Nold Egenter

-  Architecture- and Habitat-anthropology  -



Regarding the structure of this collection of studies

The real introduction of the present work is in fact the first volume of the Research Series <Architectural-Anthropology>. For various reasons this research series originally planned to be published in 8 volumes and in 3 languages could not be continued. However, the first volume mentioned above contains the theoretical disposition of the materials, which in this present work are developed further.

The anthropological definition of architecture  presented there and its division into four main classes, that is, proto-human, semantic, domestic and sedentary architecture is considered to be known here.

The reader, who knows the first volume, will notice quickly, that numerous studies, which were listed there in the program, now are published in this edition.

To some extent it is correct to say, that the present edition represents a condensed edition  of the seven volumes 2-8 planned before. At the same time it has to be emphasised that the program exposed in the initial version has been extended considerably, particularly by studies which open new perspectives into the way archaeology and prehistory can be conceived in new and more effective ways.


Architectural Theory

This primary approach is mainly directed against the historically founded 'achitectural theories' of the historians of art. The basic idea is that an objectively conceived scientific and evolutionary anthropology of architecture should manage to eliminate the endless conventional aesthetic speculations of the architects and the art historians and pave the way for an architectural theory structured according to general principles (-> systematics of insights provided by architectural anthropology).

By proceeding according to evolutionary principles, it is possible to demonstrate essential parametres of the relation <architecture - settlement - humans> as well as to reconstruct the origins of aesthetics in new ways. In particular it manages to critically show that the dilettantic reinterpretation of elementary conditions in construction methods (e.g. as Mies van der Rohe presented it) as well as the unreflected import of the homogeneous space concepts of physics alien to age old cultural space concepts demanded tremendous adaptation-efforts to modern humans all over the world.

On the other hand this anthropological type of achitectural theory may show that the whole pre-modern architectural tradition consists of a very small number of essential 'patterns' ethnologically, historically and prehistorically. In spite of the tremendous manifold of forms - like in biology regarding the 'cell' - continuity can be seen, in regard to what we call <horizontal  and vertical polarity> (or: 'access-place scheme' and 'vertical polarity scheme'). All premodern architecture can be seen to be composed of these basic patterns.

Culture Theory

The cultural theory based on the anthropology of the habitat can be understood as a globally valid evolutionary theory of the habitat. It stands against conventional historically formed disciplinary anthropology with its fragmented divisions into subdisciplines (e.g. social anthropology, philosophical anthropology, anthropology of religion etc.). In particular its division into physical and cultural anthropology can be seen highly problematic. In both cases: conventional anthropology considerably distorts our views by retroprojection of evolved concepts (e.g. spatial, or disciplinary) to early conditions. Whether 'physical' or 'cultural', we have to reconstruct the basic causes of the evolution which has produced the phenomenon called 'anthropos'.

The earlier program listed in the annex of the first research volume was strongly directed towards  a newly defined anthropology of architecture. Several papers were related to the new class of 'wemantic architecture' in various cultures. But, in the framework of more than ten years of work related to the whole concept the fructuous  validity of the wider framework of 'anthropology of architecture and habitat' has shown. It is this framework which is now put in the foreground of the present studies.

The New Method

Most important in regard to the cultural theory aspect is the new method. It introduces a new artefact into prehistory which is to show an enormous temporal depth, only theoretically, but clearly plausible, particularly in regard to the problematic situation of the archaeological method which constructs cultural history based on the often extremely fragmented source-condition of durable remains. The new artefact belongs to the domain of constructive behaviour and architecture. It produces an elementary form with a potential temporal depth of 22 million years as a construction and 16 million years as a primordial type of architecture. Thus this type of constructive behaviour which produces and defines such primordial forms could have been of great importance for man. Culture could have developed under exterior impacts. somehow under forced conditions. Territorial and semantic conditions play an enormous role. Cultural evolution happens as a development of territorial demarcation, as a control of space, highly local at the beginning among hominoid precursors of humans, then in increasingly extended dimensions up to those early neolithic settlements which we know to some extent, and - with sedentary forms of life - to the early citystates at the beginning of civilisation.

