Current Anthropology 2003
Aswani, Shankar and Sheppard, Peter. The Archaeology and Ethnohistory of Exchange in Precolonial and Colonial Roviana. Current Anthropology December, 2003 Vol.44(S): S51-S78.
This paper presents a theoretical model, illustrating how the Roviana exchange system was transformed during the 16th century by the emergence of hierarchical leadership and social stratification in the context of regional integration. Ethnohistorical, ethnographical, historical, and archaeological evidence provide grounding for an argument that challenges the notion that 19th-century Roviana exchange was fundamentally transformed by the introduction of Western goods and the commoditization of the indigenous social and political economy. Specifically, the authors have “…documented archaeologically the development of the shell-valuable economy and its association with significant changes in religious shrines and presumably ritual practice.”
The discussion is divided into five sections: Integrating Evidence from Different Sources–a discussion of the origin, reliability, and validity of oral histories, including the justification of the use of such information (by comparison to archaeological and historical data); Trade and Exchange in the Precolonial Period–a presentation of archaeological data combined with oral history, suggesting a migration from interior to coastal locations around the 16th century. Also described is the development of social differentiation by two parallel social processes: lateral expansion (internal group division) and apical demotion (genealogical demotion of subordinate groups); Trade and Exchange in the Colonial Period–a challenge to the current economic and political developmental paradigm of New Georgia, arguing instead for a “pre-existing template” in which shell-valuable commoditization intensified due to the “…exigencies of political centralization and warfare, which were constituted in the late-prehistoric sequence and intensified after European contact and the introduction of iron in the 19th century”; Taxonomy of Roviana Shell Valuables–a break-down of two generic Roviana categories of objects that existed in precolonial times: vinasari (shell ornaments) and poata (clamshell and shell rings). Poata were prioritized by value (depending on material, size, texture, and color), whereby the authors claim this ranking “…reveals a pre-colonial template for commodity transaction or at least a context of social exchange in which things were commoditized.”; Modes and Social Relationships of Exchange–explains how chiefs maintained power (through the control of trade networks and the “decommoditization” of sacred objects), and how the exchange of items often involved the substitution of non-equivalent objects, implying an understanding of comparable value between items.
The commentators overwhelmingly applaud the authors’ cross-disciplinary approach. However, three major criticisms remain: (1) The authors do not stress the exchange of taro from the interior to the coast “…as the [engine] driving social change in Roviana,” and that the authors’ seem to imply an abandonment of the interior regions. (2) The authors’ use of the word “commodity” is oversimplified and poorly backed. As pointed out, “If one wants to draw on Marx, one must reckon that being purchased against a currency does not transform a good into a commodity unless this exchange is articulated with an overall commodity division of labor.” (3) A general disagreement with the premises put forth for explaining the intensification of social activities.
The authors’ reply is very accepting. To the first criticism, they reply “…we take it as a given that taro horticulture underwrote the Roviana economy,” and that they are not arguing for abandonment of the interior, but that “…the focus of history, at least from a Roviana perspective, shifted… from the interior to the coast.” To the second criticism, they admit their “…use of the term [commodity] is perhaps simplistic, and our construction of the total system of exchange and social reproduction is partial.” However, they site a lack of ethnographic and ethnohistorical data as a limiting factor in their discussion. In addressing the third criticism, the authors’ site a difference in areas of study as having “…created some ethnographic discrepancies” between explanations of the commoditization of land.
GREGORY GREENE California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Mark W. Allen)
Blake, Michael., Smalley, John. Sweet Beginnings: Stalk Sugar and the Domestication of Maize. Current Anthropology December, 2003 Vol. 44 (5) :675- 703.
This article looks into the possible original uses of maize in Mesoamerica. It was commonly thought that in the past, maize was used as a cereal grain. Smalley and Blake go against this notion and display their belief that the ancestor of maize was used for its sugary characteristics rather than as a staple food source.
Both sugarcane and maize are members of the Andropogoneae tribe, and like sugarcane, maize stalks produce a sweet juice which can be used as sugar or to make syrup which can be fermented for alcohol. The usage of maize dates back thousands of years and it was not until around 3,000 years ago that it was wide spread. Now maize is a very productive food and produces a large cob which is exceedingly common and is used for its sugar as well.
Maize was not a very productive food in the past because the energy input was large while the output was very small. This leads the authors to continue the hypothesis that there was a better use for the maize which explains its quick domestication and dispersal across Mesoamerica. It is believed that the stalks of maize were the primary crop over the cob because the a sweet substance originated in the stalk while the cobs were very small. The sweet stalks could have easily became the first choice for a sugar because maize could often be harvested up to 2 times a year where as other sources of sugar took up to a decade to mature.
Ethnographical data is used to support this hypothesis and stories from the past are referred to. There are many instances in which a beer called tesguino is found to be spoken about as well as a cheap wine. These stories explain how the beer is made from the sweet stalks, but were only first recorded in the early 1900’s.
There is some archaeological evidence which also supports this hypothesis as well. Maize stalks have been found in dry caves however there is no evidence which directly supports that they were chewed. Isotope studies have also been performed which show maize performed a relatively minor roll in diets. Although there is not a lot of archaeological evidence, Smalley and Blake proceed to describe several more ways in which future archaeological research could produce more evidence in support of the sweet stalk theory.
COMMENTS: Most of the comments commend Smalley and Blake for further researching Iltis’s original suggestion made in 2000. Some references are made towards their usage of historical stories stating that they may be irrelevant because it is possible that Mesoamericans learned how to use the sugar from maize for alcohol from an outside source and that the sources of the stories are too recent to tell how long ago the form of alcohol originated. Difficulties are also seen because of the lack of direct evidence of the fermentation of maize in archaeological sites.
REPLY: Smalley and Blake respond to each comment individual recognizing any suggestions or possible sources of future evidence. Many of the ideas are agreed upon including the fact that a much larger amount of archaeological data is still needed. They also state that it is possible that the process of fermentation of maize was only used in Mesoamerica and did not dip into South America. They conclude with confirming their hypothesis that maize became an important resource for sugar, beverages, and later a staple food because of its high adaptability and its ability to be transported easily.
Rachel Manning California Polytechnic State University, Pomona (Mark W. Allen)
Dewar, Robert E. Rainfall Variability and Subsistence in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific. Current Anthropology June, 2003 Vol.44 (3): 369-387.
Robert Dewar takes the readers on a trip to Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific. He lays the foundation for the readers to understand what types of horticulture are present in these areas and the possible archeological meanings that have been derived from their placement. He writes the article to explain to readers that rainfall variability had much to do with the way horticulture patterns progressed and evolved.
Dewar tells readers straight from the beginning that he is going to argue the prehistoric distribution of crops in these areas were not due to the differing histories of use in mainland Asia, but rather purely climatic changes that forced people to use different methods in order to survive. He then provides multiple evidences to prove this point about environmental constraint and the huge effect it played upon which kinds of crops could prosper in certain areas while others failed.
Rainfall variation also affects farmers and foragers, and Dewar uses this to his advantage in his theory about subsistence patterns. When there is too much variability it causes constraint, which means that the farmer/forager always must be preparing for a food shortage. He states that foragers who had to live in this kind of environment began to create variable environments. Foragers had to move to more stable climatic areas, or shift their foraging to resources that are not as variable which is done by adjusting settlement shifts and what to look for when foraging. In the end this prevents foraging but leads to a more stable living environment. As for farmers they cannot move so quickly if a drought come since they are tied to their crops. Unlike foragers however, farmers are able to plant crops that are not so sensitive to rain, and in that sense can control their environment. Even if farmers wanted to plant water sensitive crops they still have the use of irrigation systems and other means to alter their environment to fit their needs and will to survive.
Rainfall variability may have even determined the hunter gathers in Australia from the horticulturists in New Guinea according to Dewar. He argues that the reason there is no signs or horticulture ever planting its seed in Australia is because of the unpredictably of rainfall, as well as to the fact that the climate and soil is ill suited for planting in Australia.
. Through these points he seems to be telling readers that climatic variability causes it weakness, but through the right planning and use of the environment it can be turned into a powerful means of survival.
He concludes that rainfall variability is in fact always changing and we should always be alert as to what kind of environmental changes we can see. The rainfall variability is determining what food we have access to and the ones we do not.
Comments: Many commentators agree with Dewar and enjoyed his article. Most people think that this article is great springboard for looking into more research about rainfall variability and the effects it had on the environment and the way people lived. One negative feedback that he received is that he does not give enough information, which makes it clear that there are people interested in this kind of work and wishing to research the subject more.
Allison Hunt California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. (Mark W. Allen)
Duranti, Alessandro. Language as Culture in U.S. Anthropology: Three Paradigms. Current Anthropology June, 2003 Volume.44(3):323-347.
In an earlier article, Duranti shows that the study of language as culture in U.S. anthropology is not completely unified. It is a separated into many different theoretical and methodological ways of analyzing language. He builds on this work in this article by using paradigms shifts as a way of explaining how the un-unified study of language as culture in U.S. anthropology came to be.
