Current Anthropology 1985
Agorsah, E. Kofi. Archeological Implications of Traditional House Construction among the Nchumuru of Northern Ghana. Current Anthropology February, 1985 Vol.26(1):103-115.
E. Kofi Agorsah presents an ethnoarcheological study of the Nchumuru settlements of Old and New Wiae, in Northern Ghana, using new settlements to reconstruct archeological evidence. Because Agorsah is studying earth-walled structures he uses current ethnographic material explaining the process of house construction to understand settlement decay.
Agorsah describes the set-up of Modern, or New, Wiae and Old Wiae, including maps of the villages. The kabuno is a core family group, which has a male head and its own residential area, ancestral shrine, land and inter- and intravillage relationships. Conceptions of the household refer to the locations and extension of the kabuno, facilitating access to the kabuno.
The initial placement of a new home depends upon several factors. The owner of the house functions as architect and builder and adjusts the house as he lives in it. The group members participate in reciprocal house building. Building materials are accumulated from the natural environment: earth, timber and grasses are used. Earth mixed with water is flattened and hardened to make the floor, and then walls are built in layers over periods of weeks. Women make the flooring from a mixture of gravel, cow dung and tree bark.
The erosion of earth walls and borrowing pits becoming rubbish dumps are implications of this construction process. Because durability is the main problem of Wiae earth walls, Agorsah suggests that rainstorms be studied to discover how they affect the decay of a settlement. Using this ethnographic knowledge, Agorsah attempts to reconstruct Old Wiae. He notes that kabuno and personal shrines are maintained, while the old site has become a dumping ground. The earth-wall decay includes several processes that he predicts, including coalification and concentrations of lateritic concretions on some surfaces. Floors are determined from burnt and stained areas, while thin layers of lighter clays show erosion of walls. He notes that prediction is difficult because various factors affect formation processes.
Agorsah’s overview of the archeological evidence indicates a tendency among the Nchumuru toward reconstructing the spatial arrangement at the sites. Agorsah notes the potential to view the location of housing as maintenance of family or clan identities and to consider the present-day kabuno system in New Wiae as representing continuity with the past. His analysis indicates the need to study the formation and decay of structural features and to utilize ethnographic data to supplement archeological data.
Most commentators applaud his use of ethnography in archaeological work, his study of formulation and decay of structures and his attention to the role of ecological processes. Many of the respondents also commented on the importance of native archeology. Agorsah responds with more descriptive archaeological information and offers information on his use of theory. I rated this article as I did because it was difficult to understand the main point without previous archeological knowledge.
NICHOLE DASSANCE Michigan State University (Susan Applegate Krouse)
Clark, Geoffrey. The “Dyuktai Culture” and New World Origins. Current Anthropology February, 1985 Vol. 26(1):1-20.
Clark and Yi address the issue of the Dyuktai culture and its link to the New World, analyzing the studies of fellow anthropologists Yuri Mochanov and Semyon Tseitlin. Included in the article are six tables, two maps, and three figures that provide helpful visual aids for some confusing aspects of this topic.
The first section focuses on Siberian Paleolithic research and the work done with monitoring manufacturing techniques used by the local tribes. By investigating the similarities of tools found in Siberia to those found in Alaska, Clark and Yi explain migration patterns of groups from Northeast Asia to North America. The main group is the Dyuktai culture located in an area called the Aldan Valley. Mochanov was the first to declare the time period of the Dyuktai migration to the New World; after three attempts he settled around 25,000 B.P. as the earliest they could have migrated. Many people disagreed with Mochanov’s work because empirical evidence was hard to find. Tseitlin comes into play here, his work with geological layering as well as carbon 14 dating provided clues as to the age of the Dyuktai. Different samples of geological layering are illustrated by figures in the article, both showing various dates and depth of the Dyuktai artifacts. At this point there is still no definite year of the Dyuktai beginning, or migration to North America. Geoarchaeolgical problems also arose as the number of artifacts used began to vary from scholar to scholar. With all the confusion in dating the Dyuktai, the authors conclude that the Dyuktai are no older than 18,000 B.P. but more likely around 14-13,000 B.P.
The authors cite different sources regarding the time period in which they believe the Dyuktai migrated to North America. According to information from Tseitlin the most favorable periods to cross would have been between 21,000 and 19,000 B.P., and 16,000 to 13,000 B.P. This could rule out the Dyuktai being no older than 18,000 B.P., but it is noted that other people may have been there first, with the Dyuktai coming at a later time. Clark and Yi agree that other people were probably in North America before the Dyuktai, but that the Dyuktai were the “earliest recognizable industrial configuration.”
