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This position is expressed in Figure 3.4 where the origin point is that
moment when we say that history, defined as the capacity to use our

figure 3.4. The origin of ˜true humanity™ that falls, in this example of a research cone at
the intersection of evolution and history (after Ingold 2000:Figure 21).
66 Origins and Revolutions

biological endowment in cultural ways, kicks in. The concept of the ana-
tomically modern human is just a way of isolating that moment so that very
different histories and prehistories can be traced back to a point of origin.
The idea of a modern human is essential to the marriage of biology
and culture and the unfolding of latent capacity that is history.
Archaeologists are particularly prone to accepting the structure of the
research cone. In a subject that is often seen as discovery-led the contest
revolves around who at any moment has the evidence to wrest the tip of
the cone from the hand of a rival. No wonder, as we saw in the previous
chapter, that many believe the unique behaviours of modern humans
should be unearthed rather than set out beforehand (McBrearty and Brooks
2000:534). Moreover, the notable lack of explicit theory in human origins
research (Foley 2001a:5) is only possible because the framework of the cone
is such a robust structure thanks to the Western traditions of producing
and interpreting knowledge that, like Blake™s pictures, it enshrines.

Metaphors and the body
Once archaeologists had colonised Originsland we peopled it in order to
make our contribution to understanding how humans transcended the
limits of their biology. In the broadest sense, as exemplified by Gordon
Childe (Chapter 1), our task has been to signpost the way from the humble
homeland of our human identity towards the familiar conclusion; the
triumph of reason and the power of rational interpretations of the world to
transform society.
But Originsland only exists because of rhetorical devices such as
metaphor and analogy (Table 3.1) that create an imaginative geography
we can share. Although archaeologists are aware of the importance of these
conceptual devices (Bamforth 2002; Graves 1991; Knappett 2005:102; Wylie
2002) they have devoted less attention to the bodily experiences on which
they are based, preferring instead to prioritise semiotics and an under-
standing of experience as grounded primarily in the mind.
However, metaphors, far from simply facilitating understanding as they
are usually presented, must now be understood as governing the way we
think. In their book Metaphors we live by, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson
(1980:5) show how our entire use of concepts depends on metaphor, which
they define succinctly as ˜understanding and experiencing one kind of thing
in terms of another™. The key word in their definition is experiencing since
their case rests on language referring not just to cognitive processes in
Metaphors for origins 67

table 3.1. Two major forms of rhetorical device that are basic to speech,
literature and reasoning (Harris 2005). Such rhetorical devices are rarely applied
to objects but instead to the words that describe things. The distinctions
in each rhetorical form are described in the text

Asserts that one thing is another thing. It explains by
Metaphor (metonymy,
making the abstract or unknown concrete and familiar
and showing a relationship between things that are
seemingly alien to each other
Compares two things, which are alike in several
Analogy (homology)
respects, for the purpose of explaining or clarifying
some unfamiliar or difficult idea or object by showing
how the idea or object is similar to some familiar one.
Analogy serves the more practical end of explaining a
thought process or a line of reasoning or the abstract
in terms of the concrete.

isolation, but rather to the experience of the world that we have because
of our bodies and our senses. Embodiment plays a central role in con-
structing metaphors and analogies to explain a very complex material
world. Our bodies therefore structure all forms of communication and
meaning and are a focus for our identities.

Grounding experience in the body
This point is so central to the framework I will develop in Part II that some
examples are in order. From three different disciplines they emphasise how
the body is an anchor, a source of reference that structures social and
cultural life. Anthropologist Maurice Bloch writes:
The anchoring of conceptualisation in the material À the body, houses,
wood, styles of speaking À and in practices À cooking, cultivating, eating
together À means that the cultural process cannot be separated from the
wider processes of ecological, biological, and geographical transformation
of which human society is a small part . . . culture is not merely an
interpretation superimposed on these material facts but integrated with
(Bloch 1998:36)

Archaeologist Christopher Tilley (1999:19), in his valuable discussion of
artefacts as metaphors, has remarked how even spoken language depends
68 Origins and Revolutions

on an embodied basis for understanding in order to create and manipulate
concepts. A truly non-metaphorical language would therefore be both
dis-embodied and concept free. A spade would always be just that, a spade,
and no heart could ever be broken. Speech would impart information
rather than trade ideas, while language would of necessity be literal rather
than abstract. Metaphor marks the difference:
The body is the ground or anchor by means of which we locate ourselves
in the world, perceive and apprehend it. The centre of our own existence
is always our body, as an axis from which spatiality and temporality are
orientated: the human body inhabits space and time. Rather than
mirroring the world, speech can be conceived as an extension of the
human body in the world, a kind of artefact, by means of which we extend
ourselves in the world, gain knowledge of it and alter it. Metaphor is an
essential part of this process. Cognition is essentially a process of seeing
something as something and this is the core of metaphorical
(Tilley 1999:34)

