Current Anthropology 2002
Barth, Fredrik. An Anthropology of Knowledge. Current Anthropology February, 2002 Vol.43 (1).1-18.
Barth’s essay focuses on the problem of knowledge which he considers what a person uses to interpret and act on the world. The amount of knowledge varies greatly from person to person as a result of several factors. The focus of his essay claims that the anthropology community would benefit substantially by “developing a comparative ethnographic analysis on how bodies of knowledge are produced in persons and in populations in the context of the social relations that they sustain.”
In order to analyze the different traditions of knowledge, Barth sees three aspects of knowledge which are interconnected to each other and present with every transaction of knowledge. The first idea is that any tradition of knowledge contains a corpus of substantive assertions and ideas about aspects of the world. Secondly, knowledge must be instantiated and communicated in one or several media as a series of partial representations in the form of words, concrete symbols, pointing gestures or actions. The third aspect of knowledge is that it will be distributed, communicated, employed and transmitted within a series of instituted social relations.
Barth uses his ethnographic research he performed in New Guinea and in Bali as examples in his discussion of knowledge and its formation and transmission. He sees knowledge in the form of secret coming of age ritual of the Baktaman people. The knowledge passed down through this ritual provides people with a way to understand major aspects of the world, ways to think and feel about the world and how to act on it. During this particular ceremony, many analogies were used as symbolic representations of growth.
Barth also looks at Bali-Hinduism which makes up a large corpus of knowledge because it includes a complex and varied set of beliefs, skills and practices. The author wants to find out if Bali-Hindu can be described as a coherent system of learning, and if it is, he wants to know the character of its systematicity.
In his general reflections, he discusses the un-ending variability of knowledge bodies based on the fact that each culture interprets the world differently. He suggests that in order to unravel the processes and dynamics of the different types of human knowledge, the program of discovery and analysis seems to be unending.
MINA ELISON University of San Diego (Dr. Cordy-Collins)
Bloch, Maurice and Sperber, Dan. Kinship And Evolved Psychological Dispositions. The Mother’s Brother Controversy Reconsidered. Current Anthropology, Volume 43, Number 5, December 2002.
This article discusses the relationship of mother’s brothers and sisters sons in the context of kinship, property and personal rights, and the anthropological criticisms thereof. This particular subject has gathered a large amount of attention in the anthropological world. This is due to the nature of these customs and laws. Which surround the rights to possessions and people when a male member of a patrilineal family dies. These customs and rights are seen in many different and independent regions of the world. While they are fundamentally the same they each show an extensive level of variation. These patterns of behavior are explained as being caused by several factors and the influence of these factors on one another. Local and regional histories, coupled with human and social pathology, are all said to be determinates of this overall social anomaly. The article explains that these social patterns, which may have begun as methods of convenience based on bonds of kinship, stabilized and became firmly set in their respective cultures. The natural evolution of these patterns is said, by the article, to have developed out of a natural disposition to favor relatives. The culture specific development of these customs accounts for the variance we see in them. This would explain why they developed with a fundamental likeness, but maintained uniqueness within each group. The general similarity of these cultural expressions demonstrates the main point of this piece. The relationship of mother’s brothers and sister’s sons in a shared expression is a result of a shared evolved psychological disposition.
WILLIAM WELSH University Of San Diego (Alana Cordy-Collins)
Eswaren, Vinayak. A Diffusion Wave Out Of Africa. The Mechanism of The Modern Human Revolution? Current Anthropology, Volume 43, Number 5, December 2002
This report asserts that modern humanity spread from Africa. It begins with simply addressing the problem. The problem is that two separate theories surrounding human evolution, in direct conflict, exist. At the core of this argument is the date and appearance of modern human genotypes. Two theories are proposed: one, that humans developed in Africa and shortly thereafter developed independently in the way best suited to their environment. And, two, that humans developed independently in remote social groups according to the qualities that best suited their respected environments. The first of these two theories is the one supported and defined by this paper. The author asserts that the spread of humans was not a migration, but that it occurred in a wave that gradually reached to all parts of the world. This wave distinguishes itself from migration in that it was not made by large groups or in a relatively short period of time. To the absolute contrary, it was done by small isolated groups over an extremely long period of time. This process drove the development of the modern human genotype. Also addressed is the possibility of other forms of diffusion of genes in smaller groups in their respective environments. This would rely upon a low level of interbreeding along with strong natural selection. The low level of interbreeding was present; however, a strong level of natural selection is unlikely. It is more likely that small groups with low interbreeding supported their own genetic development, independent of each other. Interbreeding would not have affected the development of certain genotypes so dramatically. The paper then goes on to explain the process by which these ideas were developed. In this process a quantitative model was used. This helped to unlock the mysteries of several large questions of human genetic development. The information gathered by this model suggested that modern humans assimilated the genetic strengths of their ancestors while developing further advantageous traits of their own. This transition was given credit for reducing the infant mortality rate, which in turn helped spur the genetic development in such small populations. At this point, rather late in the paper, another sub-theory is introduced. It is of “shifting balance”, which states that low genetic diversity is the final phase thereof. This is an evolutionary trait that is not seen in other primates. The process of shifting balance is then said to be a possible explanation of the “uniqueness of human evolution”.