He explains that when there is a paradigm shift, the previous paradigm is not replaced but continues to co-exist with the new paradigm. These paradigms exist through “trading zones,” which means that people can coordinate their study and exchange information. So even though people have different theoretical stances, they can share their expertise with each other in order to help the study of language as a whole. The three paradigms are then explained and the history on how each came to be. In each of these paradigms he explains goals, views on language, methods of collecting data, and theoretical issues.
The first paradigm was about documentation of native languages, viewing language structurally such as lexicons and grammar, linguistic relativity, and collected data by compiling word lists. The second paradigm was about the use of language cross-culturally. Language was viewed as both culturally organized and culturally organizing, relationship between language and context, and participant observation. The third paradigm was about how language document changed across time and space, languages is seen as having indexical values, and socio-historical analysis. As Duranti shows, each of these paradigms look at language and the way it is studied differently.
Many researchers also move from one paradigm to another depending on what they are studying, which is possible because of the different paradigms present. However, there are some problems with having multiple paradigms present. The three paradigms do not agree on certain aspects on the way language is studied, which can cause problems at times. It has also made it that there is no clear rule or model on how to study language. Duranti believes that public debates on these issues would give the study of language more clarity.
The commentators were overall pleased with most of the points that Duranti makes in the article. There are a few aspects of the article that the commentators have questions on or do not agree with completely. One questions whether the “paradigm” is the right choice and did he use it correctly. Another wonders how sharp is the distinction between the second and third paradigms. Yet another asks if Duranti overlooked continuity of the paradigms. Finally are the paradigms shifts described by Duranti more relevant to other places, such as Europe, than the United States?
Duranti replies to the use of the “paradigm” in his article since paradigm allows people to think in broad trends and allow them to look at major features of research studies. The distinction between the second and third paradigm is a sharp as could be, but since we barely shifted from the second paradigm it is difficult to tell the two apart at this time. He points out that even thought there are some aspects in that are shared by all the paradigms, these aspects are used differently by each paradigm. Duranti believes that it worthwhile to study this, but since did not have the expertise or data he did not talk about it in his article.
JOAQUIN HENRIQUEZ California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Mark W Allen)
Ehrlich, Paul and Feldman, Marcus. Genes and Culture, What Creates Our Behavioral Phenome? Current Anthropology February, 2003 Vol. 44 (I): 87-95.
Ehrlich and Feldman address the problem of what creates behavioral phenome. Beginning in the 1960’s, literature being published proposed the idea that behavioral traits such as IQ and voting patterns are genetically determined. The authors argue that while genes do play a determining factor in the behavior of humans, they are not the sole determinants. Ehrlich and Feldman attempt to disrupt two schools of genetic evolutionary thought: evolutionary psychology and behavioral genetics.
The school of evolutionary psychology claims that during evolutionary adaptation, many human behaviors became fixed universally because of natural selection. The authors argue that there was no universal environment but rather many different habitats with unique environmental changes. Evolutionary psychologists tend to overemphasize the amount of human behavior that is reflected universally in genes. The flaw of this argument is that an evolutionary story can be invented to explain almost every behavioral pattern. These evolutionary stories are not always plausible in every society and therefore validity is questioned.
The second school of thought addressed is behavioral genetics and heritability. According to scientists, variations between individuals in behavior are due to differences in their genetic make-up. The main weakness of behavioral genetics argument is that studies only dealt with identical and fraternal twins raised in environments identical to their parents. Scientists attempt to show that genetic variation is due to heritability. By using twins as subjects, heritability is questionable because it is impossible to separate which human behavior phenomes are caused by genetic similarities and which by shared environments.
It is known that a large portion of behavior is programmed into the brain by the external environment, the environment in which the fetus develops, and most importantly the cultural environment. Charge changes in the nervous system are also factors in determining behaviors. However, it is hard to find genes that are isolated to performing just one task at a time. First, if a gene is altered to increase the function of one process, there is a chance that another process might be decreased in function. Second, genes are not independent, so the increase in a favorable gene might also increase an unfavorable one.
Behavioral scientists have been unable to determine which key environmental factors influence which behavior phenome. However, an organism probably could not have evolved if its behavior was completely determined by genetics. It is the interaction between genes and environment that make an organism successful. This supports the author’s argument that, in evolutionary psychology and behavioral genetics, too much emphasis is placed on genetic factors play for shaping behavioral phenomes while excluding environmental factors.
Tattersall, Dubrovsky, Laland and Brown, Schoenemann, and Johnson all somewhat support Ehrlich and Feldman’s argument. However, Tattersall applauds their argument but really only defines evolution; Dubrovsky addresses more aspects to the problem not covered; and Laland and Brown say the argument is based on unhappiness with methodology. Schoenemann and Johnson say they deemphasize the role of genetics too much. The critics of the article are Holcomb, Hauser and Wrangham, and Hagan. Holcomb says Ehrlich and Feldman’s criticisms are based on misinterpretations; Hauser and Wrangham criticize them for voicing unoriginal criticisms; and Hagan’s critic is that evolutionary psychology is incorrectly defined.
Ehrlich and Feldman agree with Johnson, Tattersall, and Dubrovsky. They see the possibility of Laland and Brown’s suggestion of evolutionary psychology’s relatively easy methodology. They do not share Schoenemann’s faith that some behavioral geneticists also consider environmental factors important. The authors disagree with Hauser and Wrangham’s, Holcomb’s, and Hagen’s arguments of genetics important role in determination of behavior. Their view of cultural evolution incorporates individual choices, history and economics, and sometimes even genes.
REBECCA H. GILBERT California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Mark W. Allen)
Gray, Sandra, Mary Sundal, Brandi Wiebusch, Michael A. Little, Paul W. Leslie Ivy L. Pike. Cattle Raiding, Cultural Survival, and Adaptability of East African Pastoralists. Current Anthropology December, 2003 Vol.44(Supplement):S3-S30
The article “Cattle Raiding, Cultural Survival, and Adaptability of East African Pastoralists” focuses on a group of people, the Karimojong of Uganda, and the impact that AK-47 raiding has had on their lives. The Karimojong were originally a nomadic herding people, but British colonialists restricted their land usage. This forced them to settle down and concentrate more on agriculture in an arid environment. The British also cracked down on cattle raids, which were an integral part of Karimojong life. After the British left, the new government continued to restrict land usage and tried to stop cattle raiding, often forcibly. The land that they tried to cultivate is very prone to severe droughts, sometimes lasting years. This has forced the Karimojong to resort to cattle raiding, and the incorporation of AK-47’s into the raids. All of these elements combined have lead to a drastic increase in the mortality and morbidity rate.
The authors conducted studies about death among different age groups and fertility among the Karimojong and their neighbors, the Turkana. The results were then compared to results of a similar study done pre 1940. The results showed a drastic increase in all age groups and both sexes in the percentage of deaths caused by diseases. Only six percent of men and ten percent of women died of causes associated with old age. There was also a huge increase in violent deaths among men aged thirty to sixty, which accounts for between thirty-seven and forty-four percent of male deaths. The birthrate and fertility of women has also been decreased, due in part to the high rate of death among the men. The authors argue that the increase in death is both directly and indirectly tied to the incorporation of the AK-47 into the traditional cattle raids due to environmental strains. The result is that forty-five to seventy percent of adult male deaths in the study are the indirect or direct effects of the AK-47.
To the Karimojong, herding cattle is more that just a way of life, it is also part of their cultural identity. To them, to be Karimojong, is to own cattle. They are trapped in a situation where if they continue to use the modern raiding techniques, it threatens their very survival and the survival of their people. But also if they gave up on cattle they would not longer be Karimojong.
The review from the commentators was very positive. There was only one problem people had, and that was with the theoretical framework. Other commentators offered suggestions on improving the paper. All of the reviews seemed to be pleased with the finished paper.
In her response, Sandra Gray admits that the theoretical argument needs improvement. Gray then clarifies and elaborates on the several parts of her theory. An example is that the AK-47 is maladaptive. She uses this in a Darwinian sense, meaning it assumes that if the raiding continues it could cause both cultural and population extinction.
Hunter Hicks California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Mark W. Allen)
Hauser-Schäublin, Brigitta. The Precolonial Balinese State. Current Anthropology April, 2003 Vol.44(2): 153-181.
Hoping to shed new light on the relationship between state formation and irrigation, Hauser-Schäublin reanalyzes the control of irrigation in precolonial Bali. Marx and Wittfogel speculated that state-level societies emerged in Southeast Asia when elites learned to manipulate the surpluses made possible through wet-rice cultivation. States were organized around this “hydraulic bureaucracy.” However, Geertz’s “theater state” model and Lansing’s “democratic irrigation” model both describe a weak Balinese monarchy, downplaying its significance in creating irrigation systems and administering the water distribution. After reviewing Dutch colonial accounts, Hauser-Schäublin concludes that Geertz and Lansing were biased by Western preconceptions of the division between religion and politics, which resulted in their use of an unrepresentative selection of the ethnographic data available.
