-Collins)

Hays, Terrence. The New Guinea Highlands: Region, Culture Area, or Fuzzy Set? Current Anthropology April, 1993 Vol. 34(2): (141-164)

Terrence Hays examines the inconsistent and contradictory ways Melanesianists have used the term “New Guinea Highlands”. The “Highlands” was a term that arose in the 1960s to describe an area in New Guinea that showed little accuracy in its actual description. Hays feels the use of “Highlands” as a construct has caused ethnographers to misrepresent these societies as being homogenous, ahistorical, and isolated from the outside world. Hays expresses the notion that anthropologists should shift their focus from what people are to focus on what they do. His article is a rebuttal against the common misconception of the “Highlands” and the indigenous people that inhabit the region.

Hays’ quotes other anthropologists and ethnographers throughout his article to discuss the location of the “Highlands” and peoples of the varying region. Hays believes that by trying to establish contrasts between the “Highland” peoples and the peoples of other “regions”, anthropologists are merely creating an “arbitrary sorting device.” He feels this gives way to the implications of greater “environmental, social, and cultural homogeneity that can be demonstrated”, even within the larger, more defined societies of indigenous peoples. Hays elaborates that “Highlands societies” are often portrayed individually and as a group, which leads to the neglect in considering outside influences and historical attributes. He comments that when using the term “Highlands”, writers are inconsistent in drawing the boundaries of the region and allow for the societies to be misconceived as being isolated from the other regions of New Guinea.

Hays feels the key to understanding the complex systems of the societies in New Guinea is to trace the particular connections and boundaries of specific kinds of interactions. Anthropological assemblages should not be based on morphologies, but on the cultural linkages that unite certain societies.

Many of the commentators supported Hays views on the need for a greater awareness of the societies in New Guinea. Reviewer Simon Harrison feels however such categories are needed and are not necessarily detrimental to societies. Other reviewers feel Hays has not resolved the issue of the term “Highlands”, but has brought the comparative accounts of the region together. Some question his suggestion of shifting from morphology to process when studying societies. Although there is some criticism of the article, the general consensus agrees Hays critique is thoughtful and thought provoking.

Hays reply encompasses his rational for shifting studies from “morphology” to “process” and states it would be impossible to do away with categorization completely. Hays acknowledges the dangers of studies focused on process, but remarks that by examining what people do, we are able to understand the relationships between groups and their cultures, and anthropologists, as well as ethnographers must be mindful that regions, societies, and networks are all constructs, and each of these constructs need adequate attention.

LAURA STEELE California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Mark W. Allen)

Joyce, Rosemary A. Women’s Work: Images of Production and Reproduction in Pre-Hispanic Southern Central America. Current Anthropology, June 1993. Vol. 34(3): 255-274.

In “Women’s Work,” the underlying question is why were indigenous cultures in Central America driven to produce human images? Joyce explores this question by cross-cultural comparison gender imagery found in the ceramics of three different locations in prehistoric Central America: the Honduran Ulua-Polychrome makers, Classic Lowland Maya, and the Lower Central American cultures of Costa Rica and Nicaragua. She gives a detailed description of the figurines found in each area while focusing on the differences between the male and female figurines, as well as, the similarities between same gender figurines of these cultures. She puts emphasis on the interplay of gender, productive labor, ritual, and warfare as aspects of the establishment and preservation of households and wider social networks. In addition, she reveals the relationship between centralized authority and household interests in work and ritual. Her analysis shows that gender corresponds to work, public representation, and ritual action. She ascertains that while warfare was represented as a male monopoly, it was balanced by representations of women’s role in reproduction. Joyce claims the dichotomy between monumental images and small-scale ceramic images of human figurines were a means for the negotiation of male and female status while the ceramic images were responses to tensions in social relations within households undergoing social stratification.

