Volume 69, Number 2, Abstracts

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Distinguished Lectures


Joaquín González Echegaray (1930–2013)

The Fate of the Neandertals
by Fred H. Smith

Conceptions of Nature in Iran: Science, Nationalism, and Heteroglossia
by Satoshi Abe

The Geopolitics of Emerging Maya Rulers: A Case Study of Kayuko Naj Tunich, a Foundational Shrine at UxbenkŠ, Southern Belize
by Holley Moyes and Keith M. Prufer

The Hard Work of Small Talk in Ethnographic Fieldwork
by Henk Driessen and Willy Jansen

Book Reviews

Joaquín González Echegaray (1930–2013)

The Fate of the Neandertals

Fred H. Smith
Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Illinois State University, Normal, IL

KEYWORDS: Neandertals, Ancient genomics, Adaptation, Modern human origins

ABSTRACT: The fate of the Neandertals is the oldest debate in paleoanthropology and one of the longest, most contentious in science. Here I present my perspective on the biological distinction of Neandertals and their role in the emergence of modern people in Europe and the circum-Mediterranean. Neandertals were highly adapted to life in the cold, demanding realm of Europe during the later Pleistocene. This adaptation was strongly biological, and it came at a high energetic price—a price that negatively affected Neandertal reproduction and ultimately resulted in their “extinction.” The word “extinction” is in quotes because Neandertals did not go extinct in the classic sense. Rather, both morphological and genetic evidence demonstrate a relatively small, but certainly not insignificant, contribution by them to the earliest modern populations that migrated into their range. From my perspective, the current data best support the assimilation model of modern human origins, first formally presented by two of my graduate students and me almost 25 years ago (Smith et al. 1989), to explain Neandertal–early modern population dynamics. I present an update of that argument here. Also I present my views on why it took modern people so long to establish themselves in Europe and what all this means for the study of biological race in humans.

Conceptions of Nature in Iran: Science, Nationalism, and Heteroglossia

Satoshi Abe
School of Anthropology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

KEYWORDS: Iran, Environmental awareness, Conceptions of nature, Science, Nationhood, Heteroglossia, Ethnography

ABSTRACT: In the midst of mounting environmental problems in urban Iran, the status of science is becoming more prestigious among various segments of the population. Consequently, debates and discussions about the environment are increasingly taking place, especially among Iranian environmentalists. Are environmental problems in Iran addressed and understood synonymously as in the West, where scientific rationality is expected to provide objective explanations about environmental problems and their solutions? Viewing conceptions of nature as a key investigation site, this study explores distinctive manners in which discourses and practices of the environment unfold in Iran. I argue that, while the scientific-ecological conception of nature is the mainstream framework assumed in environment-related research and programs, another conception of nature—related to Iranian nationhood—also makes key contributions to the environmentalists’ understandings of recurring environmental problems. It is further argued that the concept of heteroglossia allows us to examine how these conceptions of nature dialogically appear and evolve in Iranian contexts.

The Geopolitics of Emerging Maya Rulers: A Case Study of Kayuko Naj Tunich, a Foundational Shrine at UxbenkŠ, Southern Belize

Holley Moyes
Department of Anthropology, University of California, Merced, Merced, CA

Keith M. Prufer
Department of Anthropology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM

KEYWORDS: Cave archaeology, Emerging rulership, Maya, Political organization, Sacred space, Sacred landscape, Shrine, Uxbenká

ABSTRACT: Cross-culturally we find that emerging leaders in agrarian societies create ritual ties to the land as a political resource in gaining and maintaining political power. Based on research in ancient Maya caves, we argue that this strategy was followed by emerging Maya kings, who used ritual practice in caves to establish their relationships with deities associated with the earth and its resources. These rites bolstered their legitimacy, supported their right to rule, and established a natural political order. This is borne out both ethnohistorically and ethnographically, by examples in which caves figure prominently in the foundation of communities and in establishing geopolitical boundaries that serve to spiritually anchor leaders to the land by providing the most important ritual venue for the propitiation of local deities. In this paper we demonstrate that this practice has a deep history by examining an Early Classic cave site in southern Belize, Kayuko Naj Tunich, and argue that it served as a foundational shrine for the polity of Uxbenká.

The Hard Work of Small Talk in Ethnographic Fieldwork

Henk Driessen
Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology, Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

Willy Jansen
Institute for Gender Studies, Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

KEYWORDS: Small talk, Phatic communion, Ethnographic fieldwork, Research techniques, Craftsmanship, Research training

ABSTRACT: In this article we explore the importance of small talk in the context of ethnographic fieldwork. Our examples derive from more than thirty years of research experience in Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Jordan, and The Netherlands. We argue that small talk is a central, yet taken-for-granted, ingredient of ethnographic fieldwork. We claim that this skill should be reflected upon and given a more consistent role in supplementing and correcting data obtained by other techniques. It is our conviction that it can and should be taught in courses on research methods and techniques.

Book Reviews

Andréas Stauder: The Shape of Script: How and Why Writing Systems Change,
Stephen Houston, ed.

Joshua Wright: Settlement Patterns in the Chifeng Region, by Chifeng International Collaborative Archaeological Research Project

Robbie Ethridge: Remaining Chickasaw in Indian Territory, 1830s–1907, by Wendy St. Jean

Timothy R. Pauketat: Artifacts from the Craig Mound at Spiro, Oklahoma, by April K. Sievert and J. Daniel Rogers

Lisa W. Huckell: Acorns and Bitter Roots: Starch Grain Research in the Prehistoric Eastern Woodlands, by Timothy C. Messner

Jason Theuer: Potters and Communities of Practice: Glaze Paint and Polychrome Pottery in the American Southwest, AD 1250–1700, Linda S. Cordell and Judith Habicht-Mauche, eds.

Michelle Rich: Power and Identity in Archaeological Theory and Practice: Case Studies from Ancient Mesoamerica, Eleanor Harrison-Buck, ed.

Charles Golden: Motul de San José: Politics, History, and Economy in a Classic Maya Polity, Antonia E. Foias and Kitty F. Emery, eds.

Joe Watkins: Community-Based Archaeology: Research with, by, and for Indigenous and Local Communities, by Sonya Atalay

Lawrence G. Straus: DNA for Archaeologists, by Elizabeth Matisoo-Smith and K. Ann Horsburgh

Lance Chilton: Challenged Lives: A Medical Anthropological Study of Leprosy in Nepal, by Ulla-Britt Engelbrektsson

Danielle L. Fettes: Medicine and Public Health at the End of Empire, by Howard Waitzkin

Anthony Seeger: Burst of Breath: Indigenous Ritual Wind Instruments in Lowland South America, Jonathan D. Hill and Jean-Pierre Chaumeil, eds.

Kristen Adler: The Village Is like a Wheel: Rethinking Cargos, Family, and Ethnicity in Highland Mexico, by Roger Magazine

Laura Cummings: Madre: Perilous Journey with a Spanish Noun, by Liza Bakewell

Daniel Monteith: Keystone Nations: Indigenous Peoples and Salmon across the North Pacific, Benedict J. Colombi and James F. Brooks, eds.

Ian Woolford: Unearthing Gender: Folksongs of North India, by Smita Tewari Jassal

Jennie E. Burnet: Stuck: Rwandan Youth and the Struggle for Adulthood, by Marc Sommers

Claire Schmidt: Just Folklore: Analysis, Interpretation, Critique, by Elliot Oring

Department of Anthropology