Although the irrigation is supervised at a local level through apparently democratic subak districts, Hauser-Schäublin finds that the organization of irrigation is intimately connected with water temples through which kings exert significant control. Unlike Geertz and Lansing who placed the water temples in a separate religious sphere, she describes them as the structure through which kings managed distribution of water between subaks. Temples brought members of many subaks together, and redistributions of water between subaks were implemented there. Participation in water temple rituals also gave kings an opportunity to reinforce their connection with the gods. Hauser-Schäublin reasons that temple rituals were the primary interaction between kings and their people.
In addition to assuming separation of religious and political organization, Geertz and Lansing also made the mistake of basing their understanding of the subak system on its functioning under Dutch colonization. Hauser-Schäublin believes that the organization of agricultural water changed substantially under colonization, so that many Dutch sources provide little insight into the origins of irrigation control. Hauser-Schäublin’s fieldwork in Bali revealed that precolonial kings were central to temple rituals. Elites were active in creating and maintaining temples, and many deities are symbolic of ruling houses. Kings built power through water temples by centering community-building pilgrimage activities on their own ritual participation.
Hauser-Schäublin is strongly critical of Geertz and Lansing, who she believes were so dedicated to one theory that they failed to examine conflicting data. She also believes that they misinterpreted accounts of kings using control of irrigation systems to crush opposition as demonstrating that kings were destroyers rather than builders of irrigation. Hauser-Schäublin observes that this story demonstrates the profound control kings exerted over irrigation systems and awareness of the power that control yielded.
COMMENTS: Bagus observes that some important archaeological and historical sources that support Geertz’s model have been ignored by Hauser-Schäublin. Geertz and Wiener both address many issues, including several terms they feel have been misunderstood or misused. Lansing argues that his theory and the evidence from which it is derived are far more nuanced than the “democratic irrigation” theory Hauser-Schäublin has refuted. Reuter and Wälty agree with Hauser-Schäublin’s assessment, and suggest areas for further investigation. Warren warns that the involvement of kings in controlling agriculture does not imply that the weak-state model does not apply to other areas of Balinese culture.
REPLY: Building on the comments of Reuter and Wälty, Hauser-Schäublin observes that while Bali has been used to test many theories, most recent work supports Marx’s understanding of power rather than Geertz’s theater state model. She claims that she hoped to limit the scope of her article by avoiding the ancient evidence suggested by Bagus and Geertz, but also claims that it can interpreted in a manner consistent with royal supervision of irrigation projects. Although she defends some of her choice of terminology, Hauser-Schäublin concedes that Current Anthropology’s submission process, although fostering international communication is inherently prone to inexact translation.
GREGORY R. BURNS California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Mark W. Allen)
Henshilwood, Christopher S. and Curtis W. Marean. The Origin of Modern Human Behavior: Critique of the Models and Their Test Implications. Current Anthropology December, 2003 Vol.44(5):627-651.
It is Henshilwood’s and Maurean’s purpose in writing this article to stimulate debate on the “…quality and utility of the test implications of…” current models on the origin of modern human behavior. They believe that this is necessary in order to identify adequate tests of current models used by archaeologists. They find that many of the current models are ambiguous, eurocentric, or lacking in theoretical justification.
They believe that modern human behavior evolved in Africa and then spread to Europe. They claim that a good indicator of modern human behavior is symbolism because symbols have a mediated value that reflects advanced thoughts necessary to modern human behavior. Evidence of symbols can be found in the archaeological record in the form of artifacts such as beads or paint pigments.
To construct their argument, Henshilwood and Maurean attempt to synthesize individual models (especially the Later Upper Pleistocene Model) in order to evaluate their effectiveness vis-à-vis ambiguity and sensibility. By doing this they identify several traits of the models that are deficient. First, many of the models are based on data in Europe (making them eurocentric) which are likely the result of processes unique to Europe. Second, many of the traits used to explain modern behavior could be explained by other phenomena such as intensification. Third, ideas such as seasonal mobility lack theoretical justification, as even hyenas are seasonally mobile. Thus, Henshilwood and Maurean have attempted to prove “that the trait-list approach [used] to [identify] modern human behavior in the archaeological record is inherently flawed” with one possible exception- traits that deal with symbolic behavior. To prove their point, Henshilwood and Maurean site studies indicating that symbolic literacy is an indicator of modern human behavior. Symbolic artifacts they theorize “are strongly suggestive of the advanced levels of symbolic thought and language that were necessary for the development of modern behavior” and so should be sought by archaeologists.
Comments to Henshilwood’s and Maurean’s article are best summarized in three groups. The first group comprises comments by Chase and Holliday who find the term “modern human behavior” to be ambiguous. Chase notes that within current literature, there already exist multiple definitions of the term each with separate archaeological research ramifications and Holliday suggests that the word modern should be dropped altogether. The second group includes criticism by Gamble and Zilhão who find Henshilwood’s and Maurean’s article Afrocentric. The third group includes comments by Davidson, Klein, and Mc Brearty- each of whom offer alternate indicators of modern human behavior. Davidson thinks that language is a building block of modern human behavior and thus turns to linguists to provide future evidence. Klein postulates that a neural genetic change occurred in humans, a hypothesis that can be tested via the modern human genome. Mc Brearty believes that technological complexity in and of itself should be a good indicator of modern human behavior as it implies social learning.
Replying to Chase and Holliday, Henshilwood and Maurean concede that the term “modern human behavior” is inappropriate. As an alternative, they offer “fully symbolic sapiens behavior.” In response to Gamble and Zilhão, Henshilwood and Maurean note that African data are probably too sparse to serve as the basis for a universal model and remind them that models based on European data are suited to different environmental processes. Their response however, to Davidson, Klein, and Mc Brearty varies with their suggestions. To Davidson they acknowledge that language is essential in transmitting meaning especially in the manufacture of symbolic artifacts. Kleins’s neural advance model on the other-hand, they declare impossible to test. Finally, they discard Mc Brearty’s idea about technological complexity as the potential for such complexity may evolve before stress causes its manifestation.
BARRY J. OLSON JR. California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Mark W. Allen)
Holliday, Trenton W. Species Concepts, Reticulation, and Human Evolution. Current Anthropology December, 2003 Vol. 44(5): 653-673.
Holliday writes this paper on the evolution of humans using the concept of networks, or reticulation, and prevailing species concepts to discuss his views. Holliday begins by bringing forth the process of allopatric speciation first described by Ernst Mayr. Geography plays a major role in this synthesis for when “once-interbreeding populations” diverge because of geographic pressures (i.e. mountain uplifts, sea-level rises, etc.), “mutation, drift, and selective pressures differ” causing the cessation of gene flow between these once-interbreeding populations. It is said that phylogenetic relationships (those unable to exchange genes) are hierarchical; Holliday assumes that these relationships are not strictly so, but are at times reticulate. He “explores the possibility that reticulation (in the form of interspecific hybridation) played a role in hominin evolution.”
Holliday gives four examples of species concepts although he states there are at least 22 competing concepts. He limits it to the four that are most commonly used when discussing hominin taxa. These four concepts are the biological, the phylogenetic, the evolutionary, and the cohesion species concepts. As should be expected, Holliday gives both the good qualities as well as the drawbacks of each concept. He also provides examples of each concept as they relate to evolution. Templeton, the one who put forward the cohesion model, admits that he borrows from the biological model, the evolutionary model, and the recognition model, which is not mentioned. There are some, however, that say that the cohesion concept is the evolutionary concept; Holliday mentions it because as he sees it this concept combines the strengths of both the biological and evolutionary models.
Holliday talks about hybridization with respect to the four given species concepts and gives three definitions of hybridization from three different people. He focuses on the definition given by Harrison and gives the pros and cons of this. Holliday then lists two consequences of hybridization: introgression and hybrid or secondary speciation. He gives them as potential consequences acknowledging the fact that they could also not happen, or they may also emerge as beneficial. He uses a case study by Jolly involving papionin monkeys as an example of hybridizing taxa or syngameons. This analogy serves to give hope of possible hybridizing species in fossil taxa. If followed strictly it would mean there was much hybridizing among ancient species; however this would be an impossibility to prove and it is thus followed loosely and remains an analogy.
COMMENTS: Holliday receives comments on this paper from many who agree on some level but are not hesitant to correct him in any way possible. Gauthier, Jolly, and Wolpoff are skeptical of the recognition of separate species in the fossil record. Wolpoff mentions that some say there are from one to 17 hominin species. Wolpoff along with commenter Henneberg believe there is only one hominin species while commenter Tattersall believes there is 17. Jolly says that his study of papionin monkeys cannot tell us which early hominin species, if any, could or did interbreed and whether or not they were successful.