This article is a perfect example of Victor Turner’s symbolic anthropology; it not only examines symbols as mechanisms for the maintenance of society but it also incorporates some structural-functionalism. Joyce is effectively stating that these figurines were made to maintain social solidarity between males and females of these cultures. It seems that Joyce was influenced by Durkheim and Gluckman as well. Instead of dealing with institutions, she tries to show how the small-scale ceramic images of human figurines maintained the equilibrium and cohesion of these societies. She presents the male and female conflict as a type of binary opposition where the female figurines were made to counteract the male role in society and to show that females were just as important. Rather than taking the figurines at face value, she tries to explain how they maintain social order.
All of the commentators applaud her attempt to make sense of these figurines and for taking on such a challenge. Most also agree that she has made a contribution to understanding symbolism in prehistoric Central American societies. However, all have problems with her premise and/or research methods. Davis has a problem with what she interpreted the images to mean. Kehoe, with the shortest comment, merely states that what is not represented is just as important as what is. Urban and Bell present a long list of things that they found “wrong;” most of it being about how Joyce came to her interpretations of the images when they don’t see what she sees. Since, Urban and Bell’s comment was the longest; most of Joyce’s reply is to them. Joyce does, however, make a point to reply to everyone and tries to answer the doubts. She ends by stating that she hopes that anthropological archaeologists will stop trying “to project a universal system of values.”

JESSICA MANGONE California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Mark W. Allen)

Lieberman, Daniel E. The Rise and Fall of Seasonal Mobility among hunter-Gatherers. Current Anthropology, December, 1993. Vol.34 (5): 599-631

Seasonality and mobility are two crucial factors of anthropological research on hunter-gatherers. Lieberman discussed the seasonal patterns in prehistoric human groups in southern Levant. For many reasons, this area is important in studying the evolution of hunter-gatherer’s seasonal mobility. One reason is that this land borders Africa and Eurasia, and has a heterogeneous character with distinguished topography and climates. Another important cause for the importance of this region is that two kinds of humans lived in this region: archaic and early anatomically modern humans.

Lieberman attempts to find a relationship between hominid cultural and mobility patterns by looking at radiating mobility strategies and circulating strategies. This classification is based on the distribution and availability of resources. The social and environmental impacts of these two factors on hunter-gatherer settlement patterns is so important that it essential in understanding the differences between the radiating and circulating mobility.

Radiating mobility is a typical strategy of collectors, who rely on “logistical organization” to collect, store, and dispense of resources. On the other hand, circulating mobility is a typical strategy for foragers, who move from one permanent seasonal camp located near resources to another depending primarily on daily hunting and gathering to acquire adequate resources.
Lieberman suggests two important transitions occurred before the Neolithic period: the origin of human beings and the bases of agriculture Also, he gives consideration to the evolution of hunter-gatherer mobility during the Upper-Pleistocene and Middle-Pleistocene time periods.

Many factors cause the shift from radiating mobility to sedentism and increasing food production and ultimately agriculture. Some of these factors included: rapid global cooling which reduced the availability of land for hunter-gatherers around 13,000 B.P, availability of cereals in Holocene which led to sedentism, suggested by Henry (1989) and McCorriston and Hole (1989). Another significant cause was population densities that brought more competition for resources and resulted in territoriality and reduced mobility. Lieberman notes that information is based on assumptions and gives us limited understanding about our past.

In order to study palaeolithic archeological records and understand the cause of change, it is crucial to have an understanding about hunter-gatherer mobility. Although most of the commentators agree that hunter-gatherers employed circulating mobility and radiating/logistical strategies; some disagreed with certain analyses.