Ten anthropologists comment on Clark and Yi’s analysis of the Dyuktai migration to North America. All of the commentators agree that the authors did an exquisite job of compiling and analyzing material that previously had been a jumble of mixed assessments about when and where people had originated. A few commentators suggested fixing their problems of cross cultural analysis, reliance on Mochanov’s data, and of the origin of the Dyuktai people.
Clark replied that he understands many of the concerns, and addressed the important ones. As for issues with cross cultural analysis, he states that they have occurred because of poor control of the records. He does not believe that they relied too heavily on Mochanov’s data, but that they used it because Mochanov and Tseitlin were the foremost experts on the Dyuktai at the time. Regarding the origin of the Dyuktai people, Clark states that they focused on the areas in Northeast Asia, and that other areas suggested by the commentators may have Dyuktai ties, but that they were not concerned with that.
The article is easy to follow, but at the same time, many of the names and places used throughout text were hard to read. The authors did a fine job of explaining when they switched topics, and also on whose research they were commentating. The most confusing parts were when they discussed the geological aspects, as well as the assemblages.
CHRIS SELJESKOG Michigan State University (Susan Applegate Krouse)
Dolitsky, Alexander B. Siberian Paleolithic Archaeology: Approaches and Analytic Methods. Current Anthropology June, 1985 Vol.26(3): 361-378
Alexander B. Dolitsky’s purpose of the article is to follow the progress of studies in Siberian antiquity and the topic of early humans in North Asia. Dolitsky addresses studies establishing geographical dimensions of archaeological cultures, following the origin of past human traditions, and possible migration routes between Old World and New World.
Dolitsky narrates the history of Siberian studies by referring to early expeditions in the 1700’s. Studies started out as mere descriptions of the people of Siberia. A more systematic approach proved to make the expeditions more significant to archaeological studies. The studies continued through the 19th and 20th centuries and were criticized for their evolutionist, unilinear approach to studying human culture. Critics rejected the idea of classifying Siberian archaeological sites by use of Western European principles and chronological frameworks.
Dolitsky addresses the hypothetical migration routes from such areas as Soviet Central Asia, southeastern Asia, Mongolia and Tibet, and Eastern Europe. Many similarities between the early Siberian settlers and people from such areas are found in archaeological sites. Such sites produce artifacts that help date settlements and technologies used within settlements. Techno-typological analysis is used to hypothesize which Siberian group traveled across the Bering Strait to become the Paleo-Indian culture of America.
Those who responded to Dolitsky praised him for presenting an article on Siberian archaeology because such articles are rare. Still, Dolitsky suffered much criticism for inaccurate materials he presented as well as a lack of theoretical, analytical, and interpretive discussions. A major concern was the methodology used in Siberian archaeology. Many proposed the use of certain materials in dating methods to be faulty and misleading. One comment from David Hopkins suggested that the Siberian archeologists needed to be as careful in Siberian sites as they would be in American pre-Clovis sites. Jose Luis Lanata wrote specifically about the hazards of depending on earlier work and research. There is also commentary on the types of tools found and how the tools are classified and compared to North American tools at the time. The concern was the terminology used by the various archaeologists working in Siberia.
In Dolitsky’s reply, he agrees with the concept of faulty dating methods used in Siberian archaeology. He also agrees that a uniform set of terminology and classification system must be established in order for studies to progress. He responds to the idea that the main issue in migration routes is not whether man crossed worlds in the Late Pleistocene or not, but rather concentrating on the traditions and relationships between North Asia and North America.
The article itself uses so many different sources that much of the writing is interrupted by Dolitsky citing other authors. This makes the article choppy to the reader. Also, Dolitsky simply writes his article like a narrative instead of an article with a conclusive purpose.
LINDSAY PETTIT Michigan State University (Susan Applegate Krouse)
Goodell, Grace E. Paternalism, Patronage, and Potlatch: The Dynamics of Giving and Being Given To. Current Anthropology April 1985 Vol. 26(2): 247-266.
Grace Goodell discusses the role of giving and receiving help in paternalistic societies, defining paternalism as “interference with others’ autonomy” (247). She looks at “the paternalist as “‘benefactor,’ the recipients as ‘beficiaries’ and what is given them as ‘benefits’” (248). She hypothesizes that paternalism and its gifts have many negative consequences: reduced autonomy, increased self-induced independence, and numerous negative political, social and economic penalties. She hypothesizes that corporate groups who exhibit autonomy and initiative threaten the foundation of paternalism and vice versa. State paternalism wears down the initiative of corporate groups, turning them into corporate categories that lack organization and autonomy. Corporate groups attempt to develop themselves while corporate categories that receive help allow paternalistic benefactors to develop for them. Paternalism undermines and seeks to destroy the foundation of a corporate group (250).