REPLY: Holliday admits that the verification of hominin species in the fossil record is “paleoanthropology’s Achilles’ heel.” He uses the variation among researchers of one to 17 hominin species mentioned by Wolpoff as an example of this Achilles’ heel. Holliday responds to this skepticism saying that in his opinion the “pragmatic approach to paleospecies circumscription is to create morphospecies that exhibit ranges of variation similar to those of contemporary hominoid species.” He says that he must find variation “unlikely to be due to sexual dimorphism, ontogenetic change, or ecogeographical clines within a widespread population” for this paleospecies circumscription to hold any bearing.
Peter A. Carey California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Mark W. Allen)
Hovers, Erella, Shimon Ilani, Ofer Bar-Yosef, and Bernard Vandermeersch. An Early Case of Color Symbolism Ochre Use by Modern Humans in Qafzeh Cave. Current Anthropology August 2003 Vol 44 (4) : 491-522
The authors present the results of an excavation at Qafzeh Cave, Israel, concerned with ochre use as a material marker and the coloration from ochre as symbol itself in abstract and complex symbolic systems. This is supported by ethnographic data showing specifically chosen colors and patterns to communicate abstract information and messages. A specific emphasis on the color red produced by ochre is explained through a cross-cultural linguistic analysis pointing to the evolutionary stages of color terms. The earliest color terms to develop were monochromatic “black” and “white,” then “red.” The physiological structures to perceive these colors, essential to the development of symbolic color systems, is present only in old-world monkeys, and one genus of new-world monkeys. This suggests the presence of these structures in early hominins as well, which is a factor that led to the development of symbolic color systems.
Utilization of ochre at Qafzeh Cave is supported by lumps of red ochre that show signs scraping, grooves, and polishing. Other artifacts with evidence of ochre staining also support the argument for ochre utilization. The authors make an argument for the color red being the main reason for mining the ochre found at Qafzeh. The two possible methods for obtaining red ochre are outlined as either through mining, or through controlled heating of other iron rich materials, such as geothite. The counter argument that there were practical uses, such as hide tanning, was addressed, there being no evidence for any of these uses There also seems to be impractical criteria for collection, some specific criteria being red and silty, which is not common to the area. The impracticality of uses and criteria for selection, with the continual and repetitive use through generations, suggests the use of red ochre as a part of a symbolic color system.
The ochre found at Qafzeh Cave is the first fully accepted ochre find dating to the middle Paleolithic, with confirmed hominid use. The record at Qafzeh does not explain the processes of how the ochre was incorporated into the symbolic culture. This most likely will not be possible because of the short period of time in unique locality of this pattern. However, contexts of ochre use between Africa and the Levant had enough variation by the middle Paleolithic that it supports the position of the antiquity of a symbolic color system.
Barham emphasizes that there is not agreement on the contexts of early symbol use, however commends Hovers et al. on their contribution to the methodology in recognizing symbol use prior to art. McBrearty agrees with Barham, and commends the authors on the focus and presentation of, empirical evidence. Alexander Marshack expands the arguments of Hovers et al. claiming a possible wider use of pigments, specifically white, did not survive the archaeological record. All of the authors that comment on this paper commend Hovers et al. on their advancement of the understanding of the symbolic culture of the middle Paleolithic.
Hovers et al. respond to Sagona on the selection criterion, whether it was convenience or specific selection. The ochre near Qafzeh cave is often yellow not red as well as being a different texture than the excavated lumps. New results show that some lumps could have been heated to change the color, this still shows color preference to red. Utilitarian uses of ochre could have also been symbolic in nature, furthering their theory. A reevaluation of older collections from the Levant and Africa must be done in order to make a direct connection between color symbolism and language.
JOHN A. ELLIS California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Mark W. Allen)
Hunn, Eugene S., Johnson, Darryll R., Russell, Priscilla N., and Thornton, Thomas F. Huna Tlingit Traditional Environmental Knowledge, Conservation, and the Management of a “Wilderness” Park. Current Anthropology, December 2003. Vol. 44(S): S79-S103.
The authors argue against two critiques that are particularly prominent with their approach, the postmodernist and conservation biology (with emphasis on the latter), “questioning the contributions of traditional environmental knowledge to sustainable resource management.” The postmodernist claims that “efforts to integrate traditional environmental knowledge with modern science for co-management are doomed” while the conservation biology proposition states that indigenous peoples will naturally “overharvest” their resources. The authors wish to prove that indigenous populations have traditional environmental knowledge that they consciously use when harvesting natural resources in their environment and traditional local communities and the government can use this knowledge in a “cooperative resource management” effort. Hunn et al. present a case study of Huna Tlingit environmental knowledge and resource use in gull-egg harvests in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska with particular emphasis on the Marble Islands, to prove their point. Their study indicates that the Huna Tlingit have a traditional environmental knowledge that includes a “sophisticated appreciation” of the glaucous-winged gull nesting biology and behavior. Glaucous-winged gulls are indeterminate layers, they are capable of laying additional eggs to replace those that have been harvested, and they have a clutch size of three eggs. Using this knowledge and appreciation, the Huna Tlingit were able to construct sustainable harvesting strategies; the predominant one being to take eggs from nests having only one or two eggs while leaving the nests with three or more. The authors end this article stating that “the Huna Tlingit case gives cause for optimism” in “applying traditional environmental knowledge to comanagement of natural resources in protected areas.” They also include that in a direct response to their article, the government allowed the Huna Tlingit to organize an egg-harvesting expedition to Middle Pass Rock in the Inian Islands.
Comments: Cruikshank agrees with the authors but in a “postmodernist” way and offers insight from her research with indigenous peoples. Berkes, Moss, and Rose all agree with the authors that the Huna Tlingit do have traditional environmental knowledge and do use it specifically in a conservationist way. Alvard, Broughton, and Tucker seem to express views similar to conservation biology and state that the Huna Tlingit do not necessarily practice resource management. Alvard especially makes note that the evidence is limited to the Huna Tlingit word rather than their actions. Berkes and Moss, on the other hand, have both worked with indigenous peoples and offer comments including references to their own research.
Reply: The authors “appreciate the opportunity to respond to the supportive and critical observations.” They try to answer all of the commentators’ questions/problems about their research but do fall short on some aspects. As in their paper, the authors deal with the postmodernist critique indirectly and mostly focus on the conservation biologists. In their reply, the authors do state, however, that they “are well aware of the limitations of the evidence [they] present” and try to rectify it by stating that their research was not intended to provide a universal hypothesis of human behavioral ecology.
JESSICA MANGONE California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Mark W. Allen)
Kockelman, Paul. The Meanings of Interjections in Q’eqchi’ Maya. Current Anthropology October 2003. Vol. 44 (4): 467-488
The point of the article is to show that interjections are not a result of an emotional state as they are considered in Western societies. The example used in the article is a Mayan language called Q’eqchi’. Q’eqchi’ is of the Kichean branch of Maya and is spoken by approximately 360,000 people. Kockelman obtained his information about Q’eqchi’ in the field conducting ethnographic and linguistic research over a period of two years. The first of the Q’eqchi’ interjections is chix. This interjection is used to indicate a loathsome object in situational contexts rather than express an emotion. For example, a man accidently sets a bowl of food down in chicken feces and says “chix” to show his loath for the situation. Kockelman argues that interjections are primarily indexical by standing for objects in a relationship of contiguity rather than by convention. Interjections also have a pragmatic function. They serve as a means to an end. For example, chix can also stand as a cue or an imperative in transposition.
Other examples of interjections used by Kockelman are sht, which serves as an attention getter. The interjection ih is used to address a previous comment by another speaker, such as a reply to “see you tomorrow.” Other interjections such as eh have several meanings, one as a floor holder, similar to clearing one’s throat or saying “uh” as one gathers their thoughts. Kockelman, later goes on to explain that some interjections tend to be gender specific, and others are used more by children
Kockelman takes an area of language, which by western standards, falls in line of a gesture-call system, where interjections are purely emotional like grunts and groans, not actually words. Kockelman then takes another language and a certain aspect of its response system and calles them interjections. For example, the English equivalent of what Kockelman calls interjections in Q’eqchi’ could be an informal system of “sayings.” For example, in Q’eqchi’ the saying “aye dios antiqwa” as you walk by someone is much like saying “how do you do?” This is something very different than the Western based definitions interjections.
There is a mixture of positive and negative remarks to this paper from the commentators. Many of the commentators feel that this task was very difficult and give kockelman credit for the effort, but not always for the argument. For example, Jill Brody applauds Kockelman for analyzing a heavily neglected category of linguistics and claims that Kockelman’s work has the potential for cross-cultural analysis. Others like Lawrence Schourup, however, do not agree with calling interjections an area of linguistics, claiming that one cannot call a group of morphemes a language class.
In his reply, Kockelman takes a defensive position in arguing even the smallest details in certain comments and is unwilling to take into account alternative views on his research. For example, Kockelman disagrees with his supporter Brody, stating that back channeling interjections do not allow for minimal characterization of their maximal usage. Kockelman also dodges the more serious questions that test the validity of his arguments. For example, Schourup claims that interjections are not a legitimate category of language, Kockelman replies that what one believes should be considered language is entirely subjective
Christopher A. Duran. California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. (Mark W. Allen)
Kuper, Adam. The Return of the Native. Current Anthropology June, 2003. Vol. 44(3):389-402.
