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Anthropology without Informants

Collected Works in Paleoanthropology by L.G. Freeman

By Leslie Freeman

Publication Year: 2009

"It is my sincere hope that this volume will be much read and reflected upon by new generations of American students of prehistoric archaeologists. Freeman's career is a model for long-term international collaboration, theoretical eclecticism, the centrality of field research, and the ability to 'dream big', but with a commonsense approach to the record and its limitations." —Lawrence Guy Straus, Journal of Anthropological Research

L.G. Freeman is a major scholar of Old World Paleolithic prehistory and a self-described "behavioral paleoanthropologist." Anthropology without Informants is a collection of previously published papers by this preeminent archaeologist, representing a cross section of his contributions to Old World Paleolithic prehistory and archaeological theory. A sociocultural anthropologist who became a behavioral paleoanthropologist late in his career, Freeman took a unique approach, employing statistical or mathematical techniques in his analysis of archaeological data. All the papers in this collection blend theoretical statements with the archeological facts they are intended to help the reader understand.

Published by: University Press of Colorado

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiii

Leslie Freeman entered this field in the 1960s, a time of intellectual turmoil and important developments in the history of archeology. First came the rise of the movement in American anthropological archeology that came to be known as the “New Archeology.” Led by the charismatic Lewis Binford, a network of relatively junior archeologists challenged prevailing orthodoxy in advancing new claims. They ...

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pp. xv-xviii

The chapters included in this book are a cross-section of the shorter and more general works I have written during more than forty years as a professional prehistorian, or behavioral paleoanthropologist (as I prefer to consider myself ). I was trained as a socio-cultural anthropologist and got my first excavating experience in the New World. Later, my research has focused on the Old World, but the problems that ...

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pp. 1-3

Each of the three chapters in this section addresses a theoretical issue of considerable importance to archeologists of all persuasions. The first and second distinguish the field of behavioral paleoanthropology from other and very different kinds of archeology. When the pieces were written, archeologists in the United States pretty generally assumed that their kind of prehistoric archeology was the ...

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1: Anthropology without Informants

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pp. 5-17

Anthropology is unique among the disciplines which study mankind in the breadth and diversity of its approaches. This multiplicity of perspectives is its major strength, lending it a flexibility and adaptability few fields can rival. Ideally, continued feedback among its subfields should ensure that each periodically may come to new insights about the nature of our species. For that ideal to be realized, communication ...

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2: A Theoretical Framework for Interpreting Archeological Materials

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pp. 19-27

This essay discusses the proposition that the most serious failings in present models for interpreting archeological evidence are directly related to the fact that they incorporate numerous analogies with modern groups. This has prevented the development of frameworks of theory which might lead to an understanding of the sociocultural significance of archeological residues based directly on the comparison ...

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3: The Fat of the Land Notes on Paleolithic Diet in Iberia

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pp. 29-40

In discussing the difficulty of interpreting prehistoric behavior from the evidence in the archeological record, Christopher Hawkes characterized the study of technology as easy, inferences about subsistence economics as operationally laborious but relatively simple and straightforward, reasoning about social-political institutions as much harder, and the study of religious institutions and spiritual life as hardest of all (1954: 161–62). ...

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PART II: An Overview of the Paleolithic

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pp. 41-43

There are two chapters in this section. Their scope is broad and has implications that go far beyond my limited field of experience. Although most of my own research has been centered on Spain, in the first chapter of this section I attempted a more ambitious synthesis of all we thought we knew about the Paleolithic past some thirty years ago. As one of the very few U.S.-trained prehistorians who has been privileged to excavate ...

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4: By Their Works You Shall Know Them Cultural Developments in the Paleolithic

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pp. 45-72

As the cultural means of adaptation becomes fully efficient, it serves to mediate between organisms and environment in several ways. First, it alters some set of natural resources, selected deliberately or unconsciously by members of society from among the larger range of environmental offerings. Second, it keeps some set of natural environmental factors which could be deleterious to their survival from impinging directly on a sufficiently large number of the organisms to permit the social group to survive. ...

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5: Paleolithic Polygons Voronoi Tesserae and Sett lement Hierarchies in Cantabrian Spain

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pp. 73-86

Sometimes, the application of an unusual analytical technique to a body of commonplace data produces information as interesting as it was unexpected. This chapter discusses suggestive patterns made by drawing Thiessen polygons (also called “Voronoi tesserae”) around Paleolithic sites in the autonomous political region of Cantabrian Spain, where prehistoric investigations have been especially intense over ...

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PART III: The Lower Paleolithic

The next two chapters discuss the evidence from the sister Acheulean sites of Torralba and Ambrona on the Spanish Meseta. The first and most extensive simply details the excavators’ finds and the interpretations. Our conclusions were challenged, and one critic claimed that what we had recovered were simply the remains of scavenged animals and often unrelated stone tools. Some of these criticisms were dealt with ...

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6: Torralba and Ambrona A Review of Discoveries

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pp. 89-140

In the 1960s, F. Clark Howell began a program of multidisciplinary investigations at the Spanish Mesetan sites of Torralba and Ambrona that quickly became classic. Torralba and Ambrona retain among the best-preserved, most carefully excavated, and informative mid-Pleistocene localities known from Western Europe to the present day. It is my belief that in the future these excavations will be increasingly ...

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7: Were There Scavengers at Torralba?

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pp. 141-158

Healthy debate about the hunting capacity of Lower and Middle Paleolithic foraging peoples continues as strongly now as it did more than two decades ago (Gonz

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PART IV: The Middle Paleolithic

The first of these three chapters treats the origins of the Mousterian and shows that well-excavated assemblages can and do intergrade. For that reason and others, the interpretation of the Mousterian facies as non-overlapping, mutually exclusive sets of related industries can no longer be maintained, nor can the idea that they were the stylistically distinctive products of separate, identity-conscious socio-cultural ...