WILLIAM WELSH University Of San Diego (Alana Cordy-Collins)
Fabian, Johannes. Virtual Archives And Ethnographic Writing. “Commentary” as a New Genre? Current Anthropology, Volume 43, Number 5, December 2002
This article is a discussion on the final step of what was a large four-step process, though the article does not discuss the other three steps. The main focus of this paper was to describe the repercussions, and results that an online archive would have. This essay was written not as a description of the archive or its practical uses so much as it was of the peripheral results of this archive, and its place in the progression of anthropology. A heavily discussed topic in this article was the place of language-based learning and its importance as a tool for transmitting information. There are those who believe that spoken language is of the utmost importance. They believe that of all ways to transmit knowledge, spoken language is paramount. They believe that the importance of documenting language and preserving it is a vital part of anthropology. It is more in the context of language and the archive in tandem, not that of the archive itself, that this article is written. This article discusses the changes that are facing ethnographic texts and fieldwork as primary sources for knowledge. The creation of an online archive would change the face of information gathering and research in that it would put all relevant knowledge at your fingertips. The more traditional genres of anthropological knowledge will not be directly affected because of the limitations of a virtual archive. However these more traditional methods are highly dependant on the types of writing that would be affected by the virtual archive. Therefore the face of the scientific paper, the monograph, or the historical account will forever change. The ability to immediately and thoroughly research any given topic will dramatically change a person’s ability to perform many different tasks in the area of anthropological writing.
WILLIAM WELSH University Of San Diego (Alana Cordy-Collins)
Fessler, Daniel M.T. Reproductive Immunosupression and Diet. Current Anthropology February, 2002 Vol 43(1): 19-61.
Pregnancy sickness might be an adaptation providing behavioral prophylaxis against infection. This sickness may occur when their vulnerability to pathogens. Meat may be the greatest carrier of pathogens and is often avoided by many pregnant women. The nausea and vomiting caused by this pregnancy sickness is helpful because it protects the person from the ingested toxins. Yet sometimes there is a strange phenomena that women who are pregnant may get sickness while others eat around them, without digesting the food. Many believe this is a vulnerability that is started in women when they are pregnant. This sickness is a functional adaptation. There have been numerous studies to see if this pregnancy sickness, which usually occurs in the first trimester, is an adaptation. There have been such experiments when women who are pregnant are tested to see what their aversions or cravings concerning food is. Also many experiments are done on why the timing of the sickness usually begins in the first trimester.
Yet the conclusion of many tests has proved that meat has become the most dangerous food to pregnant women because of the high rate of pathogens in the meat. Most people do not know how to cook or prepare the meat well enough to be able to get rid of the toxins so they get even sicker.
Some others believe that in part with maybe the sickness becoming an adaptation, that the olfactory region may also have become apart of it. Olfaction can be a plausible explanation for the detection of food properties and plays a role in the elicitation of nausea.
PRISCILLA GUIDO University of San Diego, (Alana Cordy-Collins)
Hamann, Byron. The Social Life of Pre-Sunrise Things: Indigenous Mesoamerican Archaeology. Current Anthropology, June 2002 Vol. 43(3): (351-382)
Byron Hamann discusses how the ancient people of Mesoamerica developed their own interpretations of the remains of their past and origins, in social thought and order. Hamann specifically looks at three Mesoamerican communities: the 16th century Mexica Aztec community of Tenochtitlan, the 16th century Mixtec community of Chachopan, and the 20th century Yucatec Mayan community of Chan Kom. The term “Mesoamerica” that Hamann coins, foregrounds the legacies of pre-European exchange into these areas. Hamann describes first the 16th century Aztec community as a militant power of its time. The Aztecs followed a tradition of human sacrifice in homage to their gods. There was the belief of “original debt” that the Aztecs held in the origins of their existence. The Aztecs tell of pre-sunrise events in which gods sacrificed themselves so that humans could have the sun, which in turn means life. The Aztecs then used mass sacrifices and large temples to pay homage to their gods for the gift of the sun. Similarly along these lines, it was the notion of debt that the 16th century community of Chachopan also adopted. They considered their community based on the “Hill of the Rain god,” and had believed notions of a violent pre-sunrise existence. The Chachopan held belief that the entities of Earth and Rain allowed them to eat the plants of the earth in order to sustain life. In order to pay homage for these gifts, the Chachopan used human sacrifice. The hierarchy of the Chachopan was determined by the stature of one’s house, the larger and better constructed signified power. Hamann gives contrast in his discussion about the 20th century Mayan community of Chan Kom. They did not have the notion of “original debt,” but rather believed that the supernatural creators of earth would come back to share their powers. This is seen as a community also that was influenced to some degree by the spread of Christianity. Hamann addresses these various communities only to shed light as to the basis of pre-sunrise notions that each had and how it played out in the archaeology of ancient Mesoamerica.