The idea is not new, that man and his culture are the expression of a development of constructive behavior, which exists in its earliest form in the nest building behavior of the Great Apes, the Pongids. It was clearly formulated already in the 30ies of the last century by the primatologist couple Yerkes. However, a second element, which lifts this hypothesis onto a level of a extensive theoretical consideration, is the Verklammerung of primatology and paleoanthropology with ethnology. The relationship between human research and the human artefact  - a fossil from the medieval scholastic historisms - remained historistic to a great extent. In the domain of archaeology only what was durable and lasting counted, ephemeral materials were banned from entering the visual field, in spite of the fact
that in many cases they played an important role for instance as plant ornament or rope decor. On the other hand ethnology considered large parts of their fibrous artefacts, like nets and basket type of objects etc. without relationship to the time. By no means they were considered as old, despite their technologically archaic character: the hand is practically always the most elementary tool in their manufacture.

A New Image of Culture

On the basis of this Verklammerung surprisingly a completely new image of history emerges. The origins of human culture assumes quite different traits, even completely different appraisals. Wherever the conventional method of history operates with beginnings, which imply splendor and glory and human and superhuman creativity, suddenly a very realistic continuity emerges. The early city states and empires of the Ancient Near East and Egypt can be understood as 'metabolisms'. Their architecture now appears not as human 'creations', but as monumental transformations of fibroconstructive signs and symbols traditionally maintained and developed by neolithic village cultures and cyclically renewd for temporal continuity. The inventive performances, the human creativity admired on the level of the historic method are reduced pratically to zero. The earliest script too was developed from the agrarian population's fibrous 'fetishes' as the earliest types of script found on clay tablets in the earliest levels of Uruk, one of the earliest Sumerian cities show. the priests of the temples copied them in two dimensions on clay tablets for taxation of the surrounding farmers. Religion
In Ancient Egypt the phantastic ideas of religion admired by many today were developed fairly late. The origins of its complex system of local, regional and state gods and cults was in fact of a primary territorial nature, a "territorial feudalism" as the Egyptologist Hermann Kees precisely writes. In view of this the interpretations of the later sources of religion too must be critically reviewed.

In a similar sense Greek philosophy was not the great beginning as Snell in his time had thought. A passage field are The presocrats are a passage-field to the Ancient Near East, to a primary level in which - as Heraclitus clearly shows - cognition to a great extent happened in categorically polar analogies (Upper and Lower Egypt as State Union). European analytical thought is only a - highly problematic - transformation of this primary type of cognition! Thus, again, no originality! Aesthetics too can be defined in new terms of cognitive philosophy as the categorically polar structure of territorial demarcations. This demarcation system became highly efficient in the formation of sedentary life in neolithic times and later and consequently its demarcations were increasingly considered of high ontological values (sacred, gods etc.). Aesthetics, philosophy and religion are thus very close in these early protocivilisational conditions.

In the framwork of thee new insights, Europe's high metaphysical traditions appear in an highly questionable light. Through its speculative interpretations of Ancient Oriental and Egyptian cultures it has put itself fairly early into a fictive highlight, which can not satisfy anymore the modern anthropological views. Europe has to be 'revised' that means 'critically rethought' for, the highly explosive contradictions it projects into the world, can not be supported on all levels any more. This was shown particularly with the two bestialic world wars of the 20th century. They have not developed aus heiterem Himmel. The reasons have to be found in the highly problematic basic constructions of Europe. There are enough 'Menetekels' today showing clearly that the West with its exalted ways of life is about to maneouvre the globe at the edge of Abgrund. It is shown in the globalisaion Wahn of postmodern economy which is developed on the level of some worldmap atlas knowledge of a college student. Outdated concepts are taken of the Mottenkiste of the 19th century. For instance the term 'civilisation'  in Huntington's book which wants to legitimize the 'new worldview' of the Reagan era. It is shown also in the cultural dilettantism, in which the construction of Europe is based on the American model which has an entirely different history. Finally the complete loss of cultural taste is shown on the most elementary level if television shows how animal plagues are solved by mass burning/combustion.

'Collected Works'

With this an immense new field of thought work is outlined, a thought field which by far exceeds the capacity of a single individual. Accordingly the work does not present materials broadly written in the chair Lehnsessel. The work is a collection of essays in most cases about narrowly defined themes. Only in this form certain aspects could be worked up in scientifically reliable ways. For instance the studies related to the nest building behavior of the higher apes or those on the origins of  writing. These works are reflecting the present status of the concerned research field in all details. In addition there are studies, which were written in view of certain occasions like conferences etc., but which, on the other hand, were also considered meaningful by the author with regard to the whole anthropological concept in view. This character as 'collected works' at first sight gives the impression of a fairly heterogeneous concept. At the same time the present work mediates also an actual insight into a presence focussed on a certain type of research, or, in short, a piece of actively led life of intense research. Thus, even if the present work does not show a systematical whole as a result, it may serve perhaps to many a reader as a welcome scaffold for his own.