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trunk or sediment core that holds the proxy. A currency provides a measure
of the proxy being studied. For example, it is not possible to directly mea-
sure the calories expended by Palaeolithic hunters as they set out daily from
their camp site. One proxy would be distance since calories are burnt when
walking. However, a better proxy would be the time taken to walk the same
distance since that would be influenced by the topography surrounding the
site. Time can be readily turned into a more widely used currency, energy,
whose expenditure was the purpose of attempting a calorie count in the first
place. The corner-store analogy applied to hunters and gatherers use such

Metaphors of origins
While we have all experienced the past in terms of yesterday or last year
none of us can ever physically visit Originsland. It is off-limits as a means to
ground out concepts through bodily experience. But spatial orientation
provides only one set of linguistic metaphors. The remote prehistory of
Originsland is fleshed out by a further set of embodied metaphors that deal
with substance and process. Here the body is still the basis for describing a
deep-time past through metaphors of endowment and growth that I have
already mentioned when discussing the Neolithic and Human Revolutions
(Chapters 1 and 2).

Endowment and growth
Historian of science Misia Landau (1986:46) has pointed out that
palaeoanthropologists trace human destiny in human anatomy. The
narrative structure of human evolution follows a predictable cycle of test
76 Origins and Revolutions

table 3.3. The structure of events in accounts of human evolution (Landau
1986:Figure 3.1)

Evolutionary event Endowment
Terrestriality Shift from the trees to the ground
Bipedality Acquisition of upright posture
Encephalisation Development of the brain, intelligence and language
Civilisation Emergence of technology, morals and society

and response as climate and competition pushed the humanising process
through four important episodes that most authors agree upon (Table 3.3).
During the process gifts were bestowed on the hominins. These took the
form of abilities and skills that arose from larger brains or more dextrous
hands. Endowed with these gifts that occurred through natural selection
the history and substance of Originsland is made amenable:

Survival was a basic instinct for early humans
The ability to make tools was handed-down
The gift of speech
Endowed with an artistic sense
A capacity for symbolic thinking was transmitted
The talent to walk upright separated humans from apes
The marriage of large brains and nimble hands resulted in the first tools.

Endowment, with its associated idioms of talents, legacies, marriage and
transmission are common ways in which archaeologists conceptualise early
hominins and lead us directly to the Human Revolution, when a full set of
gifts was acquired (Chapter 2). Not all archaeologists, however, regard this
as the defining moment (Chapter 1) preferring instead the later Neolithic
Revolution when talents were finally used rather than squandered.
Endowment is taken for granted and instead the metaphor switches to
growth. For instance, Marc Verhoeven (2004:228) uses the metaphor of
growth to describe the process of domestication in the Near East through its
successive stages of germination, development, growth, retreat, dormancy
and florescence.
A more nuanced example is provided by archaeologist Brian Hayden™s
explanation for agriculture as the result of intensification. In particular he
views feasts as an opportunity for people to display their success. He regards
the drive to achieve advantage through feasting as ˜probably the single most
Metaphors for origins 77

important impetus behind the intensified production of surpluses beyond
household needs for survival (2001:27)™. The effect is felt in the needs of
child rearing (Owens and Hayden 1997:150) that generate and invest
surplus wealth to make exchange and form alliances. Owens and Hayden
refer to this process as growth payments (1997:Table 2), where rites of
passage involving alterations to the body, such as piercing lips, septum and
ears as well as head shaping and tattooing, are all a means by which the
social and economic value of the child is increased. In these societies of
trans-egalitarian hunters and gatherers blessed with abundant seasonal
resources the return on the investment comes at marriage.
These archaeological examples of growth shadow the conceptual
imagery of Originsland that draws heavily on biological development and
natural events. For example, the natural processes of reproduction and
growth metaphorically express:
The birth of civilisation
They took their first steps towards domestication
At that time the human race was in its infancy
The birthplace of art
Mesopotamia was the cradle of civilisation
Population pressure was the mother of invention
The adoption of farming
The dawn of humankind rose slowly.

What remains familiar is the embodied experience, as in watching
daybreak, to understand changes. In this respect we also find that the
concept of change is most frequently couched in metaphors of botanical
growth and agricultural endeavour:
The flowering of culture
They sowed the seeds of change
The tender shoots of progress
It was only later that the change bore fruit

While also being contained in the very substance that surrounds us:
Change was in the air.