This article examines and deconstructs the indigenous peoples movement. Adam Kuper highlights several faulty details within the ideology of the movement that creates problems—as evident in the disruption of the inaugural meeting of the Forum of Indigenous Peoples in 1996. He claims that much of that ideology is based on “obsolete anthropological notions and on a romantic and false ethnographic vision.” He brings into question the movement’s essentialist approach to defining culture and identity.
The first concern that Kuper makes is the difficulty in defining and identifying “indigenous people.” The term “indigenous” is equivalent to “native” and “primitive” and—as Kuper shows—“subversive.” The movement, propelled largely by NGOs, identifies indigenous people by the European notions of ties by blood and soil. Secondly, there are rampant misconceptions about hunter-gatherers. They are commonly believed to represent the original human populations of the earth. Present-day local groups are seen as carriers of an ancient culture possessing spiritual values that are threatened by material civilization. These groups are perceived as living in perfect harmony with the natural environment. Lastly, the attempts at land restitution create even more problems. Overlapping land claims and the granting of special land and hunting rights results in the agitation of local ethnic frictions. Underneath it all, is our misunderstanding of indigenous peoples which is further complicated by history. The image of the hunter-gatherer is often reconstructed to suit the environmentalist and the anti-globalization movement. Kuper casts suspicion on the ideas behind the indigenous peoples movement.
From the start of the article, Kuper immediately paints a picture of a troubled campaign. He uses anecdotes to underline significance. Then he recalls historical events to illustrate his points. Of note are the difficulties that Canadian courts encountered when attempting to draw boundaries for ancestral lands and the game reserve policies for indigenous peoples in Botswana and South Africa. Kuper does not explicitly state his arguments until the end of the article.
Commentator reaction to this article is mixed. Omura agrees that the reality of indigenous peoples is inconsistent with the premises of the indigenous peoples movement. Indigenous peoples should instead be identified by their daily practice. Suzman praises Kuper for providing an impetus to generate alternative approaches to addressing the struggle of marginalized minorities. Plaice agrees with Kuper in that rights should not be based on racial differences but points out that he accomplishes little. Robins thinks that Kuper achieves nothing more than disservice to activism and the tradition of anthropology. Ramos reprimands Kuper for his poor argumentation, sour flavor, and repeated attempts to reduce complex issues to general statements.
Kuper responds by maintaining that activism, no matter how well intentioned, may have undesired consequences if it employs misleading rhetoric. Anthropology should be used to convey accurate accounts of social processes lest it become propaganda. As propaganda, its integrity will quickly deteriorate. More evidence is then introduced.
SOPHEAK PUM California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Dr. Mark W. Allen)
Leach, M Helen. Human Domestication Reconsidered. Current Anthropology June, 2003 vol. 44(3):349-368
Helen leach is attempting to build a case for biological domestication in humans. Animal domestication has certain morphological changes in the skeletons of early Middle Eastern domesticates. Leach say that these same morphological changes occur in humans in the late Pleistocene era. The problem is that these similarities or parallelisms that are shared within humans and animals have mainly been studied halfway. There has not been a great deal of attention focused on human domestication. There are several reasons why, but in this article Leach sets out to explore this topic and attempt to find a valid case for human domestication.
The evidence used to build her argument are the morphological changes which affected the skeletons of the early middle eastern domesticated animals and the changes seen in humans starting in the late Pleistocene. Leach compares the two in the following categories: post-cranial robusticity and changes in cranio-facial proportions, cranial robusticity, dentition, and cranial capacity. Studies done on animals such as, cattle, pigs, and dogs are used to link animal domestication to human domestication. One of the most convincing studies was done on Natufian Dogs. There was a noticeable decrease in over all size and disproportionate reduction in certain limb dimension due to a decrease in mobility. This decrease in mobility is also shown in humans when people started to be more sedentary. Leach also refers to cranial and dental features. She looks at the horn thickness of sheep and goats to explain domestication. There was a segregation for dominant males because there were no longer head on battles for dominance and plus they had no access to breeding females. Leach than tries to account for the same type decrease of robusticity in humans. Throughout the entire article there is much evidence as the above to build her case for biological domestication in humans. Leach uses a great deal of evidence from several fields such as archeology, archaeozoology, and history.
Not only does Leach deal with the morphological changes but she also factors in the diversity of environment, decreased mobility, and diet. She then attempts to use these factors as part of the cause for domestication in both animals and humans.
Leach covers the morphological changes in animals and humans and proves that domestication in humans is a worthy topic to explore. She ends by trying to define what domestication means today and what it meant in the past. She explores if it is possible to put humans under our past definition of domestication. If that is not possible then we might have to change the definition a bit for humans to be put under the category of domesticates.
All of the commentaries on this article give a good amount of positive feedback on Leache’s paper. O’Connor praises the evidence provided and the way she uses logic to construct and defend her argument all the way up to the end. Along with the good points of the article there was also some negative feedback in some of the critic’s commentaries. Groves points out discrepancies in the way she analyzed the brain size of humans and Pearson’s thought that agriculture needs to be emphasized more as a main factor in the morphological changes in domestication. Zeder criticizes the thesis, saying that it fails to make a convincing case in the three critical areas while O’Connor criticizes the terminology used in the article.
Leach replies to all but fails to give a clear reaction to much of the negative feedback. She does praise Zeder for her commitment to understanding sedentisim and domestication. In her reaction to O’Conner she agrees that better terminology would improve things but there she says that there really isn’t any better terminology out there. Leach ends by mentioning that comments like these are good and worthwhile to develop ideas and to strengthen sub-divisions within anthropology.
STEVEN MCDONALD California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Mark W. Allen)
Lucero, Lisa J. The Politics of Ritual: The Emergence of Classical Maya Rulers. Current Anthropology August-October, 2003 Vol.44(4):523-558
In “the Politics of Ritual” Lisa J. Lucero argues that Classic Maya rulers were able to acquire and maintain political power through the replication and expansion of domestic rituals. The emerging Maya rulers expanded small family scale rites, especially dedication, termination, and ancestor veneration rituals, into larger communal ceremonies. These communal ceremonies promoted the production of surplus, which is required to support the rulers, their families, and future communal events. While all members participated in the larger scale communal ceremonies, everyone still performed the small scale domestic rituals from which larger ceremonies were derived. The events with which most rulers liked to be associated were the rituals that involved vital elements of life, such as rain, agricultural fertility, and ancestor veneration. The association of the ruler with these events promoted long term benefits and led to the acceptance of the ruler’s powers.
The material aspects of the rituals that left traces in the archeological record include structures – both ceremonial and religious, temples, ritual objects, and burials. The repetitive nature of rituals resulted in specific sequences in the archaeological record. The context of the artifacts is especially important in identifying ritual activities.
The rulers performed the same rituals as the commoners, although on a much larger and more public scale, one example deals with obsidian. Before rulers, all members of society cached similar quantities and shapes of obsidian in the floors of their houses. With the rise of rulers, the caching of obsidian did not leave the home, instead there was an increase in quantity, quality, and diversity between the obsidian the elite buried and the commoners buried.
The commentators who reviewed Lisa J. Lucero’s paper seemed to enjoy it and applauded her on her interesting work. They did, however, see a few problems with the paper. Several of the commentators were unconvinced that the primary method for gaining power was through ritual. One pointed out that there is now evidence that suggests there might have been some contact with the Olmec. This contact with another civilization might have been a motivating factor in the development of a strong leader. Also a few people felt Lucero was too materialistic in her approach.
In Lucero’s response, she tried to counter some of the arguments made against her paper. She also elaborates on issues like surplus and water control and their important to political power.
Hunter Hicks California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Mark W. Allen)
Paynter, Robert. Time in the Valley: Narratives about Rural New England. Current Anthropology August-October, 2003 Vol.43(S): S85-S101.
Robert Paynter takes the reader into another place, another time as they are transported into the epic town in rural New England named Deerfield. Situated in the Connecticut River Valley in Massachusetts, this is a place rich in oral, aesthetic, and absolute history. Paynter focuses on discussing the different forms and effects of narrative as they portray the area and its’ history, as an inquiry into the various ways of constricting time.
He uses the concept of space as an effective illustration tool. The aesthetic view of the town remains one of few historical anomalies creating an illusion of time. The things responsible for building Deerfield up, and keeping it intact, include the now internationally renown Historic Deerfield Academy and its headmaster, Frank Boyden, along with The Flynt’s, who have rebuilt and restored many of the houses, and George Sheldon, who contributes a wealth of genealogical and museum material. They are able to preserve the “cultural affiliation that gives visitors a sense of stepping into the past (S88).”