Quentin argues that Lieberman’s view did not present sufficient environmental data to defend radiating mobility. Liberman agreed with the fact that in order to understand the complexity between mobility and environment, more sufficient data is required. Sheprad at one point criticized Lieberman for assembling valuable data and not using the natural evidence such as cave or rock shelters to support his idea that there was a link between seasonality and the radiating/circulating model. Multiseasonal occupation’s evidence is not necessarily applicable to continuous occupation. The possibility of the use of a multiseasonal site by hunter-gatherers in the Levantine Palaeolithic was questioned by Mackie. Lieberman replied that the evidence for multiseasonal occupation in the Middle Palaeolithic is not a form of sedentism. Lieberman notes that evidence for multiseasonal occupation comes from Kebara X, which suggest, that archaic humans, unlike the pattern of ‘gazelle killing at the site for the Upper Palaeolithic and the Kebaran,” were living in Kebara all year long within a limited period of time. This pattern indicates either sedentarism or the return of occupants to the site each season, both which are the characteristics of radiating mobility strategy.

Sherri, Dadsetan. California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Mark W. Allen)

Mace, Ruth. Transitions Between Cultivation And Pastoralism In Sub-Saharan Africa. Current Anthropology Aug-Oct, 1993 Vol.34:363-382.

This paper is based on cultures were farming and herding is long term and the major subsistence. A model is used to predict which forms of subsistence are used in different ecological and economic areas and when this changes. It is created under the theory that people’s modes of survival are related closer to the economic and ecological factors rather than other cultural aspects.

The model presumes that farming and herding households create strategies that enable them to live longer, while also meeting their yearly subsistence requirements. This system is based on a deviation among households and strategies. Within the Sudano-Sahelian zone of Africa, the environment creates a need for agricultural tactics that combine farming and herding. Throughout history, it is proven within this zone of Africa many different agricultural strategies have been used, rather than one traditional strategy.

A model has been made to investigate farmers and herders within Sudano- Sahelian Africa, to understand why they create certain strategies. Some of the details it studies are whether the excess subsistence should be saved or used for the cattle, and what strategies created are least likely to fail. It also examines how the needs of the family, the family’s wealth and the harvest size affect the households overall rates of survival. The overall strength of this dynamic optimality model lies in the study of the sequence of decisions made by the farmers and herders, when confronted with many different situations.

JEN WEDO University of San Diego (Alana Cordy-Collins)

Mace, Ruth. Transitions Between Cultivation And Pastoralism In Sub-Saharan Africa. Current Anthropology August-October, 1993 Vol.34(4): 363-382.

This paper presents a dynamic optimality model, designed to analyze the behaviors that herding and farming households demonstrate in maximizing their long-term viability. The model is used to predict the way in which the subsistence behaviors of households are influenced by ecological and economic factors, and is based on a system where there exists variation among households in their choice of strategies. Mace focuses on the Sudano-Sehalian people of Africa who practice either nomadic pastoralism, settled agriculture, or a variety of agropastoral strategies that combine farming and herding in different degrees. Mace concentrates on three variables assumed to be of importance between these groups: wealth, potential harvest, and household needs.

The modeling technique employed by Mace is known as stochastic dynamic programming. Her model assumes there is a minimum household subsistence requirement which has to be met every year if destitution is to be avoided. Accordingly, it takes the probability of two criteria–(1) a given state of condition, (2) a decision made within that state–and determines the immediate payoff, as well as the next state of condition. Two decisions to be made by the household are considered: (1) whether to cultivate and (2) whether to keep household wealth in the form of livestock, stored grain, or some mixture of the two. The model calculates the resulting wealth over all possible random outcomes, applying weights to them based on their probability of occurrence. This process is repeated for all possible decisions the household could make. The decision which minimizes the probability of destitution can then be identified. By looking at a sequence of years, it can be calculated which sequence of decisions will maximize the chance that the household will still be viable for a specified number of years.

Model validation considers only qualitative (rather than quantitative) predictions because of their applicability to a wider range of parameter values. In all predictions, Mace defines “optimal” as meaning “best under the circumstances rather than best in an ideal world.” Three predictions were analyzed and validated through examples found in recent and historical studies of sub-Saharan pastoralist societies.

Mace concludes by stating, “It is apparent from this exercise that the potential harvest a family can expect is important in the decision whether to cultivate; yet household wealth and household needs can be equally or even more important if viability is the objective. Several different modes of subsistence can be optimal strategies in a given environment for households differing in these respects.”

