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date: 23 November 2017

Ethnographic Analogy in Archaeology: Methodological Insights from Southern Africa

Abstract and Keywords

Analogical arguments are central to and pervasive within archaeological discourse. Within these arguments, ethnographic analogies are often seen as being particularly problematic exercises in essentialism, which unthinkingly cast reified ethnographic schema back in time and thus perpetuate ideas about primitive indigenes, awaiting colonial contact to emerge from ahistorical primordial obscurity. The shadow of 19th-century social evolutionism, in which forager communities (not participating in agriculture and leading nomadic lifestyles) were represented as particularly primitive, has cast a pall of suspicion over ethnographic analogical models—especially as forager communities continue to feature prominently in such models to this day.

Archaeologists use ethnographic analogies in a variety of ways; these analogies are heuristic constructs tailored to research questions and to the stubbornness of particular suites of archaeological data. Such uses include inducing imaginative and revelatory modes of thinking about past societies, outside of the archaeologist’s usual experiences, as well as a suite of formal and relational analogies that seek to combine ethnographic data with data drawn from the physical sciences to help constrain archaeological interpretation.

Direct historical approaches utilize a collection of ethnographic and historical sources to construct analogies based on a relation of similarity between the communities of people involved; these frameworks, perhaps, carry the greatest danger of unwittingly casting modern populations as “contemporary primitives.” By emphasizing that source-side ethnographic datasets are heuristic tools rather than reflections of some sociocultural reality, such fears may (at least in part) be ameliorated. Saliently, archaeological data must operate as epistemologically equivalent to ethnographic data in order to resist the tendency to cast back a rich, textured ethnographic case study wholesale into the murky waters of prehistory. Only when this status is afforded archaeological data can is it possible to reveal the ways in which past conditions diverged from ethnographic ones.

Keywords: analogy, ethnography, archaeology, essentialism, hunter–gatherers, rock art

Analogy in Archaeology

Archaeology is fundamentally analogical: it may be little more than a truism to assert that all archaeological interpretation is, in fact, analogy.1 Analogical reasoning, therefore, has been pervasive in archaeological discourse since the discipline’s inception; ethnographic analogy, specifically, has often been characterized as a problematic and peculiarly archaeological way of thinking about the past. Any discussion of the methodologies and theoretical underpinnings of analogies in archaeology will perforce be highly selective, especially given that such analogies are a priori highly contingent: general analogies are frequently deployed as heuristic aids, tailored to particular research questions and concomitant bodies of data, while direct historical analogies are necessarily context-specific. Despite this variability, all ethnographic (and other) analogies deploy common reasoning processes and face similar ethical and intellectual problems, and examples drawn from one area are highly pertinent for understanding analogy in general. Their prevalence also ensures that there already exist many excellent reviews exploring the intellectual history of analogical reasoning in archaeology, which may be consulted for the details of further case studies. For Africa in particular, Paul Lane has extensively reviewed this history with respect to hunter–gatherer archaeology, farmer archaeology, and the archaeological imagination at regional and continental scales.2 Papers collected in Stephanie Wynne-Jones and Jeffrey Fleisher’s recent edited volume, Theory in Africa: Africa in Theory3 provide a useful overview of the current status of analogical reasoning in African archaeology throughout the continent. Ethnoarchaeology—a complex and multifaceted subfield within the discipline, founded on analogical principles and ethnographic data—has itself generated a vast literature, comprehensively discussed by Nicholas David and Carol Kramer in their volume, Ethnoarchaeology in Action.4 Within African archaeology, ethnoarchaeological approaches have been particularly well developed in West (especially Cameroon and Nigeria) and East Africa, with an increasing presence elsewhere; papers by Diane Lyons, Scott MacEachern, and Susan McIntosh5 all provide excellent reviews of these developments.