The main narratives about Deerfield mention “Deerfield the Bloody and Deerfield the Beautiful (S88)” when discussing its creation. Settled in 1660s, yet undergoing many fights for freedom, Deerfield is permanently established in 1763 with the defeat of the Quebec. Few peaceful portrayals are mentioned, as Deerfield is a place emanating a history of sacrifice with Civil War monuments bearing the inscriptions of brutality. Flynt calls it a “ ‘place to rediscover the courage to defend the imperiled American way of life (S90).’ ” American values and individualism are important but, the author shows, not the only histories of Deerfield’s past. A progressive, and periodic point of view was also suggested. After events like the Revolution and the War of 1812 a shift to industrialism was cultivated, although Deerfield remained agricultural, shifting production to Tobacco and such as deemed necessary by the neighboring industries. Architectural views, as well as societal manifestations, and archeological remains, see a shift in the 18th century as the buildings were built to be properly aligned with the streets.
Writing history aims to make temporal relations of the past to the present, and possibly the future. Hayden White and Donald Wilcox are noted to discuss the idea of Absolute and Relativist history, as the former being set dates on a timeline, and the latter focusing more on themes than chronology, and finally the transfer from one to the other in the 20th century. There exists also the narrative proper, in which structure and significance is contained and philosophy, politics, and plot come into play.
White declares that all histories are interpretive, and dependent on plot. There are four various views that carry out Deerfield’s past. Flynt’s story carries out the ideas of individualism and American values as he appeals to the general public. The production perspective is more of a chronology of uninteresting documents, more for the populist and not focused on the individual. The archeological view notes aesthetic changes, being very exact. Finally, while the Native American history explains the creation of the landscape, it is rather relative.
The constant mixing of space and time is very evident in the Historical valley of Deerfield. Capitalism playing an important role in its basis, and the idea of narrative playing an important role in its history. Paynter was able to use an immense amount of information and support in documenting the timelessness of this particular place. He discussed many views in conceptualizing Deerfields past, and in many cases quoted the actual narratives for better clarity.
CLARITY RATING: 3
ALEX MILSKI University of Hawaii at Manoa (Dr. Heather Young Leslie)
Perry, Susan; Baker, Mary; Fedigan, Linda; Gros-Louis, Julie; Jack, Katherine; MacKinnon, Katherine C.; Manson, Joseph H.; Panger, Melissa; Pyle, Kendra; and Rose, Lisa. Social Conventions in Wild White-faced Capuchin Monkeys. Current Anthropology April, 2003 Vol. 44 (2): 241-268
Social learning is the number one concern in this article by Perry, et al. Even though arguably most people would elect to study the great apes in order to determine our ancestor’s way of living, our authors chose Capuchin Monkeys because they have independently evolved many traits that are present in humans and/or chimpanzees such as a large brain in regards to body size, tool use, an omnivorous diet which relies heavily on extractive foraging as well as the occasional vertebrate hunt, and much more.
Perry, et al. have focused solely on traditions in the behavioral domain of social conventions. By giving three criteria of traditions-inter-group variation, expansion, and durability, they were able to show that the three specific behaviors they observed were in fact behavioral traditions– a practice that is long-lasting and shared amongst members of a group, where each new player relies to some degree on social influence to learn to perform it.
After presenting information on capuchins, the authors discuss the study sites and databases. Here we learn a bit about the capuchins’ environment and where the studies took place–Santa Rosa, Palo Verde, Curú, and Lomas Barbudal. Perry et al. inform us that the method of data collection varied from site to site and year to year because the research varied. Even though each person’s observation focused on something different, all of the researchers were in regular contact with one another from the beginnings of their studies.
The three behaviors discussed extensively were handsniffing, sucking of body parts, and games. Each of these social behaviors were classified as being behavioral traditions. Handsniffing– consisting of sniffing one’s own hand/foot or sniffing another monkey’s hand, satisfied all three criteria whereas sucking of body parts–when one monkey sucks on another monkey’s fingers, toes, ears, or tail, only satisfied two; inter-group variation and durability. The three games observed were variations of “keep-away.” The first game was named “the finger-in-mouth game,” the second “the hair passing game,” and the third is called “the toy game.” All of these games met the tradition’s three criteria; each game was played in at least one site but was not common in all sites, the game play expanded within the social group, and the capuchins were observed playing the games until one of the avid players left—that is, when it migrated, died, or became leader.
From their observations, Perry, et al. came to a couple conclusions. First, all of these social behaviors are ways of strengthening bonds amongst one another. The second observation concerns the durability of the behaviors; the reason why a tradition ends is because a vital game player moves away. In the discussion portion of this article, they continue to answer questions by drawing from their 13 year fieldwork research.
Most of the comments were good reviews, commenting on the extensive research and data they presented. However, two commentators, Visalberghi and Addessi, did critique the use of social conventions to test the quality of the relationship between group members. They feel that the researchers have limited their investigation and did not include food-related behaviors that are fundamental to human cultures. Whiten writes a mixed comment; he first praises them then critiques the three criteria used in determining a tradition and the lack of evidence concerning how these monkeys learn that the described behaviors are to be reciprocated; the “ontogenetic ritualization.”
Perry replied to the comments without her collaborators because of the lack of time. She thanks a few of the commentators on their cogent critiques and agrees with a few of them on certain points. For the rest of her reply, Perry responds to Visalberghi and Addessi’s comment by saying that the capuchins do not repeat their “games” just because it is pleasurable to them, but because there is a deeper underlying meaning to it.
CLARITY RANKING: 5
CLAUDIA C. CASTRO California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Mark W. Allen)
Prentiss, William C. and James C. Chatters. Cultural Diversification and Decimation in the Prehistoric Record. Current Anthropology February, 2003 Vol. 44(1):33-58
Prentiss and Chatters write in much detail about cultural evolution. They take an approach that many have taken before by barrowing form another discipline, that of biology. The use the Diversification-and-decimation hypothesis of biological evolution and apply it to the problem of cultural evolution. Prentiss and Chatters take a Neo-Darwin approach to cultural evolution.
The key idea is to provide a macro-evolution explanation as to why cultures change. The basics of their argument is that cultures diversify during periods of low stress and when the stress level returns to high that some of the cultures have become in some way maladapted and their culture becomes decimated as competition is high. The premise for their argument is that there is competition that comes from different areas; the most common is competition for resources. The primary source of evidence of this is the prehistoric record. All of the data provided in the article is archeological data. The article focuses on different subsistence patterns for culture change. Subsistence patterns can be seen in the archeological record in the form of: houses, storage facilities, lithics, and faunal remains. The data used comes from three different area of North America the Pacific Northwest, Great Basin, and the Great Plains. The data from all of these regions supports the concepts of diversification and decimation. A good example of this was the Pacific Northwest; at first there were foragers then the environment change and allowed there to be sedentary foragers, serial foragers, collectors and the original forgers. However, the conditions changed and now only the collectors were left. The data in the other two regions shows a similar pattern. The authors take the archeological data and combine the dates from it and ecological data to show that these changes in subsistence patterns follow change in resource availability. This change over time supports the cultural diversification and decimation. This appears to be a sound theory with good supporting evidence.
Most of comments on this article are very supportive of the theory expressed in the writings of Prentiss and Chatters. They call in to question different parts of the writing. One of the major objections is that there is no talk of a more “complex” society such as a state or others, instead of hunters and gathers or horticulturists. Another problem that comes up that all of the evidence provided in the article is based on ecological changes but what about the other changes as well. The final comment is that the whole concept was not used correctly and the data and analysis was oversimplified.
The basic response to most of the issues raised was that the data was used just as an example to show the feasibility of the theory in general to show all possibilities. The final reply is to a comment by Lyman and O’Brien where they state the theory presented is based on misinterpreted terminology; the reply to this is stating that the only reason Lyman and O’Brien are saying this is because it is contrary to their theory. Prentiss and Chatters write that their data supported the original theory and that it was misread as there data being absolute, but that it however was based on an infinite number of possibilities in their categories so it fits the theory.
BRIAN DAWKINS California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Mark W. Allen)
Proctor, Robert. Three Roots of Human Recency: Molecular Anthropology, the Refigured Acheulean, and the UNESCO Response to Auschwitz. Current Anthropology, 2003. Vol. 44(2): 213-239.
Proctor explores the fluid interpretations of human origins and the complicated task of demarcating “humanness”. His inquiry discusses the range of conclusions about human antiquity offered from the three fields and the historical and ideological ramifications of committing to conclusions as well as factors detracting from their reliability and accuracy. His inclusion of historical information illustrates the complexity of defining “humanness” or “personhood”, and further demonstrates that defining it via empirical means is impossible. Too much of culture and existence is intangible. He refers frequently to the bushiness of the tree of hominid evolutionary linkages and cautions those who would be ready to distance any one branch from another. His central argument is that there are many dimensions of what it means to be human, including specifically cultural expression, reproductive compatibility, developmental capacity, physical characteristics, and technological innovation as potential but highly varied and disconnected yardsticks. He demonstrates that because of this multi-dimensional and often disjoint set of characteristics that humanness can vary and the trend of claiming recency in current research is equally as likely to be inaccurate as those placing the origins millions of years prior. He finds that there is a “human” tendency to seek such definitions but that doing so is at the expense of excluding potentially valid data; wherever we delineate human from nonhuman there are ramifications extending temporally and ideologically. For Proctor it is not about determining through empirical methods where personhood should be granted; the historical attempts to do so were clouded by the moral leanings and cultural, political, and professional influences acting on those making the decisions. The sum of Proctor’s arguments points to the historically cyclical nature of conclusions about the temporal arrival of personhood and the limitations of scientific evidence when looking for answers about culture, going beyond the empirical realm. He then sets out to demonstrate that not only is it now a moral question, but those same historical conclusions were skewed according to the less than empirical influences of professional pressure, and moral or political leanings among others. His solution is a deep history of technology, a search for history beyond the time period inclusive of written language. For Proctor this is what will bridge the gap between the empirical and the interpretive.
