Current Anthropology 1986

Anthony, David W. The “Kurgan Culture,” Indo-European Origins, and the Domestication of the Horse: A Reconsideration. August-October, 1986 Vol.27(4):291-311.

This article addresses several issues concerning the occupying territories of the Kurgan culture, horse domestication, origins, social status and economy. The author provides a multitude of evidence with approximate dates for occupations and faunal analysis.

The major issue that the author presents is the change in socio-economic structure due to the domestication of the horse. This requires a thorough pre-history of several cultures, largely the Yamna period and the Sredni Stog period.

The author begins with a discussion of research by Marija Gimbutas who constructed the picture of the “Kurgan Culture” upon which most archaeologists rely. This culture engulfed and transformed neighboring cultures.

The reason for this change is said to be continuing stresses from deforestation, population growth, and lack of game. The Sredni Stog culture evolved out of these stresses. It relied heavily on stock animals (sheep and cattle) and horse hunting. Wild horses were the most abundant game resource in the steppe area. Evidence for the domestication of these animals was obtained by analysis of age and sex ratios found at a Sredni Stog site. Evidence showed that most of the domesticated horse remains were of young males, with a few females.

First domesticated for meat, horses were later employed for travel and warfare, enabling these people to move from one resource-rich location to another very quickly. Additionally, horses provided easy access to hostile neighbors for raiding and quick getaways.

The next phase of the article relates the Yamna horizon with the adoption of stockbreeding and limited horticulture. The author states that this represents the diffusion of an economy and not a unified cultural complex. The Yamna reordered active and efficient exploitation of steppe resources and established trade connections.

The last part of the article applies the American model of horse domestication and distribution by grassland cultures to the North Pontic Steppes region at the Neolithic level of technology. The author states that you may divide the cultural responses into five major behavioral areas: subsistence, transport, warfare, exchange, and social differentiation.

A cross-cultural analysis of the North Pontic region and the Americas was conducted by converting archaeological data of the North Pontic record into archaeological predictions concerned with specific aspects of material culture. It merely determined whether the patterns would be consistent with what was observed in the Americas. Approximately half the predictions were favorable in the Sredni Stog period, and a significantly lower percentage of predictions were favorable for the Yamna horizon.


Peter Bogucki suggests that the domestication of the horse is a difficult issue and it is approached almost exclusively using “proxy” evidence. Eugen Comsa states that the author’s ideas about the consequences of horse use are very interesting and that it is evident that the term “Kurgan Culture” should be given up. Marija Gimbutas maintains that the bearers of the Kurgan Culture are Proto-Indo-Europeans, in contrast to the author’s beliefs, and challenges some of his hypotheses. Borislav Jovanovic states that the author’s proposed model is an interesting explanation for the formation of the steppe cultures and their migration, at least in the general sense. J.P. Mallory believes that the author should have elaborated or augmented his work since he left out the important work of the Volga region. Sarunas Milisauskas compliments the author for taking a rational approach to the Kurgan Culture but suggests that there is very little evidence to support it.


The author only addresses the two people who specialize in Pontic-Caspian prehistory. He feels that his hypothesis is still viable in spite of the criticism and explains that his article is misunderstood. Anthony offers new information and takes a different approach in his response.

ALLISON STEIGER Southwest Missouri State University (Bill Wedenoja)

Beteille, Andre. Individualism and Equality. Current Anthropology April, 1986 Vol. 27(2): 121-134.

In this paper, Andre Beteille discusses the relationship between individualism and equality. Western society is usually the context of such a discussion. However, Beteille discusses this relationship in the modern Indian government and society. He thinks it is important to remember the past when discussing these subjects. In the past there have been many arguments that inequality is natural. This was very popular in the 19th century. Many sciences that studied man, such as biology, believed that human races were not equal.

The caste system in Indian was abolished when the new constitution came into effect in 1950. In the early 1980’s the constitution had to be revised as the new Indian government attempted to foster more equality and individualism. Two articles from the constitution are discussed, fifteen and sixteen. Article sixteen guarantees “equality of opportunity” in public employment and article fifteen prohibits all forms of discrimination. There is a clause in article sixteen, however, that allows specific castes and tribes to have special provisions. He refers to these as the “Backward classes.”

Beteille argues that educated Indians do value these articles and believe that they should prevail in their society because of the living and working conditions in India. He cites B. R. Ambedkar, a native to India, who supports equality and is against the traditional caste system. He would like to see a complete reconstruction of Indian society. Beteille, like many others, does not think that the Indian constitution balances individualism and equality. He cites F. A. Hayek’s belief that there will always be inequality in liberty and law because many believe inequality is innate. Therefore, Hayek argues that inequality should be accepted. Hayek and M. Friedman share the belief that equality of opportunity would compromise wealthy families because it would take opportunity away from them and give it to others.

Beteille believes equality has many components that do not work smoothly together. Louis Dumont believes that trying to achieve equality will put limits on the attainment of some aspects of individualism such as self-realization. Beteille also discusses Dumont’s idea that traditional societies have hierarchy and holism while modern societies have equality and individualism. Dumont theorizes that individualism is what gives rise to equality. He also suggests that India is still a traditional society. Beteille does not agree with this theory or suggestion.

Comments and Reply

Akbar S. Ahmed agrees with Beteille that equality and individualism have a complex relationship. He draws attention to the Muslim world, stating that equality is of the highest value while individualism is of the lowest. Therefore, it seems to promote equality and discourage individualism. He believes Beteille’s paper is good and hopes there will be more work done on this subject.

Tim Ingold also agrees with Beteille and thinks he made a convincing argument. He suggests concentrating on hunter and gatherer individualism and the individualism of contemporary Western societies for comparison. Beteille agrees that hunter and gatherer individualism is different than that of the modern West. He thinks the modern West is more self conscious about equality.

N. J. Allen believes that anthropologists should look at the relationship between equality and individualism as values that pull a culture in opposite directions. He also states that anthropologists will find more individualism and egalitarianism in India’s present than in its past. Beteille replies that it is important to study the past so you can attain a better understanding of the present.

Grahame Lock thinks Beteille is concerned with the “external” relationships of equality and individualism rather than their “internal” relationship. He questions many of Beteille’s arguments and also suggests that one of them has an error in logic. Beteille admits that he probably wasn’t clear enough about those subjects.

M. N. Srinivas agrees with Beteille refutation of Dumont’s argument. He also discusses positive discrimination, the favoring of weaker classes, in the Indian constitution. He thinks it could be the force that changes the structure of the society, but thinks it is going to cause a violent revolution.

Herve Varenne does not think that Beteille pays enough attention to modern ideologies. He thinks Beteille only suggests how anthropologists should write about these issues in their profession. He also suggests that Beteille could attain better data by including inductive descriptions of everyday life.

JAMIE HARP Southwest Missouri State University (William Wedenoja)

Binford, Lewis R. and Nancy M. Stone. Zhoukoudian: A Closer Look. Current Anthropology December, 1986 27(5): 453-475.