Archaeological practice entails a series of first-hand observations made in the present: the “archaeological record” in its multifarious manifestations, from isotopic analyses through sediment stratigraphy to landscape survey, and everything in between. The archaeologist makes inferences about a past that cannot be observed directly, or independently of these contemporary traces, which are encountered in and created by contemporary research—but which, nonetheless, form the backdrop against which such inferences must be tested. It is here that analogies play a central role. Equally central is the concern that such analogies risk affirming the consequent, identifying links between material culture and human behavior that can only be tested against the (hypothesized) results of these links.6

In brief, an analogy compares two objects, or systems of objects, based on qualities believed to be similar in each case. An analogical argument uses these specifiable similarities to suggest further, less obvious, correspondences: in archaeology. This usually entails working from a (better) known, observable case, to the relative uncertainties of the archaeological record. Such arguments are inductive: the conclusions do not follow necessarily from the premises but must be judged on the relevance of the similarities. Analogies cannot, therefore, offer proofs but must be judged according to their strengths: the ability to specify and critique these judgments is crucial in debates surrounding the use of analogy in archaeology.

At their simplest, analogical arguments take the following formal structure7:

  1. 1. A is similar to B in a known, observable, and specifiable fashion.

  2. 2. A has a further quality or attribute, C.

  3. 3. B, therefore, also possesses C (or a trait similar to it, C*).

Here, A represents the source (or source-side) of the analogy, and B the subject (subject-side). Creating the analogical argument requires mapping the A domain (all the traits and relationships that constitute it) against that of B—a highly selective process that nonetheless incorporates both similarity and difference. Indeed, without a relation of difference, there can be no analogical arguments: the two cases would be identical. The argument thus holds that its conclusions are plausible because of known similarities and despite known differences.

Through use of this simple argument structure, analogical archaeological frameworks can be seen to differ mainly in terms of (1) their source-side domains and (2) their arguments for plausibility. Ethnographic analogies are constructed on the basis of a similar range of source domains (i.e., ethnographic data) and on the basis of a number of different arguments for plausibility: most saliently, those based on formal and relational links, as well as direct-historical approaches.

Uniformitarianism and Social Evolutionism

The use of ethnographic analogy to understand human pasts began long before archaeology emerged as an academic discipline, as colonial encounters with non-Western indigenes around the world provided the inspiration for European scholars who were just beginning to recognize and grapple with long-term European prehistory.8 Archaeology is also not the only discipline that works from contemporary traces to unobservable past processes: geology and palaeontology share with archaeology an intellectual history that leans heavily upon analogical reasoning.9 Archaeological analogy, then, draws from both nascent precursors and sister sciences.

Uniformitarian principles represent some of the most pervasive forms of analogical reasoning. In their broadest sense, they postulate that natural laws operate in the same way in all times and places; an assumption that underpins much scientific endeavor in general. Without it, it is difficult to imagine how the past might be investigated at all, and this assumption is therefore implicit in much archaeological work. When obtaining radiocarbon dates, for example, the archaeologist assumes that physical and chemical laws and processes reflected in the half-life for the radioactive decay of unstable carbon-14 to stable carbon-12, as observed today, represent good analogies for these processes (and therefore the rate of decay) over time.10 The mass of trivialities generated in such uniformitarian assumptions—that fires required fuel, that rocks broke in particular ways when hit, that the sun rose in the east—points to the fundamentally analogical nature of much knowledge about the past, being no different in logical structure than arguments founded on ethnographic sources.

Other forms of uniformitarian thinking derive from geological principles: Charles Lyell’s (1797–1875) uniformitarianism suggested that present geological formations should be understood as the long-term results of ongoing geological processes.11 By studying these processes, it was possible to gain an analogical appreciation for the environmental and geomorphological dynamics that generated geological sequences in particular areas. This doctrine was formulated against the doctrines of catastrophism (the idea that geological sequences incorporated swift “catastrophic” changes) and was explicitly gradualist in nature, emphasizing the slow and steady ebb and flow of processes. Issues of catastrophism versus uniformitarianism have exerted a substantial influence on archaeological thought; this is particularly evident where long-term human history has been characterized as a series of disjunctive (or “catastrophic”) moments. This concept has a long pedigree in archaeological discourse as, for example, refracted through Marxist political theory into the Neolithic and Urban “Revolutions” (representing the development of farming societies and the emergence of state-level political organizations, respectively) of early 20th-century archaeological interpretation.12 Disjunctive idioms continue to play an important role in archaeology:13 one of the most significant contemporary manifestations is that often termed the “human symbolic” revolution, which is used denote the moment when anatomically modern Homo sapiens supposedly becomes (archaeologically) discernibly “modern” in its behavior and capacity for culture. Africa, as the continent on which our species evolved, sits at the forefront of these debates.14 Recent social science paradigms that bestow upon human agency a geological significance, in defining a contemporary “Anthropocene,”15 also sit squarely in this mode.