Davidson, Hochadel, and Ingold urge Proctor to go farther. Davidson emphasizes the social construction of race and cautions against misinterpretation of all early behavior as culture. Hochadel wants further research into sources of error. Ingold challenges the assumptions underlying Proctor’s “deep history” countering with Proctor’s own assertion that what is human emerges over time in fluid environments and accuses him of losing his real argument in his footnotes. De Waal adds to the argument for the “bushiness” of the hominid family tree, questioning the exclusion of the Bonobo due post World War II trends in anthropology. Tattersall references the age-old problem of categorizing and defining surroundings. Though this may shrink the gap between species by finding a few similarities, the gap remains wide. The decision comes down to individuals making requisitely arbitrary and dogmatic decisions.
Proctor counters criticisms of his being too willing to make decisions by stating that paleoanthropology is at a precipice where decisions made now will have broad implications in the future. He alleges Davidson’s argument leads to ultra-Boasian thinking that trades racism for speciesism. Though early behavior is not synonymous with culture or modern behavior, he urges that there is not a simple separation. He reinforces De Waal and Hochadel by citing similar behavioral similarities from less similar animals than De Waal’s Bonobo and expressing concern for artifacts in the future. Ingold’s paradox is solved with language as a threshold, having a biological beginning. After Tattersall, Proctor agrees that “humanness” is a transitory entity, but cautions that names often hold more definition and distinction than exists in reality.
JENNIFER STEVENS California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Mark W. Allen)
Read, Dwight W., and Steven A. LeBlanc. Population Growth, Carrying Capacity, and Conflict. Current Anthropology, February 2003 Vol. 44(1):59-85.
In their article addressing human population growth, its effects, and its relationship to carrying capacity, Read and LeBlanc propose a multidimensional, multitrajectory model in lieu of the standard model of population growth and regulation. They argue that the standard model assumes a net growth rate without validating how it occurs, has fixed effects instead of a process, and does not consider competition as an important factor in growth regulation. Read and LeBlanc’s model is applicable to foragers and more complex societies, but is especially relevant to hunter-gatherer societies. It demonstrates that human populations tend to grow rapidly without culturally considered behavior that reduces a female’s fertility, such as intentional birth control and breast-feeding, and that phases of rapid growth may be alternated with intermittent population crashes. They assume that populations were not isolated, so the model includes competition/group interaction as a significant factor.
Read and LeBlanc’s multitrajectory model has four major model components with their own dynamics, ten propositions/assumptions, and three independent dimensions. The four models which are illustrated in the article are: (1) Fertility Rates, Equilibrium Population Size, and Resource Availability, (2) Intergroup Competition, (3) Spatial and Temporal Variability of Resources, and (4) The Resource Access/Ownership Unit. The propositions/assumptions of competition, in which the authors include explanations and examples, take into account the relationships between demographics, population density, growth rates, carrying capacity, fertility, fecundity, mortality rates, behavioral and biological means, and resource density/access/ownership. In their last proposition, Read and LeBlanc assert that in order to model population dynamics across various societies, a multitrajectory, multidimensional model is needed. The three independent dimensions include resource density, the patchiness of resources, and the degree of decoupling from population growth.
Read and LeBlanc’s models and propositions are considered by the commentators to be generally clear, persuasive, and a useful tool, but with limitations. These limitations range from a scarcity of resources from publications by demographers to not taking into more consideration that there are other individuals who have interests in a female’s fertility. Although they are commended for providing a framework, it is thought that Read and LeBlanc are not providing new information. However, according to John P. Ziker, they do “advance the theoretical debate on human population socio-ecology by presenting an integrated set of hypotheses.”
Read and LeBlanc could not include the suggestions that the commentators made due to the limitations of writing a paper instead of a book. Sections from the original works had to be deleted and they kept what they thought would be more important to the readers. They do agree with Michael D. Fischer that “there is still a lot of work to be done.”
CINDY S. CHANG California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Mark W. Allen)
Veber, Hanne. Ashaninka Messianism, The Production of a “Black Hole” in Western Amazonian Ethnography. Current Anthropology, April 2003. Vol. 44(2): 183-212.
Veber is concerned with the way anthropologists use historical records to interpret native cultures. When historical records are biased, one may be limited in accurately portraying native cosmology. Veber is particularly concerned with the way in which the Ashaninka and other native cultures in the Peruvian Amazon are viewed in relation to “messianic proclivity.” Veber feels that “interpretive terms” (a phrase borrowed from Sperber) such as “messianism,” lead to generalizations of native peoples and their placement into arbitrary categories. Such categorization leads to faulty ethnographic interpretations and the misunderstanding of culture. She argues that labeling the Ashaninka a “messianic” people will contribute little to the world’s understanding of them. Veber acknowledges that some form of messianism among some native Peruvians exists some of the time, but feels that classifying the Ashaninka as “messianic” limits our understanding of their culture.
Veber articulates her argument by delineating the history that led to the labeling of the Ashaninka as a “messianic” people. She then discusses the studies that have supported the perpetuation of Ashaninka messianism. Next, Ashaninka ideas of divinity and religious cosmology are examined. The belief in the presence of spirit beings inhabiting the earth is central to this examination. Then the Ashaninka mobilization is analyzed in a historical context. The mobilization was a rebellion against the Franciscan missions that prevented the Spanish colonial empire from gaining control in Peru’s central Montana. The revolt was organized by Juan Santos Atahuallpa, an acculturated Quechua Indian. Veber further builds her argument by discussing the Franciscan missionaries and their tactics in attempting to acculturate and convert the Ashaninka. The last section of the article addresses anthropology’s politics of interpretation of culture through historical documents. Veber claims that anthropologists account for the bulk of the individuals that have been making the correlation between messianic beliefs and “militant activism,” referring to the revolts and the burning of the missions. She also notes that limited fieldwork (mainly by Fernandez) has been done on the Ashaninka, further limiting our knowledge of them. Consequently, the bulk of Veber’s evidence is based on historical records. It is noted that the Franciscans who made most of the documents were biased and therefore the information should be understood in the context of its informants. The historical records included colonial documents, and incomplete, hasty, and impressionistic reports by Franciscan missionaries, travelers, and explorers. In the 1950s, ethnographic work began to be written, however, it was meager.
Summary of Commentators:
Brown objects to Veber’s remark that anthropologists should reject all categorical descriptions including “messianism.” Hill notes that Veber does not provide the reader with alternatives to the term “messianism,” or ideas on a less restrictive comparative approach to studying culture. Hill also criticizes Veber’s understanding of history, and labels her use of messianism a “misrepresentation” and “oversimplification.” Santos-Granero writes that Veber ignores the elaborate rituals of the Ashaninka as if they were “hearsay.” He claims Veber dismisses substantial evidence that proves the Ashaninka are messianic. Whitehead also criticizes Veber for ignoring crucial literature, claiming that Veber’s article is “premature” and lacks a sufficient body of knowledge.
Summary of Reply:
Veber responds to most of the criticisms and defends her ideas. In response to Brown, she writes that she agrees with him that the rebellion was by no means “garden-variety;” however, she does not feel that classifying the rebellion as messianic is reasonable. In response to Hill, Veber writes that such ideas as providing alternative terms or ideas towards a new comparative approach to studying culture could not be approached within the constraints of the paper. All other criticisms from Hill, Veber fails to acknowledge or respond to. When responding to Whitehead, Veber agrees that such texts are “highly pertinent” to her article, but does not elaborate.
ELIZABETH JOERGER California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Mark W. Allen)
Wallerstein, Immanuel. Anthropology, Sociology, and Other Dubious Disciplines. Current Anthropology August-October, 2003 Vol. 44 453-465
Immanuel Wallerstein is not satisfied with the state of the social sciences, and he suggests a new course for the discipline in this article. All of the modern social sciences have their foundations in the 19th century. Wallerstein assumes his reader knows about their establishment because he does not name individual contributions made in the 1800’s. He states these fields can be understood through history because they are social constructs whatever time they were created. Wallerstein notes the elaboration of them through time, and he refers to the disciplines of the social sciences as cultures. Furthermore, he displays his thoughts on the shortcoming of anthropological research, which Wallerstein does by quoting other authors illustrating this bias. Thus, the social sciences became more complex with time, and a new scheme for identifying these disciplines is needed in today’s intellectual community.
