This article reviews the history of Métis archaeological research in Canada. The Métis of Canada arose as a distinct Indigenous identity in the postcontact period and provide an interesting archaeological case study to explore how and why new cultures emerge. Previous research attempted to correlate patterns in material culture with Métis identity, particularly in terms of economy, use of space, and certain artifact types. New research has the potential to take a more nuanced approach to the process of identification among the Métis, to contribute to a broad understanding of ethnogenesis, and to do research that is relevant to the contemporary Métis community, as well as the discipline of historical archaeology.
Elizabeth M. Brumfiel and Cynthia Robin
This article discusses notions of class and ethnicity in ancient Mesoamerica. Class differences in Mesoamerica were papered over by the inclusion of individuals of varying social statuses within corporate groups that constituted the basic building blocks of native society. Lockhart (1992) describes these groups as “a series of relatively equal, relatively separate and self-contained constituent parts of the whole.” Subgroups included both the noble houses (teccalli) and commoner groups ( calpulli , or tlaxilacalli ). Ethnicity was another form of identity that cross-cut class lines. It can be defined as social identity based upon the presumption of shared history and common cultural inheritance.
Carmen A. Laguer Díaz
This article examines nation building and its perpetuation through social memory and social identity theory to understand how it affects, and is affected by, the politics surrounding archaeology. It is divided into five sections. The first, memories of a frontierless political community, describes how social memory helps maintain national unity in a region that has been greatly influenced by waves of migrations for centuries. The second, the (re)creation of identities, delves into issues of social identity theory and how it depends on social memory to develop a sense of self. The third, the politics of archaeology, deals with the ethics and political issues that permeate archaeological research. The fourth, racial schizophrenia and identity crises, focuses on the case of Puerto Rico. The last section, from Puerto Rico to the Caribbean, concludes the article.
If the authorship of rock art by particular groups is assumed, the very object under study can unwittingly be falsely attributed. Our interpretations have largely failed to incorporate evidence, in the colonial era and before, for the integration, mixing, and métissage of new peoples from two or more previously different ethnic groups. The results are equally assumed—namely: that one essential group impacted on the other, and the consequent imagery is a record of this secular narrative. Contrary to these simplistic reflections, creolization emphasizes cultural resilience, subversive agency, and a theoretical usefulness that enables better understandings of the rock art of people on the far side of colonial frontiers and texts.
Stefan Burmeister and Michael Gebühr
This chapter looks at the demography of European populations from the pre-Roman Iron Age to the Migration period, with a focus on central, northern, and north-western Europe. As well as cemetery data, it draws on contemporary textual and epigraphic sources, along with simulations. Given the diversity of societies in this large area and time span, regional variations are only to be expected. Palaeodemographic procedures and models are outlined, as well as the inherent problems of reconstructing prehistoric population profiles and densities. Age at death provides the starting point for reconstructing demographic composition, the life cycles of individuals generating mortality curves, which form the basis for calculating the age composition of the living community (expressed as a life pyramid). Divergences from the standard mortality curve or expected life pyramid, and variations between regions, require explanation, in terms of archaeological or cultural phenomena, migration being an obvious example.
The chapter discusses the contributions of ethnographic research to study of ceramic manufacturing practices in past societies. Ethnoarchaeology and material culture studies are identified as the two main approaches that have been used to frame research in modern pottery making communities; the former explicitly asking archaeologically relevant questions with a tendency toward positivist theoretical stances, the latter asking how ceramics are constituted in social relations using humanistic and symbolic theoretical frameworks. The discussion focuses on how research using these approaches and various theoretical frameworks have identified constraints upon manufacturing processes, how these are manifest during different stages of production, and how these have been synthesized to explain variation in manufacturing practices and finished products.
From Ethnohistory to Ethnogenesis: A Historiography of Hunter-Gatherer Cultural Anthropology in California and the Great Basin
Comparing the hunter-gatherers of California and the Great Basin illustrates enormous differences between the two regions in terms of indigenous society and the types of issues anthropologists have traditionally addressed. Nonetheless, the anthropological study of these neighbouring regions shares common roots. This article details a historiography of anthropological research of these two vast areas, focusing on the transition from early ethnohistorical sources to the current focus on issues of ethnogenesis. Understandings of the hunter-gatherers of the American Far West have gone hand-in-hand with the changing relationships between Europeans/Americans and native groups. This includes work by the Bureau of American Ethnology, the important work by Kroeberian anthropologists, and the post-Kroeberian period of collating and interpreting the ethnographic and ethnohistoric records. This article highlights recent critiques of previous anthropological work such as revisionists’ views of early twentieth-century memory anthropology, Steward’s view of Great Basin organization, the Ghost Dance movement, and neo-tribalism.