Perhaps the clearest section of Goodell’s article involves the ideology behind giving and receiving help. In most paternalistic situations, accepting help means accepting the benefactor’s ideology and conditions. The benefactor sees this acceptance as a sign of inferiority and weakness, but the beneficiaries accept help because it takes the blame away from themselves. This often occurs with paternalism as opposed to patronage. Goodell gives give main differences between the two terms by stating the foundations of patronage: 1) patronage involves reciprocity, 2) patronage relies on mutual accountability, 3) no large distances between patron and client exists in patronage, 4) patronage remains continuous and stable in nature, and 5) a positive relationship between client and patron that validates each group’s autonomy exists in patronage (253). In many cases, however, the lines between patronage and paternalism become blurred when the benefactor or patron engages in giving, which Goodell illustrates with her examples from her comparison of Iran and Filipino villages. She continues to discuss possible variations of paternalism, particularly in respect to the potlatch. To conclude her article, she contrasts the giving in potlatch with the giving in paternalism.
Throughout the article, Goodell pushes for further anthropological research in this area, but many of the comments following her article use their own wealth of research data to demonstrate her oversights. Furthermore, some commentators claim Goodell’s inadequate understanding of state functions leads her to oversimplify the issues and definitions of paternalism and patronage while others condemn her ambiguity. She responds by maintaining her article represents only a single angle in an attempt to open discussion and to promote further research.
Grace Goodell often references the work of other anthropologists and social scientists without explaining, so the reader will find background knowledge in either of these subjects helpful, although not necessary. Furthermore, Goodell fails to define many of her terms, such as corporate groups and categories and patronage until midway through the article. She also briefly discusses the potlatch, but provides no background information nor does she put it in context besides contrasting it with paternalism. Additionally, she fails to make a connection between potlatch and patronage, two of the key words in her title. Overall, she uses a very direct and easy to understand language, but takes a roundabout approach to make her point.
CLARITY RANKING: 4
MELISSA RABINEAU Michigan State University (Susan Applegate Krouse)
Kabo, V. The Origins of the Food-producing Economy. Current Anthropology December 1985 Vol.26(5):601-616.
In his article, Vladimir Kabo describes the social consequences affecting groups when they move from hunting-gathering to agriculture. He employs a wide ethnographic and historical lens, looking at current and past hunter-gatherer societies and their methods closely. He argues that certain social and environmental conditions must be met before a group can cross over into food production.
According to Kabo, the economic change from an appropriative economy to one which is productive is at the core of the Neolithic revolution. He uses many examples of modern societies, or nearly modern (19th century), to draw a comparison and back up his argument. He discusses the multitude of different angles from which groups approach agriculture, which include “advanced” gathering, “primitive” animal husbandry, harvest-gathering, actively influencing the surrounding environment, slash-and-burn, and semi-nomadic agriculture, among others.
The author proposes a nearly chicken-and-egg type approach to the effects of sedentarism on agriculture or vice-versa. Does agriculture induce sedentarism, or does sedentarism induce and require a more stable flow of food? Kabo seems to believe the latter is more probable, but presents both as possibilities. He informs us that data shows the when societies settle, their population grows rapidly and becomes more dense. This is grounds for cultural change, as people are more closely gathered and engage in more community activity.
Kabo concludes there are three main reasons that prompt hunting-gathering groups to make a change to food production. One is that some hunter-gatherer societies already harvest wild plants on a regular basis in areas where that plant is stable, reliable, and plentiful, so the shift is natural and unintended. Second is that some groups become productive societies when some kind of crisis occurs in their food source, or their population grows too fast. A third is that the change to agriculture is slow over time and finally “spontaneously” emerges, though Kabo never distinguishes this from the first reason.
Following the article are eight scholarly responses and critiques, with a reply by Kabo himself. While the comments are all varied, they rally around a few central themes. A major critique is that this article is entirely descriptive and offers little in the way of synthesis, new ideas/propositions, questioning “why,” or theorizing, and offers no explanation of where to take this information next. One even states that Kabo does not present any new information and questions the purpose of the article. The other recurrent theme was a critique of clarity. Kabo never actually defines the criteria he is using for “agriculture” and uses interchanging terms without ever clarifying what he may mean by those. Similarly, he is accused of using ethnographic data with little apparent aim or connection. In the author’s reply, he attempts to state the purpose and position of the article and research more clearly.
This article is incredibly difficult to follow, even for advanced readers and those studying anthropology. Kabo’s focus is nearly non-existent and from one to another, ideas are not connected nor are illustrated examples shown to relate. Ethnographic case study after case study nearly litter the essay, many with little or questionable relevance.
CLARITY RANKING: 2
LINDSAY RENEE KOSMALA Michigan State University (Susan Applegate Krouse)
Kolb, Charles C. Demographic Estimates in Archaeology: Contributions from Ethnoarchaeology on Mesoamerican Peasants. Current Anthropology December 1985 Vol. 26(5):581-599.