In an interesting parallel, many studies of artificial intelligence have now
rejected Descartes™ view of human cognition as a discrete ˜thinking thing™
and instead turned to a Heideggerian approach to being-in-the-world
(Anderson 2003:91). The resultant embodied cognition of artificial life
tackles the issue of how abstract symbols acquire real-world meaning.
According to cognitive scientist Michael Anderson we need to recognise
cognitive contents (however these are ultimately characterized, symboli-
cally or otherwise) must ultimately ground out in terms of the agent™s
embodied experience and physical characteristics.
(Anderson 2003:92)

Embodiment is therefore the mainspring for the symbolic force that
resonates throughout any language structured by metaphor and more
broadly applies to all aspects of materiality where, as Tilley shows, meta-
phor is equally important. Through materiality we are both engaged with
and constituted by, the world of objects, artefacts and ecofacts distributed
across landscapes and in locales (Gamble 2004:85). To make sense of these
worlds at any level of understanding requires cognition to be grounded out
in our bodies; ˜I feel it in my bones™, rather than ˜I thought it in my mind™.
Some further examples will help. Lakoff and Johnson (1980:15) describe
many forms of metaphor and show how our spatial orientation À up, down,
Metaphors for origins 69

back, front, near, far À provides the experience which constitutes the

I™m on a high today
He™s really low at the moment
I am on top of the situation
He was up-front about the outcome
She has fallen behind in her work
Her views were left of centre
A week is a long time in politics
My life stretched out before me
It was in the back of my mind
The conceptual scheme arises from nothing more complicated than
being in the world and surrounded rather than separated from it (Gibson
1979; Merleau-Ponty 1962). The metaphors are expressing moods, emotions,
status and opinions. But they do this through the physical experience that
we have of the world.

Parts for whole: metonymy and synecdoche
Metonymy (Table 3.1) differs from metaphor in the number of conceptual
domains being referenced (Lakoff and Johnson 1980:265; Tilley 1999:4À6).
With metaphor there are two, target and source. The latter provides the
concepts used in the reasoning that is then applied to the target.
For example, the ˜eyes are windows to the soul™, has as its source the
bodily sensation of seeing and when applied to the target, the invisible
soul, those principles are applied to looking into the container of the
body thereby providing a routeway to the unseen. By contrast, metonymy
involves only the immediate subject matter as a single domain (Lakoff and
Johnson 1980:265). The source and the target reference each other rather
than apply to a different concept altogether; for example, when we use the
face for the person as in ˜She™s just a pretty face™, or ˜we need some new faces
around here™ (Lakoff and Johnson 1980:37). The point about metonymy,
that metaphor does not share, is that it relies for its production of mean-
ing on connections that stem from usage and that build up over time
(Tilley 1999:5). As a result metonymy allows us to focus on what is being
referred to (Lakoff and Johnson 1980:37) but at the price of metaphorical
70 Origins and Revolutions

Finally, there is a special case of metonymy known as synecdoche
(Chapman 2000; Tilley 1999:6) that allows us to move from the part to the
whole and the reverse. For example, ˜I have a new set of wheels™ takes me
from a part to the whole automobile while ˜the cars were bumper to
bumper™ takes the opposite direction to describe a traffic jam. In order to
achieve this reversibility synecdoche has to be more basic than even
metonymy in basing relationships on idiom and association and so avoid
mixing metaphors.
Partial representation is inescapable in a study of the past. Even the best
preservation produces only a fragmentary record of what once existed.
Archaeologists spend a good deal of their analytical energies assessing
the pathways of decay among their material evidence in order to improve
their inferences about the range and complexity of the hominin behaviour
that initially produced them (Lyman 1994; Patrik 1985; Schiffer 1987). As a
result, archaeologists have devised a way of working that goes from part to
whole, from a pottery fragment to an entire vessel or from one excavated
corner of a cave or village to the complete settlement.
John Chapman (2000) has shown how such material part-whole relation-
ships are comparable to metonymy (see Chapters 5 and 6). Here
for instance the passport photograph of a face stands for the whole
person just as their fingerprint or luggage also identifies the whole through
a part. The same principle of understanding concepts in terms of
something else still holds, while the part-whole relationship is particularly
relevant to metaphors grounded on material culture and its distribution in
time and space.

