On the way towards an anthropological prehistory

by Nold Egenter

This paper was prepared for the 4th Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists, Department of Archaeology Gothenburg University September 23-27 1998


Most archaeologists and prehistorians are not fully aware of the 'historistic handicaps' of their field. One of the few who clearly saw these limitations of the discipline(s) was Gordon Childe. He consequently suggested that the wider circle of anthropology should develop new theories which then could be tested by the archaeologist's historical method (Barbara McNairn 1980).

In this framework the paper will first critically shed light on the basic term 'material culture' as it is conventionally used in archaeology and prehistory (historism). It will then confront it with an anthropologically systematic equivalent which includes fibroconstructive industries amply reported in ethnology (Hirschberg/ Janata 1966/89, Oliver 1997). This step is supported further by a sociobiologically reconstructed domain of sources: nestbuilding behavior of the Miocene apes (Proconsul, Sivapithecus etc.). Referring to the Yerkes (1929) and their suggestion of nestbuilding-'constructivity' as an evolutionary starting point of constructive alteration of the natural environment (and adapting to this alteration), nestbuilding of the Miocene apes (and on) is termed as a proto-cultural "pre-lithic fibroconstructive industry". In the framework of an evolutionary 'architecture and habitat anthropology' the evolutionary potential of this fibroconstructive industry is 'ethno-(pre-) historically' (Wernhardt 1981) reconstructed and superimposed on the combined list of fossil records and prehistorical sources published by the Ember's (1993). Within 5 distinct phases (1. Miocene, 2. Pliocene/Lower Paleolithic, 3. Middle and Upper Paleolithic, 4. Meso- and Neolithic, 5. Bronze Age) the interferences between the two grids will be discussed, the superimposition being characterized by 4 phaseological classes of architecture (subhuman, semantic, domestic, sedentary and their derivates) including social and environmental implications.

In this anthropologically reorganised system of sources, methods and interpretations, the wealth of new and very plausible hypotheses is evident. It provides important arguments to theoretically reconstruct "The Domestication of the Human Species" (Wilson 1988) from its remotest conditions of the early Miocene. Note: "constructivity" factor: ~ 22 million years ago!

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