The analogical implications of catastrophic or revolutionary paradigms are obvious: if geological, archaeological, or historical narratives incorporate multiple dramatic transformative changes, the chances of finding good contemporary analogues for past conditions diminishes—increasingly so as one moves further back in time. Arising in the later 19th century, social evolutionism held that societies were supposed to undergo a sequence of progressive revolutions that manifested in particular practices (farming, living in cities). People who did not pursue these practices or possess their attendant material cultures became the most appropriate analogues for “prerevolutionary” pasts. These absences thus became construed as a lack, a sign that a society had remained in stasis rather than moving along a supposedly universal track; “barbarous tribes” doomed to the repetitive stagnation of “unrewarding gyrations,” in the now-infamous phrase with which the historian Hugh Trevor-Roper characterized African history.16 These peoples were cast as contemporary primitives whose lifeways would illume the pasts of a modern “revolutionized” Europe—the most appropriate “source-side” ethnographic domains.

Other Times, Other Countries

The House of the Tragic Poet in Pompeii possesses a striking vestibule: as one approaches, a stark black and white mosaic of a fearsome, snarling chained dog comes into view, beneath which run the words Cave Canem.17 Surely, this dramatic entranceway was imbued with all manner of deep signification—laden with apotropaic magic to frighten off evil influences, perhaps. When the message is translated, glossed as “Beware of the Dog,” altogether more prosaic interpretations no doubt spring to mind. Walking into one of the many peristyle gardens of the city, all seems familiar: a bit of digging might reveal ollae perforatae, plant pots with drainage holes pre-made before firing18—the very models for those that may be found today in any garden center. With a bit more digging, however, it might also be possible to turn up fragments of burnt stone pine, dates, and figs, offerings to the lares familiares seen depicted as bearded snakes in Pompeian wall frescoes.19 Propitiatory offerings for tutelary deities are seldom to be found in your common hardware store.

Pompeii’s Roman setting sits firmly with the Classical civilizations to which Europeans have long imagined themselves heirs: it is therefore not particularly surprising that the imagined Pompeii acquires a familiarizing aura in popular discourse, as a city of street-side tavernas, scatological and political graffiti, and sophisticated drainage systems.20 Pompeii is an unusual archaeological site, not only for the circumstances of its extraordinary preservation, but also for this ability to encompass these familiarizing narratives. For it is far more common that the archaeological past is indeed a foreign country, where things are done quite differently,21 and ethnographic analogy is often implicated in this distancing process.

For studies focusing on human attitudes and behaviors in the past, studies of contemporary humans present natural logical starting points. This is not always the case: when considering the archaeological traces of early hominids and hominins, for example, scholars often turn to the nonhuman primates, or even to nonprimate carnivores.22 With a bit of interdisciplinary jostling and a soupçon of sophistry, it might be possible to describe as ethnographic any “human-oriented” study—whether historical, sociological, economic, or so on—and thus, by extension, any analogy drawn from them. In practice, however, and to avoid attracting the ire of our social scientist relatives, only certain kinds of contemporary work can be said to receive the appellation “ethnographic.” This delineation largely replicates the loci classici of anthropological fieldwork: observations made on a local, personal scale, among predominantly non-Western, rural societies engaged in supposedly “traditional” lifeways (often defined by their subsistence practices). Without too much rhetorical exaggeration, then, ethnographic analogies are thus characterized as those drawing on data from groups and practices documented “in ethnographies” or “by ethnographers.”