BRIAN REBOLLEDO University of San Diego (Alana Cordy-Collins)
Klein, Cecelia F., Guzmán E., Mandell, E.C., Stanfield-Mazzi, M. The Role of Shamanism in Mesoamerican Art: A Reassessment. Current Anthropology June, 2002. Vol.43(3):383-419.
While most of the research that has been previously done on shamanism and how it is reflected in art has been rather has produced very limited results. Researchers tend to make very broad statements about shamanism’s role in the understanding of Mesoamerican art. The goal of this article is to explore the research findings which have been previously reported. This has lead to the creation of several controversial theoretical schools and methodologies such as diffusionism, cultural evolutionism, cultural materialism, the New Archaeology, and social and Marxist art history.
The article attempts to discuss the following three models of research that have previously been conducted: The Seminal Writings of Peter Furst, research conducted by Mircea Eliade, and the Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy. The authors of this article conclude that the problems with Furst’s model is that he “redefined shamanism in terms of traits that other scholars, including Eliade, had shown to be too general or too variable in distribution to be identified exclusively with it.”
The authors claim that there are two problems with the ways in which Mesoamerican art has been studied. This article attempts to explore the ways in which these problems can be corrected. The first problem is that there is an uncritical use of the words “shaman” and “shamanism” in that there is a lack of historical criticism when studying these terms and concepts. The second problem discussed is that there is a lack of agreement among art historians, historians or religion, and social scientists in their definitions and labeling of “shaman.” Unless these problems are addressed, the history of Mesoamerican shamanism will continue to be shamelessly romanticized by Western society.
Many of the anthropologists who commented on this particular article agreed with applauded Klein and associates in their view that the term shamanism has been used very liberally in an undefined fashion among researchers. Also, that it has been romanticized in western cultures. They are in agreement that something needs to be done to define shamanism among those that deal with this Mesoamerican “religious” practice. However, some opposed the viewpoint that was presented in this article claiming that that the authors presented a completely negative view of the role that shamanism has played in writings about Mesoamerican studies.
They believe that they have achieved their goal of providing a new definition of shamanism among Mesoamerican cultures. Klein and associates thanked all those that provided positive comments regarding the information in the article; however they thanked all those that provided criticism of their work. Their reply, however, provided more information in support of their argument.
JENNIFER REID University of San Diego (Alana Cordy-Collins)
Klein, Cecelia F. The Role of Shamanism in Mesoamerican Art. Current Anthropology June, 2002 Vol.43(3):383-420.
This article explores the mislabeling and misuse of the concept of Shamanism. Because Westerners have little information as to what exactly Shamans represent among different cultures, they often associate certain objects or ideas with the concept when, in fact, they are not correlated at all. Anthropologists, archaeologists, and other experts must now examine Shamanism in greater depth to eliminate the problem of mislabeling. The work of anthropologist Peter Furst is also illustrated as a demonstration of the attempt to solve this problem through his work in this field. Both Furst and Mircea Eliade are used to exemplify how the notion of Shamanism can be misused. Too often people use these anthropologists’ work as an example to follow when doing their own research simply because of their notoriety. The author explains that researchers should first study the information from a critical point of view before assuming that the information is correct and that the data truly are indicative of Shamanism. Assumptions such as these are what lead to further misconceptions of the notion of Shamanism.
Each culture has its own types of Shamans and each play a different role within their respective societies. A Shaman cannot be understood in a broad context and must be explored in particular situations. Shamans represented in one culture’s artwork may have a completely different connotation within the context of another culture.
The most useful method to solve the problem of misusing the label of Shamanism is to create new terminology that will replace the incorrect label and signify the broad context that “Shamanism” is now used to represent. In order to correct this poor usage of the term, one must conduct a detailed study of what the Shaman represents, the jobs he carries out, and every other detail that defines a being as a Shaman. If one characteristic is left out of a description or picture, the person or being must be assigned a new label. By distinguishing these differences, a better understanding of Mesoamerican art can and will be produced.
KELLEY SIBLEY University of San Diego (Alana Cordy-Collins)
Kohl, Philip L., and J.A. Pérez Gollán. Religion, Politics, and Prehistory: Reassessing the Lingering Legacy of Oswald Menghin. Current Anthropology August-October, 2002 Vol.43(4):561-584.
This article examines the career of 20th century prehistorian Oswald Menghin, whose theories were at one time highly accepted. Authors Kohl and Pérez Gollán argue that Menghin’s misuse of his own prehistoric expertise led to mistaken political aims and inaccurate archaeological conclusions. His ideas bordered on Nazi ideology at times, and his German affiliations and strictly catholic beliefs greatly influenced his work. He theorized about a common human prehistory, with three basic cultural traditions (characterized by tool technology) that gave rise to present-day racial differences. Basing such ideas on religious grounds and applying them to political issues of the time arguably fueled Menghin’s erroneous beliefs. However, Kohl and Pérez Gollán also point out the legacy Menghin left behind, as a teacher and influential scholar. The article describes his career path in some detail, including his education and professorships, both in Austria and Argentina, and outlines his early and later works. He was a distinguished professor who produced a multitude of scholarly publications, few of which are considered or utilized by Anglo-American archaeology today. Menghin has nevertheless provided a strong influence on areas in which he taught, as well as on those continuing the culture-historical method that he worked with and passed on.