Primary metaphors of livelihood and change
Metaphors, as Hodder shows with the domus and Tilley by drawing
associations between monuments and artefacts, can do more than simply
describe: they can also explain why and how change occurred. They do this
78 Origins and Revolutions

by establishing relations between objects, bodies and habitats. As Gudeman
(1986:40) expresses it, these primary, or focal, metaphors provide a dom-
inant idiom that constitutes and expresses events while at the same time
being an organising force for a broad range of behaviour (see also Ortner
1973). These are local rather than universal models by which people make
sense of things (1986:37). Significantly, ˜focal metaphors of livelihood often
employ one or another image drawn from the human or social body as well
as linked concepts about the ˜˜self™™ in relation to the ˜˜other™™ (Gudeman
1986:142)™. In this book I use two such primary metaphors; the giving-
environment and growing-the-body.

The sharing and giving environment
Nurit Bird-David (1992), in her discussion of Marshall Sahlins™ (1972)
influential essay on hunters and gatherers as the original affluent society,
has raised the need for alternative primary metaphors in order to
understand this economic category. For example, the corner-store analogy
regards hunters as engaged in a game against their environment (Jochim
1976). By contrast her analogy, based on fieldwork accounts, is of nature as a
co-operative bank (Bird-David 1992:33). This image captures for her the
essence of how hunters engage with the natural environment while at the
same time embodying the material basis, as well as the cultural aspect, of
their economy. The bank symbolises trust and confidence and the natural
environment is not providing resistance, as in the game model, but is
instead a sharing partner (Bird-David 1992:31). The metaphor of the giving-
environment that is my preferred form, provides a relational rather than
rational insight into alternative economic realities:
Whereas we commonly construct nature in mechanistic terms, for them
[hunters and gatherers] nature seems to be a set of agencies, simulta-
neously natural and human-like. Furthermore, they do not inscribe into
the nature of things a division between the natural agencies and
themselves as we do with our ˜nature:culture™ dichotomy. They view
their world as an integrated entity.
(Bird-David 1992:29À30)

The giving-environment has its own local cosmology and structure.
It will structure the manufacture and deployment of tools, and will establish
relations between people and objects as well as between these categories,
locales and landscapes.
Metaphors for origins 79

Growing the body
The second primary metaphor I will employ is growing-the-body. This is
not simply a description of biological growth, but rather an opportunity to
bring the cultural construction of bodies into the material process of change
and so address the issue of identity. Bodies are culturally created as well as
biologically given. They are a material project and subject to many local
models (Gudeman 1986). One example will suffice.
Anne Becker™s (1995) anthropological study of feasting in Fiji abounds
in images of managed growth. Individuals do not cultivate their own bodies
for the reason that prestige is conferred on those with the ability to be
generous with food rather than those who possess it (1995:128). Nurturing
is a collective activity and indexed in the body that at a personal level is
distributed within the individual™s embeddedness in the social corpus.
Becker makes the comparison with Western bodies where the ethic of
bodily cultivation is a personal project while in Fiji the body, self and
collective are intimately connected. As a result the Fijian self is located as
much in the community as in a body (Becker 1995:133):
The cultivation of bodies . . . represents the cumulative efforts of the
collective; their care . . . is embodied in the members of the community.
For this reason there is complacency with respect to the self-reflexive
cultivation of the personal body, with a complementary motivated interest
in nurturing and otherwise caring for others™ bodies.
(Becker 1995:129)

Feasting provides a public occasion for nurturing. Archaeologist Michael
Dietler (2001) stresses the political nature of feasts where a public and ritual
activity is centred on the communal consumption of food and drink. These
embodied activities bring together accumulated stores of foods and the
material culture necessary to transform them into political action. They are
about consumption in a material sense, but also, as the Fijian instance
demonstrates, in a symbolic sense by constituting broader social relations
Growing-the-body is not a local model for farmers alone, just as the
giving-environment is not the sole territory of hunters and gatherers. I will
instead use these metaphors to examine change, not as it is normally
conceived in terms of rational economic difference applicable universally,
but instead as a relational account with local significance. The task in
Part II is to re-embody, rather than re-think, the artefacts for this purpose.
summary to part i