From 1950 to 1980, the majority of specialists in prehistoric archaeology and human evolution argued that the “systematic or tactical” hunting behavior of Lower and Middle Pleistocene hominids created behavioral and possibly psychological contexts in which modern humans could evolve. By the early 1980s, few scholars still maintained that systematic hunting as an evolutionary adaptation became significant during the Lower Pleistocene. Lewis R. Binford and Nancy M. Stone state that archaeologists began to discuss how the evidence of animal bone modification at Lower Pleistocene hominid sites actually implied “situational scavenging.” According to this new theory, adaptive hunting behaviors developed during the Middle Pleistocene and allowed hominids to spread into temperate zones, creating an evolutionary context for the Homo erectus hunting culture. The Zhoukoudian Cave site, a series of caverns first excavated in the 1920s and 1930s, is one of the important Middle Pleistocene, temperate zone sites which scholars have used to support their theory of a hominid “behavioral model” of hunting, base camp living, fire usage in hearths, and cannibalism. Breuil first identified it as a culture which Dart defined as osteodontokeratic. Chinese archaeologists later changed their understanding of the site, but their findings have upheld evidence of hominid modification of faunal assemblages. In light of the broad academic reassessment of Lower Pleistocene materials as evidence not of systematic hominid hunting behavior but of hominid scavenging and non-hominid predator-scavenging, Binford and Stone argue that the Chinese collection of modified equid, bovid (Bubalus), and cervid bones recovered from Zhoukoudian and previously cited as evidence for this behavioral model required an in-person reexamination with the cooperation of Chinese authorities and archaeologists, particularly since the literature review of published materials on Zhoukoudian had not made a case for a hunting life-style. This article presents their statistical analyses of the faunal assemblages from the Zhoukoudian collection and outlines their reinterpretation of hominid behavior at the site.

During their own examination of 1,533 bone specimens from Locality 1 at Zhoukoudian, Binford and Stone found they could study only part of the previously published collection since unknown “attritional processes,” perhaps political turmoil, had led to the disappearance of some of the materials. Some scholars have argued that a pattern of hominid use and interaction with animal parts in connection to kill-site gnawing and nearby presence of hyena or other animal predator dens reinforces the inference that hominids were scavenging animal parts, then transporting them from predator kill sites and animal dens for meat harvesting and for use as bone tools. Accordingly, Binford and Stone analyzed the Zhoukoudian equid, bovid, and cervid collections for both animal gnawing patterns and tool-inflicted marks.

Of the three faunal assemblages, the equid bone assemblage offers the strongest evidence for human “involvement,” showing clear tool marks over the animal gnawing marks, thus indicating hominid processing of bones from non-hominid predator sites. After finding the frequency of animal gnawing and tool marking on different bone elements, Binford and Stone make comparative inferences about the animal den context of hominid bone transport and usage by calculating the gnawing frequencies by bone element from four other studies, including investigations at Klasies River Mouth Cave as well as sites in the Kalahari, at Antu, and in the dog yards at Anaktuvuk. They also compile tables illustrating the frequency of equid bone elements from hominid-animal occupation sites and tool marking frequencies on bones elements at those sites, and they construct tree diagrams showing the similarities among bone element frequencies and among the samples of tool-inflicted cut marks from Zhoukoudian and other sites. They conclude that hyenas and other denning animals amassed most of the equid bone assemblage at Zhoukoudian, while hominids likely harvested equid crania and mandibles for meat. The upper deposits at Zhoukoudian also show evidence for hominid use of fire for roasting equid meat. Using similar frequency calculations, Binford and Stone assess the incidence of animal gnawing and tool marking on bovid and cervid bone specimens in the Zhoukoudian collection, and they make comparative frequency calculations for other hominid-animal occupation sites. The data on bovid exploitation at Zhoukoudian allow only for the conclusion that denning animals transported and modified the majority of bones in the bovid assemblage, although the authors did find two inferred instances of hominid modification for meat processing. Examination of Zhoukoudian cervid bones reveals two types of tool-inflicted marks, thus indicating hominid processing of cervid parts, particularly the mandibles. However, Binford and Stone examine the published data on cervid faunal assemblages at paleontological carnivore dens, at modern hyena dens, at modern kill sites of the Nunamiut caribou hunters, and at the Upper Pleistocene Combe Grenal hominid site to provide comparative percentages of cervid mandible and maxilla processing and modification. The authors report that they found little resemblance between the Zhoukoudian cervid assemblage and cervid bone modification at the modern hunting site or the prehistoric, presumed hunting site at Combe Grenal. Rather, denning animal predators accumulated most of the cervid assemblage while the Zhoukoudian hominids apparently engaged in “head scavenging” from those adult cervid carcasses which animals had eaten and abandoned in dens.

The authors’ reexamination of Zhoukoudian faunal assemblages provides no support for the operation of the Middle Pleistocene hominid behavioral model of hunting with fire usage at a home base. Only in the upper levels of the site did hominids appear to have used fire for meat processing. Although Binford and Stone are highly skeptical of the theory of cannibalism among Homo erectus, they did not investigate the Zhoukoudian assemblages to shed light on that issue. Their interpretation of Zhoukoudian hominid scavenging further weakens earlier arguments that Homo erectus populations organized around the focal activity of systematic big-game hunting.

In Comments, Aigner praises the authors’ preliminary work but argues that the small sample of available assemblages, the problems with determining provenience for the materials within the faunal assemblages, and the inability to place the assemblages in the context of hominid loci serve to undermine the authors’ findings that Zhoukoudian was a site of hominid scavenging, not hunting. Aigner suggests that Binford and Stone actually have confirmed the Chinese findings of hominid modification and burning of equid bones. Behrensmeyer rejects the supremacy of the hominid scavenging hypothesis and views as highly suspect the authors’ methods of using skeletal part frequencies and comparing Zhoukoudian assemblages based on fossil site bone accumulations instead of bone accumulation in modern sites. She concludes that, since the overall Zhoukoudian assemblage offers no clear primary data to address the questions Binford and Stone ask, they cannot use the assemblage to make definitive statements regarding hominid scavenging or hunting. Haynes supports the authors’ challenges to earlier theories about hominid hunting behavior at Zhoukoudian Cave, but outlines two weaknesses: the method of reasoning based on comparisons with very different fossil sites; and the reliance on the sometimes questionable data for tool-cut marks.

Three main criticisms mark Olsen’s skepticism toward the authors’ data-gathering and their quantitative basis for arguments supporting hominid scavenging. The authors had only four days to examine the Zhoukoudian faunal assemblages, not enough time according to Olsen to thoroughly analyze over 1500 bones for gnawing marks and tool-inflicted marks. They did not review the recent Chinese literature that attempted to answer some of the latest questions surrounding natural and human modification of bone elements at Zhoukoudian. Moreover, they failed to conduct on-site evaluations of the pre-revolutionary faunal assemblage because they could not find a way to overcome language barriers with Chinese officials and obtain access to those materials. Todd discusses the significance of statistical analysis and assemblage comparisons for the reevaluation of earlier interpretations of hominid behavior at Zhoukoudian. You Yu-zhu accepts the obvious presence of non-human carnivores at the Zhoukoudian Cave site, but he reiterates that bones in the faunal assemblage showed clear evidence of hominid burning and retouching as tools in association with thousands of stone tools.

In the Reply, Binford first responds to Haynes’ criticism on comparative data and tool-mark recognition, then gives a spirited rebuttal to Olsen’s three points of contention. As the comments and reply illustrate, Binford and Stone’s reevaluation of the Zhoukoudian faunal assemblages constitutes an important but controversial reinterpretation of Homo erectus as a scavenger rather than a systematic hunter. By sparking further debate, this work has emphasized the heated disagreement among archaeologists over the recent redefinition of the evolutionary context of hominid behavior in the Middle and Upper Pleistocene.

LISE TRUEX Southwest Missouri State University (William Wedenoja)

Bloch, Maurice. From Blessing to Violence: History and Ideology in the Circumcision Ritual of the Merina of Madagascar. Current Anthropology. August, 1986 Vol. 27 (4): 349-360.