The commentators all point out some form of weakness. Most criticisms claim her model is not complex or realistic enough, and that it should incorporate a concern with reproduction strategies according to the evolutionary biological theory. Other criticisms focus on her reliance upon historical data (especially during colonial times) in validating the model. It is pointed out that she should include comments and analyses of participants, as well as observation, documentation, and archaeological fieldwork to back up her results.

Mace’s reply groups the least favorable comments into two categories: (1) that the model concentrates too much on biological factors, (2) that it does not do so enough. In the first category, Mace argues that the influence of non-biological factors varies from society to society, and that incorporating them in the context of one culture probably renders the model inapplicable to another. The other group of comments criticizes the link between the assumptions of the model and evolutionary theory. Mace argues that the implications for individual reproductive success of individual behaviors are hard to measure, and that one would not expect to see many heritable differences in behavior between individuals.

GREGORY GREENE California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Mark W. Allen)

Merrill, William L., Ladd, Edmund J., Ferguson, T.J. The Return of the Ahayu:da. Current Anthropology December, 1993 Vol.34(5):523-566.

In 1987 a pair of wooden images representing the twin gods, Ahayu:da, were returned to the Zuni people. The effort to regain these artifacts from the Smithsonian Institute, as well as other Ahayu:da from other collections, began in 1978. Nine years may seem like a long time for negotiations and lead to the idea that either the museum was either hampering the negotiations or that the Zuni people were not dedicated enough. Merrill, Ladd, and Ferguson claim that this is not the case at all. Further, they claim that the case between the Smithsonian Institute and the Zuni people can provide a valuable model for future interactions between tribes and museums. Of course in retrospect some modifications can be made and these are also examined and discussed.

Merrill, Ladd, and Ferguson begin with a Historical Overview commencing with the first interactions between the Pueblo of Zuni and the Smithsonian more that a hundred years ago. They follow this through the organization of the campaign in the 1970’s to regain the Ahayu:da and describe the formalization of the Zuni approach. They continue by following the campaign and negotiations step by step through the years including such events as meetings, formal documents, and official actions. Finally, they examine the process of transferring the Ahayu:da and the actual return.

After providing a comprehensive overview of the history, Merrill, Ladd, and Ferguson each provide their personal perspectives on the case and offer their opinions of what motivated the Smithsonian Institutions administration and the Zuni leaders to take the positions that they did. They also offer their opinions on the aspects of the case that were well done and those aspects that need to be modified or avoided in the future. As three of the principal participants in the process, their personal perspectives provide much insight into the negotiations. Merrill has been the curator of the Smithsonian Institution collections since 1980. His was the responsibility of evaluating the Zuni people’s requests and organizing the response from the Smithsonian Institute. It was also his job to document the collections in question. Ladd is an anthropologist and a member of the Zuni tribe. During this process he worked with the leaders of the Zuni people to aid in creating the requests being submitted to the Institute. Ferguson is an archaeologist and was also director of the Zuni Archaeology Program from 1977 to 1981 and acting director from 1984-84. He was also hired by the Zuni people as an expert witness on tribal land claims.

In the conclusion Merrill, Ladd, and Ferguson claim that despite the differences in justification for the return of the Ahayu:da, the negotiations between the Smithsonian and Zuni people were successful. The Smithsonian Institute was concerned with the title and when it was seen that they did not have a strong claim to title they resolved to return the Ahayu:da to the Zuni. The Zuni people saw it differently. They were more concerned with the religious significance of these artifacts and the disastrous ramifications of the removal of the Ahayu:da from their shrines. A more general justification from the Zuni perspective is that any object created using Zuni knowledge belongs to the Zuni people. Even with these differences, much consideration was given by each party to understanding the others views. Merrill, Ladd, and Ferguson hold this case up as a guide for future cases but also suggest that with the passing of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the framework within which negotiations take place will be different.

