Anthropology

American anthropology Petroglyphs in modern-day Gobustan, Azerbaijan, dating back to 10 000 BCE and indicating a thriving culture Although anthropologists worldwide refer to Tylor's definition of culture, in the 20th century "culture" emerged as the central and unifying concept of American anthropology, where it most commonly refers to the universal human capacity to classify and encode human experiences symbolically, and to communicate symbolically encoded experiences socially.[citation needed] American anthropology is organized into four fields, each of which plays an important role in research on culture: biological anthropology linguistic anthropology cultural anthropology archaeology Research in these fields has influenced anthropologists working in other countries to different degrees.[citation needed] [edit]Biological anthropology: the evolution of culture Discussion concerning culture among biological anthropologists centers around two debates. First, is culture uniquely human or shared by other species (most notably, other primates)? This is an important question, as the theory of evolution holds that humans are descended from (now extinct) non-human primates. Second, how did culture evolve among human beings? Gerald Weiss noted that although Tylor's classic definition of culture was restricted to humans, many anthropologists take this for granted and thus elide that important qualification from later definitions, merely equating culture with any learned behavior. This slippage is a problem because during the formative years of modern primatology, some primatologists were trained in anthropology (and understood that culture refers to learned behavior among humans), and others were not. Notable non-anthropologists, like Robert Yerkes and Jane Goodall thus argued that since chimpanzees have learned behaviors, they have culture.[12][13] Today, anthropological primatologists are divided, several arguing that non-human primates have culture, others arguing that they do not.[14][15][16][17] This scientific debate is complicated by ethical concerns. The subjects of primatology are non-human primates, and whatever culture these primates have is threatened by human activity. After reviewing the research on primate culture, W.C. McGrew concluded, "[a] discipline requires subjects, and most species of nonhuman primates are endangered by their human cousins. Ultimately, whatever its merit, cultural primatology must be committed to cultural survival [i.e. to the survival of primate cultures]."[18] McGrew suggests a definition of culture that he finds scientifically useful for studying primate culture. He points out that scientists do not have access to the subjective thoughts or knowledge of non-human primates. Thus, if culture is defined in terms of knowledge, then scientists are severely limited in their attempts to study primate culture. Instead of defining culture as a kind of knowledge, McGrew suggests that we view culture as a process. He lists six steps in the process:[18] A new pattern of behavior is invented, or an existing one is modified. The innovator transmits this pattern to another. The form of the pattern is consistent within and across performers, perhaps even in terms of recognizable stylistic features. The one who acquires the pattern retains the ability to perform it long after having acquired it. The pattern spreads across social units in a population. These social units may be families, clans, troops, or bands. The pattern endures across generations. McGrew admits that all six criteria may be strict, given the difficulties in observing primate behavior in the wild. But he also insists on the need to be as inclusive as possible, on the need for a definition of culture that "casts the net widely": Culture is considered to be group-specific behavior that is acquired, at least in part, from social influences. Here, group is considered to be the species-typical unit, whether it be a troop, lineage, subgroup, or so on. Prima facie evidence of culture comes from within-species but across-group variation in behavior, as when a pattern is persistent in one community of chimpanzees but is absent from another, or when different communities perform different versions of the same pattern. The suggestion of culture in action is stronger when the difference across the groups cannot be explained solely by ecological factors ....