This article reviews the book From Blessing to Violence, which looks at the historical and ritualistic changes in the circumcision rites among the Merina of Madagascar. The ritual is analyzed using both historical and anthropological approaches. Symbolically, the act of the ritual itself has changed little in almost 200 years, even through the people’s religious conversion, state expansion, and ultimate colonization by the French. Four questions were raised in this study. Why, if there is a connection between religious ritual and socio-economic condition, does the ritual change so little? Why do those who are willing to participate subject themselves to humiliation? Why type of knowledge is religious knowledge? What connection exists between symbolic violence and military violence?

Even though the symbols and their meanings have remained similar, the function of the ritual has been revamped according to changing socio-economic conditions. It was transformed from the mystical reproduction of descent among royalty to an act of allegiance to the state after establishment of the larger Merina kingdom. With the French colonization of the island, the circumcision rituals co-existed privately among the converts to Christianity. Women take part in the ceremonies, representing the secular qualities of human beings, while men represent the ancestral qualities. The “feminine” is defeated symbolically in an act that is very much like rape. Yet, the women are enthusiastic participants due to the ideology behind the ritual, which is that another transcendental life will occur after the earthly one is finished. The nature of religious knowledge is that it is paradoxical and formalized, so that it will not interfere with other types of knowledge. The connection that ritual bridges between symbolic and military violence is that of conquest and rebirth. Just as a child is ceremonially defeated and consumed by the ancestors so as to maintain the ancestral order, so subjugated people are defeated and consumed by the rulers to maintain the social order. The stability of symbols in ritual is due to the disengagement of secular knowledge and ritual knowledge.


According to Gerald M. Berg, Bloch’s attempt at looking at ritual through an historical lens is a promising agenda. He raises several questions in response to the analysis of the circumcision ritual of the Merina. He says that land was the principal source of wealth of the people before French colonization and is the important factor in at the ritual historically. In the early agrarian phase in which the people lived, the ritual reflected the social realities of the time. After the decline of the monarchy the ritual lost the old references but, due to its plasticity, gained new meaning to deal with the subsequent social displacement. Bloch’s theory is solid in that it can be used to explain ritual in both settings.

Eric R. Wolf agrees as to the value of the book. The integration of different approaches reinforces Bloch’s reputation as a thoughtful and innovative anthropologist. He notes the influence of Durkheim, Turner, Marx, and Freud on Bloch’s work and claims that the explanatory power of Bloch’s approach can be expanded.


Bloch welcomes the constructive criticism of his peers. He feels that using a historical approach to cultural problems overcomes many shortcomings of traditional anthropological methods, but that the matter is not simple. The goals he had for the book, of combining historical and anthropological knowledge, are encouraged by the responses. He plans further work of this type.

LEANNA AYER Southwest Missouri State University (Bill Wedenoja)

Bunn, Henry T. and Ellen M. Kroll. Systematic Butchery by Plio/Pleistocene Hominids at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. Current Anthropology December, 1986 Vol. 27(5): 431-451.

This article addresses two particular aspects of ancient hominid behavior: diet and subsistence. The fossil animal bone assemblages from which the data were abstracted were gathered from archaeological sites at the two main East African localities of Plio/Pleistocene age, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, and Koobi Fora, Kenya. These two locations comprise two of the most important and contentious classes of data for the study of early hominid subsistence and diet activities.

The methodology used by Bunn and Kroll was to examine and identify cut marks on bones by macroscopic and microscopic analysis. This technique combines examination of linear grooves and their relation to controlled modern grooves of known origin. This includes gnawing damage by carnivores and rodents, abrasive scratching by rock/sediment material, and humanly induced cut marks. This method also takes into account the anatomical location and orientation of the alleged cut marks and is advocated by archaeological pioneers in the study of cut marks as well as other colleagues mentioned by the authors. The cut-mark samples analyzed in this article include only those specimens that meet the specific criteria mentioned above: macroscopic, microscopic, and locational.

The authors use the methodology mentioned above to argue that the bone assemblages from Olduvai Gorge and Koobi Fora favor an efficient hominid strategy of carcass skinning, joint dismemberment, and meat removal and for a significant amount of meat-eating by hominids nearly two million years ago. Specifically, they consider how ancient hominids were processing carcasses. That is, they want to know if they were moving and accumulating animal remain parts and bones or if they were operating at kill sites of large carnivores. Another important element they consider is what part of their kills ancient hominids were after: meat, tendons, or marrow? The last vital element they examine to positively credit their thesis is how ancient hominids obtained their carcasses in the first place. For this, they examine four possibilities: hominids were scavenging from carcasses of animals that had died of natural causes other than predation, scavenging from carcasses that had been abandoned by large carnivores at their kill sites, confrontational scavenging by hominids from fresh uneaten carcasses at carnivore kill sites while carnivores were still present, and finally hunting by hominids of small and large animals.

The authors analyze their own theory (mentioned above) as well at a theory by Potts and Shipman and a theory by Binford. Potts and Shipman analyzed a sample of 18 or 19 bones with cut marks from six different bone assemblages from Olduvai Gorge. They concluded that early hominids were not principally interested in obtaining meat from carcasses but instead were attempting to obtain usable material such as tendons and skin. It is their belief that early hominids were “rarely if ever disarticulating carcasses.” One important flaw mentioned by the authors is that Potts and Shipman’s extremely small sample affected their analysis of the cut mark location in favor of a relative abundance on nonmeaty bones.

Binford alleges that Plio/Pleistocene hominids had little access to meat as a food resource and claims that they were the most marginal scavengers of bone marrow at large carnivore kill sites. Using the Oldowan stone tool assemblages at corroborating evidence, Binford states, “Despite much discussion, the fact remains that the earliest Oldowan tools are simply smashed rocks which could probably have served only as hammerstones, clubs or choppers. The flakes struck off them were not in general utilized, for in the lowest deposits cutting tools are rare, while morphologically sophisticated tools (such as scrapers) are entirely absent.” The authors believe this argument is also flawed because Binford has largely ignored recently published cut mark evidence from the Olduvai Gorge and Koobi Fora archaeological bone assemblages, using numbers presented in works by Louis and Mary Leaky that they themselves called a “work in progress.” They also point out that sharp-edged stone flakes and flake fragments are among the most common cutting tools and numerically make up the bulk of the Oldowan assemblages from Olduvai Gorge and Koobi Fora. In addition, unmodified stone flakes were used to produce cut marks on bones from Olduvai Gorge and Koobi Fora. Microware analysis also supports this idea that unmodified stone flakes from Koobi Fora were used to cut meat.

After analysis using freshly gathered data on skeletal part frequencies, cut marks, and other aspects of Plio/Pleistocene archaeological bone assemblages from Olduvai Gorge, the authors conclude that the evidence seems to show that some ancient hominids were using stone tools to systematically butcher the meaty carcasses of smaller and larger animals and that substantial quantities of meat and marrow were probably being consumed by the hominids. They believe that the data consistently show a subsistence strategy that combined hunting of small animals with hunting and aggressive scavenging of large animals, as well as the transportation of carcass portions to favorite butchering locations. The authors clearly reject the theory that ancient hominids were primarily marginal scavengers.


The commentary section appears to present lukewarm support of Bunn and Kroll. Most commentators agree that their arguments are welcome, but not without flaw. Perhaps the most intense rebuttal comes from Binford who claims that Bunn and Kroll have distorted and shifted their emphasis to favor their interpretations. He continues to state that he did not ignore the recently published Olduvai Gorge cut-mark information, or misunderstand the assemblages. He points out that the major flaw of Bunn and Kroll’s analysis is that is neglects to treat gnawing data and that they introduce “unjustified propositions” to support their beliefs about early hominids. In the end, he states that their theory actually supports his own.