The comments on this article provide reminders for all scholars of the constant possibility of error. There is support for Menghin’s achievements, as well as criticism for his negative attitude toward Judaism and the possible influence his works had upon the Nazi party. The comments seek more information on a variety of topics, including Menghin’s exile to Argentina, which subsequently led to his second professorship. There are also comments stating that the study of culture inevitably involves contemporary political, social, and religious issues, as it is hard for any scholar to avoid such influences.
Kohl and Pérez Gollán reply with the agreement that research is always done with a political and social backdrop, and point out that many scientists recognize this within their own work and don’t always consider it a negative attribute. They admit to not knowing all details of Menghin’s life, and argue that his theories should be considered with respect to historical context. Kohl and Pérez Gollán also express hope that their article facilitates an archaeological discussion across cultures on this topic, something they believe has already begun.
MEGHAN LITTLE University of San Diego (Alana Cordy-Collins)
Lamberg-Karlovsky, O.C.. Proto-Indio-European. Current Anthropology. February, 2002 Vol. 43(1):63-88.
O.C. Lamberg-Karlovsky discusses the origins of a language that today we commonly call Proto-Indio-European. Currently, scholars are trying to locate the area in which the language started and spread. After a time frame was suggested the language split to create two groups. The Iranian and Vedic families were popularized after the splitting of Proto-Indio-European. Scholars have recently found that the settlement was located in Anatolia around 7000-6500 B.C. Agriculture has been the cause of the spread and split of the language. The split of the language continued to grow starting at Vedic and Iranian, Vedic then split into Sanskirt and Prakit, and then finally split into Hindustani, Marathi, Bengali, and Romany. Iranian finally broke down into Persian, Kurdish, Afghan and Ossetic. Archaeological evidence proves that these Pit Grave Culture not only provided agricultural advancements, but also evolution of civilizations. The conclusions suggest that there are no reliable archaeological findings that Proto-Indio European is a split of the Iranian and Vedic families. Commentators suggest that the information contains obvious inaccuracies which have no archaeological evidence. Other comments state that the paper is a good introduction to the problems with the origin of Indo-Iranian. Lamberg-Karlovsky replies that he is, “grateful for the informative and challenging responses” (83).
LAURA HAHNE University of San Diego (Alana Cordy-Collins)
Lesure, Richard. The Goddess Diffracted. Current Anthropology August-October, 2002 Vol.43(4):587-609.
The prevalence of female imagery among Neolithic figurine findings has lead many archaeologists to attempt to make broad generalizations about their meanings while others deny these generalizations in favor of the particulars. Richard Lesure approaches the topic by investigating the feasibility of a general explanation for this female pattern. Lesure starts by looking at the many different analytical perspectives employed by anthropologists. Using these perspectives he develops a framework of analysis. Lesure claims that when investigating the “meaning” of the figurines the analyst must make two important choices. The first decision is whether meanings are explicitly formulated or lie in deep structures. The second, independent decision is whether meanings are derived from social circumstances or are autonomous systems. Based on the answers to these two questions the investigator will arrive at one of four analytical perspectives Lesure admits that most people end up with a little bit of each, however, people tend to concentrate more on one perspective). These four perspectives are iconography, investigating what a figurine was intended to represent, use, looking at how the figurines were used, social analysis, examining the structural determinants of meaning, and symbolic studies, exploring the more abstract ideas referenced by the figurines. Lesure then looks at each of these perspectives more closely distinguishing the research problems encountered by each and possible ways to avoid or solve these difficulties.
Having assembled the framework Lesure uses it in two capacities. First he utilizes it as a point from which to dissect previous arguments about the Neolithic figurines, and secondly he uses the framework as a guide for making new interpretations. In order to do this he first characterized the conditions favorable for each of the four perspectives and then attempts to identify those conditions in two specific locations. As his locations he usese the Near East sites of the late eighth millennium through the mid-sixth millennium b.c. and Mesoamerica from the mid-2d millennium through the mid-first millennium b.c. Both of these locations provide many sites of early, small villages that yield many figurine findings.
Lesure concludes that there are feasible grounds and conditions for a generalized explanation from the perspective of use, however, large scale comparisons may explain little about what interests anthropologists concerning the figurines. Depending on the geographical scale, different analytical perspectives may be more prominent and useful. This leads to Leasure’s description of particularism and generalization “not as opposing camps but in terms of an ongoing and salubrious tension.”
Overall Lesure’s paper produced positive responses, however, there were a few criticisms. Both Rosemary Joyce and Julian Thomas pointed out some of the limitations of the framework. The main criticism on this point was that the framework does not include all of the used analytical modes. In response Lesure both agrees and disagrees. He claims atht most analytical modes are not assigned to one category but do fall somewhere in the framework and usually incorporate a couple of the perspectives. However, Lesure does admit that some analytical modes have been ignored such as history, however, he suggests that expanding the framework to include these areas may be more beneficial than discarding the entire framework.