The Analogical Hunter–Gatherer

Groups of people who do not practice cultivation or livestock herding, and who are not organized politically into hierarchical states, have traditionally been disproportionately represented within source-side domains, exerting a considerable force on social science theorizing.23 Building on a pervasive dichotomy that contrasts people as beings driven by their instinctual natures with an image of humanity as defined by custom and culture, “wild men” have long lurked at the fringes of Western popular consciousness. From the satyrs, fauns, and centaurs of Classical Greek and Roman mythology, through medieval legends of woodwoses and ascetic holy men living in the wilderness, to contemporary folk beliefs in cryptic hominoids, the notion of the “wild man” has simultaneously united and contrasted discourses surrounding the nature of barbarism and civilization, passion and reason, human and animal. From around the 16th century onward, processes of colonial encounter and settlement expanded European knowledge about the wider world and brought increasingly close contacts between European and a range of indigenous societies. As these contacts diminished, the space available for the feral grotesques—the blemmyae, cynocephali, sciopods, and others—of medieval bestiaries and intellectual traditions, these discourses were coopted and altered to provide a conceptual framework for understanding a swiftly-growing field of human diversity—including an increasing appreciation for the scope of human prehistory.

Among this variation and drawing heavily on tropes cognate to those delimiting the “wild men,” the category of the hunter–gatherer came to function as a key feature of Western epistemology. Refracted through the dialogues of Enlightenment philosophers and political theorists, drawn into the debates surrounding 19th-century social evolutionism, and playing a key role in ecological and environmental concerns in the later 20th century, foragers have acted as a salient foil in Western thought for centuries. Over this period, they have been subject to a bewildering array of representations, as each successive generation has reacted to and built upon an ever-expanding suite of stereotyped imagery: prelapsarian innocents, noble savages, rapacious despoilers, “Stone Age” men, eternal children, protocommunists, peaceful egalitarians, natural scientists, ecological stewards, and more. These representations impart an imaginative impetus intrinsically bound up with analogical appeal; imaginings so persuasive that they have, as Paul Lane has pointed out,24 shaped an intellectual process that construes communities living in arid southcentral Africa, thoroughly embedded in social and economic relations with white settler colonists and Bantu-speaking farmers, and members of (first) a colonial and (later) a postcolonial state, as appropriate analogues for Ice Age foragers in northern Europe, tens of millennia ago.

In southern African anthropology, concerns about the representation of hunter–gatherers and the ways in which this has shaped their use in source-side analogical domains emerged prominently in the so-called Kalahari Debate, crystallizing around Edwin Wilmsen’s premise that many of the sociocultural traits associated with Kalahari Bushman (San) foragers were contingent on their incorporation as a low-status impoverished community within a wider network of relationships with black and white farmers.25 This revisionist debate reacted against the earlier work of the Harvard Kalahari Research Group26 and has produced a vast (and often acrimonious) literature.27 it criticized the deployment of Kalahari ethnography within evolutionary frameworks as (at least relatively) isolated, coherent social units with subsistence strategies that reflected long periods of stable co-adaption with their local environments. While these revisionist analyses have themselves received substantial critical attention on empirical and interpretative grounds,28 they at least directed attention to the fact that variability in Kalahari forager communities extended beyond NyaeNyae and Dobe Juǀ'hoansi communities.29 They also suggested the necessity of constructing detailed histories of hunter–gatherer communities when attempting to draw wider inferences from their study.

“Primordialist” tendencies, however, remain a persistent trope in archaeological representations of southern African foragers. Recent archaeological work at the site of Border Cave, for example, has uncovered traces of technological innovations emerging from around 44 000 years bp, which have been published as “early evidence” for San (Bushman) material culture.30 Here, a suite of material cultural traits is portrayed as emblematic of Bushman identity; wooden digging sticks, arrow poisons, and notched counting sticks. The authors particularly emphasize the archaeological presence of bone points “similar to those used by San as arrowheads” and decorated in a manner that “parallels . . . marks that San make to identify their arrowheads when hunting.”31 Justin Pargeter and colleagues32 have criticized this identification, applying more general formal analogical comparisons (e.g., in introducing morphometric data derived from non-Bushman bone points) in order to question whether presenting these technological changes as the result of long-term continuities in “Pleistocene San” identity is a useful characterization of the material cultural record.