Binford’s claim is serious and it is no surprise that the authors make him their primary target in their reply. To be brief, they simply deconstruct the arguments he made against their theory by showing contradictions he made in his commentary against comments made in published articles. They believe that his argument by assertion that “rather than backing up their own arguments, Bunn and Kroll’s data strongly support mine” is unconvincing in the presence of contradictory facts.

DINA MARIE WILLIAMS Southwest Missouri State University (William Wedenoja)

Davis, Whitney. The Origins of Image Making. Current Anthropology June, 1986 Vol.27 (3): 193-216.

This article, as the title suggests, explores the origins of image making using a less speculative and more scientific approach. Davis believes that image-making of early humans is a “predictable adaptation which should be coherently situated in the overall trajectory of hominid evolution.” The origins of image making “can be derived logically from simple and archaic perceptual and cognitive processes.” Davis notes that image making became more diverse and sophisticated over time. He does not see image making as an instantaneous invention but a gradual evolution. Davis believes that “Image making originated in the discovery of the representational capacity of lines, marks, or blots of color which need not and often do not have a representational status.” He discusses the example of images from the early Aurignacian (32,000-26,000 B.C.). Most of these images from the early Aurignacian used simple near straight lines to create the outlines of animal parts such as horns, legs, and dorsal lines. A key characteristic of these images is the use of single C curved lines.

A comparison is made between the evolution of image making and tool making. While tool making is believe to be the result of increased manual dexterity, image making is considered a further stage in the continuing evolution of the modern visual system. Chimpanzees can make marks or scribbles but their marks are considered to be self-sufficient and without any semantic value. Neanderthal man is known to have made similar Self-sufficient marks. It is impossible to interpret semantic meaning from the marks made by Neanderthal or chimpanzees.

Davis discounts the projection theory of image making. Projection theory is the idea that the surfaces being marked on suggested shapes of animals. This theory does not take into account that the surfaces have a number of irregularities that do not suggest an animal shape. It also fails to acknowledge that artists will accommodate features of the surface into their images. By 15,000 B.C. the image makers were choosing smooth surfaces. Davis uses a series of equations to show how marks evolved into images. He starts with the basic idea that a mark represents a thing. The more marks that were made increased the likelihood that these marks would be seen as things. By the Aurignacian period conditions were right for markings to progress into representations of things. Davis believes his theory of gradual image evolution can be backed up using the archeological record.


Emmanuel Anati criticizes Davis for focusing too much on Aurignacian art when the oldest figurative art discovered is from Namibia. Alexander Marshack also criticizes Davis for focusing too heavily on the Franco–Cantabrian images of the Aurignacian. Robert Bednarik agrees with Davis that the hominid ability to perceive the likeness of an object in a random marking can be seen in the archeological record. David Carrier does not think that Davis accurately presented the ideas of Gombrich’s presentation theory. Robert Layton believes that Davis’ data are incomplete, and he doubts that Aurignacian images can be directly and accurately dated.


In the reply, Davis emphasizes that his background is in art history and not in archeology or anthropology. He agrees with Layton that dating images precisely is problematic but this article does not rely on precise dates. Davis acknowledges that there are images dated earlier than the Aurignacian. However he claims that these images are nonrepresentational and he wanted to focus on the representational images. Davis agrees that the record is incomplete because many images were likely made on perishable media. To keep his article simple he opted not to discuss three-dimensional art. Davis also states that he did simplify Grombrich’s theory because he did not have space to explain it thoroughly.

JONATHAN GOOD Southwest Missouri State University (William Wedenoja)

Feleppa, Robert Emics, Etics, and Social Objectivity. Current Anthropology June, 1986 Vol. 27(3): 243-255.

In this article, Feleppa explains the use of emic and etic analysis when conducting anthropological research. He explains how the emic analysis aims at understanding a culture from the viewpoint of the subjects being studied. It is the understanding that the subjects have of themselves and their world. The etic analysis aims at understanding a culture on the basis of the inquirers’ imported conceptions. Feleppa’s main goal of this article is to “sort out some variations in usage of ‘etic and ‘emic’ and the key points of disputes that underlie them.”

Feleppa explains the methodological role of emic analysis be citing the work of Marvin Harris. Harris believes that etic analysis generates scientifically productive theories about the causes of sociocultural differences and similarities. Harris believes that it is necessary to use the language of science rather than imply concepts that are necessarily real, meaningful, and appropriate from the native point of view. Harris feels that emic analysis leads to antitheoretic tendencies.

Another issue Feleppa brings up is Quine’s idea of the indeterminacy of translation. Quine believes that emic phenomena are “generally untranslatable—where ‘translation’ involves the factual recovery of meaning and not simply the facilitation of intercultural interaction.” He believes that many things can be determined by leaving language alone and focusing on non-verbal communication. Quine follows an extreme etic point of view by referring to emic analysis as being indeterminate. He feels it has no facts to describe.

With the given analyses of emic and etic principles, Feleppa wonders if emic analysis is even possible. Feleppa believes that emic analysis is possible, and disagrees with Quine’s idea of the indeterminacy of translation. He breaks theories into two components: 1) Descriptive-which are hypotheses, laws, and observation and 2) Prescriptive-which are rules of inference, hypothesis acceptance, and theoretical definitions. He considers translations “prescriptive insofar as the patterns of their justification are codificational.” He believes that codification “improves the functioning of an existing set of conventions by increasing the degree to which the expectations of speakers are enhances and optimal coordination equilibria are achieved.” He believes that translations answer questions about the analytical framework for posing and answering factual questions. He states he can’t answer the question of: Are emic units really emic? But he doesn’t deny them a place in scientific anthropology as Quine does.

To sum up, Feleppa reaches four conclusions on emic/etic analysis: 1) “Translation is distinct from description in virtue of being subject to codificational patterns of justification. 2) It thus expresses no facts but can have a place in the framework of fact expression. 3) Emic units of analysis, whose determination hinges directly on translation, cannot warrantably be shown really or factually to exist or subsist in the minds or discourse of source-language-speakers, but 4) they too can have a place in the framework of scientific, descriptive anthropology.” He feels that anthropology has as an important aim, “the revelation of feasible ways of organizing experience and the social world that are different from those with which we are familiar.” He thinks that in order to reach this aim, emic and etic analysis must be looked at in more detail.


Comments of three different scholars point out the flaws in Feleppa’s argument. Roger F. Gibson, Jr. states that “the first few pages of his discussion reveal just how muddied these waters are. It is regrettable, therefore, that he muddies them still further by introducing Quine’s theses of inscrutability of reference and indeterminacy of translation.” Paul A. Roth feels that Feleppa, through the ideas of Quine, is actually revealing a pseudo problem. He states that “all cases of translation are matter of imposition, for how are we to understand anyone—ourselves or strangers—except in terms of categories that make sense or are extensions of some that do.” Anne Salmond agrees for the most part with Feleppa’s ideas but doesn’t find the use of emic/etic analysis to be adequate base for delineating anthropological theory.


Feleppa backs up his initial findings and answers the criticisms above. He understands that his article left many unanswered questions and that further study and analysis needs to be done on the emic/etic controversy.

JOEY EAKINS Southwest Missouri State University (William Wedenoja)

Greenberg, Joseph H., Christ G. Turner II, and Stephen L. Zegura. The Settlement of the Americas: A Comparison of Linguistic, Dental, and Genetic Evidence. Current Anthropology December 1986 Vol.27(2):477-489.

