Academic journal article Ethnology

Ethnographic Atlas XXX: Peoples of Siberia (1)

Academic journal article Ethnology

Ethnographic Atlas XXX: Peoples of Siberia (1)

Article excerpt

One of the most famous and important enterprises undertaken by the journal Ethnology was the publication of George Peter Murdock's Ethnographic Atlas. This started with the first issues of Ethnology in 1962 as a series of installments. Installments continued to appear in Ethnology every year, and Volume 6 no. 2 (1967) published a summary on 862 better-described cultures (already characterized in the previous installments). That same year the University of Pittsburgh Press published a summary volume of the Ethnographic Atlas (Murdock 1967). The Atlas continued to be published in Ethnology in installments until 1971. The last installment (no. 29) was published in 1980 (Barry 1980).

The 29 installments of the Ethnographic Atlas contain formalized information on 1,267 cultures of the world. No summary volume containing information on all these societies has yet appeared. However, the data are available in electronic form (Murdock et al. 1999). (A publication of the complete printed version of the Ethnographic Atlas, especially with maps, would be very desirable.) Since the appearance of the summary volume in 1967, the Ethnographic Atlas has become the largest (by the number of formally described cultures) and the most widely used ethnographic database in the world. Against this background, the first two authors of this article wrote the following:

[W]e believe in the indispensable importance of Murdock's Ethnographic Atlas database. The "representative" samples (like the Standard Cross-Cultural one, or the HRAF 60-culture Probability Sample) should be regarded, to a considerable extent, defective, just because in most cases they do not make it possible to study sociocultural regularities of the second type [i.e., observed within particular types of cultures only]. Irrespective of their certain undeniable merits, in no way the respective databases could be treated as genuine substitutes for the Ethnographic Atlas. Hence, no other event affected the development of worldwide cross-cultural research so negatively as the virtual termination, in 1980, of all new work on the Ethnographic Atlas. Not a single case has been added to the 1267 cases that had been accumulated by that time, even though the project was very far from completion (e.g. in the version available now one would not find any information on hundreds of ethnographically well-described cultures, first of all of Eurasia). Thus, the revival of work on the Ethnographic Atlas should be regarded as the most pressing current task of the worldwide cross-cultural researchers. Therefore, this paper should also be regarded as an invitation to our colleagues to think about the practical ways to resume this. (Korotayev and Kazankov 2003:50-51)

Our appeal has resulted in the resumption of work in this direction, the first results of which we present in this publication.

One of the most evident defects of the Ethnographic Atlas in its present form is the poor representation of the cultures of the former Soviet Union. The reasons for this are perfectly clear. The overwhelming majority of the ethnographic descriptions of the peoples of this part of the world are still available only in Russian, which created huge problems for Murdock, who used Russian sources only when he could arrange for their translation, which he could not do systematically. Hence, it seems appropriate to consider filling this gap as an obligation of Russian anthropologists.

In the current installment of the Ethnographic Atlas we present formalized data (following Murdock's scheme) on ten Siberian peoples not covered by any of the previous installments of the Ethnographic Atlas. The reviewed peoples belong to the following cultural blocks--Uralic: Finno-Ugrian (Mansi [Ec15]) and Samodian/ Samoyed (Nganasan [Ec12]); Eskaleut (Ungazikmit [Ec14]); Chukchee-Kamchatkan (Itelmen [Ec13]); and Tungus-Manchu (Evenk [Ec16], Negidal [Ec17], Ulch [Ec18], Orok [Ec19], Oroch [Ec20], and Udihe [Ec21]). …

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