EMELIE YONALLY-PHILLIPS University of San Diego (Dr. Alana Cordy-Collins).

Merrill, William L., Edmund J. Ladd, T.J. Ferguson, The Return of the Ahayu:da: Lessons for Repatriation from Zuni Pueblo and the Smithsonian Institution. Current Anthropology December, 1993 Vol.34(5):523-566.

Over the past thirty years, Native Americans have become increasingly more involved in the participation in formal museum activities. That has spurred controversy over the contents of the museums’ collections and their “legal and moral justification” for these collections and the “basis upon which native peoples can legitimately lay claim to them.” Merrill etal. throughout the article express the need for museums and Native Americans to learn from their example of the Zuni tribe and their negotiations with the Smithsonian in order to understand the best course of action for engaging in repatriation requests.

The article by Merrill, et al. confirms that the lengthy negotiations that lasted nine years between the Zuni tribe and the Smithsonian museum were not due to an obstruction by the museum or by a lack of dedication on the part of the Zuni tribe. The authors fear this type of misconception leads to a misunderstanding of the repatriation process. The authors carry the opinion that the negotiations between the Zuni tribe and the Smithsonian staff provide a model to be emulated by other Native American tribes who seek repatriation requests. Merrill et al. adds to our inter-workings, in this holistic piece are personal perspectives and reflections from the authors.

The author’s accounts are comprised of extensive records of the proceedings after the initial request by the Zuni tribe dating from the past hundred years of interaction between the tribe and the members of the Smithsonian. Merrill et al. present their argument against the misconception by creating a detailed historical timeline of the persons involved and actions taken, both from the Smithsonian staff and Zuni tribe to include the involvement from both sides. This supports the idea that the length of time was neither caused by the museum obstructing the Native American tribe or a lack of dedication from the Zuni tribe.

Each of the authors provides a “personal perspective” where each isolates the aspects of the negotiations they feel to be valuable for emulation and the aspects that should be avoided. The authors give their opinions identifying the motivations of the Smithsonian Institutions administration and the Zuni leaders, and offer their own interpretation of the proceedings between the two.

In concluding this article, Merrill et al. iterate that despite the differences of justification for the return of the Ahayu:da, the negotiations between the Smithsonian and the Zuni were successful. For the Smithsonian, the title was the key, and once it was prominent that the “Institution lacked good title to the Ahayu:da, there was no question that it would return them to the Zunis.” For the Zuni people, they protested that “any object created on the basis of Zuni knowledge belonged to Zuni people, even if it had been made by non-Zunis.” The authors show in the detailed historical analysis that despite these differences in thought, great consideration by each party to understand the other was done to come to a mutual agreement. By illuminating the differences in views of both parties and maintaining the negotiations were successful, the authors prove that this is a sufficient model for other museums and Native American tribes to emulate.

Several of the commentators applauded the non-confrontational tone that characterized the Zuni-Smithsonian negotiations, however, both Alan Downer and Larry Zimmerman suggest that museums should not expect other tribes to adopt a similar approach. Zimmerman felt confrontation is an integral component of the negotiation styles of other native tribes, such as the Plains tribes. Merrill et al. understand not all tribes share the Zuni ethic of nonconfrontation, but they believe that nonconfrontation will be the most effective for approach for all tribes in their negotiations with museums.

LAURA STEELE California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Mark W. Allen)

Milo, Richard G.; Quiatt, Duane. Glottogenesis and Anatomically Modern Homo Sapiens: The Evidence for and Implications of a Late Origin of Vocal Language. Current Anthropology, Vol. 34, (5). Dec., 1993, pp. 569-598.

Milo and Quiatts’ article on human language development uses a biological foundation for forming hypothesis. The authors use culture as both a driving force for, and resulting effect of, language development. Their article begins with the assumed culture of Neanderthals in Europe and other regions and a gives two different definitions of culture, one of which includes the use of language. The latter definition is attributed strictly to the Homo genus and is the main factor that distinguishes us from other animals.