Kolb’s article explains how the ethnographic and archaeological disciplines can be combined to make more accurate estimates of prehistoric Mesoamerican population size. It is broken into three sections: a review of archeological methods used in determining prehistoric demographics, a survey of more recent Mesoamerican ethnographic information, and a discussion of what ethnographic information means and how this information can be used in demographic estimates.
Kolb begins by reviewing methods of archaeological demography, commenting on the pros and cons of numerous methods used to estimate population size (i.e. equating number of ceramic sherds or floor space to number of people in a household), and factors that must be accounted for when using each method. He describes the work of several archaeologists who have attempted to make demographic estimates using various methods, including his thoughts on how successful and accurate they were in their individual endeavors.
Kolb’s discussion of recent Mesoamerican ethnographic information covers the work of several ethnographers on different types of housing (amount of space and functional areas), types of families (and their living situations), and the types of communities in which these families live (because households within communities tend to be relatively similar). Here Kolb describes how recent ethnographic information can be used to make accurate estimates of current populations.
In the discussion portion of the article, Kolb accounts for many reasons why using modern ethnographic information to help estimate prehistoric population size may not be a good idea. Problems with this approach include the effects of modernization, climate change, the fact that population size may change over time, and shifts in family and social patterns (i.e. extended to nuclear, polygamous to monogamous). Kolb says that while these types of problems may occur, “quantifiable ethnographic information is an absolute necessity” (590) in making prehistoric demographic estimates.
Most commentators on this article praise of Kolb for his efforts. Some offer alternative ways that they would have applied the data he presents and caution against projecting modern ethnographic work onto history. Other commentators offer additional variables that they believe should be included in prehistoric demographic estimates, and cite the work of other ethnoarchaeologists that Kolb did not reference in the article. In his reply to these comments, Kolb addresses each review individually, more or less defending his decisions by clarifying the conditions and scope of his research.
My clarity ranking of this article is based on the fact that I felt that I might have understood the material better with a more complete understanding of ethnoarchaeology and how demographic estimates are made. Also, Kolb’s many references throughout the article (which he often refers back to after their initial mention) are hard to follow. Overall, the Kolb’s ideas were clearly expressed and his language was understandable.
MICHAEL DI LORETO Michigan State University (Susan Applegate Krouse)
Kronenfeld, David B. Numerical Taxonomy: Old Techniques and New Assumptions.Current Anthropology February, 1985 Vol.26(1):21-41
In this article, Kronenfeld objects to automatically applied quantitative classification algorithms. He proposes that classifying animal species, languages, and races with theory-relevant multidimensional-scaling and hierarchal clustering, provides a better framework for showing their interrelationships. Furthermore, the author explains that classifying species, languages, and races requires different classification models.
Kronenfeld challenges Sokal’s approach to classifying animal species. Sokal’s taxonomy is based on randomly selecting naturally occurring attributes and classifying animal species based on these attributes. Kronenfeld notes that classifications depend on what’s of concern, and that, while there are many highly significant/useful questions for which dolphins’ mammalian nature is useful and primary (dolphins go with horses vs. sharks), there also exists at least one significant perspective from which dolphins would go with sharks—the adaptation to a free ranging pelagic life. This is in the context of an argument that, contra Sokal, there exists no ‘one size fits all’ all purpose classification.
Kronenfeld also examines classification of languages. He notes that, from the perspective of numerical taxonomy, borrowing of words between languages produces analytic effects similar to those of convergent evolution in biology. He infers that the maximum linkage model (which is unaffected by aberrantly high individual pair-wise similarity scores) best classifies languages. This adaptation of Swadesh’s lexicostatistical method evaluates basic vocabulary present in different languages and proceeds to cluster languages hierarchically based on percentage of shared basic vocabulary. Swadesh delineated and defined basic vocabulary—as words learned early and used frequently in most cultures. The idea is that it is highly unlikely to be borrowed (but, obviously, not impossible). Swadesh’s view of how to use it in lexicostatistical approaches to classification depends on recognizing apparent cognates (since one does not already know about “real” cognates–or one wouldn’t be trying to do the classification). Kronenfeld defends Swadesh’s approach against some who have said that one should use demonstrated cognates for the few language pairs for which one had them–by suggesting that using a variety of standards within a single classification would skew the results. A hierarchical tree structure is most suitable for tracing language origin because it begins with one parent language and branches out to many; and thus matches the standard theory of language descent—which involves descent (at each level) of one or more daughter languages from a single parent language .As a result, examining shared basic vocabulary among putatively related languages via the maximum linkage method eliminates effects of borrowing in order to trace the family tree of these languages.