Fiorella Ippolitoni Strika contests the fact claim that the figurines of the Near East are predominately female. Replying to this, Lesure says that, as he noted in his paper, the predominance of female imagery among these figurines is still open to debate.
Strika and Joyce also criticize the question Lesure asked, “Why Female Figurines?” They both ask if this is the right question to ask. In response to this critic Lesure clarifies that this is not necessarily the most important question to ask, merely a question that was raised many times. Lesure also points out the open-endedness of his conclusions.
EMELIE YONALLY-PHILLIPS University of San Diego (Dr. Alana Cordy-Collins).
Nas, Peter J.M. Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Culture. Current Anthropology February, 2002 Vol.43(1):139-148.
In “Masterpieces of Intangible Culture,” author Peter J.M. Nas offers support for the preservation of cultural elements that might otherwise be lost or forgotten amidst present-day modernization. Such cultural phenomena as music, language, dance, ritual, and folklore have been recognized as valuable for future generations and placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List for safekeeping. Nas explains the procedures necessary for adding a potential “masterpiece” to this list, including the evaluation process and criteria to be considered. An assessment of candidates includes factors such as perceived endangerment and degree of cultural value. International judges representing various fields make the final decisions. While clearly in support of safeguarding culture, Nas doesn’t hesitate to raise questions regarding the plausibility of preservation and the effects that such a process may have. These issues are explored through descriptions of actual items included on the preservation list, such as the bala of Sosso, a musical instrument dating back to 13th century royalty of Guinea and still used today in the transmission of oral tradition. Among other items described is the Elche Mystery Play of Spain, a medieval performance regarding the Virgin Mary. Nas argues that such elements of culture provide a means for later generations to identify with their heritage.
The commentary evoked by this article is cautiously supportive of this type of cultural preservation, pointing out the fact that UNESCO’s program is still in its early stages and that the emerging field of cultural heritage needs much more research. Nas receives applause for discussing the importance of cultural identity, but the issue of who deems which traditions worthy of preservation (and how this is decided) remains a major concern. The very practice of preservation itself is questioned, as is the proposed value of cultural items locked into one unchangeable form. There is further concern about the program actually perpetuating the globalization of culture, the very thing it is fighting against.
Nas replies to these comments with a clarification of ambiguous points, restating the current lack of ample research in the field. He exhibits a strong interest in the long-term effects of the program, and responds to critical comments with a call for more study.
MEGHAN LITTLE University of San Diego (Alana Cordy-Collins)
Palsson, Gisili, and Haroadottir, Kristin. For Whom the Cell Tolls. Current Anthropology April, 2002 Vol.43 (2): 271-302
Biomedicine is a controversial and interesting topic that Gisi Palsson and Kristin Haroardottir explain well in their article entitled, “For Whom the Cell Tolls”. In Iceland, there was a huge debate about whether to use the genes, body components, and medical information of their citizens for research. The main reason for the research was to “explore the genetic causes of common diseases.” Some say, this helps us to understand the human body better and allows people to gain from modern advancements in science. Others say that giving out medical records without consent is infringement on human rights and this also involves the morality of using human components. Interestingly enough, the bill was passed in 2000 by the Ministry of Health, to allow deCode Genetics to build a database. There was more controversy as to who had the right to the research, should it have been private or have it be open to share for everyone. The bill did not pass without opposition. Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Clinton opposed the study, saying to share the information for everyone to use. The database consisted of half of the people ever born in Iceland, roughly 600,000 citizens. This issue was getting enormous media attention in Iceland, though it was happening in Britain, Sweden, and Estonia.
The citizens of Iceland were almost unanimously for the research. According to a Gallup Poll, 81% of the citizens were in favor of the research. However, many of the doctors and scientists were vehemently opposed. They said it violated the privacy of their patients, and could potentially allow biopracy of the people researched. Generally, people cannot sell their organs or those of family members. People also did not have a decision in choosing to not take part in the study. Their information was given even if the researchers did not have the consent of the individual. There were clear consequences and just as clear benefits to this interesting issue.
The general consensus made by the critics of the article were that is was very well written with impressive data to back up points in the article. Two readers commented saying that the article is “extensive and an in depth review”, while another says that the analysis is commendable. Most of the people who critiqued the article were very interested in the moral landscape and the implications that the research would have on not only the citizens of Iceland but also that of other countries doing similar research.
The authors of the article were gracious for the vast majority of approval that the critics gave. Both authors thought that the next few years would be interesting to see how this situation plays out. In the end, will there be a resounding positive or negative thought on the projects being conducted. Once again, the authors bring up the notion of moral landscape. It seems that the moral landscape as a result of this project could have long-term implications. Will it become a societal norm in the future, to test citizens of countries to get information on past family illnesses? Or will this be a one-time experiment, because of the possibility of inconclusive results? Only time will tell on the controversial project.