The authors use biological features of both pre-modern and modern humans to explain the possible development of language through evolving abilities for humans to make certain sounds. The first biological factor the authors compared was the shape of human and pre-human mouths. The shape of modern humans’ mouths is shortened compared to that of Neanderthals and earlier humans allowing for a shorter, rounder tongue, which allows greater movement and therefore greater phonetic ability.

The next, major biological factor is known as glottogenesis in which the larynx becomes positions lower in the throat. In earlier humans and human infants, the larynx is positioned relatively high in the throat, preventing some vowels from being pronounced properly. Around age two, the larynx begins to lower in human babies and allows them to pronounce words of the human language. Accompanying this change is a change in brain base shape. In earlier humans and babies, the brain base is flat. However, in humans three and above, the brain base is slanted allowing for the movement of the larynx in the manner mentioned above.

The development of a more complex language allowed modern humans to convey ideas very important to survival. For instance to find an important food source, it is more useful to have a language that can apply a given name to that spot instead of complex hand gestures than can be easily mistaken. This is what the authors believe resulted in the extinction of the Neanderthals. Modern humans’ ability to take advantage of resources faster than Neanderthals due to this more advanced communication also lead to their successful competition.

DOUGLAS BURTON University of San Diego (Alana Cordy-Collins)

Milo, Richard G.; Quiatt, Duane. Glottogenesis and Anatomically Modern Homo Sapiens: The Evidence for and Implications of a Late Origin of Vocal Language. Current Anthropology, November–December, 1993. Vol. 34 (5): 569-598.

The origins of vocal language will likely be debated well into the future of anthropology due to the fact that fossilized hominid remains tell us little about the soft and cartilaginous tissues involved in the production of speech. As Milo and Quiatt recognize in this article, as do most of the commentators, much of the debate revolves around speculation and incomplete evidence. The authors take the risk, however, and argue for an origin of “fully phonemicized” speech in the Late Pleistocene/Upper Paleolithic, somewhere around 40,000ybp.

The authors propose in the article that a population of late modern Homo sapiens, with a preexisting cognitive cranial apparatus associated with a relatively well-developed tool tradition, became increasingly more reliant upon phonemic language to increase group cohesion. According to the authors, selection forces, both internal and external, demanded a rapid evolution of fully phonemicized language. Archaeological evidence of rapid technological and cultural advancement in the Late Pleistocene and replacement of existing archaic populations (primarily in regards to the Neandertals) is proposed to correlate with this punctuated evolutionary language leap. The authors suggest that such populations of late modern Homo sapiens, with a very different (more socially, spacio-cognitively, and technologically advanced) form of communication not only would have been able to out-compete the earlier populations residing in the areas to which they migrated, but would have recognized differences between themselves and other groups more readily than populations relying primarily on gestural communication.

It must be noted that the fossil record available at the time of this article’s submission has since greatly expanded. This fact likely has quelled little of the debate around the issue of language origins; as the authors and some commentators point out, much of the argument is based on speculation and definition of terms that may never be fully agreed upon (i.e., language or culture). The morphological evidence cited is chosen to support their argument through comparison of a selection of cranial, facial, and dental features of early Homo, Neandertals, early modern Homo sapiens, and Homo s. s. As opposed to simpler forms of speech, which they contend accompanied a more gestural language package of the earlier Homo lineages, they claim rapidly spoken phonemicized language requires features supposedly found only in modern Homo sapiens morphology. These include features that they associate with the low position of the human larynx (e.g., a flexed basicranium); the “relatively short, broad, and rounded human tongue” and modification of the supralaryngeal tract (e.g., reduced dentition); “reduction and retraction of the face.”

