The Human Family

Chota and Tanasi in the earliest documents

The Southeastern twin town settlement pattern among the Overhill Cherokee

The “twin town” settlement layout of Chota and Tanasi poses an immediate challenge to the taken-for-granted notion of communities as spatially distinct social entities.1 The first documented European visitor to the communities, George Chicken in July of 1725, displayed his acute ethnographic eye in noting the presence of both, but was forced to resort to circumlocution in describing it: “Here are two town Housses in this Town by reason they are the people of Two towns settled together.”2

The path between the Valley Towns and the Overhill Towns on George Hunter’s 1730 map. Note that only Tanasi alone, and not Chota, is labeled.


Philippe Descola’s modes of relation

Forms of attachment

Phillippe Descola’s modes of identification—animism, totemism, analogism, and naturalism—have gained some currency in the world of American anthropology. Less well-known are his modes of relation. The present post is a brief overview of those six modes, drawn from chapter 13 of his book Beyond nature and culture (also available OA from HAU).

Descola’s usage is distinct from that of Mauss and Lévi-Strauss. Rather than muck up the presentation of his own usage by presenting it vis-a-vis theirs, I invite interested readers to consult his book. There he treats the differences as well as his rationale. If you are a splitter like myself I suspect you might be inclined to see a value in his shaking up of first principles. Lumpers may be less so inclined.

Transfers: gift, exchange, predation

The first triad of modes of relation are reversible. That is, the parties to the relationship, might, potentially, be on either side of the relation.


Gifting per Descola’s definition is giving with no expectation that something has to be given in return. This is not to say that countergifting does not exist. It is to say that countergifts do not constitute one side of an exchange relationship.

The Magi depicted on an early 6th century mosaic at the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, Italy.


Teotihuacan: Temple of the Feathered Serpent offerings

Tlalocan Project symposium at National Museum of Anthropology

Tip of the hat to Don Paul Liffman for alerting me that today and tomorrow, 30–31 October 2014, a symposium will be held at the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City to announce preliminary results of the Tlalocan Project’s work at Teotihuacan. From an INAH press release:

In announcing the latest findings of the Tlalocan project, which have lead to the threshold of three chambers beneath Teotihuacan’s Temple of the Feathered Serpent, Teresa Franco, Director General of INAH, indicated that that the finds, in conjunction with other INAH-sponsored projects, will lead to a reappraisal of the culture areas of Meso- and Arido-america.

Illustration of the tunnel beneath the Temple of the Feathered Serpent where the offerings were found.

La Jornada video

The Interwebs will be filthy with algorithm chasing English language posts soon enough, so stay tuned. In the meanwhile, here is a nicely produced video from La Jornada that you should be able to follow regardless of your Spanish language proficiency.

About the author

Matthew Timothy Bradley

Ely S. Parker and Native contributions to anthropology

Friend of Lewis H. Morgan, U.S. Grant’s secretary, Commissioner of Indian Affairs

[T]he dismissal of anthropology as a merely White science of the Other is woefully underinformed historically. (Whiteley 2004: 501)

The life of Ely Samuel Parker gives the lie to the taken for granted notion that Native Americans were passive, exploited research specimens during the early days of anthropology in the United States.

Ely Samuel Parker was born in 1828 near Tonawanda Creek on what was then Seneca territory.

Marker near Tonawanda Creek in Genesee County, New York, commemorating the birthplace and life of Ely S. Parker.


Settlement pattern research levels of analysis

Bruce Trigger at his best

Few writers could turn difficult concepts into easily-read prose better than could Bruce Trigger have made the difficult read easily better than did Bruce Trigger, and rarely did he do it better than in his 1968 programmatic essay “The determinants of settlement patterns” (in Settlement archaeology, ed. Kwang-chih Chang (Palo Alto, Calif.: National Press Books, 1968), 53–78).


Analogism: an ontology visualized

Descola’s ontology illustrated

Analogism can be seen as a hermeneutic dream of completeness and totalization which proceeds from a dissatisfaction: admitting that all the components of the world are separated by tiny discontinuities, it entertains the hope of weaving these weakly differentiated elements in a canvas of affinities and attractions which has all the appearances of continuity.1

The hydra is a classic—and Classical—representation of analogism.

Hercules slaying the Hydra in a 3rd century mosaic from Roman Hispania.


Marilyn Strathern has a gift for you

Godelier’s ‘The Metamorphoses of Kinship’ reviewed

Get it?


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