JAMES MONACO University of San Diego (Dr. Alana Cordy-Collins)
Paynter, Robert. Time in the Valley. Current Anthropology Supplement August-October, 2002 Vol.43:85-97.
Robert Paynter utilizes the historical town of Deerfield, Massachusetts to demonstrate the various types of narratives written in order to analyze powerful histories of past societies. Anthropology has embraced two distinct types of archaeological proceedings in dealing with studying and recording history. Older methods solely provided a sense of chronology for information gathered. Advances in technology led to a more precise application and examination of the data. Not only could information be placed accurately on the historical time line, but it also was investigated in a more social context. The idea of a narrative, used to describe a certain time or place using prose, rather than in a strictly scientific timeline is explored to provide new perspectives on cultural history.
Deerfield is a colonial town that looks as if it were frozen in time. Two organizations are responsible for its distinct characterization, the Deerfield Academy and Historic Deerfield Inc. Together they own the majority of the property. There are two common nicknames associated with this community- “Deerfield the Bloody” and “Deerfield the Beautiful”. Featured attractions in the town tend to center around the numerous historical massacres made on the settlers by both the French and the Native Americans. This violent past is contrasted by the town’s contemporary peaceful image, suggesting a passage of time shifting from battlement to settlement. It also stands as a symbol of American pride and success in the defense of its land.
Four distinct types of narratives can be found regarding the history of Deerfield. The most prominent is an account by Henry Flynt that describes Deerfield’s “past, present and future” (96). This is seconded in popularity by the Native American rendition based on an oral tradition that recounts certain creation myths and focuses on metaphysical relations. The archaeological depiction is used in references when an unrestricted wide audience is present. Scholars prefer the production model which provides a look into the more day-to-day aspects of Deerfield’s cultural history.
Three types of written resources are available for all chronological and historical data- annals, chronicles, and the narrative proper. There are various pros and cons to all of these publications, however, the narrative proper is described as the most prominent and advantageous type. The targeted audience should determine which type of writing is to be used. Synchronizing time into the subject of cultural history remains the challenge as more resources become available and a wider audience is pursued in the collection and exhibition of archaeological history.
WENDY LEICHT University of San Diego (Cordy-Collins)
Paynter, Robert. Time in the Valley: Narratives about Rural New England. Current Anthropology August-October, 2002 Vol.43(S): S85-S101.
Robert Paynter takes the reader into another place, another time as they are transported into the epic town in rural New England named Deerfield. Situated in the Connecticut River Valley in Massachusetts, this is a place rich in oral, aesthetic, and absolute history. Paynter focuses on discussing the different forms and effects of narrative as they portray the area and its’ history, as an inquiry into the various ways of constricting time.
He uses the concept of space as an effective illustration tool. The aesthetic view of the town remains one of few historical anomalies creating an illusion of time. The things responsible for building Deerfield up, and keeping it intact, include the now internationally renown Historic Deerfield Academy and its headmaster, Frank Boyden, along with The Flynt’s, who have rebuilt and restored many of the houses, and George Sheldon, who contributes a wealth of genealogical and museum material. They are able to preserve the “cultural affiliation that gives visitors a sense of stepping into the past (S88).”
The main narratives about Deerfield mention “Deerfield the Bloody and Deerfield the Beautiful (S88)” when discussing its creation. Settled in 1660s, yet undergoing many fights for freedom, Deerfield is permanently established in 1763 with the defeat of the Quebec. Few peaceful portrayals are mentioned, as Deerfield is a place emanating a history of sacrifice with Civil War monuments bearing the inscriptions of brutality. Flynt calls it a “ ‘place to rediscover the courage to defend the imperiled American way of life (S90).’ ” American values and individualism are important but, the author shows, not the only histories of Deerfield’s past. A progressive, and periodic point of view was also suggested. After events like the Revolution and the War of 1812 a shift to industrialism was cultivated, although Deerfield remained agricultural, shifting production to Tobacco and such as deemed necessary by the neighboring industries. Architectural views, as well as societal manifestations, and archeological remains, see a shift in the 18th century as the buildings were built to be properly aligned with the streets.
Writing history aims to make temporal relations of the past to the present, and possibly the future. Hayden White and Donald Wilcox are noted to discuss the idea of Absolute and Relativist history, as the former being set dates on a timeline, and the latter focusing more on themes than chronology, and finally the transfer from one to the other in the 20th century. There exists also the narrative proper, in which structure and significance is contained and philosophy, politics, and plot come into play.
White declares that all histories are interpretive, and dependent on plot. There are four various views that carry out Deerfield’s past. Flynt’s story carries out the ideas of individualism and American values as he appeals to the general public. The production perspective is more of a chronology of uninteresting documents, more for the populist and not focused on the individual. The archeological view notes aesthetic changes, being very exact. Finally, while the Native American history explains the creation of the landscape, it is rather relative.
The constant mixing of space and time is very evident in the Historical valley of Deerfield. Capitalism playing an important role in its basis, and the idea of narrative playing an important role in its history. Paynter was able to use an immense amount of information and support in documenting the timelessness of this particular place. He discussed many views in conceptualizing Deerfields past, and in many cases quoted the actual narratives for better clarity.