Comments from other authors and specialists in this article, to a large extent, focused on the fact that it contained more speculation than evidence (see for example Aiello, Burling, and Wynn). Milo and Quiatt replied with a claim that they were not out to prove anything or provide any kind of final word on language origin, but that their main purpose was to elicit thought, comments, and more research on this question and others that lie in the time interval under discussion. A few of the commentators raised concerns about selectivity in morphological data presented as evidence, as well as errors in interpretation of such morphological data. Frayer and Wolpoff, for example, offer a strong argument that a cited Neandertal hyoid bone was said to be pig-like, when in fact it was simply similar in size to a pigs while the morphology of the bone was nearly indistinguishable from that of the late modern Homo sapiens.

RYAN C. LONG California Polytechnic State University, Pomona (Mark W. Allen)

Roscoe, Paul B. Practice and Political Centralisation. Current Anthropology April, 1993 Vol.34(2):111-140.

In “Practice and Political Centralisation” Paul B. Roscoe suggests a new approach to the topic of political evolution. He proposes to use a theory currently used in cultural anthropology, called the practice theory, and apply it to political evolution. Practice theory is more of a holistic approach than previous theories. It takes into account not only material reasons for political evolution, but also takes into account the role of the individual. Political evolution is made up of three phenomena; political centralization (the concentrations of power in the hands of a few, socioeconomic differentiation (occupational specialization), and social stratification (the differentiation of status).

Paul then focuses on political centralization using the practice theory. He tries to validate the role of density and nucleation in political centralization by proposing three possible objections.

The first argument is a theoretical challenge that deals with the amount of time leaders are able to spend interacting with their followers. Simply put, the more a leaders followers are spread out, the more time the leaders must spend traveling between them and the less time he has to rule. The problem with that argument is that it only takes into account direct interaction with a leader and his followers. It would be in the best interest of the ruler to institutionalize their dominance. The second argument is an empirical challenge which states that population growth is unrelated to political centralization and can negatively affect political centralization. The evidence to support this includes several case studies of different cultures. These case studies included a study on state formation in the Puebla-Tlaxcala Basin of Mexico and a study of contact-era political complexity on Micronesian islands. The evidence seems to point to there being a population decline right before a rise in political centralization. Paul addresses these studies and points to flaws in their arguments. The third argument is a methodical challenge which states that it is really population pressure that promotes political centralization. Paul uses a case study of two very similar Polynesian islands, Niue and Tongatapu. The only real difference was that Niue was resource poor, which caused the population density to be lower than on Tongatapu, but the population pressure was almost certainly higher. This goes against the argument that population pressure is the primary reason for political centralization, as Niue had less political centralization than Tongatapu, but confirms the practice theory prediction.

In his conclusion, Paul points out that practice theory seems to be better able to account for the differences in political centralization between Niue and Tongatapu. He also says that theory should be able to explain not just archaeological and historical data, but also the ethnographic record, which practice theory seems to be able to do. Paul then states that practice theory is not a perfected theory, but seems better than most.

The overall reaction to Paul B. Roscoe’s article was a positive one. However, the reviews of his article were mixed. Commentators complimented his new ideas and enjoyed his article, but some pointed out some problems such as his choice of islands for his case study, since he chose the islands himself, the choice might have been biased to fit his theory. Another quandary they had was that the theoretical focus was too narrow and did not take into account the role of conflict.

In his reply, Roscoe responded to many of his commentators. He countered many of their arguments and conceded that he was unable to be as thorough in his paper as he wished do to space constraints, as he was limited to 10,000 words.

HUNTER HICKS California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Mark W. Allen)

Stern, Nicole. The Structure of the Lower Pleistocene Archaeological Record: A Case Study from the Koobi Formation. Current Anthropology June 1993. Vol.34(3): 201-225.

The goal of this article is to try and resume dialogue of the behavioral significance of material remains through the discussion of a well-studied section of the Lower Pleistocene record. The site used in the research was the lower Okote Member (LOM) of the Koobi Formation in northwest Kenya, Africa and the Omo Valley, Ethiopia.

The sediment found in this location includes flat-lying sands, silts, and clays that are deposited in a variety of fluvial, deltaic, and lacustrine environments. The LOM was the smallest wedge of sediment found at this specific location and is therefore, the smallest unit of time that could have been used in this study. The LOM covers a time period from approximately 4.3 million years ago to 0.6 million years ago.