Lastly, the author asserts that Cavalli-Sforza’s dendrograms, or tree structures, for classifying races are inaccurate and disagrees with his one-to-many mapping technique. Dendrograms portray a one-to-many representation of relations among human populations, which treats these populations as if they originated from a single source and disregards the mixture of source population which combine in various ways in all contemporary populations. Given that, Kronenfeld argues the classification of human populations should be based on multidimensional-scaling since more than one circumstance led to races, in particular, gene flow, and population distance.
All in all, the author believes hierarchical clustering should be used to classify languages and species because it embodies a one-to-many mapping. IN contrast, multidimensional-scaling should be used to classify sub-specific populations since it embodies a many-to-many mapping.
Eight people comment on Kronenfeld’s article and each highlighted numerous points addressed in the article. The majority agree with Kronenfeld that Sokal’s definition of natural and random classifications is unclear. In general, they agree that different classifications require different models. In addition, Cavalli-Sforza argues that dendrogram branches identify multiple dimensions within races and species, just as multidimensional-scaling does.
In his reply, Kronenfeld focuses on Cavalli-Sforza’a comments and argues that his dendrograms are unable to represent multiple dimensions of races, such as geographic and genetic differences.
Overall, Kronenfeld accomplishes his objective, however, the article would have been more enjoyable to read if he explained multidimensional-scaling in greater detail.
SARA E. IDEN Michigan State University (Susan Applegate Krouse)
Marcus, George E. and James Clifford. The Making of Ethnographic Texts: A Preliminary Report. Current Anthropology, 1985 Vol. 26 (2):267-71.
Marcus and Clifford survey an anthropology colloquium which took place at the School of American Research in Santa Fe, NM, 1984. The seminar’s primary focus was ethnography and its creation, analysis, and possible ties to other literary entities. In attendance were ten scholars, eight in the field of anthropology, one in history, and one in literature. The report outlines the major topics of discussion which centered around ethnographic ideology and discourse, and which examined several articles highlighting these issues.
Marcus and Clifford state the goals of the seminar were to examine past trends in ethnographic writing, in addition to the current and possible future innovative efforts. Participants critically examined the method by which ethnography is crafted specifically with regards to unbalanced authoritative representation, writing style and form, classification and representation of “objects” under study, links with exploitation (regardless of intent), and increasing similarity between other literary forms. Despite differing opinions, Marcus and Clifford assert that a prevailing sense of the relevance and necessity of ethnography persisted among participants throughout.
Although the seminar focused on critical analysis of writing methodology, Marcus and Clifford add that there was another expressed emphasis on keeping concerns of cross-cultural representation in the forefront. Discussions began with historical accounts of the introduction of ethnography as an explicit method of anthropological research, then moved into a retrospective look at ethical considerations regarding past ethnographic work and the extent to which it was politically-charged and often exploited. Marcus and Clifford present these issues as questioning the status of ethnography, but offers optimism in discussion of new and innovative approaches. Firm discourse has given way to experimentation.
In statements about the limited number of participants (10), Marcus and Clifford state that the scope of the seminar was in no way all-encompassing. Participants were chosen based on their previously published works and their relative engagement in the discussion of ethnographic methodology. The intention was never to cover all areas and issues surrounding and involving ethnography texts, but to merely broach the subject of introspection and self-critical analysis. Marcus and Clifford note several important perspectives not represented in the selection of seminar attendees. Most notably absent are backgrounds in feminism and non-Western (read: non-European, ‘Third World’) anthropology, but Marcus and Clifford point out that these and other pertinent issues may be topics of other seminars involving different participants and therefore focusing on a different set of topics.
As a concise look at the papers presented, Marcus and Clifford offer outlines of the articles in addition to summaries of the resulting discussions and arguments. Each article was introduced by a participant (not the author) for conversation, sparking in-depth debates on ideas presented in the expositions. One argument centered around classification, its reliance on text, and the extent to which it is constrained by language. Another emphasized ethical considerations of ethnographic representation. Several articles raised questions about the scope of ethnography and its relation to other forms of writing, and the risk inherent in isolation of text from theoretical analysis. Perhaps more optimistically, Marcus and Clifford follow up with discussions of articles presenting novel approaches to the way which ethnography may be done, especially with regards to new forms of writing and new perspectives in the purpose of ethnography.
Although the article was informative and expository with regard to its purpose and intent, it was muddled by verbosity and ambiguity, not to mention grammatical and structural faults.
ALEXANDER D. HAWLEY Michigan State University (Susan Applegate Krouse)
Mulder, Monique Borgerhoff and T.M. Caro. The Use of Quantitative Observational Techniques in Anthropology. Current Anthropology June, 1985. Vol.26 (3):323-335.
The general issue Mulder and Caro deal with in this article is the use of quantitative observational techniques in anthropology and haw further development will be good for anthropology. The authors want the readers to understand the benefits of the use of quantitative techniques in anthropology. The authors use graphs, charts, and evidence from other anthropologists to support their argument.