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8: Kaleidoscope or Tarnished Mirror? Thirty Years of Mousterian Investigations in Cantabria

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pp. 161-196

Thirty years ago, I undertook my first independent Paleolithic research, on the nature of the Cantabrian Mousterian. Motivated by a desire to extend the “new systematics” of artifact and assemblage classification developed by the late François Bordes to an area outside France, I sought to determine whether or not the distinctive and seemingly nontemporal constellations of similar Mousterian assemblages or “facies” ...

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9: The Mousterian, Present and Future of a Concept (A Personal View)

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pp. 197-212

The “Mousterian” is a stone artifact industrial complex restricted mostly to Europe (and in most characteristic form to Western Europe) and parts of Western Asia and North Africa. If we disregard the difficulty of differentiating it from the latest Acheulean and affiliated industries, the Mousterian seems first to appear during the Last Interglacial, more than 130,000 years ago, and to be replaced by Upper Paleolithic ...

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10: Research on the Middle Paleolithic in the Cantabrian Region Where Have We Come From? Where Are We Now?*

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pp. 213-236

The story of investigations of Mousterian sites in Cantabria has respectable antiquity, and Cantabrian research since its commencement has made contributions of great consequence to our understanding of the Mousterian complex of industries. Eduardo de la Pedraja first excavated Mousterian levels at the site of Covalejos in 1872 and Fuente del Franc

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PART V: Paleolithic Art

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pp. 237-239

There are five chapters in this section, perhaps because it has been a more re-­ cent focus of my research than have the Mousterian and Lower Paleolithic. For much too long I resisted entering a field of study where it seemed to me that ill-­informed opinions were as accepted as were well-grounded ones. The specialists in this field of study seemed as “fuzzy-minded” as their audiences. It took my colleague González Echegaray many years to convince me that one could ...

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11: Meanders on the Byways of Paleolithic Art

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pp. 241-276

From the very moment of first discovery of Paleolithic cave art, concern for its significance and the most appropriate techniques for its interpretation have caused great intellectual ruminations on the part of those scholars fascinated by mankind’s prehistoric past. The broad general lines of the principal speculations on the subject have been summarized, and their substance subjected to a critique as hard as it was ...

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12: The Many Faces of Altamira

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pp. 277-294

It has sometimes been asserted that archeological research lacks contemporary relevance. On the contrary, cases of archeological discoveries that have practical value today are not hard to find; take for example the rediscovery of dew irrigation and more recently Kolata’s reconstruction of the ingenious and productive raised field system of Tiwanaku (Kolata 1993). They have other, less practical, dimensions ...

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13: Techniques of Figure Enhancement in Paleolithic Cave Art

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pp. 295-314

Not so very many years ago, the primary aim of those studying Paleolithic art was to catalogue it, to define different styles, and to arrange them (based on superposition and the “logic” of stylistic evolution) in a developmental sequence (Breuil 1974). Sometimes, artistic depictions were convincingly interpreted as faithful reflections of the external environment (González Echegaray 1974) or, less convincingly, as ...

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14: The Cave as Paleolithic Sanctuary

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pp. 315-328

Before embarking on a somewhat speculative discussion of the nature of Paleolithic art and its environment, I should like to qualify what I am about to write. First of all, we ought never to attempt to explain what we do know—the Paleolithic decorations themselves—in terms of something we cannot know or do not know, such as their supposed religious/magical significance. It seems evident to me that Paleolithic art must be approached empirically. We must try to understand it in its own terms. ...

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15: Caves and Art Rites of Initiation and Transcendence

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pp. 329-341

In a previous chapter in this volume, I discussed some of the evidence that leads to the recognition that certain precincts in Paleolithic sites with or without decorations are truly sanctuaries, citing cases from Cueva Mor

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PART VI: The Benefits of Cooperation

As one who has personally benefited greatly from contact with situations and investigators in Spain, as have my students, I feel that it is only seemly to conclude the collection with the chapter “The Participation of North Americans and Spaniards in Joint Prehistoric Research in Cantabria.” Although some chauvinists assume that in our collaboration, the Europeans alone have been the recipients of vast knowledge ...

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16: The Participation of North Americans and Spaniards in Joint Prehistoric Research in Cantabria

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pp. 345-358

It is a great pleasure for me to be invited to contribute an essay on this topic, since I have enjoyed the most cordial and fruitful relationships with Spanish colleagues, especially in Cantabria, in my own research during the past 37 years. The careers of researchers from other countries run like colored threads through the historical fabric of prehistoric investigations in Spain, against the broad background of their Spanish counterparts. ...

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pp. 359-361

Because I strongly favor international and interdisciplinary research collaboration, more of my publications are co-authored than is the norm. For example, I have published a great deal about the Upper Paleolithic, based on research at the caves of el Conde, Mor


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pp. 363-365


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pp. 367-376

E-ISBN-13: 9780870819704
E-ISBN-10: 0870819704
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870819476
Print-ISBN-10: 087081947X

Page Count: 352
Illustrations: 22 b&w photos, 18 b&w line illustrations, 10 table
Publication Year: 2009

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Subject Headings

  • Paleolithic period -- Spain.
  • Anthropology, Prehistoric -- Spain.
  • Paleoanthropology -- Spain.
  • Antiquities, Prehistoric -- Spain.
  • Freeman, Leslie G. -- Literary collections.
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