Robert Jarvenpa and Hetty Jo Brumbach
Genetic and archaeological evidence indicates that South Asia was one of the world's most densely populated geographic regions in the Late Pleistocene. Genetic coalescence ages point to the colonization of the region by Homo sapiens between 70,000 and 50,000 years ago, corresponding with the Middle Palaeolithic stone tool industry. Middle Palaeolithic occupations occur prior to the Toba volcanic super-eruption of 74,000 years ago, suggesting Homo sapiens may have reached South Asia earlier. Populations emerging from Africa may have used coasts and transcontinental routes to disperse across the Indian Ocean rim. Indigenous South Asian hunter-gatherers survived the Toba super-eruption, and adapted to environmental changes across the Late Pleistocene. About 35,000-30,000 years ago, new cultural innovations appear that correspond with environmental deterioration, habitat fragmentation, and demographic increase. Lifestyles of foraging populations became increasingly heterogeneous during the Holocene. During the Middle and Late Holocene, foraging populations coexisted alongside complex urbanized state-level societies
This article discusses identity in Roman Egypt, covering collective identities, state identity, social classes and legal categories, shifts in collective identity, gender, ethnicity and cultural-religious identity, and names as identifiers of kinship bonds and of other collectivities. Identity is about one's place in society. As under the Ptolemies, descent was crucial to belonging to an elite group, and upward mobility was possible. Through wealth, civic donations, and networking, members of the elite were candidates for social promotion. But compared with Ptolemaic times, there was a downturn for the ordinary Egyptian man, woman, and their children, whose path towards the elite groups was limited in many respects. Compartmentalization gained the upper hand. After the Constitutio Antoniniana, wealth replaced descent as the crucial criterion to belonging to the elite.
This chapter focuses on a number of specific themes that can help us understand the nature of continuities of traditional Iron Age practices following Roman conquest, the development of complex mixed identities, discrepant experiences, and life after Roman rule. The chapter looks first at the historiographical context and complexities of studies of Europe under Rome, including previous models of ‘Romanization’, and the contribution of figures such as Theodor Mommsen, Camille Jullian, and Francis Haverfield. Examples of archaeological material from provinces across Europe are then explored in detail, including settlement, buildings, and social space; geography and landscape; religion and ritual; death and burial; and industry, craft activity, and material culture.
Head shaping was a common practice in the areas around the Black Sea in the first centuries ad. From there it spread into central and western Europe. By the fifth and sixth centuries ad it was widespread in Hungary and Austria, and occurred in rare cases as far west as France. Cranial modification is achieved by binding the head during early childhood when the bones of the skull are still incompletely mineralized and unfused. Ethnographic parallels show that head shaping was an aspect of childcare that required high levels of knowledge and involvement by those caring for children. It was frequently thought to provide benefits for the health, beauty, or intellect of the child. Skull modification suggests that concepts of the body varied among different early medieval populations, some of which considered the body as imperfect at birth and in need of improvement through social intervention.
This article examines the status, history, and development of the Jewish communities in Alexandria and Egypt during the Roman period, using the evidence from literary writings of Philo and Josephus, sub-literary texts (the Acta Alexandrinorum and the Oracle of the Potter), and documentary papyri. It considers the violence in Alexandria in 38–41
The Light of the Flame: Use and Symbolism of Light and Lighting Devices in Traditional Greek Culture
This chapter presents a study of light, in particular light produced by flame, by investigating the most representative lighting devices used in preindustrial Greece. The symbolism of lighting devices in traditional Greek society, used either out of necessity or in ritual ceremonies and customs as well as in representations in art and in social discourse, is examined to reveal aspects of culture, common beliefs, and social structure. The oral literature, the myths and sayings still in use in Greek language, are studied as cognitive instruments, as forms of thought, to understand the way people interpret the world and act within it. Finally, the oil lamp, and its ceremonial use in Modern Greek society, which is closely connected to the Orthodox Christian rituals, is interpreted as a symbol that represents national and cultural identities.
James M. Taggert
Ethnicity is the classification of self and others that develops among groups occupying the same region and sometimes competing for the same scarce resources. Scholars of the ancient as well as contemporary Nahuas have found evidence of ethnicity in material artifacts, stone monuments, pictorial manuscripts, prose manuscripts created under the direction of the Spanish friars, Colonial-period wills, notarized documents, court petitions, testimony, parish records, and contemporary ethnographic observations. Implicit or sometimes explicit in their investigations is the question of how Nahua ethnicity changed after the fall of the Aztec Empire in 1521. There is little doubt that the Nahua concepts of ethnicity changed in the centuries following the Spanish Conquest, but there is also considerable evidence that the Nahuas did not adopt and in some cases actively resisted the Spanish concept of ethnicity hinged to race.