Mulder and Caro state “quantitative methods allows specific hypotheses to be tested statistically and rigorous cross culture comparisons to be made on a quantitative basis”(p.323). The authors believe it “is especially important where societies are undergoing rapid change and observations cannot be repeated”(p.323). The authors criticize observational techniques borrowed from the field of animal behavior and the people who use them. “Observational techniques borrowed from the field of animal behavior cannot be directly applied to the study of human society without serious consideration of the new issues this raises”(p.323).
In this article Mulder and Caro discuss six issues they feel have received inadequate attention. The first is ways of measuring human activity. The authors main point is that anthropologists’ key goal is to explain similarities, differences, stability and change across human culture. “Given this goal, it is surprising to find that the cross cultural data available for comparative purposes are often inadequate”(p.323). Two, they enumerate the sources of bias involved in the use of observational techniques in the study of humans. The sources include choice of subjects, time of day, seasonal effects and demography, spatial effects, observer effects, and interobserver reliability. “In all cases it should be made clear in publication whether individuals have been dropped from the sample”(p.325). Three is intersobsever reliability, “while testing in psychological studies can satisfactorily measure the accuracy with which behavior is scored”(p.326). Four, they tackle the problem of definition in describing human activity. “In the study of human behavior, perhaps because we study a conspecific with whom we can communicate and readily empathize, we tend to classify according to some higher order criterion particularly the purpose of the activity”(p.327). Five, they discuss the ability of the observer to communicate verbally with the subject. “Verbal reports can shed light on the activity of absent individuals”(p.329).
To conclude, they suggest that to facilitate comparison of behavioral studies across cultures, sources of bias should be removed and rigorous definitions should be given at the start of the study. The authors also believe if workers know the constraints and character of observational techniques at the start of their study, then research could be recorded more accurately.
This article receives several comments from fellow anthropologists that vary from “unique”, “important”, “helpful”, “timely”, “obvious”, and “nothing new”. In reply to the comments to authors state “each of these descriptions is fair: we review the pitfalls uncovered in the fields of ethnology in order to provide the first detailed, and we hope useful, set of guidelines for anthropologists to take into the field (if they are interested in quantifying what their subjects do)”(p.332).
This article was well written but hard to understand.
FELICIA GRANT Michigan State University (Dr.Susan Applegate Krouse).
Rindos, David. Darwinian Selection, Symbolic Variation, and the Evolution of Culture. Current Anthropology. February, 1985 Vol.26(1):65-88.
David Rindos discusses Darwinian selection and its approach to cultural evolution. He says that evolution is the result of the selection of “randomly” selected variants. The symbolic aspects of culture are heritable and insulated from direct selection. Natural selection is one of the most well known aspects of Darwin’s theory. The idea behind natural selection is that populations grow exponentially, but resources grow at a much slower rate. This leads to what Malthus called a struggle for existence. Darwin stated that because of this competition, those better adapted to survival would live and pass on their traits. These traits are the specific adaptations that increased the species chances for survival, changing the species. Another evolutionary theorist that Rindos studied was Herbert Spencer. Spencer thought that progress came about because pressure forced society to make the best use of the environment. Individuals differ and these differences are the raw material of evolution.
One aspect of evolution, variation, was still debated during Darwin’s era. Spencer had a Lamarckian point of view. He believed in directed variation, “variation appropriate to the needs and problems encountered as environmental conditions change or as an animal seeks entry in to a new niche”. Spencer and Lamarck thought that variation was directed automatically towards adaptation. Darwin, on the other hand, gave no information concerning either the mechanisms for generation of variation or the precise method of its transmission. Spencer believed in a direct relationship between the generation of specific new characters, the demands of the environment, and evolution. This leads people to believe that adaptation and thus, evolution leads to progress and complexity. Darwin viewed the generation of variants as undirected. Darwin’s view was of a random yet conservatively inherited individual variation interacting with a changing and varied environment. Rindos believes that the symbolic aspects of culture function in the same manner as the genome in coding cultural information and generating undirected variation. This undirected generation of new traits, mediated by the symbolic, permits an authentic Darwinian cultural evolution.
Rindos describes culture as a dominant trait passed on through genes. He believes that culture is an adaptive trait that was not only passed on through being a dominant trait, but also through natural selection. As more and more humans developed the capacity for culture in their genes, more exhibited the traits associated with culture. Thus, culture grew at an increasingly fast pace. More cultural habits led to an increased need for communication ability, leading to more complex cultural behaviors. As the ability to symbol evolved, so did the capacity to respond in a multitude of ways to environmental cues.
