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processes that constitute it. In other words, it implicates the whole person;
so any act is at once affective, symbolic and material À i.e. intentional.

But at the same time the quality and number of relationships derives
from the differential investment of these three resources into the craft
and business of creating networks. Through the act of constructing
networks individuals author their identity and create an autobiographical
self (Damasio 2000). At the same time they are authored by all the other
people with whom they interact and who are also building their own
The model I propose has three ego-centred networks with modular
demographic outcomes. These networks are differentiated by the use of
emotional, material and symbolic resources (Table 5.5).
Networks will vary in density and complexity as the skills and capaci-
ties of individuals to construct and maintain them also varies (Gamble
1999:Chapter 2). As Marilyn Strathern puts it:
The concept of network summons the tracery of heterogeneous elements
that constitute such an object or event, or string of circumstances, held
together by social interactions; it is in short, a hybrid imagined in a socially
extended state. The concept of network gives analytical purchase on those
(Strathern 1996:521)
The accumulation and enchainment of identity 129

table 5.5. The use of resources to build ego-centred networks of differing size
and function (after Gamble 1999:Table 2.8)

Networks Emotional Material Symbolic
Intimate ($5) Affective self and
Effective ($20) Practical self and
Extended (100À400) Distributed self and
Approximate modular sizes are indicated. These are expected to vary greatly between
individuals but are constrained by the psychological and cognitive loads incumbent
upon interaction. For further discussion see Chapter 8.

As a result networks are much more than channels between nodes and
down which goods and information flow. Instead a social network, like
culture, is a hybrid. In other words it is made up of both persons and objects,
layers and links in opportunities for accumulation and enchainment.

Bottom-up or top-down societies
This may seem to put too much emphasis on the individual as the starting
point for any social project, and to ignore pre-existing institutions and
structures. Here, network models can also contribute to the argument over
which is most appropriate, a top-down or bottom-up approach to the study
of society (Gamble 1999; Hinde 1976), and whether the group (Clark 1992b;
Flannery 1967) or individual (Gamble and Porr 2005b; Mithen 1993) is the
archaeologist™s primary unit of analysis. From a network perspective both
approaches start with an assumption of original forces best described as
agency. An individual is never inchoate precisely because we are all born
into society. We are social agents by both birth and upbringing. In the
same way the system, that aggregate of individuals, needs to derive its force,
its identity and legitimacy, from somewhere. It is not enough to assert
that because cultural systems persist for millennia À like the Magdalenian
or the Pre-pottery Neolithic À they therefore exist as a greater reality than
the individuals they subsume. However, to shout loudly that the individual
is primary simply because of the property of agency would be to commit
130 Origins and Revolutions

the same error. That is why I prefer to start with the body-whole and
trace the varied networks within which it is caught up, and where different
contexts present identities that are sometimes singular and at other
times fractal.

Cutting the network, growing-the-body
As a final illustration of the embodied character of networks let us
consider how hair, a commonplace bodily resource, can be used in the
act of building these different networks en route to constructing
personal identity.
When part of the body, and growing, hair is a resource for a person™s
intimate network (Table 5.5). It is something to be groomed, shaped,
coloured, ruffled and pulled for all sorts of reasons that support the close
affective bonds in this immediate, small network. When cut by someone
outside this network it becomes a material resource. Lying on the hair-
dresser™s floor it represents a practical relationship based on a transaction
as would be expected in an effective network. But if acquired surreptitiously
it ceases to be a transaction and changes its meaning. While still material
culture, whose power stems from the close association with a person™s body,
it is also a symbol, like the strand in the locket of an inamorata or the snippet
in the witches™ cauldron. Through either desire or magic it impersonates
the extended network of the person casting and directing the spell. Hair also
serves (Chapter 3) as an analogy for weeding and cultivation when it is
used as a root metaphor (Ortner 1973:1341) to make sense of a social project
such as agriculture.