Current theories concerning the hominid settlements of the Americas stress that a migration of modern Homo sapien sapiens from Asia, via the Bering Strait, occurred following the terminal Pleistocene. This is based on the lack of human skeletal remains prior to the terminal Pleistocene, biological resemblance between Amerindian and Asian populations, and the greater dental variation among the Asian population, suggesting that the Amerindian population is more recent. While this evidence is agreed on by the majority of experts, the number of migrations, the identity of those involved, and the relative and absolute chronology are points of dissention. In this article, the authors argue that based on linguistic, dental and genetic evidence, the Americas were most likely settled through the course of three major migratory movements: that of the Amerind, Na-Dene, and Aleut-Eskimo.

Many modern linguists recognize as many as 200 separate linguistic stocks in the New World, and seemingly more are being differentiated each year. This leads to the historical conclusion that either each of these represents a micro-migration, or that there were only a few large migrations or a single macro-migration and enough time has elapsed to erase any apparent relationship. After examining the work of many linguists over the past century, Greenberg divided the New World into the three main linguistic groups mentioned above. The authors feel that Amerind (11,000+ B.P.) is probably the oldest since it exists further south and has the most differentiation. They further reason that Na-Dene (9,000 B.P.) must be the second oldest because of its internal divisions, and that Aleut-Eskimo (4,000 B.P.) is most likely the most recent. These numbers are based on glottochronology, which is by no means an exact science. The authors also concede that it is possible that the Aleut-Eskimo group arrived earlier but existed in relative isolation in the northern reaches of the Alaskan coast.

Teeth are a good tool for information on the past because they preserve well, they have numerous traits, genetic determination, evolutionary conservatism, and they are easy to observe. After analyzing the existing dental data in the Americas, the authors came to the following conclusions: first, Native American groups must have originated with one group in Northeast Asia because the New World groups resemble each other more than they do most Old World populations; second, the migration must have moved southward from Alaska because there is more variation in the north than in the south; third, based on their dental traits, New World groups came from Asia rather than Europe; and finally, the New World variation forms three clusters which match with the aforementioned groups. Taken together, the authors believe that this evidence supports a relatively late initial peopling by a small original founding group.

Separating and dating migrations based on genetic evidence is much more difficult because such judgments are based largely on inference, which is fallible due to the possibility of evolutionary convergence. From a biological perspective, organisms are not necessarily related just because they appear similar. Overall, there is little agreement among the scientific community regarding the suggested migration to the Americas based on genetic evidence. While there is no strong support for the three main pre-historical migrations, there is no contrary proof either. The authors do a good job of pointing this out and stressing that genetics is only seen as supplementary verification at this time.

Throughout the article, the authors made a strong case for their suggested pattern of migration. They are consistent in their position and provide solid evidence making it difficult to refute their opinion that the New World was populated by the movements of the Amerind, the Na-Dene, and the Aleut-Eskimo, in that order.


The commentaries on this article were somewhat critical, mostly concerning the lack of evidence presented to back up the authors’ claims. Lyle Campbell, an anthropologist at the State University of New York in Albany, called the article “distressing” and strongly objected to both the language classification and the correlations with non-linguistic evidence. He feels the idea of an Amerind group is no longer main stream and that the authors are “lumpers” while the majority of experts are “splitters”. He went on to call the dental and genetic evidence “unconvincing” and “irrelevant” and stated that the entire premise of the theory is speculative.

James A. Fox, from Stanford University, was less critical and felt that the article contained some exciting developments. He pointed out that Sapir had similar ideas and that Greenberg has good credentials as a linguist. He felt that the comparisons made were neither rash nor improbable and therefore valid. He feels that both the hypothesis and the examples used are beneficial. His only real criticism was that the authors’ conclusions may be somewhat simplistic and that he is not totally convinced about the exact order of the migrations. His critique sounded as if it may have been softened as a courtesy to a colleague on the same campus.

W.S. Laughlin, an ecologist and evolutionary biologist at the University of Connecticut, may have been the most critical. He doesn’t think that the evidence warrants more than one migration and feels that a single small migration 16,000 years B.P. is more likely. He bases his idea on the lack of great diversity among aboriginal populations. Emoke J.E. Szathmary, an anthropologist at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada agrees that there simply isn’t enough evidence to justify their conclusions. He calls the article an “unconvincing position paper” and states that while it is a creative hypothesis, it has no real scientific merit.

Finally, Kenneth M. Weiss and Ellen Woolford of the Pennsylvania State Anthropology Department agreed that there was too little evidence or explanation of methodology and that the theories presented were oversimplified. They also point out that it is a controversial topic and bring up the issue of multilingualism.


The authors defend their lack of evidence by means of space constraints in the article and claim that all of their data will be published in Greenberg’s new book. They also discount the idea of borrowing and give a more in depth description of their methodology. They apparently agree that the genetic evidence is sparse and that we’ll have to wait for technology to prove their claims. They are, however, encouraged by the discourse and indicate that, although there is some disagreement about the number of migrations, the commentators seemed to be at a consensus is regards to the ultimate origin, timing and point of divergence of the prehistoric population(s). Finally, they stress that all of their research was conducted independently. I feel it was a solid rebuttal.

BRENDAN FLETCHER Southwest Missouri State University (William Wedenoja)

Herzfeld, Michael. Closure as Cure: Tropes in the Exploration of Bodily and Social Disorder. Current Anthropology April, 1986 Vol. 27 (2): 107-112.

In this article, Herzfeld focuses on the debated idea of cultural constraints, which skew one’s perception of disease. The main problem addressed in this article is the idea of illness as a trope. Illness not only deals with particular physical sicknesses of the body, but as a trope also encompasses social situations. In this article, illness gains a completely new meaning that deals with a code of social relations.

Herzfeld argues that illness is perceived through one’s social and physiological experiences. Physical pain is created and felt by the conscious mind as it struggles to be understood. Herzfeld sets out to prove that pain is a sufferer’s trope. Pain, he says, is easier to feel, localize, and deal with than the undefined emotions caused by one’s own social failures. Herzfeld sees curing rituals as a method used to rid one’s self of shortcomings and failures in social settings. He also suggests that curing rituals are progressive events designed to bring order to one’s environment and to restore equilibrium.

Herzfeld uses thiarmos, in the village of Glendi, as an example. Thiarmos is an illness triggered by feelings of jealousy. It strikes poor villagers who fear the rich, and infests the lives of the rich who nurse feelings of hatred toward the good fortune of the poor. Symptoms include laziness, yawning, and weeping. Information on curing rituals from the village of Glendi lends support to Herzfeld’s argument. By observing the curing rituals one can see how discourse starts to remodel the expression of pain. Observable results such as an immediate cure of serious illness, social contentment, and a renewed sense of security in one’s social environment all lend proof to the efficacy of the curing ritual.