Many of the critics of Rindos’ article were disapproving of his techniques and his findings. One writer said that Rindos was trying to tell cultural evolutionists how to do their jobs. He called Rindos’ attempt a failure. He disagreed with the notion that cultural innovations are random. Many respondents disagreed with the idea that culture lays in man’s capacity to symbol. They thought this was a huge generalization and simplification. One author said that he found the article to be very interesting, but admitted that he did not have the scientific background to determine whether Rindos viewpoint was feasible or not. Still another writer stated that Rindos did not understand the difference between biotic evolution and the historical development of society. He also stated that after reading Rindos article one would believe that the idea of cultural development could be applied to animals as well. Another critic said that Rindos did not mention the scale at which selection takes place.
Rindos replied to the comments. He seemed to think that they did not really apply to the subject of his article. Rindos basically discounted all of the negative feedback his article received saying that people had either read wrong or not done their research correctly.
The concepts spoken about were fairly easy to understand. The ideas that Rindos had seemed a little abstract, but he explained them in some detail.
NICOLE PLASKON Michigan State University (Susan Krouse)
Russell, Mary Doria. The Supraorbital Torus: “A Most Remarkable Peculiarity.” Current Anthropology June, 1985 Vol.26(3):337-360.
In examining an oft-debated feature of hominid crania, the supraorbital torus, or browridge, Russell formulates a measurable hypothesis of the relationship between facial stress factors and browridge size. Beginning with the earliest anthropological theories of browridge development, Russell deconstructs earlier notions of the origins of this cranial feature, deeming them inadequate to explain its significance. She specifically objects to the theories that browridges are pathological, merely typological, nonmechanically functional, or part of a generalized robustness or adaptation to a rigorous lifestyle (338). While acknowledging the significance of browridges as a secondary sexual characteristic, Russell explains that this is uninformative about their function. Instead, Russell proposes that the observable stress on the supraorbital region of the face while chewing accounts for the growth of bone into a large browridge, citing Endo’s research on the mechanics of biting that “the greater the [bending] stress acting on a region, the thicker and more built-up that region was found to be” (341). This draws on Endo’s beam model of the supraorbital region, assuming the browridge is a “rigid beam subject to intermittent bending and torsional stresses,” thus developmentally affected by jaw activity over time (342).
In Russell’s statistical analysis of crania, she examines browridges of a source population of Australian Aborigines (Khoori), a contemporary population exhibiting distinct browridges, to determine the relationship of the craniofacial angle (the angle between the chin, the base of the nasal bone, and the top of the forehead) to browridge size. Russell statistically analyzes this relationship, using in her sample an array of craniofacial angles, browridge sizes, a fairly broad age range, and both genders. Based on her hypothesis that the prolonged stress of a diet of chewing tough meat leads to developing more pronounced browridges, Russell categorizes craniofacial angles according to their relative biting stress, categorizing angular profiles as “high-stress” compared to flat “low-stress” craniofacial angles. Overall, stress properties and browridge size correlate positively, leading Russell to a “bent-beam model” that indicates the browridge “is, at least in part, a skeletal adaptation to localized, intermittent biomechanical stresses” (350).
Most comments praise Russell’s innovative approach. Garn and Smith claim sinuses can account for browridge size, while mechanical explanations neglect sinuses. Smith in particular asks for a greater emphasis on genetic factors. Girgis and Turkel emphasize hormonal influence in the sexual dimorphism Russell cites as evidence of mechanical browridge development, also claiming Russell does not adhere to Endo’s beam model. Brown, 0_can, and Oyen criticize Russell’s methods for comparing unlike individuals rather than observing one individual over time, and claim the bent-beam approach is fundamentally reductionist. Jacobshagen asks for a more complex approach to a bent-beam model, noting the neglected influence of environmental and cultural factors on browridges.
Russell most vehemently defends the consistency of her results with Endo’s model, citing Endo’s own work in rebuttal. Furthermore, Russell states that genetic factors only establish a baseline and limits for browridge size, not its actual size. Also, Russell defends her approach as merely simplified to a manageable size, rather than reductionist. A more complex model, she insists, would happily include factors like sinuses, genetics, and the environment in the future.
This article contains a technical discussion of cranial features. While the author’s argument is clear, approaching this analysis demands some background in physical anthropology or other anatomical studies.
NATALIE A. WALSH Michigan State University (Susan Applegate Krouse)
Terence. N. D’Altroy and Timothy K. Earle. Staple Finance, and Storage in the Inka Political Economy. Current Anthropologist April, 1985 Vol.26(2):187-206.
D’Altroy and Earle provide an innovative approach to studying the political economies of evolving complex societies. They investigate how political economies in a marketless, non-industrial state can be financed through control of production of staples and control of wealth. D’Altroy and Earle argue that the increase in amount of energy brought into a system will result in either more biomass or a more complex system; their theory stems from a Marxist perspective presented by Childe V. Gordon.