Three revolutions in Originsland

I have now examined how archaeologists use the concept of upheavals
in their descriptions and accounts of change. I have placed their usage in
a historical context and found that change is best understood not as a
property of the archaeology being studied but rather an outcome of
contemporary concerns.
The first, Neolithic Revolution was an attempt by Gordon Childe to
counter the move to totalitarianism that dominated the history of western
Europe and the Soviet Union in the 1930s. To be human was to acknowl-
edge the value of self-government and Childe illustrates this through the
transformation of Oriental despotism by their European counterparts. This
did not result in democracy in the European Bronze Age but his point
is allegorical; absolutist states do not persist and neither do they conquer
all before them.
The second, an ancient timing for the Human Revolution, was
championed by Ashley Montagu who fought the consequences of statutory
and institutional racism with the evidence of history and science. The
concept of universal humanity defined by rights and ethics and enshrined
in international charters was a device to counter the genocide that had
occurred in Europe in the 1940s. Montagu, and those that followed him,
concentrated on human evolution because universal humans by definition
need a global stage and the study of our earliest ancestry, alone among all
the archaeological periods, provides it.
But the good intentions of a declaration of human rights and a statement
on race have not weighed heavily on all the member states of the United
Nations who signed up to them. The Dark Age that troubled Childe and
the Dangerous Myth that Montagu railed against did not go away simply
because diplomats agreed that they should. The parallel scientific gesture
that included our ancient ancestors under humanity™s big tent was by
the 1970s also seen as too generous, with the result that taxonomists now

Three revolutions in Originsland 81

excluded fossils from human ancestry. So, a third revolution, Human
recency, replaced high antiquity as the time-frame for the development of
moral purpose in humans. Our immediate ancestors, those fully modern
humans, were truly diasporic when compared to the nearly-humans,
anatomically modern but behaviourally ancient. In that diaspora we
changed from a local to a global species and from a multiple to a single
basic biology. This Human Revolution was not the hyper-diffusion of
Grafton Elliott Smith (1929) where every innovation in human history
came from one source, Egypt. Biologically we might be Africans but that
morphology now varied as a result of the journey from source and culturally
more has been added locally than was ever part of an original universal
endowment. The paradigm of Recency backed by the framework of
revolutions means that to be human is to exclude and to recognise local
community and difference as valuable.
These in summary are the changes that archaeologists and palaeoan-
thropologists have been responding to. I believe that much of what we study
is variation rather than what Williams (1965:10) would call a ˜genuine
revolution™, change to novel conditions and interpretation. But the dis-
covery of change, those novel social premises, is due to the process of
analysis. While variation and development can be expected as the property
of any system, social or biological, change according to my definition above
cannot. But the study of change should not be motivated, by the assumption
that it will happen sometime because that is the nature of our world.
Recognising that change is often a property of the process of archaeological
enquiry allows us to distance it from the object of that enquiry, past people.
Revolutions are therefore the right tools only if we continue to believe
that change is an essential ingredient of the past and we only have to scrape
away at the record to reveal it. But change that made us what we are,
humans, as either the result of a Neolithic (aka sedentary, symbolic)
Revolution or Human (aka symbolic, behavioural) Revolution is, as Proctor
argues, ˜the outcome of a number of evidentiary, conceptual, and ideo-
logical pressures, having to do with changing understandings of race, time,
and brutality™ (Proctor 2003:214).
I have now shown that Originsland, the place we construct for the pur-
poses of Origins research, has a very clear structure (Table 3.4). I have
argued in Chapter 3 how the two revolutions that divide early human
prehistory are serviced by the two major metaphors of endowment and
growth. The division between hunters and farmers, described by others
as the difference between a passive and active view of history (Bender 1978),
is supported metonymically by the way that a concept such as the group
82 Origins and Revolutions

table 3.4. A map of Originsland. The standard understanding of archaeological
change based on the notion of revolutions and the metaphors that underpin origins

Concept of
change Human Revolution Neolithic Revolution
Metaphor Endowment Growth

Metonymy Group for species Group for society

Analogy/homology Cognitive Biological Biological Social
Mental Memory and Population Status
templates anticipation pressure and rank

Measurement Energy and reproductive success Energy and social competition

Material Standardisation; Accumulation; Diversity; Complexity;
proxies Size reduction Storage Abundance Elaboration