Comments and Reply

Complaints about the article revolve around two major points: the vagueness of the author’s exposition and his use of the word “final” in describing a cured illness. Herzfeld replies that preserving the villagers’ understanding of disease, however vague, is a basic building block in his article. He states that ethnographic subjects provide the anthropologist with data, and for one to impute their own ideas negates the need for ethnographic subjects. Herzfeld also argues that the use of the word “final,” when discussing curing rituals, is not bound to the definition of surrendering to power. Instead, the definition becomes a resistance to power. To cure an illness, Herzfeld feels, is to surrender that specific illness to finality. This does not, he points out, render a person free of all illnesses; susceptibility of a person to new illnesses remains. Finality is associated only with illnesses cured through ritual. One last point brought against Herzfeld’s article attacks his viewpoint on semiotic analysis of the structure of symptoms and healing. Critics believe that Herzfeld’s article adds no new insight or breakthrough. Instead, it uses an alternate idiom articulating the same ideas that have already been reported. Herzfeld states that the idea behind healing doesn’t have to be new as long as it has been repackaged. He explains that his article’s unique outlook allows the reader to dissolve the rigid boundaries segregating anthropological discourse from what it studies. That, he argues, is an outlook all his own.

CIARA HOWELL Southwest Missouri State University (William Wedenoja)

Hirschfeld, Lawrence A. Kinship and Cognition: Genealogy and the Meaning of Kinship Terms. Current Anthropology June, 1986 Vol 27(3):217-240.

This article centers on formal accounts of meaning, and the genealogical universe of kinship terms. Hirschfeld explores the two main positions, which are the formalist and symbolist camps of thought. He points out that the formalists have taken constrained senses as representing an analytically prior, distinct semantic domain, typically justifying the terms based on what we know about cognition. Human cognition takes place in a social and cultural context. It uses tools, words, concepts, beliefs, books, microscopes and, computers provided by culture. Moreover, a great deal of cognition is about social and cultural phenomena.

Within the formalist camp, there are two broad arguments: those that conceive of the meanings of kinship terms as packets of features drawn from an exhaustive contrastive set, and those that interpret relationship terms as the product of focal or basic expressions in combination with rules for attaching derivative senses. As for the functionalist account of kinship meaning, Scheffler and Lounsbury explained kinship terms with three linked notions: 1) that this field is internally structured in such a way that certain members of it are primary and focal, others derived through deduction rules, and 2) the customary applications of the terms to individuals who are not genealogically related are metaphorical extensions of these primary and derived senses. “A kinship term is employed to designate a category of kinsman; a kinsman is an individual to whom one (Ego) is related by genealogical connection” (Scheffler 1972 a:113).

The symbolists’ approach, which argues that the two processes, stereotyping and defining, are not so readily distinguishable and therefore determine the semantic status of different kinship terms, is problematic. One symbolist, Firth, suggested that there is no differentiation in emotional tone corresponding to the difference in propinquity of kinship when the same term is used in varying contexts.

Hirschfeld also covers lexical and conceptual fields in semantic theory, a contrast between the varied lexical partitions of a constant conceptual field (Trier 1934). Knowing the meaning of a term includes having knowledge of “both form and function for many entries,” each lexical entry being “sufficiently rich to include both information about form that can be judged true or false and information about function that can be judged possible or impossible” (Miller 1978).


Roy D’Andrade comments that Hirschfeld does not discuss the alternative “idiosyncratic” position on the meaning of kinship terms. D’Andrade takes the position that understanding the meaning of a term depends on understanding the cognitive structures or models, which are invoked by the use of the term.

Harold W. Scheffler rather harshly says that Hirschfeld has only a large collection of assumptions that are loosely based on any real ethnographic data.

David M. Schneider also has little to say about Hirschfeld except that his work is unsatisfactory, since it only offers a brief statement about universal kinship.

Victor Welter was one of the few people to have positive feedback to the article. Although he had some minor objections and some questions for Hirschfeld, overall he believed Hirschfelds’ analysis was excellent.


Hirschfeld rebuts D’Andrade’s comment on kinship systems by saying, “there is nothing in prototype semantics which allows one to separate powerfully associated notions, stereotypes, or prejudices from those properties and attributes which actually define a concept.” In his final statement, Hirschfeld rebuts Schaffler by quoting “the problem arises in part because the paper is a part of a larger work.” Hirschfeld recommends that the interested reader should consult the complete study for further discussion on how extensive empirical research on acquisition of kinship terms relates to his work.

ROGERS, RICHARD Southwest Missouri State University (William Wedenoja)

Kleinman, Arthur. Social Origins of Distress and Disease: Depression, Neurasthenia, and Pain in Modern China. Current Anthropology. December, 1986. Vol. 27 (5): 499-509.

The purpose of this study, which is a combination of Anthropological and Psychiatric research in China, was to reveal the relationship between neurasthenia and depression, as well as how patients’ experiences in life may influence the disorder. The author was also interested in how professional and lay dialogue can reveal a cultural construction of clinical categories.

While depression is the most common outpatient diagnosis in North America and Europe, neurasthenia is the most common in China. Historically, the labeling diagnosis for neurasthenia was imported to China from the West, and culturally adapted to encompass the types of complaints that are common in Chinese society, such as headaches, dizziness, and insomnia. This symptom grouping is constant in literature dating from the present to the Han and Ming dynasties.

In this study, 100 patients were interviewed using ethnographic, open-ended questions, then psychiatrically assessed. It was found that most complaints were stress related, and most met the criteria for anxiety disorders. These cases were generalized to illustrate the influences of culture and social experiences on illness. Kleinman attributes much of the societal stress on the Cultural Revolution in China. He found that somatization of stress can become a bargaining tool for the patient when stressors become too much to handle. Chronic complaints often lead to a person being labeled disabled, or even early retirement. Based on this study, the author calls for a change in the system of diagnosis to one that examines human qualities; one that looks past criteria and labels to social origins of human misery and suffering. Kleinman also stresses the importance of having many perspectives, from family members, co-workers, and health care professionals to obtain an accurate view of causes of disorders.


Ronald Frankenberg, in response to the article, claims that Kleinman did a poor job of trying to explain the disorder from the two models—cultural anthropology and American psychiatry. He says that the author put too much emphasis on the Cultural Revolution and the lost generation in attempting to explain the causes of stress in Chinese society. Frankenberg goes on to claim that Kleinman’s work will encourage other professionals to forsake acute social analysis and return to “half-baked psychology and psychiatry,” and that Kleinman should stick to one model or the other when trying to examine a problem. Alan Young, on the other hand, felt that Kleinman’s article should be used as a standard for research in this subject in the future.


In his response, Kleinman stressed that reviewers should take the author’s perspective into account when covering their research. He says that Frankenberg does not realize the advances made by combining Anthropology and Psychiatry, and that Young captured his ideas, as he meant them to be a theoretical model for cultural critique.

LEANNA AYER Southwest Missouri State University (William Wedenoja)

McDonald, Maryon. Celtic Ethnic Kinship and the Problem of Being English. Current Anthropology, August-October 1986 Vol. 27: 333-348.

McDonald begins by pointing out that the majority of those pushing to keep the Breton language alive in Brittany are not the rural, native speakers; they are university-educated people who have learned Breton as a second language. Native Breton-speakers often adopt the French language without any concern for losing their native language. Members of the Breton movement assert that French has been forced upon the Bretons for so long that they don’t have a choice, and that the French government has made it so that the Bretons cannot get an education unless they speak French. Also, to explain why Breton culture is so different from other Celtic cultures, they say that it is the result of “cultural genocide.”

The known history of the Celtic people essentially begins when they are identified as living in Gaul in Julius Caesar’s Bellum Gallicum. The French later claimed them as their ancestors (since they had been in Gaul). Brittany, however, was not recognized as part of this lineage until the early 1700s. The Breton scholar Pezron traced his ancestry to Japhet and the Celtic Gauls, thereby giving Brittany a higher Celtic relation than the rest of France. (At the time, it had not yet been decided whether French was a Celtic language or a Latin language.) The French did not recognize Britain as having any Celtic relations, and took British claims to Celtic heritage as attempts to “usurp” France. The British later saw Anglo-Saxons as their ancestors and Celts as “primitive,” leading to the Celts’ general dislike of the English while France continued to embrace its Celtic heritage.