Summary: lifting the lid on social archaeology
One of the most notorious put-downs in archaeology was delivered by the
anthropologist Sir Edmund Leach. The occasion was a conference that
heralded the arrival in the UK of the New Archaeology (Renfrew 1973)
that set out to examine past societies as functioning systems rather than
historically specific entities. The notion of archaeology as anthropology,
forcefully championed by Lewis Binford (1962) opened the way for a social
archaeology to replace the archaeologist™s major activity of cataloguing
stone tools and other artefacts. Leach, who summed up the conference,
was un-impressed. Abandon ˜what questions™ at your peril, he warned
the audience (Leach 1973:764), because ˜you are moving away from
The accumulation and enchainment of identity 131

verifiable fact into the realm of pure speculation™. According to Leach the
past is a black box where too much is hidden or conjectural for any
meaningful things to be said about the intricacies of social life.
Thirty years later the New Archaeology has become a Processual
archaeology dedicated to the scientific study of variation and change.
As a way to study society it is still criticised but by archaeologists interested,
as I am, in relational rather than rational accounts of the past. Processual
archaeologists would now probably agree with Leach that we will never
be able to identify concepts such as the individual/dividual because they
are hidden in the black box that a scientific approach cannot open.
However, Leach was wrong in characterising the pursuit of the hidden
as ˜pure speculation™. The quest may be guesswork to the rational method
that he followed in his kinship studies but when a relational perspective is
employed then a different standpoint emerges. I have now shown how an
internal and external identity, familiar for example to the different per-
spectives of psychologists and sociologists, is amenable to archaeological
enquiry through the proxies of material culture. However, I still have to
demonstrate how this identity extends to both our human and hominin
subjects and that I will do in Part III. For the moment I have developed
the metaphors of accumulation and enchainment and the material proxies
of instruments and containers to develop a route to such understanding.
The body remains the reference point, the symbolic force (Chapter 4)
and ultimately the source of agency that establishes the relationships that
define us. I have also suggested that if we understand change as a study of
the material basis of human identity then we need to appreciate the shifting
authority between rational and relational ways of interpreting the world.
Now, however, it is time to develop methods to track such variable influ-
ence and introduce a currency for these metaphors of accumulation and
enchainment. The relationship between cutting hair and harvesting crops
can now take us to the social actions of fragmentation and consumption
that complete my model for identity based on material metaphors.
chapter 6

Consuming and fragmenting people
and things

Fragmentation: Refers to the condition of a disk in which files are
divided into pieces scattered around the disk. Fragmentation occurs
naturally when you use a disk frequently, creating, deleting, and
modifying files. At some point, the operating system needs to store
parts of a file in noncontiguous clusters. This is entirely invisible to
users, but it can slow down the speed at which data are accessed
because the disk drive must search through different parts of the disk
to put together a single file.
Webopedia 2005

˜I did not have three thousand pairs of shoes,
I had one thousand and sixty.™
Imelda Marcos 1987

Musical chairs
The singing began at sunset, the dancing a little later. The women,
some with their children, gathered in the large open space surrounded
by the small, round huts of the village. A fire was lit and the dogs shooed
away. They sang in high rhythmical voices, the clicks of their language
now drowned by the clapping of their hands. Four men danced around
the women and their fire. They wore rattles on their legs and as they
stamped out their dance they struck percussion sticks together and
answered the women™s song. After a while the oldest dancer grew tired,
his rheumatism hobbling his steps. There would be no shaman™s trance
tonight. He moved towards the fire, broke the circle, and the performance
was over.

Consuming and fragmenting people and things 133

Sometimes being an ethnographic tourist, as I was that night in August
2001 at Makuri village in the Nyae/Nyae Conservancy, northern Namibia
(, offers unexpected
souvenirs. On reflection I could have gone to any tropical beach to hear
singing and see dancing around fires. But I had come to Makuri with a TV
crew to meet hunter-gatherers, and film them doing what they do best;
being what we want them to be. The hunter-gatherer is a dubious concept
at the best of times (Bird-David 1994; Schrire 1984; Wilmsen 1989) and has
often been downright dangerous in the hands of archaeologists investigat-
ing origins and revolutions (e.g. Johnson and Earle 1987; Sollas 1911). We
use them to provide a starting point for the project of how we became
civilised, and a cautionary reminder of what we would lose À laws, literacy,
architecture and hierarchy À if our social fabric was unpicked. As a much
re-worked category they currently appeal to our desire for re-wilding, a
return to original human values, and so provide some much-needed colour
in Originsland (Chapter 3).
But there in remote Namibia the question had to be turned around. The
category under scrutiny was not the hunter-gatherer but me. Why travel
such a distance to consume a paid performance? Was I still following, like
many before me, in the footsteps of the French philosopher Joseph-Marie
Degerando, who in 1800 made explicit the link between distance and
The philosophical traveller, sailing to the ends of the earth, is in fact
travelling in time; he is exploring the past; every step he makes is the
passage of an age. Those unknown islands that he reaches are for him the
cradle of human society.
(translation Moore 1969:63)