Material Apprenticeship Symbolic Surplus Sedentism
projects skills representation production

refers on the one hand to a species and on the other to society. Modern
humans are distinguished from their contemporaries the Neanderthals on
the basis of group products that take the form of distinctive stone tools. After
the Neolithic Revolution those same, but more varied, group products now
lead to a culture history of changing social fortunes as a basket of traits varies
across space and through time.
This metaphorical structure is underpinned by analogies drawn from
three main sources. The cognitive are regarded as critical for the Human
Revolution while the social inform us about those differences in the
Neolithic. Added to these are biological analogies that establish a reasoned
basis for origins research. They apply to both revolutions and examples
would include the extent to which modern humans anticipated future
needs and the push from population pressure to change the economic
system to one based on domestication. The importance of biology spills
over into the currencies that are used since these are dominated by energy
although the descriptions alter from reproductive success to competitive
Three revolutions in Originsland 83

When it comes to archaeological evidence the structure of Originsland is
supported by case studies that examine issues such as standardisation,
accumulation, diversity and complexity and how they vary through time.
These in turn form a series of material projects that reflect in direct fashion
the metaphors of endowment and growth. Hence within the Human
Revolution it is skills acquired through long apprenticeships to become
flintknappers (Pigeot 1987), or symbolic capabilities revealed by figurative
art (Lewis-Williams 2003), which confirm that new endowments had been
added. In the Neolithic, growth comes to dominate as with the demon-
stration of economic surplus production (Gamble 1982a), or the settling
down of communities of ever increasing size (Bar-Yosef and Belfer-Cohen
These are only glimpses of how the structure of Originsland impacts
upon archaeological explanation. So, having invented this imaginative
geographical space I now want to enhance it by considering our origins
in ways that implicate our humanity with our material world.
part ii

The material basis of identity
chapter 4

Bodies, instruments and containers

A bird™s wing, comrades, is an organ of propulsion and not of
manipulation. It should therefore be regarded as a leg. The
distinguishing mark of Man is the hand, the instrument with
which he does all his mischief.
Snowball the Pig in George Orwell™s Animal Farm 1945

First things first
In the timetable of human evolution one thing is widely agreed: objects
came before words. When spoken language did appear, and the date is
contested, it certainly changed hominin relationships to the world and
to other hominins, but did it change everything? What of the world of
natural objects and human artefacts that were seen, held, kicked, touched
and tasted? Compared to the deep antiquity of material culture, spoken
language has a shallower time-depth as indicated by the physical limitations
on phonetic speech production as well as the neural re-organisation that
was necessary (Deacon 1997).
The earliest stone tools are currently 2.6 million years old (Semaw et al.
1997; Stout et al. 2005) and likely to get older. I believe artefacts will be
found back to the last common ancestor six million years ago, and possibly
prior to the Old WorldÀNew World monkey split another twenty four
million years before that. Why? Because the capacity for tool use and even
manufacture is shared by a much wider group than the hominins alone
(Moura and Lee 2004; McGrew 1992;Chapter 7). Man the toolmaker
(Oakley 1949) as a description of who we are, has not only met a long
overdue gendered death but also passed away in the hands of our primate

88 Origins and Revolutions

As a result, the social lives of our earliest ancestors need to be placed
in a framework where relationships were constructed from material cul-
ture, rather than spoken language, and moreover where the actions of the
body had comparable weight to the accomplishments of the brain. Tools
always solved problems such as how to cut up a rhino or carry water. Our
cleverness in this regard is usually presented as the triumph of intelligence
over an external environment whose very capriciousness is the stimulus for
selection to progress our technology.
Here I am arguing for something different and definitely less Cartesian in
its separation of mind from the body and people from the world. Material
culture was the evolutionary channel for the construction of relationships
with other hominins and, by association, with other objects. Its primary
role was to provide a metaphorical understanding of those relationships.
Building on the discussion of metaphor in Chapter 3, I will show how this
was achieved by ˜experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another™ (Lakoff
and Johnson 1980:5). Technological advances were an unintended conse-
quence of these metaphorical relationships (Chapter 7), where one of the
novelties was speech itself. The evolution of rhetorical devices brought
us not only bows and buildings but also arrows of desire and shelter from
the storm.
My central point is that devices such as metaphor, metonymy, synec-

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