ALEX MILSKI University of Hawaii at Manoa (Dr. Heather Young Leslie)
Ramble, Charles. Temporal Disjunction and Collectivity in Mustang, Nepal. Current Anthropology Supplement August-October, 2002 Vol.43: 75-84.
The community of Te, located in Mustang, Nepal, consists of approximately three hundred inhabitants. They reside on mountainous terrain at an altitude of three thousand meters. This civilization has characteristics of a Tibeto-Burman tribe. Their ideals vary from the dominant culture of the country in which they live. Community presents an identity and boundary for the group. Inside there are individual estates or households and also a collective concept of a community “distinguished by values of generosity, poverty, and civic-mindedness”(76). Outside of their culture is an enemy, a hostile environment not welcome in due to a prevalent history of wars with neighbors.
The unique system of time used by the Te reflect their internalized methods of living. One example of this is their acknowledgment of “cracks of time”(76). Before the dawn of a new day, there is a window of time which does not belong to the passing day nor the coming day. This time in space is largely utilized for religious purposes.
Religious rituals are based on “territorial gods” whose invisible location is marked by landscape signals such as specific rocks, paths, and treacherous trails. The gods can be seen easily by areas in the landscape. However, the worship of the gods calls for strong devotion spanning much time and treacherous distances. The gods presence is mandatory in inauguration pledges. They are conducted with reverence close enough to the locations of the gods so that the god’s presence is severely felt. Ceremonial features, such as the thunderbolt, bell, and book represent the past and continue to be used as a reminder of days gone by, the connotation being both good and bad.
Te’s sense of time is significantly different from that of the Tibetan people. Their calendar begins a month prior to the beginning of the Tibetan year and two months before the start of their agrarian calendar. The most notable contrast between the two is the difference in “the sequence of days”(81). Each month has exactly thirty days and at the end of the year a meeting is held to decide whether or not to extend the year. The Tibetan calendar is decided in advance when to be extended, whereas, the “Tepa” calendar simply repeats the last month. Being on time with the rest of the world is not a pressing issue in the community.
Oaths are sworn yearly by the entire community. The first, “the Community Oath”, is a ritual performed by all members of working age. This oath describes proper respect and conduct within the village. The other form of regulation is a written constitution that contains dynamic social issues. Every twelve years a meeting is held to inspect the document and make changes to it. This examination is successful in promoting social change and protecting the welfare of the community.
In conclusion, the author states that over time, the past remains in our presence by the existence of certain physical reminders. Time exists in the form of events and can be escaped during the “cracks”. The past is constantly identified through the existence of the current community which has resulted only from the lives of those who came before.
WENDY LEICHT The University of San Diego (Alana Cordy-Collins).
Stout, Dietrich. Skill and Cognition in Stone Tool Production: An Ethnographic Case Study from Irian Jaya. Current Anthropology December, 2002. Vol.43(5):693-722.
This article supplies the ethnographic research of adze makers in Indonesian Irian Jaya from the village of Langda. The research was done in order to provide a model against which archaeological stone tools can be compared to assess behavior and cognition. Stout notes there is a close relation between behavior and cognitive abilities and that the acquisition of skill is proof of cognitive abilities, not just a repetitive act. Invoking the perception-action perspective, Stout argues that both cognitive and motor abilities are needed for skill acquisition; not only do the people make stone tools, but they think and talk about stone tools. Admittedly, we cannot view thought and conversation about stone tools from the archaeological record, but we can interpret by studying modern knappers. Stout is also careful to note that his study is only one example, but is hopeful that it will help “to frame productive questions” regarding the past (696).
Stout discusses the location and interviewees, placing the interviewees into two categories: skilled knappers and unskilled knappers. He also goes into great detail regarding the general production of adzes, including such things as the raw materials and their quarrying, production of flakes, “roughing out”, proper technique (in order to absorb shock and direct force of blow), platform preparation, grinding, and hafting.
The author explores the use of social control by evidence of access to quarry sites and authority of the head adze maker, contrasting this with Phu River Valley (which has no real authority), and presenting explanations for the difference in authority. Apprenticeships are required and provide good evidence of social interactions. It is typical for stone adzes to be made as a group activity and involves group socializing. Stout claims that socializing motivates and teaches values.
Stout found that there was a great deal of terminology related to adze making, and this allowed “the adze makers to communicate about the details of their craft” (704). Discussion regarding construction also emphasized their problem-solving and conceptualization capabilities.
Knapping skill was examined to test a hypothesis regarding skill level and experience. It was found that skilled craftsmen produced larger and better shaped adze heads. Stout supports his findings by giving details of his sample size and interpretation of data, adding quantitative data of stone adze heads made by skilled and unskilled knappers. Stout comes to the conclusion that unskilled knappers cannot work larger pieces because they do not have complete control. Stout also explains his use of video recordings and his scoring of actions.
Perceptual-motor actions are investigated by analyzing flake fragments. Stout provides his data and observations for proof of the extent of perceptual-motor skills, concluding that skilled knappers have “greater perceptual-motor skill” (711).
