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Article contents

Analogy and the danger of over-simplifying the past

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 July 2016

James Denbow*
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA

Extract

This is an excellent and tightly written argument against the indiscriminate and essentialist extension of invented anthropological typologies, such as ‘the San’, back into the Pleistocene. While analogical arguments that relate similarities in excavated tools, poisons and so on to the repertoire of items used by extant peoples in order to interpret their function is a common approach in archaeology, as the authors rightly point out, the extension of these analogies to include particular cultural and linguistic forms is ‘a theoretically flawed exercise’.

Type
Debate
Copyright
Copyright © Antiquity Publications Ltd, 2016 

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References

Denbow, J. 1984. Prehistoric herders and foragers of the Kalahari: the evidence for 1500 years of interaction, in Schrire, C. (ed.) Past and present in hunter-gatherer studies: 175–93. Orlando (FL): Academic.Google Scholar
Fabian, J. 1983. Time and the other: how anthropology makes its object. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
Wilmsen, E. & Denbow, J.. 1990. Paradigmatic history of San-speaking peoples and current attempts at revision. Current Anthropology 31: 489524. http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/203890 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wolf, E. 1982. Europe and the people without history. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google ScholarPubMed
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