Craig N. Cipolla
This chapter considers the current state and future of archaeological studies of Native American diaspora and ethnogenesis. It begins with an exploration of the broader literature concerning diaspora and ethnogenesis, comparing these branches of scholarship with the specific conditions—epistemological, historical, and political—of archaeologies of indigenous North America. The challenges and benefits of studying Native American diaspora and ethnogenesis are highlighted. The future of such studies is explored in relation to recent moves toward post-humanism that challenge archaeologists to ask crucial questions on who and what constitutes a community. Drawing briefly upon several case studies throughout, the essay places most emphasis on the diaspora and ethnogenesis of the Brothertown Indians. It concludes that notions of diaspora and ethnogenesis stand to make important contributions to the decolonization of indigenous history in both academic and public venues.
Past Images, Contemporary Practices: Reuse of Rock Art Images in Contemporary San Art of Southern Africa
Leïla Baracchini and Julien Monney
The emergence in the early 1990s of two contemporary San art projects in Botswana and South Africa has immediately been related to San rock art. Researchers have since that deconstructed this vision showing that that there is no connection between rock art and contemporary paintings and engravings. However as ‘synchronous’ forms of the current experiences of contemporary San art scene’s actors, the presence of rock art images is not without effect on it. Focusing on the Kuru Art Project (Ghanzi District, Botswana), this chapter explores how the presence of rock art images may affect and re-orient current practices and how these images from the past are constantly redefined in contemporary San art. It shows how rock art have become part of the “experiential landscape” of the Kuru artists and analyses the ways these images from the past are invested and reused today as a resource for present practices.
The relational properties of hunter-gatherer lifeworlds constitute a productive arena for exploring constructs of personhood and social relations. As personhood emerges from perceptual and reflexive interrelations with the world, all relations can be seen as social. This chapter outlines the theoretical contours of personhood reviewing its unstable, culturally contingent, and historical conditions. Melanesian notions of the dividual and partible personhood have proved particularly influential and highlight the shifting nature of embodied and corporeal identity. The boundaries between animals, humans, and others are ambiguously drawn and archaeological material, primarily from Mesolithic Europe, illustrates the permeability of anthropological constructs. Personhood is also a process and a focus on age and the life course offers a framework to situate its mutable properties for individual biographies. Agency is often ambiguously drawn at particular times and metaphorical models are discussed in relation to the child, and other dimensions of sociality worth further examination are highlighted.
Archaeologists once viewed super-individual identity as primordial and tied to territorial boundaries, useful for describing an orderly past and creating national or ethnic genealogies. Current research ties identities not to regions, but to groups: complex cultural constructions, expressed in varied yet simultaneous manifestations of bonds with family, lineage, clan, or polity, each with multiple shifting markers. These can involve kinship, status, gender, age, occupation, shared experience, and social memory, in turn impacted by wider sociopolitical, religious, and economic concerns. Between Iron Age groups, cooperation, détente, and conflict were equally likely; trade, travel, and familiarity resulted in material and ideological co-mingling, while still preserving difference, and involved symbolic and practical novelty, as well as continuity with the past. Once, such complexities caused archaeologists to label identity research impossible or unnecessary, but its exclusion often leads to misinterpretation. Fortunately, thoughtful considerations of method, materiality, and scale have resulted in productive new approaches.
Rock art constitutes a significant cultural testimony, providing insights into the visual imagery of lifeways that are fundamentally different from those of people today. The extant corpus of humanly-made markings on rock is an extraordinary testimony of peoples’ cares, interests, and capacities, preserved thanks to its emplacement on (relatively) durable surfaces. This highly diverse phenomenon, present on many thousands of sites around the globe, to date has only received limited attention from the point of view of aesthetics. In this chapter, the author explores misconceptions of art and aesthetics that have contributed to this gap in research and outlines the value of closely attending to the aesthetic sensibilities and artistic capacities of those who made, and originally appreciated, these remarkable manifestations.
Liam M. Brady, R. G. Gunn, Claire Smith, and Bruno David
This chapter discusses the contribution of ethnography to the study of Australian rock art. With more than 100 years of ethnographic enquiry into rock art from across the country, valuable insights into the meaning, motives, function, and symbolism of images have been identified. However, with this information comes challenges with its use (and abuse), as well as the necessity to understand the cultural contexts of interpretation and meaning-making. This chapter explores the various ways Indigenous Australians (Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders) engage with and describe their understandings of rock art in a variety of contexts. This review also highlights the complex nature of the interpretative process and the ethnographic gaze in which it is embedded. At its core, ethnographic approaches to Australian rock art reveal the multidimensional referential qualities of images found across the landscape.