Our experience of the past as a container
Originsland is therefore my novel metaphor for a complex concept of
human beginnings that has become wrapped in many interpretations.
Time and geography are combined in Originsland to take us somewhere
that otherwise we could neither represent nor discuss, but which we
nonetheless desire.
Space and time form two common linguistic metaphors and in both
instances they act as containers (Lakoff and Johnson 1980:29À32) for our
actions. Everyday activities take place in time and are often bounded by
a well-defined space. Neither are these times and spaces arbitrary. We
understand their form through our bodies. We become hungry and tired as
the day passes. We move through buildings, travel in trains and walk in
Metaphors for origins 71

the park. Our senses, sight, hearing, touch and smell set the limits and
experience of these times and spaces as claustrophobic, pleasant, secure,
challenging, exhausting and many other emotional states that we barely
think about at all. Finally, there is our inner state to which we devote a good
deal of thought. Here our bodies are not only containers that ingest and
excrete substances, bear children and change as we grow and age, but are
also the ˜core of our being™, repositories for emotions, the self and other
concepts such as the soul.
Now, the object of archaeological enquiry, the past, abounds with
container metaphors:
The past is all around us
She lives in her own past
The past is a foreign country
Knowledge resides in the past
I carry my genetic heritage within me
The past in the present
He lives on in her memory
Stuck in the past
As well as in explicit references to selected parts of the body:

The dead hand of the past
You felt you could touch the history around you
They were in the grip of past events
The finger of time moves on
A grasp of what went before is essential
I will point you to the lessons of the past
Struck down by the weight of tradition
A walk down memory lane

Metaphorically, the past is something we primarily conceptualise
through the experience of touch rather than vision, smell or hearing. Of
course, alternative metaphors can be found as in the auditory ˜echoes from
the past™, or the visual ˜a window on the past™. However, the past, or what
went before, of whatever antiquity or recency is predominantly understood
metaphorically through our hands, feet and bodies rather than our eyes and
minds. Furthermore, the past is something that contains us and which we
seek to contain, as found for example in David Lewis-Williams™ (2003)
recent title ˜The mind in the cave™ that conjures up a dis-embodied origin
for symbolism.
72 Origins and Revolutions

The container metaphor of the domus
Archaeologist Ian Hodder (1990:41) shook up the study of Europe™s earliest
farmers with his use of the domus as a metaphor for the domestication of
society. The domus is a concept of home and has the attributes of
mothering, nurturing and caring (1990:84). His starting point is that the
adoption of agriculture was a social-symbolic process where the natural was
made cultural. He sets the domus in opposition to the agrios, taken from
the Greek adjective for wild, and explores these two metaphors of power in
Neolithic Europe. His explicit use of metaphor rather than analogy also
allows him to seek new sets of relationships between different classes of
material culture. Hence:
the house, the hearth and the pot were extensively employed in the
culturing process, and they became appropriate metaphors for the
domestication of society.
(Hodder 1990:294)

The domus makes use of a series of material objects as container
metaphors and allows Hodder to present a novel understanding of change
during the Neolithic. However, care has to be taken because in other hands
the socio-symbolic metaphor of the domus is used to support a cultural
origin of agriculture where societies ˜wanted™ to change (Cauvin 2000:66).
I shall return to this contentious conclusion in Chapter 8 once I have
explored other material metaphors in Part II.

Analogy and homology
Despite the importance of metaphor to the formation of concepts,
archaeologists devote more attention to the use of analogy and homology
in understanding the past. For example, Alison Wylie (2002), one of the
most influential writers on the potential of analogy in archaeology, does not
discuss metaphor in her major text. However, the difference is important.
While metaphor is essentially understanding something in terms of
something else (Table 3.1), analogy and homology are an exercise in
reasoning from present conditions and we saw in Chapter 1 how Childe
used the Industrial Revolution in this way. Their sources can be various À
ethnographic, ethological, computing and sporting to name a few À but the
form of reasoning is dominated by biology (Table 3.2). Analogies and
homologies based on biology can seem stronger than other sources because
the links in the chain of reasoning depend on principles such as natural
Metaphors for origins 73