As Charles Frederick Voegelin pointed out, if "culture" is reduced to "learned behavior," then all animals have culture.[20] Certainly all specialists agree that all primate species evidence common cognitive skills: knowledge of object-permanence, cognitive mapping, the ability to categorize objects, and creative problem solving.[21] Moreover, all primate species show evidence of shared social skills: they recognize members of their social group; they form direct relationships based on degrees of kinship and rank; they recognize third-party social relationships; they predict future behavior; and they cooperate in problem-solving.[21] Cast of the skeleton of Lucy, an Australopithecus afarensis One current view of the temporal and geographical distribution of hominid populations Nevertheless, the term "culture" applies to non-human animals only if we define culture as any or all learned behavior. Within mainstream physical anthropology, scholars tend to think that a more restrictive definition is necessary. These researchers are concerned with how human beings evolved to be different from other species. A more precise definition of culture, which excludes non-human social behavior, would allow physical anthropologists to study how humans evolved their unique capacity for "culture". Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes and Pan paniscus) are humans' (Homo sapiens) closest living relative; both are descended from a common ancestor which lived around five or six million years ago. This is the same amount of time it took for horses and zebras, lions and tigers to diverge from their respective common ancestors.[22] The evolution of modern humans is rapid: Australopithicenes evolved four million years ago and modern humans in past several hundred thousand years.[23] During this time humanity evolved three distinctive features: (a) the creation and use of conventional symbols, including linguistic symbols and their derivatives, such as written language and mathematical symbols and notations; (b) the creation and use of complex tools and other instrumental technologies; and (c) the creation and participation in complex social organization and institutions.[24] According to developmental psychologist Michael Tomasello, "where these complex and species-unique behavioral practices, and the cognitive skills that underlie them, came from" is a fundamental anthropological question. Given that contemporary humans and chimpanzees are far more different than horses and zebras, or rats and mice, and that the evolution of this great difference occurred in such a short period of time, "our search must be for some small difference that made a big difference some adaptation, or small set of adaptations, that changed the process of primate cognitive evolution in fundamental ways." According to Tomasello, the answer to this question must form the basis of a scientific definition of "human culture."[24] In a recent review of the major research on human and primate tool-use, communication, and learning strategies, Tomasello argues that the key human advances over primates (language, complex technologies, and complex social organization) are all the results of humans pooling cognitive resources. This is called "the ratchet effect:" innovations spread and are shared by a group, and mastered "by youngsters, which enables them to remain in their new and improved form within the group until something better comes along." The key point is that children are born good at a particular kind of social learning; this creates a favored environment for social innovations, making them more likely to be maintained and transmitted to new generations than individual innovations.[25] For Tomasello, human social learningthe kind of learning that distinguishes humans from other primates and that played a decisive role in human evolutionis based on two elements: first, what he calls "imitative learning," (as opposed to "emulative learning" characteristic of other primates) and second, the fact that humans represent their experiences symbolically (rather than iconically, as is characteristic of other primates). Together, these elements enable humans to be both inventive, and to preserve useful inventions. It is this combination that produces the ratchet effect. Chimpanzee mother and baby Chimpanzee extracting insects The Japanese Macaques at Jigokudani hotspring in Nagano The kind of learning found among other primates is "emulation learning," which "focuses on the environmental events involved results or changes of state in the environment that the other produced rather than on the actions that produced those results."[26][27][28] Tomasello emphasizes that emulation learning is a highly adaptive strategy for apes because it focuses on the effects of an act. In laboratory experiments, chimpanzees were shown two different ways for using a rake-like tool to obtain an out-of-reach-object. Both methods were effective, but one was more efficient than the other. Chimpanzees consistently emulated the more efficient method.[29] Examples of emulation learning are well documented among primates. Notable examples include Japanese macaque potato washing, Chimpanzee tool use, and Chimpanzee gestural communication. In 1953, an 18-month-old female macaque monkey was observed taking sandy pieces of sweet potato (given to the monkeys by observers) to a stream (and later, to the ocean) to wash off the sand. After three months, the same behavior was observed in her mother and two playmates, and then the playmates' mothers. Over the next two years seven other young macaques were observed washing their potatoes, and by the end of the third year 40% of the troop had adopted the practice.[30][31] Although this story is popularly represented as a straightforward example of human-like learning, evidence suggests that it is not. Many monkeys naturally brush sand off of food; this behavior had been observed in the macaque troop prior to the first observed washing. Moreover, potato washing was observed in four other separate macaque troops, suggesting that at least four other individual monkeys had learned to wash off sand on their own.[31] Other monkey species in captivity quickly learn to wash off their food.[32] Finally, the spread of learning among the Japanese macaques was fairly slow, and the rate at which new members of the troop learned did not keep pace with the growth of the troop. If the form of learning were imitation, the rate of learning should have been exponential. It is more likely that the monkeys' washing behavior is based on the common behavior of cleaning off food, and that monkeys that spent time by the water independently learned to wash, rather than wipe their food. This explains both why those monkeys that kept company with the original washer, and who thus spent a good deal of time by the water, also figured out how to wash their potatoes. It also explains why the rate at which this behavior spread was slow.[33] Chimpanzees exhibit a variety of population-specific tool use: termite-fishing, ant-fishing, ant-dipping, nut-cracking, and leaf-sponging. Gombe Chimpanzees fish for termites using small, thin sticks, but chimpanzees in Western Africa use large sticks to break holes in mounds and use their hands to scoop up termites. Some of this variation may be the result of "environmental shaping" (there is more rainfall in western Africa, softening termite mounds and making them easier to break apart, than in the Gombe reserve in eastern Africa. Nevertheless it is clear that chimpanzees are good at emulation learning. Chimpanzee children independently know how to roll over logs, and know how to eat insects. When children see their mothers rolling over logs to eat the insects beneath, they quickly learn to do the same. In other words, this form of learning builds on activities the children already know.