This leads to the Breton movement’s problem: They want to be a Celtic minority, but the rest of France can lay claim to Celtic ancestry as well. The Breton movement, then, pits itself against all things “French,” not “Celtic.”

In looking at the history of languages, French was determined to be a descendant of Latin, not Celtic. So, because Breton is close to Welsh, Breton must therefore be a Celtic language, meaning that the Britons are more closely related to the Celts than the French are. The Breton movement also wants a biological connection to the Celts established, and has focused on a “flight” of Britons from Britain to Armorica because of the Anglo-Saxons (though they could also have been forced out by Romans or Irish, but this is ignored).


Many of the commentators feel that McDonald does not address the question of why the Bretons feel the need to distinguish themselves as such, only that their account of their history is faulty. Additionally, they feel that the relationship between Breton speakers and the dominant French speakers should be addressed rather than whether Breton is closer to French or to Celtic languages. They also feel that the “potential for political reaction” should be addressed rather than the reality of their possible history, and that McDonald shows a lack of empathy that ethnographic work needs. Some feel that she was perfect for this fieldwork, being “half-Welsh, half-Irish, and totally English.” Others feel that she does not describe the complexities of French identity, she identifies the non-native-Breton-speaking activists as the majority of the Breton movement when in reality they are the minority, and she wrongly suggests that the “Frenchification” of Brittany has presented no problems to the local population.


The Breton movement is occurring because they feel that, through their view of their history (which is not necessarily untrue), it is what they ought to be doing (that is, standing up against oppression). She also reiterates that she was not “pretending to set out all the ideas of the Breton movement.”

SHANNON WESTERN Southwest Missouri State University (William Wedenoja)

Orlove, Benjamin S. Barter and Cash Sale on Lake Titicaca: A Test of Competing Approaches. Current Anthropology April, 1986 Vol. 27(2): 85-106.

In this article, Orlove addresses the “patterning of barter and cash sale in the Andes and the use of this patterning to evaluate rival approaches in economic anthropology.” The rival approaches that Orlove evaluates are: 1. culturalists, 2. neo-Marxists, and 3. decision theorists.

Orlove begins the article by briefly summarizing some of the developments in economic anthropology that lead to the three schools of thought mentioned above. After completing this overview, Orlove attempts to compare and evaluate the decision theorist, culturalist, and neo-Marxist approaches to the case study of barter and cash sale on Lake Titicaca. Orlove feels that this case study will attempt to “explain, elaborating the hypotheses that correspond to each, and testing them with empirical data”. He feels that this case study will be successful because the three schools of thought have all written on this topic in this region. He examines why each of these schools of thought have written on this topic, and what each focuses on that best supports their idea of economic anthropology.

After completing the thorough explanation that each school of thought has to offer on barter and cash sale on Lake Titicaca, Orlove contrasts the three schools along four dimensions concerning the exchange of fish. These four dimensions are as follows:

1. Permanence of ties. Do fishermen maintain long-term relations with their exchange partners, and do fish vendors maintain long-term relations with their customers?

2. Purpose. What are the goals of the participants in the exchange of fish?

3. Prices. Are the prices for fish in the two modes (barter and cash) the same or different?

4. Long-term trends in the relationship between the two modes. Is barter becoming less common, remaining at a constant level, or growing?

Based on these four dimensions, Orlove explains how each school of thought would answer these questions. He then evaluates each school of thought based on quantitative data from surveys applied to fishermen, fish vendors, and fish consumers.

The next section of Orlove’s article examines the fishermen, the fish vendors, and the fish consumers. He also discusses the relative prices of fish in the two modes and the long-term trends in the relations between barter and cash sale. He discusses this by using data collected from 1979-1981 on fish production, distribution, consumption, and the dimensions of fish exchange. He presents the data in nine tables for the reader to analyze.

His final section analyzes which hypothesis of each school of thought works the best. Orlove interprets the results with three approaches. The first approach is to see which school of thought the data favor. The second approach is to examine ways in which the approaches complement rather than compete with one another. The third approach is to ask in what ways this particular case is unique and to what extent these unique characteristics have shaped the performance of the three approaches.


Seven different scholars point out flaws in Orlove’s discussion. James Acheson states, “If Orlove’s paper does nothing else, it points up the need for a more rigorous definition of ‘barter’ in economic anthropology.” John Clammer raises the question, “How does one verify competing explanations of the same event or process, especially when those explanations derive from very different theoretical perspectives?” He suggests that there needs to be a detailed analytical history of economic anthropology in order to fully understand the different theoretical perspectives. Thomas Crump feels that Orlove should have included liquidity, credit, and inflation in the article. Olivia Harris states that Orlove should have included the world-systems approach since it is concerned “with the effects on local economic structures of crisis and fluctuation in the capitalist sector.” Henry J. Rutz states that any one of the schools of thought could claim that Orlove “has not fully taken into account the range of assumptions and hypotheses consistent with their approach.”


Orlove backs up his initial data and answers the criticisms above. He does take some of the advice given to him in the comments and states that what he is currently working on will answer some of the questions left by the commentators. Orlove states, “The commentators have helped me refine the details of my argument and reflect on my position on certain epistemological issues. They support my initial view that economic anthropology can grow not only through the independent development of distinct intellectual traditions but also through the encounter of these traditions.”

JOEY EAKINS Southwest Missouri State University (William Wedenoja)

Rindos, David. The Evolution of the Capacity for Culture: Sociobiology, Structuralism, and Cultural Selectionism. Current Anthropology August-October, 1986 Vol.27(4):315-326.

In this article, the author attempts to differentiate the views of cultural selectionists from those of sociobiologists and structuralists in terms of the implied extent of the influence of genetic inheritance on culture itself. In the past, many have erroneously attempted to base behavioral characteristics on simple genetic inheritance. Selectionists, on the other hand, are attempting to develop a Darwinian model of cultural inheritance that is independent of an underlying genetic system. This “coevolution” would imply that, while behavior is independent of inheritance, humans have evolved a culture that is fundamental to our collective existence. In other words, humans are innately predestined to learn a culture, however, the variability of the parameters of that culture are seemingly endless. The question now remains, could this “cultural fitness” have developed independently of the traditionally recognized genome?

According to sociobiologists, culture did not develop independently of inheritance; rather it is a result of it. Structuralists, on the other hand, would argue that culture transcends the human genotype and instead consists of the universal cultural laws under which humans naturally function. Rindos feels that both these paradigms are reductionist approaches and fail to explain the range of human variability of culture and the universality of the fundamental capacity for that culture. Cultural selectionists view culture as the product of an independent inheritance, selected for by nature, and in no way the product of the human genome.

In terms of the interaction between genes and culture, selectionists see the capacity for culture as an innate universal characteristic that is coded for within the genes. Much like Chomsky’s notion of universal grammar, however, the great variability is expressed in the phenotype and referred to as potentiality. This genetic predetermination of culture does not account for the specific structure of existing culture, because culture has evolved separately, the result of a “revolution against the genome”.

Finally, the author purports that strong selective pressures must be continually acting on individuals and their collective cultural capacity, otherwise this ability would have “evaporated”. He concedes, however, that without any direct data on the origins of culture, this theoretical system of maintenance is almost impossible to study. His theory is that adaptation to specific symbolic systems within society tends to condition the cultures of the individuals within that society.

