Hunter-Gatherers in History, Archaeology and Anthropology

Hunter-Gatherers in History, Archaeology and Anthropology

Hunter-Gatherers in History, Archaeology and Anthropology

Hunter-Gatherers in History, Archaeology and Anthropology

Synopsis

This book provides a definitive overview of hunter-gatherer historiography, from the earliest anthropological writings through to the present day. What can early visions of the hunter-gatherer tell us about the societies that generated them? How do diverse national traditions, such as American, Russian and Japanese, manifest themselves in hunter-gatherer research? How does current thinking on the subject reflect trends within the social sciences? Answering these questions and many more, this book provides a much-needed assessment of the history of thought on one of science's most intriguing subjects.

Excerpt

Hunters and gatherers have always been important in social and cultural anthropology and in archaeology. Many of the great figures in these disciplines, such as A.R. Radcliffe-Brown, Julian Steward and Grahame Clark, and even founders of the social sciences more broadly, like Adam Smith, Karl Marx and Emile Durkheim, developed their ideas through the examination of hunters and gatherers. Images of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle as humankind's natural existence, as the earliest stage of social evolution, or as the antithesis of modernity, have had a profound impact (for better or worse) on the development of countless theoretical ideas on society and culture.

This book is the first to examine in depth the idea of the 'hunter-gatherer' through history. It is important to recognize that this is not (to borrow a metaphor from Steward) a unilinear history, but a multilinear or yet more complex one with differences of emphasis, a diversity of problems and opposing points of view. Equally, it is important to recognize diversity in world anthropology. In this book not only North American and British, but also Japanese, French, German and Austrian, Russian and Soviet, and Indian ethnological and archaeological traditions (as well as perspectives in the ancient scholarly traditions of Arabia, India and China) are scrutinized. And not only old debates, but also those of recent decades and of today, are treated in ways that should be enlightening for academics, students and a wider public alike. The result, I believe, is a unique contribution to understanding the many ways in which anthropologists, archaeologists and other scholars have approached and do approach the study of huntingand-gathering societies.

The book has its origins in the Ninth International Conference on Hunting and Gathering Societies (CHAGS 9 for short), which was held at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, in September 2003. The majority of the papers here were presented in draft form in one of that conference's thirty-nine sessions, 'Hunting and Gathering as a Theme in the History of Anthropology', while some were presented in other sessions and some commissioned specifically for this volume. This series of conferences is itself testimony to the enduring significance of hunter-gatherers, both to science and scholarship and to the enrichment of human understanding which has come through anthropology's engagement with their riving representatives.

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