Arguing that we can apply what we learn from the Langda knappers to archaeological material, Stout also suggests “experimental replication with authentic raw materials” (713). He then proposes guidelines on how to evaluate the knapping skill of archaeological evidence.
Stout believes that we can use the Langda example to hypothesize about “the role of stone technology in human cognitive evolution” (714). We can also look at social context because the study of stone tools gives clues of “complex social processes” (714).
Stout concludes that the study of stone tools will help us to determine the pattern and time of emergence for cognitive and social abilities as well as acquisition of skill.
The commentaries were supportive and mostly in agreement with Stout. The majority provided similar studies and compared the results, finding them in agreement. One commenter was dissatisfied because Stout was lacking an analysis of elementary action for a complete perception-action perspective. The second commenter argued that “transmission of knowledge does not require language” and that lengthy “apprenticeships” are also seen chimpanzees (716). A third commenter called Stout’s analysis “overly cautious and conservative”, noting that Stout did not find anything new regarding “the cognitive context of stone knapping” (718). However, another commentator claimed that the article was full of evidence of cognitive processes such as reflection, collective communication, mental imagery, and planning.
Stout explained that he wanted to add a “methodical and empirical approach to . . . stone tools and cognition” (718). He stressed the importance of his social findings and explained that communication can come in the form of “nonlinguistic means” (719). Next, he redefined the meaning of apprenticeship to be more closely associated with human activity and noted that he would like to research elementary knapping in the future. As for the evidence of cognitive processes, he admitted that it is “largely glossed over in this article”, but “controlled experimentation will be important in further dissecting these processes” (720).
ALYSIA WESCOAT University of San Diego (Alana Cordy-Collins)
Wiessner, Polly. The Vines of Complexity. Current Anthropology April 2002, 233-265
In order to examine how hierarchical inequalities have been institutionalized in society, Polly Wiessner uses the Enga Tribes of Papua New Guinea as a model. Wiessner’s purpose is to show that “egalitarianism is the outcome of complex institutions and ideologies created and maintained by cultural means which empower a coalition of the weaker to curb the strong” (235). Before applying her ideas to the Enga, Wiessner gives a theoretical overview about egalitarian institutions and institutional change. In this section, Wiessner explains the stereotypical institution’s economic system, including transaction costs. However, in contrast to the exchange policies of these institutional prototypes, egalitarian societies aim to reduce transaction costs instead of striving for economic growth, maintain networks of assistance (including kinship ties), and allow for mobility. Likewise institutional change in egalitarian societies does not follow the standard pattern of entrepreneurs intentionally causing such change in light of potential economic gains. Rather, Wiessner devised a set of four questions to address egalitarian institutional change.
Wiessner elaborates on these ideas by recounting the history of the Enga, a horticultural population whose staple crop is the sweet potato, introduced by the Europeans. Once an open egalitarian society with a population of travelers, traders, and experimenters with an agriculture-centered life style, the Enga had a strong ethic of equality while still allowing some competition. However, the introduction of the sweet potato influenced the lifestyle of each Enga tribe. The Eastern Enga initially saw an influx of non-Enga immigrants seeking good garden land (240). As a result, these people strengthened their exchange and mutual support; thus forming the Tee Cycle. Originally, the Tee Cycle was based around the exchange of pigs and did little to help those not previously involved in the exchange. The Central Enga faced extensive reorganization and consolidation, which ultimately resulted in the establishment of the Great Wars and the selection of Great War leaders. Meanwhile, the Western Enga experienced population redistribution, new economic opportunities, which incited tension (243). They became associated with the Keoele cult network, a network of influence that rivaled the Tee Cycle. Eventually, the Great Wars and the Tee Cylce merged and an institution was created as the Europeans made contact. Begun as a two-tiered system of leadership the Tee Cycle ultimately produced a hierarchy and inequality was inherited and even to the reduction of their oral traditions.
Theses new institution, according to Wiessner, appeared beneficial and alluring to the people, but left only a name, information, and social ties to be handed down from generation to generation. Their definitions of value were altered by import, export, and performance, and competition took on new dimensions (249). Only their access to the spirit world and the nature of competition did not change. Wiessner concludes her study by reaffirming that despite the institutional change the Enga upheld their ethos of competition and the “three axes of egalitarianism and their coalitions were prominent” (251).
The majority of the commentators appear to praise Wiessner’s work, while few directly indicate that they have difficulties with Wiessner’s conclusions. However, many of these commentators tactfully note the faults and weaknesses in Wiessner’s study. They address the use of oral tradition and her historical accounts as well as the ideas of egalitarianism and inequality among other concepts. Wiessner responds to these comments by addressing her appreciation and acknowledging that more work exists in regard to this study. It is not long before Wiessner begins to defend herself and her research. She notes that although the commentators have made useful points, her work still stands. Wiessner closes her response by clarifying the two points, which have been – in her view – misinterpreted by the commentators.
CLARITY RATING: 2
KATHERINE MCKENNA University of San Diego (Alana Cordy-Collins)