Unknown Unknowns

In February 2002, Donald H. Rumsfeld, the then-Secretary of Defense of the United States, gave a speech at a Department of Defense news briefing in which he famously divided the result of intelligence work into three categories: known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns. This tripartite division is thoroughly applicable to analogical argumentation in archaeology: known knowns reflect our source-side domains, and known unknowns the subject-side domain represented by the archaeological record. Continuing this terminology, the “unknown unknowns” embody the worry “not just that analogy is fallible but that it may systematically limit what can be learned of the past.”33

For all its diversity, the ethnographic record in its entirety captures only a fraction of possible human experience—moreover, a fraction that may be systematically biased. Put another way, the notion that analogies may limit the archaeological imagination reflects a particularly stringent application of the concept of relevancy. In essence, it argues that no source-side domains exist that possess a relevant relation of similarity to the archaeological case, and thus no possible analogical comparisons are warranted. This is the fear that Martin Wobst famously referred to when describing the “tyranny” of ethnography,34 and it articulates a logical corollary of emphasizing the necessity of contextualization in understanding ethnographic data. If understanding particular historical moments inevitably necessitates appreciating all the multifarious contingencies that shape these moments, the bases for any wider comparison are called into question. For a discipline that cannot directly observe its source material—and that therefore requires analogical comparison—this is clearly problematic.

These issues are especially pronounced where the disjunction between past and present, subject and source, appears marked, echoing the difficulties attendant on “revolutionary” thinking with respect to constructing analogies. Similar problems arise from many kinds of dichotomous argumentation: common examples include arguments that posit the precolonial/colonial moment as peculiarly disruptive, or which emphasize contrasts between tradition and modernity (or indeed, colonial-to-postcolonial- or modern-to-postmodern). As the passage of time at least permits (though does not cause) change, these disjunctions become especially evident when discussing archaeological traces in “deep time,” such as those preserved in Palaeolithic or Middle Stone Age sites. In these contexts, the archaeological record crosscuts considerable amounts of environmental, ecological, and climatic change: Ice Ages, sea-level changes, ecological succession, and faunal extinctions (or extirpations). Because these factors are highly significant on a human scale, it is vital to consider the extent to which there are good contemporary analogies for understanding the settings in which Pleistocene hominins operated; where might one look for appropriate comparisons with the megafauna-rich grasslands of Ice Age Europe or the now submerged coastal forelands of the Southern Cape in South Africa?

Implicit and Explicit

Though analogical reasoning has been a dominant facet of the social sciences since their inception, it underwent a particularly intense period of review and revision throughout the mid- to later decades of the 20th century.35 In archaeological terms, this change manifested initially as an attempt to bring increasing scientific rigor to the discipline, particularly in the work of proponents of the so-called New Archaeology (processual archaeology). A central concern of their positivist and empiricist critiques of ethnographic analogy was the belief that it imposed upon an ideal form of theoretically pure data. The concept of data unmediated by theoretical interventions is itself highly problematic—the “objective” paradigms advocated in such critiques are alternatively (rather than less) theoretically laden than those proposed in ethnographic models.36 Nonetheless, these concerns direct attention to an important caveat on the use of ethnographic analogy: the need to explicate source-side domains.

In 1948, the Abbé Henri Breuil—at the time a premier authority on European Palaeolithic rock art—published an article37 describing a now-famous scene of Namibian rock art, the so-called White Lady rock art panel of the Brandberg (Fig. 1). In this article, the Abbé carefully documented the physical and material cultural attributes of its painted figures with an eye to establishing their non-southern African origins: “a ship’s company of foreigners . . . and an artistic gift, inspired probably by these [Egyptian and Minoan] civilisations.”38 In part, this involved an explicit formal analogy: the Abbé compared stylistic features from his unknown case (the White Lady Panel) with that of known cases (Minoan and Egyptian friezes) and concluded on the basis of perceived similarities (hairstyles, details of costume) that the unknown case must have shared another, unobservable, feature (authorship) with the known. Breuil’s article also contains several analogical assumptions that are left implicit. During the time period in which Breuil was writing, many such assumptions went unacknowledged in southern African forager rock art interpretation.39

Ethnographic Analogy in Archaeology: Methodological Insights from Southern AfricaClick to view larger

Figure 1. Breuil’s Copy of the So-Called White Lady of the Brandberg.