The answer to both questions was no, and for the reason that travel
fragments us as much as it consumes others. As historical geographer Felix
Driver (2004) has shown, the scientifically fuelled voyages of exploration
produced knowledge not so much by a process of accurate observation that
tamed the variety of the world, but through exploiting the disturbance
that arose as the bodies of Western explorers experienced distance. In
many cases their bodies were fragmented and consumed by disease,
failing eyesight, hunger and emotional scarring as recorded time and again
in the literature of travel. However, the accumulation of such bodily
sacrifices either for science or Empire were always conducted in an
enchained world of objects and fellow travellers. For example, for five years
starting in 1810 the naturalist William Burchell ˜sailed™ across southern
134 Origins and Revolutions

Africa in a Cape ox-wagon that calibrated global functions, since it made
scientific measurements possible, to the local conditions of difficult terrain
(Driver 2004:83). His container was kept afloat by the labours of many
servants and a constant process of enchainment with African and Boer
farmers where the coloured beads he handed out were the material proxy
for the relationship.
I had reached Makuri village in the comfort of a Land Cruiser pulling a
trailer-full of objects including tea mugs, tents and tobacco. We carried our
disturbance with us like a bow-wave. Every time I used those familiar
objects I was reminded of the stretched character of the journey that was
only possible because we can fragment our social selves in time as well as
across space. The efficiency of the transport was secondary. And unlike
William Burchell, we left with the added luggage of bracelets and
necklaces made from ostrich egg-shell beads that I had bought in the

Architecture without walls
Time travel was not on my mind as I watched the dancing at Makuri but I
was definitely up for an experience that I could take away as an individual
The next morning I returned to the deserted dance floor with an
archaeologist™s eye and I was rewarded with a bargain. The night™s activity
had left a clearly marked performance space, an oval track of about eight
metres diameter with a central hearth (Figure 6.1). These solid mementos
were all that the vivid performance had created, about as significant, you
might think, as a stick of Brighton rock to remember a fine day out. How
could I ever infer from this faint trace in the sand that the most human of
cultural traits, the skills of music applied to language and ritual movement
had taken place? Would I though be willing as an archaeologist to interpret
the invisible actions other than as mundane evidence for sitting and
The answer would always be no, so long as I approached the
interpretation of such spaces with linguistic rather than material meta-
phors. Linguistically I would have to say that nothing survived to suggest
what went on beyond the mundane although the oval track might be ritual,
whatever that means, rather than functional behaviour. But if I switched
to material metaphors the picture changed. Immediately I was presented
with a container in the form of the oval within which the women had sat.
This space was nested within the larger container of the village while at the
Consuming and fragmenting people and things 135

figure 6.1. Makuri village performance space. The night before twelve women and
children sat around the fire while four men danced around them.

micro-scale the hearth was encircled by the women and contained
branches, embers, smoke and flame. What I learned from my ethno-
graphic day out was that architecture does not need walls to be a container,
that material proxy for the body. Containers are indicated by the
singing coming from the body, by an embrace, being seated in a circle or
tracing one around other people and objects. In addition, the act of
inscription, or marking, that made the oval visible is only possible because
of the other material proxy for corporal culture, the instrument. Feet
stamped out the track while hands clapped or struck percussion sticks
together. The rattles on the dancer™s legs encircled the instruments that
marked the ground.

Machines for the suppression of time
Let me be clear about what the Makuri dance was not. It is not a model to
infer that music and language structured an activity in the past. It validates
no universal metric of the human body that can unlock the meaning of
spatial patterns on camp sites past and present (e.g. Binford 1983). We will
get no closer to the archaeological inaudibles of music, language and their
136 Origins and Revolutions