Archaeological debris were found scattered in patches within the various stratigraphic levels of the LOM and in most of the depositional environments mentioned. The debris that was found and studied was divided into two categories: faunal remains and stone artifacts. The faunal remains that were found included over two hundred bones such as teeth, fragments of tusk, and distal limb elements. The stone artifacts included raw material that had yet to be used or turned into tools and flaking debris.

The archaeological materials that were found occurred most abundantly in the outcrops of the KBS and Okote Members, along the western faces of the Aberagaya and Karari Ridges.


There were two types of responses to Stern’s research. While some of the people who commented on Stern’s research claimed that there were some major flaws with the methodology and the data base that were used, others reported that her research provided new insight and achieved its goal.


Stern defended her methodology and the data base by claiming that the paper is “limited in aim and scope, intended only to lay a small piece of groundwork for future investigations of human action over long time spans.”

JENNIFER REID University of San Diego (Alana Cordy-Collins)

Stern, Nicola. The Structure of the Lower Pleistocene Archaeological Record. Current Anthropology June, 1993 Vol. 34, No3: 201-230.

This article addresses the struggle of understanding how human behavior is related to materials found in remains from the past, something that archaeologists since the late 19th century have been trying to deal with. Several theoretical formulas were created and it can be used to explain the information in ethnographic databases. Discrepancies in the processes that create archaeological record combined with the extensive use of radiometric dating techniques to artifacts lead to inconsistency between models and the actual data being explained.

The field research for this article was done in Kenya in 1986 and 1987. A study of the lower Okote Member of the Koobi Fora Formation in Northwestern Kenya shows a disparity between the interpretive models applied and the existing structure of the earliest archaeological data. Current Plio-Pleistocene research is not focused on a comprehensive understanding of early hominids. Only small sections of high-density patches of debris are looked at. Then, with the belief that the best way to understand the past is to apply the same social and ecological models used in the present, the interpretations are thought to be the actual behavior of past humans.

The purpose of this paper is to show that this research strategy causes differences between the structure of the archaeological record and the interpretive models applied to that record. A consequence of this “mismatch” (as Stern calls it) is the never-ending debate about behavioral inferences that can be supported by Lower Pleistocene archaeological data. A detailed description of the current record is given in this article. It shows that information needed to answer current questions cannot be derived from the record and that the behavioral information in the record has to be re-evaluated. To understand behavioral significance of the findings, the relationship between materials derived form an infinite number of behaviors and their patterns and trends over a long period time have to be analyzed.

Bunn and Kroll find major flaws with Stern’s methodology and data base. The artifacts and bones that she found were in fact from the Plio/Pleistocene era, but they were discovered along modern ground surface, making the data of the nature and distribution of artifacts and bones somewhat irrelevant. Haynes commented that she does not provide any solutions to the problem. To him, reasonable people not only call for change, but also provide adequate solutions. McBrearty believe records of artifacts found outside of the site are valuable, because their presence in time cannot be determined. Sept commented that she does not seem to think that Stern’s data supports her argument about site formation processes. She also thinks that further excavation in the basal horizon of LOM could be fruitful. All comments were favorable to solving the issue of consistency and the need to study the archaeological remains from all available contexts.

Stern notes that the paper is only intended to start future investigations, and that it is not meant to be a guideline or agenda. She also makes an attempt to further explain the database. To defend her methodology, she states that, “there is a common misconception that the problems of palimpsest formation and time resolution that provided the impetus to this paper would not exist if excavated data were substituted for surface assemblages.” She goes on to say that the geological context in which the debris is found is misread. In addition, Stern defends her take on excavations of LOM by emphasizing that it is the smallest unit of analysis and dividing it into smaller parts would sacrifice the paleolandscape and the quantity of debris available for study.

ANEENA POKKAMTHANAM California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Mark W. Allen)