Since the social sciences have bursted the seams of their initial constructs, Immanuel Wallerstein proposes that they be combined into one discipline. He calls the hypothetical institution the “historical social sciences.” Wallerstein makes his case on three different levels: intellectual, institutional, and cultural. Intellectually, Wallerstein displays the fluidity in the social science arena. Practically all of the sub-disciplines in social science are related in some way. Then, he cites three different types of scholars. He believes that under the new historical social sciences these scholars would divide into three differing intellectual groups, which is better than the system as it is today. Institutionally, Wallerstein noted that the social sciences are strong. Again, he divides the intellectual community into three groups: the young, the old, and the middle-aged. Wallerstein considers middle-aged scholars to be the most loyal and devote to their specific discipline, which hampers the coalescing of the social sciences because these intellectuals are unrelenting concerning the union of their discipline with others. Next, the shortcomings and the administrator’s (educational) opinion of the social sciences are noted. Wallerstein notes the lack of funding given to these disciplines, which is under the administrator’s control. Overall, his focus on the institutional framework of the social sciences is concentrated on the university administrator.
Wallerstein wants to “harvest” useful cultural products from past disciplines in order to create the hypothetical historical social sciences. In this section he is primarily concerned about the methodology used for intellectual study and research. The main problem is reconciling the search for structural continuities and the constant changing of history. Wallerstein advocates empirical research and fieldwork, which would reduce the amount of detrimental morphology of concepts in the social sciences. Also, he questions the “ethnographic present” used by anthropologists because it implies “eternal reality.” Subsequently, he turns his attention to qualitative and quantitative data. Wallerstein advocates relative complexity, which comes from quantitative data. He believes that only real comparisons can be reached in this way. The effectiveness of narratives in the social sciences to “communicate perceptions of reality” is stressed in this article. In conclusion, Wallerstein provides a concise overview of what he envisions the historical social sciences to encompass. It combines the structural with the historical, and should entail “vigorous analysis” in a tolerant and skeptical atmosphere.
Wallerstein’s thesis on the reconfiguration of the social sciences appears to be accepted throughout the intellectual community; however, most of the replies to this article do not wholly agree with Wallerstein. Alatas sees the union of these multiple disciplines in conflict with the global division of labor. Hall questions whether it would be valuable to the field, and Madan suggests there are some disciplines that would be more readily shared with others.
Michael Teiman California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Mark W. Allen)
Walrath, Dana. Rethinking Pelvic Typologies and the Human Birth Mechanism. Current Anthropology February, 2003 Vol.44(1):5-31.
Walrath explores the historical conceptual model of the monotypic birthing mechanism by the genus Homo, which places special emphasis on the idea that it came about because of an increase in brain size, the normalization of the gynecoid pelvic type as a compromise with bipedalism and the occiput-anterior rotational fetal position (face down)–ultimately fueling the function of midwifery in the species. There is a detailed exploration of the notion of ‘pelvic normalcy’, proposed to be derived from a cultural understanding of biology and the associated biomedical theories that constitute the grid of clinical understanding of the birthing mechanism. At the beginning of the century, clinical typologies were developed to fit certain pelvic types, much information coming from the race-based pelvic types outlined in earlier times. These pelvic typologies had classifying, qualitative stigma attached, effectively suggesting that each pelvis’ owner was ‘more-or-less civilized.’ Walrath outlines the reported monotypic birthing mechanism’s realization in most births as a matter of physics: the fetus is simply guided as sand is through a funnel; historically, the birthing mechanism was individually determined based on pelvis type and any complications were considered the result of an abnormal pelvis. Current conceptions of fetal presentation and the attached notion of normality has prompted the wide implementation of surgical or doctor assisted births, by cesarean section or manipulation of the fetus’ position with forceps and other instrumentalities to fit normal birthing standards–a response to transient cultural ideals.
Walrath rejects the notion of a monotypic birthing mechanism, noting that there not only exists a great deal of bony pelvic variation, but also differences in birth canals, practices of the doctor and fetus behavior that may change birthing presentations. Significant statistical evidence suggests that the current clinical conception of ‘normal’ birthing presentations actually occurs only about 20% of the time. Comparisons with the birthing presentations in great apes are also seen as important but limited because there has not been significant observation of these types of births. The notion that midwifery is a purely human development is also illustrated to be false in the light of observed cases of great apes engaged in collective birthing and associated ethnographic evidence that gives credit to gorillas and other apes as having similar midwifery practices to humans. Therefore, the notion that there is a ‘human way’ and a wholly different ‘ape way’ is rejected because of the lack of evidence that could substantiate any claim of a notable dichotomy between birthing typologies. The ‘normal’ birthing mechanism is proposed to have been the development of clinical conceptions deriving from cultural values, not evolutionary forces.
Commentators commend Walrath for bringing to the forefront problems with the concept of monotypic birthing types and provide ample backing for the nonexistence of this proposition by outlining many different cultural practices and the common occurrence of women giving birth on their own. Additionally, further evidence against the monotype by commentators is presented by pointing out that there exists a discernable continuum of variation on how a child emerges based on the diet of the mother, her physical condition, her daily activities and her position (standing, squatting, lying down) upon giving birth. There is some concern about the semantics of ‘normalcy’ as understood by the author and clinicians and it is suggested that there may be a function for this notion based on a reduction of pain or complications if a child is born in a clinically normal fashion.
In response, Walrath notes that there are several common threads that are observed by the commentators, beginning with the rejection of typologies. There is recognition of the semantics of defining a typical birth as stemming from a typological approach, and it is proposed that ‘value laden nomenclature’ of typologies are falling into disuse because of the growing acknowledgement of legitimate birthing variation in humans. In addition, Walrath cautions that the paleoarchaeological evidence, if assembled in a way that helps illuminate ancient birthing practices, must be analyzed independently of cultural assumptions in order to get an accurate picture of variation in birthing practices as a function of human adaptation and evolutionary forces. Likely, evolution has shaped the human female into a competent birthing vessel with a wide array of birthing elasticity and variability.
DANA OSBORNE California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Mark W. Allen)
Wolf, Arthur P. Maternal Sentiments. Current Anthropology December, 2003 Vol.44: S31-S49
This article is about the common assumption that mothers “naturally” bond with their offspring, and leaving them would be extremely painful. It begins by describing several scholars’ take on maternal sentiments. To Westermarck, mothers care for any infant who they have been close to from its most tender age. Boulby believes that parental care is instinctual and that pregnancy and birth is what brings maternal sentiments. According to Hrdy, mothers would be able to give away their children without any sentiments before 72 hours of caring for them. All the scholars agree that natural selection has caused females to form an unbreakable bond with their helpless offspring, due to the need to save them from the numerous dangers they are surrounded by.
While a strong believer of natural selection, Wolf gives copious evidence challenging this idea, using data breaking down the behavior of women and adoption patterns in 11 villages and 2 small towns in Northern Taiwan from 1905-1945. The data shows that very few Taiwanese children are given away in the first 72 hours. The fourth month seemed to be the age when most children were adopted, after hormonal changes, pregnancy, birth, and lactation have all occurred. Taiwanese women wanted to raise wives for their sons instead of their daughters, because they believed that daughters end up being someone else’s, and that it would be better to nurse daughter-in-laws so that they would comply with the mothers’ wishes later on.
Wolf considers the following three situations where maternal sentiments can be put aside: Poverty, hierarchical institutions of the country, and the tendency in human beings to treat others the same way as we have been treated. He thought that because of the high expense of weddings, they raised daughter-in-laws to lower the cost. After closely looking at the data, he found that wealthy families gave away female children earlier than the children in poor families. Also, regardless of whether the elders in the family were still living, female children were given away. Furthermore, the data show that women who have experienced adoption were less likely to give their daughters away than the ones who have not experienced it. Wolf mentions that minor marriages occur mainly to deal with a “hot marriage market.” All the other reasons came second to the difficulty in getting a bride later on.
Anagnost seems to be stunned at the fact that a mother’s love, being a universally accepted fact, would be questioned. Hrdy opposes to Wolf’s claim that there are no “natural limits” to maternal bonds, but, along with Tooby and Cosmides, she agrees that circumstances regulated by a parental motivational system can cause biological maternal responses to change. She also states that the 72 hour time period seemed to be a trend in her findings and that it was not meant to be interpreted as a fact. Hsu accuses Wolf of not mentioning the mothers’ feelings while departing with their daughters. She also states that the argument against control by in laws and parents is not effective. According to Shuzhuo, the reading of these data as absence of sentiments is impossible without having an ethnocentric view about maternal sentiments.
Wolf’s reply further explained his data and he also gave more background on it. He agrees that local conditions and the environment can affect a mother’s decision to give up her children and possibly “turn off” maternal sentiments, if they do exist. He concludes by calling for more ethnographic and archival data to be collected and recorded, because sufficient proof about the truth on maternal sentiments is still lacking.
ANEENA POKKAMTHANAM California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Mark W. Allen)