Specifically, the authors examine the reorganization of economic systems under the Inka state and the development of new forms of finance drawing on both staple and wealth products to meet the needs of the expanding state. In this case increased energy results in a more complex, centralized government. D’Altroy and Earle use ethnohistoric and archaeological methods to study the rise of the Inka Empire. After defining wealth and staple finance, they make the case that the Inka state used staple finance to support local administrative activities, while wealth finance was used to support more centralized state functions. D’Altroy and Earle explain how use of the corvee labor tax results in a system where staple goods are a predominant part of state finance. The authors propose that in such a government, control of storage in a staple finance system is equivalent to control of the economy because the population is dependent upon those goods. Centralized warehouses in the Upper Mantraro Vally are provided as evidence of the attempt to centralize government control. They go on to show how wealth finance plays a complementary role to staple finance in supporting state activities. D’Altroy and Earle argue that mobilization of wealth goods in the Inka state government occurs through obligatory gifts from local elites and the conversion of staples into wealth objects. Evidence is offered throughout the article from fieldwork sources including: Browman, Cook, LaLone, LeBlanc, Morris, Murra, Salomon, Smelser, Topic, Wachtel, as well as their own.
Commentary reactions include data that supports D’Altroy and Earle’s arguments as well as a critical analysis. Critics disagreed with aspects such as the definition of wealth finance and staple finance, lack of explanation of pre-Inka economies, building of centralized storage units, the role of wealth and the movement of staple goods. In a reply by the authors, further data is provided to defend respective points as well as reasoning for disagreement with their critics.
While straightforward in its formation of arguments, this article is unclear in several ways. One is the explanation of energy capture in cultural evolution and how it relates to their study. Also ambiguous is the definition of wealth and staple finance as it relates to the concluding argument. Further, the authors fail to clearly state the time period and illustrate economies of pre-Inka domination to show the change that took place.
CLARITY RANKING: 4
ABIGAIL L. STEERE Michigan State University (Susan Applegate Krouse)
Trak, Ayse. Development Literature and Writers from Underdeveloped Countries: The Case of Turkey. Current Anthropology February, 1985 Vol.26(1):89-102
Ayse Trak focuses on economic development in “underdeveloped” countries and the input, or lack thereof, of ideas from social scientists within these states. Throughout the world Trak finds that the prevalence of Western economic theory shows a lack of interest and concern for the views that originate in other less-developed areas. This has many negative effects which she explores in a synopsis of the evolution of economic development literature. Trak relates this back to the case of Turkey, giving examples of native economic writings that are largely ignored both within Turkey and the outside world.
Trak’s basic argument is that a synthesis of the views held by the writers of Western development literature and those of intellectuals from non-Western countries would be an improved method of tackling development issues. She believes that the underdeveloped countries need to be more active in “putting forward viable policy alternatives” (p. 89).
A short summary of the history of economic development as a separate branch of study is given. Trak starts this summary after WWII, when the world was theoretically divided into developed and underdeveloped countries. She progresses through the 1950s and 60s, where economic activity was studied intensively, but as something completely separate from the rest of society. Throughout these years it also came to be standard thinking that the Western model should be used as a platform to define the role of government in underdeveloped societies. In the 1970s development economists became more aware, realizing that development did not necessarily progress in a linear fashion and integrating society into analyses of economic activity. Trak finishes this synopsis by stating that at the present time, 1983, it is accepted that alternative approaches to development are necessary. At the same time, one of the changes she finds to be important- incorporating the views of native intellectuals in their country’s literature and policies- is still largely ignored.
Trak uses the example of three Turkish men, writing in the 1930s. on issues related to development in Turkey. Sevket Sureyya Ayedemir, Ahmet Agaoglu, and Ahmet Hamdi Basar all differed somewhat in their views on industrialism and capitalism, yet each built on the thoughts of the previous in order to establish a theory for development they found most fitting for Turkey.
The comments on Ayse Trak’s paper all seem to have one main critique. Many commentators think that she is misleading when claiming that the entire field of developmental thought is controlled by Western countries. They point out works from Latin America, Asia, the Caribbean, and Africa that she ignored. There are also many comments regarding her opinion that economists from within a country are better suited to deal with that country’s issues than a Westerner. The commentators found little evidence for this.
Trak replies to the comments by stating that she did not mean for her paper to “demonstrate the superiority of the methodological approach adopted by Turkish writers” (p. 99). Rather, as a student she had noticed a gap in the literature she studied, where little writing came from the societies themselves that were often written about by Westerners. Her proposal that more attention and encouragement be given to writers in underdeveloped countries is based on the hope that doing so would help to rid the world of the monopoly of Western viewpoints.
I found the author’s stance to be very clearly argued and her writing to be easily understood.
SHEILA SULLIVAN Michigan State University (Susan Krouse)