David J. Weber, Book Review Editor
Chumash Fishing Equipment. By Robert L. Hoover. San Diego: Ethnic Technology Notes No. 9, San Diego Museum of Man, 1973. Bibliography. Illustrations. Maps. 17 pages. Softbound. $1.25.
A Rabbitskin Blanket from San Diego County. By Ken Hedges. San Diego: Ethnic Technology Notes No. 10, San Diego Museum of Man, 1973. Bibliography. Illustrations. Maps. 18 pages. Softbound. $1.25.
Reviewed by Philip J. Greenfeld, Assistant Professor of Anthropology. San Diego State University.
Both these studies are descriptions of artifacts now in the collections of the San Diego Museum of Man. These descriptions are correlated with ethnographic and historical sources which deal with the manufacture and use of items, thus giving us an account of material artifacts as functional tools in their cultural settings, and as the products of specific techniques of manufacture. There is also some attention paid to the geographic distribution of the artifacts as evidenced by both historical and ethnographic reporting.
The value of reports such as these for the discipline of anthropology is of two kinds: reconstruction of the way of life of extinct societies, and demonstration of the historical relationship between extinct and extant or ethnographically known societies.
Part of the process of analyzing an archaeological site is to identify the material items found by comparing them to those found in extant or ethnographically known societies. By a process of inference the archaeologist may reconstruct something of the social and economic life of the society which lived where he is digging on the basis of the assumption that similar functions and production techniques were used for both sets of items. Reports such as these by Hedges and Hoover thus provide a source which may serve as the ethnographic basis of this inference.
A second part of the analysis of an archaeological site is to place the site in cultural time and space and if possible to relate it to later cultural forms of the same society, or contemporaneous forms of other societies. If the forms of the material items the archaeologist finds in his site are similar enough to ethnographically described items, and fall within or near the geographic region where the ethnographically reported items are, he may be safe in assuming that he has found some sort of historical link between the two societies.
Reports such as those by Hoover and Hedges are necessary in this process of reconstruction and inference, and it is unfortunate for archaeologists that in recent ethnographic work so little attention has been paid to the material products of culture. We may view these respective reports as providing detailed, but necessary, basic information for the more important anthropological tasks of inference and historical reconstruction.