Early Anthropology in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

Early Anthropology in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

Early Anthropology in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

Early Anthropology in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

Synopsis

Although social sciences such as anthropology are often thought of as having been organized as late as the nineteenth century, the time of the advent of the academic departmentalization of social sciences, the ideas upon which such studies were founded were actually proposed centuries earlier. In fact, such concepts can be traced at least to the sixteenth century, when the discovery by Europeans of unfamiliar peoples in the new world necessitated the development of a way to both describe and understand the social similarities and differences among humans.

Early Anthropology in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries examines the history of some of those concepts. It includes a discussion of ideas adopted in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to help understand issues such as the origin of culture. the diversity of traits, the significance of similarities, the sequence of high civilizations, the course of cultural change, and the theory of social evolution. It is a book that not only illuminates the thinking of a by-gone age but also sheds much light on the sources of the mindsets of today.

Excerpt

"What is new usually wins its way by disguising itself as old."

--C. S. LEWIS

WHEN "A CERTAYNE CARAVELLE sayling the West Ocean . . . was driven to a land unknowne, and not described by any Map or Carde of the Sea," medieval conceptions of savagery began slowly to lose their hold on the European mentality. For it was not so much that a Genoese sailor became the discoverer of new lands across the Ocean Sea, or that a little band of European seamen looked for the first time on the Red Men of America. It was rather that for once savagery was seen, at least in a measure, through eyes unblurred by medieval fantasy, and that it was described with calm, expressive realism. One of the most arresting features of the Columbian account of the indigenous peoples of the New World is its friendliness, freshness, and modernity.

Writing in the Journal of his first day ashore on a Caribbean isle, the Admiral noted with composure and photographic detachment that the people who came swimming to his ships had very handsome bodies and good faces; that they wore their hair down over their eyebrows; that some were painted black, some white and red; that some bore spears tipped with fishes' teeth. Though he found them deficient in everything that made life worth while for Europeans, he was delighted with their ge0nerosity and ingenuity. They brought presents of . . .

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