involvement in ritual by analysing such occurrences as the Makuri dance
with the optic of the ethno-archaeologist.
Instead my souvenir relates more to anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss™
(1966a:26) enigmatic claim that music and myth are ˜machines for the
suppression of time™. What he means is that the last note of the symphony
is implied in the first so that the linear character of time is inhibited.
Instead of a narrative of action there emerges instead the opportunity
for metaphorical understanding, that in the case of music is ˜at once
intelligible and untranslatable™. Now Levi-Strauss is above all else, as Tilley
(1999:272) has reminded us, a master at teasing out metaphorical under-
standings. He does this by tracing relationships rather than relying on
rational associations and uses both myth and music to extract meanings
from the most intractable materials (see Knight 1983; 1991).
The reason archaeologists find such musical chairs mysterious is
that we are little practised in exploring metaphorical associations. Many
would rather follow the austere dismissal by neuroscientist Steven
Pinker (1997:534) that music is nothing but ˜auditory cheesecake™; itself
a tasty metaphor employed to sideline music rather than give it status
on the high-table of evolutionary explanation (for an alternative view
see Mithen 2005). Pinker, however, is a dedicated Cartesian. The brains
he studies are largely disembodied machines driven by evolutionary
processes to solve problems and represent the world. The historical purpose
of such brains is to produce language and so unlock cognition. It is not
surprising in such a rational view that music is the dessert rather than
the main course.

Consumption and fragmentation as social actions
If the metaphors of accumulation and enchainment mean anything for
the study of change at archaeological time-scales then I need actions to
back them up. These are provided by fragmentation and consumption
(Table 6.1).
The terms are reciprocal. To fragment is also to consume and vice-versa.
Neither does one term refer only to accumulation and the other to
enchainment. These are actions and practices which suppose the other, but
whereas the latter are to be interpreted in terms of authorising identity
(Chapter 5) the terms fragmentation and consumption provide connec-
tions between people and objects in networks of relationships.
The notion of fragmentation has been brought to prominence in archae-
ology by John Chapman (2000; Jones 2002:99À102). Breaking things on
Consuming and fragmenting people and things 137

table 6.1. A model of social practice and social action and its definitions (after
Chapman 2000; Gamble 2004:Table 8.2; Miller 1995)

Social practice Accumulation Enchainment
Provides the authority Relations achieved A chain of social
for action and by production and relations achieved
interaction reproduction through exchange
Social action Consumption Fragmentation
Connects the elements To embody, for the To divide, for the purposes
in the hybrid network purposes of creating of distributing relations
relationships either either through
through accumulation enchainment or
or enchainment accumulation

purpose, he argues, is the social action by which the practices of enchain-
ment and accumulation can be studied. As Chapman points out:
The two principles of fragmentation and accumulation have been
fundamental to human behaviour ever since food sharing and lithic
production. Sharing the portions of meat produced by butchering a
carcase and distributing the ever-smaller flint flakes knapped from a
natural nodule both entail part-whole relationships which can act as
metaphors for social relations. . . . The sharing of an object produced
for the group by a single individual and the combination of elements
produced by several persons for consumption by a single individual À
these are fundamental forms of social relations based upon human-object
interactions. It is anticipated that these forms of social relations pre-dated
other aspects of enchainment and accumulation, acting as analogies for
such later developments.

By locating such practices deep in hominin ancestry Chapman has done
a great service in removing the social barriers between Neolithic and
Palaeolithic, farmer and hunter (Chapters 1 and 2). But the gain is
compromised because he developed his methodology to investigate an
origins question, the appearance of metallurgy (see below). Moreover, as
the passage above shows, he uses the terms enchainment and fragmenta-
tion interchangeably. On the contrary, I think a stronger case can be
made for Chapman™s relational perspective to material culture by giving the
terms significance as practice and action respectively. Andy Jones and
Colin Richards (Jones 2002:Chapter 6; 2003:49) provide an example drawn
138 Origins and Revolutions

from their work on Neolithic Orkney. By fragmenting and then recombin-
ing discrete categories such as animals, humans, pots and buildings they
show how these elements can be brought into metaphorical relation
through accumulation and enchainment. The heterogeneous and the
hybrid are given a cultural significance beyond the usual rational accounts
of subsistence and shelter.

Bricoleurs rather than builders
These actions that combine and associate can be described as the work of
bricoleurs rather than builders. The bricoleur is anthropologist Claude
Levi-Strauss™ (1966b) untranslatable term to describe ˜handy-men™ solving
technological problems by using the things to hand. The result is bricolage
where often unlikely things are brought into relation with each other and
meaning constructed from action rather than from a predetermined mental
plan (ibid.:20). We recognise the latter as the solution of the engineer,
rationally conceived and applied. Bricoleurs make ˜unlikely™ associations
because they adopt relational rather than rational approaches to gain
knowledge about the world; building metaphorical understandings rather
than building houses.
Bricoleurs accumulate and enchain and they also fragment and

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