Image Courtesy of SARADA.

One of the most significant of these assumptions remains embedded in our terminology today: the notion that “art” reflects a universal category of human behavior. From being left unacknowledged, it is but a small step to narratives of universality and “naturalness,” leaving these implicit analogies to be portrayed as more parsimonious (requiring fewer assumptions) than those in which source-side domains are made more explicit. For many early 20th-century scholars, the assumption of the naturalness of the “art” category was sufficient in and of itself to explain the presence of practices that could—self-evidently—be described as “artistic.” This issue was perhaps particularly emphasized in southern Africa, where several rock art traits (such as countershading and naturalism) overlapped with those of western European “fine” art traditions. Art pour l’art (or art for art’s sake) explanations used these 19th- and 20th-century European traditions as a source of analogies for understanding rock paintings; suggesting that art was an extraneous pastime of idle moments, executed for enjoyment or approbation through the display of virtuoso skill. In the case of Breuil’s article, implicit assumptions deriving from his characterization of the panel as “art” include those of realism (that the painters were attempting to realistically depict actual hairstyles and costumes), those of literalism (that the painters were “recording” an event), and those centering on the relationship between art and civilization (and the supposed lack of the latter among indigenous African populations of the region).

General Comparative Analogies

General comparative analogies form a useful bridge between ethnographic and other types of archaeological analogy, as they can be constructed on the basis of any number of formal traits—which may be (but are not necessarily) derived from ethnographic data. Formal analogies are based on a simple (often single) correspondence in a particular feature (form), shared by source and subject, which is used to extend the source-side material to the prehistoric past.40 It is typically difficult to make a compelling case for relevance on the basis of single attributes, except in domains that deal with laws formulated by the physical sciences: studies of lithic reduction sequences can reasonably assume that—based on the shared formal characteristic of raw material—certain constraints will have applied in past stone tool manufacture. Quartz will always shatter according to particular principles, which differ from those governing the fracturing of hornfels; these, in turn, affect the kinds of tools that can be produced from these raw materials, and the technical skills required to undertake this production.

Many simple formal analogies revolve around attempts to securely identify the function of particular material cultural remains and thus inevitably involve an ethnographic analogical component—even if the source-side ethnography is simply drawn implicitly from the archaeologist’s own experience. Such analogies are unavoidably embedded in archaeological terminology at a variety of scales, encompassing everything from pots to palaces. In some cases, this terminology is used merely as a convenience; whatever their actual function, it is unlikely that Palaeolithic hand-axes were used primarily to split wood. In other cases, the desire to have archaeological terminology reflect likely functions has spurred a good deal of experimental replication work, molecular analyses, and use-wear studies, as with discussions of Middle Stone Age projectile and spear technologies throughout Africa.41

Ethnographically inspired imagination, too, plays an important role here. No archaeologist is likely to be familiar with the entire range of practices for which they might excavate traces; ethnographic data can act as a check on the belief that material culture can only have acted in the ways with which the archaeologist is familiar. Ostrich breastbones are obviously food waste deposits—until one reads ethnographic accounts of their use as dining utensils.42 Such analogies do not depend on privileged connections between the people involved in either domain of the comparison: the material traces themselves constitute the initial relation of similarity. Knowing that some people have used a particular artifact in a certain way is enough to suggest the possibility that those in the unknown archaeological case did so. This is equally true whether the former represent the likely descendants of the latter, or whether thousands of years and miles separate them.