table 3.2. The biological contrast between analogy and homology

Analogy Homology
Function/outcome Similar Dissimilar
Origin/ancestor Different Common
Response to selection Convergent evolution Parallel evolution
Biological example Wings of insects and The arms of humans
birds and bats
Archaeological Domestication of sheep Knife blades and axes
example and llamas made from stone

selection and reproductive success. These give the impression of an
independent check on measures of similarity and shared ancestry.
Analogy is inescapable in archaeology since our interpretation of the past
must feed on our experience of the present (Ascher 1961). However,
archaeologists are now well aware of the dangers, particularly evident with
ethnographic analogies (Binford 1972), of just re-creating the past in the
form of the present, what Martin Wobst (1978) tellingly described as
ethnography with a shovel. Dodging such ethnographic pitfalls has led
Wylie (1985:101) to identify archaeologists™ ˜chronic ambivalence™ to analogy
in general. Dreadful errors were made in the past; for example the equation
of Australian Aborigines directly with the Neanderthals of the Middle
Palaeolithic in Western Europe (Sollas 1911). However, the way forward will
be achieved:
not by attempts to restrict inquiry to safe methods and the limited ends
attainable by them, but by exploring more fully the potential for raising
the credibility of those necessarily amplitative and usually analogical
inferences on which archaeology must rely if it is to bring unfamiliar and
otherwise inaccessible aspects of the past into view.
(Wylie 1985:107 my emphasis)

Analogies of corner-shops and weeding
Two examples of raising the credibility of analogies bring into play a rational
and relational approach. The first is the series of models that have been
applied to the analysis of decisions among prehistoric hunters and gatherers
(Marlowe 2005; Mithen 1990; Winterhalder and Smith 1981). Their
strategies and adaptations can then be compared and the contribution of
74 Origins and Revolutions

technology, tactical decisions concerning movement, camp size and length
of occupation evaluated. Ultimately adaptive success is being measured
through reproductive advantage (Bettinger 1991; Jochim 1981; Kelly 1995;
Shennan 2002) and economic theory underpins the analysis.
One of these approaches explicitly uses the analogy of the small
diversified business (Earle 1980:14) where economic success is governed
by balancing supply and demand and where cost-benefit analysis informs
strategic planning to maximise profit margins (Earle and Christenson
1980). The key currency for these corner-shop hunters is energy; how it is
harvested, stored and expended. A secondary one is the acquisition, trans-
mission and application of information about the best strategy to follow.
Since reproductive success depends in large measure on the efficient
and economical use of energy resources, subsistence choices, including
demographic arrangements, technological innovation and settlement loca-
tions, will be driven by the selective pressure of energy as a currency
for evolutionary success (Jochim 1976). Information about those energy
resources increases security and, as Steven Mithen (1990) demonstrated, is
an important currency in evaluating hunting decisions.
The corner-shop is one of those analogies that satisfies Alison Wylie™s call
to raise the credibility of this line of reasoning since its potential has been
profitably explored among hunters and gatherers to demonstrate economic
rationality (Kelly 1995; O™Connell et al. 1999; Smith 1991; Winterhalder
and Smith 1981).
Farmers have been treated differently, most probably because economic
rationality is assumed from the outset. Farmers seem particularly suited to
interpretation by analogy because we instinctively understand how their
economy functions. It is after all the basis of our present world. As a result
analogy does not help when it comes to explaining how hunters became
farmers even though both systems are thought of as rational.
Anthropologist Stephen Gudeman (1986) through his fieldwork in the
village of los Boquerones in Panama provides a second example of how we
might raise the credibility of analogy and an alternative to the corner-shop.
He found that the peasants had the image of their land as a natural reservoir.
They described to him their cultivation of maize by drawing an analogy
between crops and the earth and hair and the head (Gudeman 1986:5À6).
What we would call weeding they referred to as cleaning that required
hoeing and combing respectively. Crops grow just like human hair and
both need cutting. Both hair and crops grow under the guidance of people
but not because of them or through any essential quality in the hair or seed
itself. Instead the force for growing comes from what they grow in, the head
Metaphors for origins 75

and the earth. Rather than appealing to a rational set of decisions the
villagers understood the practice of agriculture through a relationship to
the body.

Proxies and currencies
Reasoning by present condition, the basis of analogy and homology, might
give us a framework for investigating change but we still need proxies
and currencies to establish that change has occurred and at what scale
and rate. A proxy is a substitute for a direct observation or measurement. For
example, tree rings and oxygen isotope variation are proxies of past climates
and these are contained in archives, a source of information such as a tree

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