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FW: [ANTHRO-L] Book Review - Archaeology, Language, and History

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  • Popplestone, Ann
    ... From: Danny Yee [mailto:danny@ANATOMY.USYD.EDU.AU] Sent: Monday, November 05, 2001 8:07 AM To: ANTHRO-L@LISTSERV.ACSU.BUFFALO.EDU Subject: [ANTHRO-L] Book
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 5, 2001
      FW: [ANTHRO-L] Book Review - Archaeology, Language, and History

      -----Original Message-----
      From: Danny Yee [mailto:danny@...]
      Sent: Monday, November 05, 2001 8:07 AM
      To: ANTHRO-L@...
      Subject: [ANTHRO-L] Book Review - Archaeology, Language, and History


      An HTML version of this book review can be found at
       http://dannyreviews.com/h/Archaeology_Language_History.html
      along with more than five hundred other reviews.

       TITLE: Archaeology, Language, and History
       - Essays on Culture and Ethnicity
       EDITOR: John Edward Terrell
       PUBLISHER: Bergin & Garvey 2001
       - 317 pages, references, index

      It is too often assumed that language, culture, and biology are
      uncomplicatedly coupled, and that their history can be modelled with
      simple "trees".  Terrell asked the contributors to _Archaeology, Language,
      and History_ not just to question this, but to start with what he calls
      the "strong Boas hypothesis", that "language, culture, and biology always
      vary independently of one another except under specific circumstances".
      Some largely ignored that injunction, however, and there is little
      common theory among the contributions.  Perhaps, however, a collection
      of largely unconnected papers is the logical format for an attempt to
      demonstrate the importance of local circumstances and the problems with
      oversimple theories.

      _Archaeology, Language, and History_ contains some fascinating material,
      both theoretical and regional.  I fear, however, that it is unlikely
      to receive much attention, largely because its approach suffers from
      a public relations problem.  Major migration events may be rare and
      anomalous in human history, but they lend themselves to grand theorising,
      story-telling, and popularisation (by people such as Jared Diamond and
      Cavalli-Sforza).  A collection of papers stressing the historical and
      geographical specificity of ethnicity and language use, and focusing
      on small-scale communities, is just not as approachable, either by
      lay readers or other scholars.  It is also, of course, much harder
      to summarise...

      Two chapters focus on disciplinary history.  John Terrell gives a brief
      history of the concepts of race and "primitive isolate" in American
      anthropology, going back to Boas and Sapir.  And Richard Lindstrom looks
      at Soviet ethnography, where theory may have stressed ethnogenesis but
      archaeological and ethnographic practice were strongly cladistic.

      John Moore presents some interesting evidence for the extent of exogamy
      in Native American groups towards the end of the nineteenth century
      (though he spends, in my opinion, too much time arguing the obvious,
      that strict endogamy can't be maintained in finite populations).

      Scott MacEachern looks at the colonial construction of ethnicity in the
      Mandara mountains of Cameroon and Nigeria, arguing that the resulting
      labels are of limited utility in the present, let alone for archaeological
      research.

      Looking at the Manchu-Tungusic language family, Lindsay Whaley finds,
      contra Bellwood, that the problems with phylogenetic ("tree") models
      and the need for reticulate ("carpet") models can't be restricted to
      the micro level, but extend even to the level of language phyla.

      Pamela Willoughby suggests that the evidence from Africa in the Upper
      Pleistocene complicates theories, based on the European evidence, which
      tie together modern anatomy, the origins of ethnicity, and technological
      change.

      John Hines offers an archaeolinguistic study of Celtic and Germanic
      from prehistory into the early historical period, probing the limits of
      what we can know about the complex (and changing) relationships between
      demography, culture, and language during the period.

      Martin Evison looks at the connection between genes, languages, and
      culture in Holocene Britain, focusing on evidence for Scandinavian
      influence in North Derbyshire.  This is the only paper that really
      uses genetics.

      Mark Southern considers the role of language in ethnic identity with
      the Jewish languages Yiddish, Judeo-Tat, and Judezmo.  With several
      pages of language examples, this had a little too much detail for me.

      Using a case study of the Tohono O'odham of the United States Southwest,
      Jane Hill presents an explanation for variation in language diversity
      based on communities adopting "localist" or "distributed" perspectives
      depending on their access to resources.  Secure communities are
      conservative, while those dependent on outsiders more readily adopt
      innovations.

      On the Sepik coast of New Guinea, John Terrell finds that "people are
      tied to one another by social and economic relationships into a vast
      community of culture, shared interests, and common goals ... but are
      divided into scores of different speech traditions"; he uses this to
      argue for a more nuanced theory of linguistic diversity.

      And in a history of communities in the Huon Gulf region of New Guinea,
      Joel Bradshaw paints a lively picture of "ever-changing patterns of
      fission and fusion among small, fragile communities where language,
      culture, and community have rarely coincided" -- though modern
      education may spread more familiar notions of ethnicity.

      --

      %T      Archaeology, Language, and History
      %S      Essays on Culture and Ethnicity
      %E      Terrell, John Edward
      %I      Bergin & Garvey
      %C      Westport, Connecticut
      %D      2001
      %O      hardcover, references, index
      %G      ISBN 0-89789-724-2
      %P      x,317pp
      %K      archaeology, anthropology, linguistics

      5 November 2001

              ------------------------------------------------------
              Copyright (c) 2001 Danny Yee       http://danny.oz.au/
              Danny Yee's Book Reviews      http://dannyreviews.com/
              ------------------------------------------------------

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