Overall, I felt that the author covered the topic fairly by summarizing not only his own views, but those of his opponents. The article was well written and left me with many new questions regarding genetics and the evolution of culture. My only criticism was that Sociobiology, Structuralism, and Cultural Selectionism weren’t more clearly differentiated in lay terms. Those professionals whose opinions appeared in the comments section were less congratulatory, however.


R. C. Dunnell at the University of Washington called the work a “stimulating piece” and felt that Rindos’s discussion and conclusions were insightful. He also said that the work is more of a “sketch” than an “account” and that his definition of culture is too ambiguous. He also feels that Rindos’s problems are caused by his trying too hard to “accommodate both anthropological and biological traditions”.

According to Susantha Goonatilake from Sri Lanka, other comparisons have been more “insightful and parsimonious”. She feels that the capacity for culture is maintained by the genes, which limit the brain’s capacity. In her view, sociobiologists incorrectly assign genetic descriptions to the brain while cultural selectionists oversimplify the existence of culture by placing it wholly within a genetic framework.

William Irons of Northwestern University actually does agree with many of Rindos’s conclusions, yet points out that his ideas are not original. He also calls his case against structuralism and sociobiology “sloppy attacks upon caricatures,” and calls for the formation of a clear hypothesis that can be empirically tested.

Peter J. Richerson and Robert Boyd of the University of California, Davis and Emory University, respectively, seemed more interested in how Rindos described their own work than in any of the conclusions he made. They did take the time, however, to call the article “convoluted” and “difficult to follow,” and felt that he had made some errors in his line of thinking.

Ino Rossi of Great Neck, New York feels that a satisfactory explanation has not yet been reached and calls Rindos’s theoretical solution unsatisfactory. Instead of making any constructive criticism, however, Rossi instead went on to us the commentary as a personal platform from which to promote his own work.

Jan F. Simek of the University of Tennessee makes some useful points. She commends the progress Rindos has made in his quest to marry Darwinian theory and practical anthropology. She also feels that he needs to produce a testable hypothesis before his theory can be valuable to the field. She also critiques Rindos’s failure to differentiate the “capacity” for culture and the “history” of particular cultures, and disagrees with him on the time frame of the evolution of culture, which she feels is a fairly recent development.

Jan Wind of Free University in Amsterdam makes a rather damning critique of the article by identifying a host of miniscule problems, mostly with semantics. He also laid out a hierarchy of the universe that was a disturbing reminder of the Great Chain of Being and, at least for me, called his credibility to critique anyone else into serious account.


As for Rindos, he did a pretty decent job of defending himself by making some good tongue-in-cheek comments about the condemnation found in the comments. He also points out that writing about the evolution of culture is a difficult task and the fact that it upset other scholars makes it all worthwhile.

BRENDAN FLETCHER Southwest Missouri State University (William Wedenoja)

Skeleton, Randall R., Henry M. McHenry and Gerrell M. Drawhord. Phylogenetic Analysis of Early Hominids. Current Anthropology February, 1986 Vol.27(1): 27-36.

The authors compare four extinct species through Phylogenetic Analysis, to identify the lineage and common ancestor of Homo sapiens. Throughout the history of Physical Anthropology it is understood that the genus “Homo” came from “Australopithecus”. The debate however, is who was more primitive, Australopithecus afarensis or Australopithecus africanus. For their research they look at four species:

• Australopithecus ararensis: 2.9-3.2 my BP

• Australopithecus africanus: 2.3-3.2 my BP

• Australopithecus boisei: <2.0 my BP

• Homo habilis: no date given in this article

Phylogenetic Analysis, also known as Cladistic Analysis, was developed by Henning in 1966. It is the study of the relationship between fossil species through comparative anatomy of living species. It establishes the information for selecting suitable traits and a methodology for using them to access evolutionary relationships. To reach a conclusion the authors looked at three classes of homologous traits:

• Unique and derived

• Shared and primitive= inherited without modification from a remote ancestor

• Shared and derived

The last are the only traits applicable for reconstructing evolutionary relationships. There are three steps to adequately establish the Phylogenetic Analysis. First you must establish a morphocline, which is a successive array of the conditions of a trait such that each is reasonably derivable from other species of the era. Preferably this sequence should be linear, but branches generally appear. The second step is determining the direction of change within the morphocline. The third and final step is constructing the cladogram. A cladogram is a construct which suggests the divergence of a species; it generally resembles a tree. After completing the previous steps, you can now make a scenario that correlates with scientific research. Overall the article is a series of definitions and examples. The authors never reached a conclusion about who was more primitive; they did however provide several scenarios supporting their opinions.

ALEXANDRA DUMAS Southwest Missouri State University (William Wedenoja)

Zagarell, Allen. Trade, Women, Class, and Society in Ancient Western Asia. Current Anthropology December, 1986 Vol. 27(5): 415-430.

The basic overall concern of this article is the economy of ancient Mesopotamia. Originally, it was generally accepted among the archaeological community that Mesopotamia was a statist society. Newer thought characterizes the society as a temple economy, meaning that private property was peripheral and “public” property (first that of the temple and then that of the state) dominant. The author is concerned with how these different viewpoints affect the concept of trade and labor during this period.

Specifically, the author’s central thesis is that the various and particularly the dominant modes of production characterizing Mesopotamia were very different from the modern capitalist mode; that centralized production with public/communal labor was critical for the emergence of state power and the creation of conditions allowing commodity relations and independent merchant activity; that the state took an active role in furthering state production, but created the conditions in which independent merchants could emerge; and that collective female labor played a key role in the process.

The author analyzes the data from two angles: first by delineating Mesopotamian modes of production with emphasis on the production of goods that may have been destined for long distance exchange, and then by examining the archaeological record for the conditions that gave birth to a system of exchange. Then he focuses on an analysis of that system. The author presents his evidence in a very systematic and detailed way. He begins by analyzing the three main modes of production, which are palace, temple, and family. He also analyzes the roles of laborers (free, sub-free, heleot, and slave) in each mode of production, as well as the items they were producing. Using these items as evidence he draws the conclusion that these various modes of production (temple, palace, family) created trade networks not only to acquire raw goods, but also to expand the central authority. The increased use of public productive labor (typically female), the greater the centrally organized public power over the kin based mode of production. The expansion of exchange networks increased the power of the state production mode over all other modes, causing an expansion of the bureaucracy and control over resources, including the use of writing, numerical controls, inventory, scribes, and administrators. This new system led some individuals to debt, thus creating room for a merchant class.

Evaluators of the article include B. Brentjes, Michael L. Ingram, A. Bernard Knapp, C.C. Lamberg-Karlovsky, Randall H. McGuire, Karen Brodkin Sacks, Elizabeth C. Stone, Rita P. Wright, and L.M. Young. One of their concerns is the use of terminology such as “private” and “state-owned.” Brentjes feels that the author confuses state and classless society. However, most of the respondents seemed generally impressed with the author’s “tightly argued” thesis, original viewpoints, etc. The author’s reply selects points made by each of the respondents and attempts to reasonably dispute or clarify them. He also makes a point to mention that he did not intend his contribution to be anything more than a working hypothesis and subject to change as other contributors make good or interesting points, and as archaeological and historical research indicate a need to rework some ideas. I feel that the author raises some very interesting ideas and points and forces us, through this article, to re-think the economy of ancient Mesopotamia. However, I agree with the commentators and the author himself when he mentions that his contribution is a work in progress and requires some fine tuning.

DINA MARIE WILLIAMS Southwest Missouri State University (William Wedenoja)