Thus, these data serve to introduce not only rigor, but also increased uncertainty, into archaeological explanations: where once it was a priori “known” that a pile of ostrich bones represented food processing and consumption, now it might also (or instead) reflect the dumping of a broken utensil. In consequence, ethnographic analogies of this type are most useful to the archaeologist when they suggest further possibilities for testing which of the myriad potential explanations is most appropriate. An ostrich breastbone used as a dish might require specific functional modifications that leave distinctive material traces, or preserve molecular evidence for the food that was served upon it; a breastbone discarded while processing a carcass might show traces of particular patterns of excarnation and breakage. Developing tools to detect these patterns is the job of experimental archaeology, including many kinds of ethnoarchaeology.

“New Archaeological” critiques highlighted the fact that earlier instances of analogical reasoning tended to assume what needed to be demonstrated: in the parlance of analogical argumentation, they were insufficiently rigorous in determining the relevance of their relations of similarity. Therefore, a large part of the energies devoted by the New Archaeologists to rehabilitating ethnographic analogy for use in scientific archaeology was centered on developing increasingly rigorous techniques for establishing these relations: this swiftly expanded into the subdiscipline of ethnoarchaeology.43 This represents a particular form of ethnographic study tailored to answering archaeological questions; it focuses predominantly on material culture (or the material traces produced by human behavior); and it aims specifically to produce insights that will be of use when encountering the archaeological record. Unlike many other kinds of ethnographic analogy (as used by archaeologists), it is usually based in primary ethnographic fieldwork.

One of its most significant components is middle-range theory, which links uniformitarianism and ethnographic analogy in attempts to relate the traces encountered in archaeological research to the processes that shaped them—especially those dealing with site formation and taphonomy. Middle-range theory is most firmly associated with the work of Lewis Binford,44 but it also finds resonance with John Yellen’s research on settlement structure, faunal exploitation, carcass processing, and other elements of site spatial patterning among the Kalahari Juǀ'hoansi45 and Richard Gould’s work with Aboriginal Australians.46 Another distinct facet of ethnoarchaeology developed from the work of the postprocessualists, drawing on “material cultural theory.”47 Once again, Africa looms large in this development, as the case studies in its seminal text48 are drawn largely from a range of (primarily East) African contexts, with chapters on the Dorobo, Samburu, Lozi, Nuba, and Baringo. As with other ethnoarchaeological approaches, this work, undertaken by Ian Hodder, his colleagues, and students, represents anthropological fieldwork designed to interrogate a particularly archaeological problem—in this case, whether material culture signatures “reflect” society. Hodder’s findings—that material culture may take an active role in strategies that distort and mask sociopolitical relations—pointed to a series of complexities with which archaeological theory continues to grapple. Polly Wiessner’s work on the factors affecting stylistic variation in Kalahari Bushman arrows provides another example of this approach.49

Formal analogies exist in a continuum with more complex relational analogies50 that deploy comparisons looking to the connections between attributes—that is, whether there exist causal connections between the various attributes chosen for comparison. These relational domains introduce a wider range of parameters (such as ecological zone or technological constraints) that may help constrain potential interpretations and thus strengthen arguments for the relevancy of the source-side ethnographic data. One of the most common of these domains is socioeconomics, which affords a number of these useful independent constraining factors: the demands of soil, clime, and sustenance of species important in subsistence practices; technological mediations in energy transfer (manpower versus animal traction, for example); the demographic implications of surplus production; and so on. The search for recurrent patterns in the co-variation of these social, political, economic, environmental, and other factors in shaping these domains constitutes the foundation of behavioral ecological approaches to thinking about hunter–gatherer diversity,51 which grew to dominate later 20th-century conceptions of hunter–gatherer variability; Binford’s continuum between “foragers” and “collectors”;52 Woodburn’s identification of immediate- and delayed-return hunter–gatherers;53 and the range of approaches that looked to the spectrum of “complexity” in forager societies.54

A metric often used to argue for relevancy in analogies of this type is simple frequency of occurrence, or the tendency toward “cross-cultural uniformity.” Unlike direct historical arguments, which are perforce limited to particular ethnographic examples, formal analogies can encompass a far greater range of case studies. This range is determined by the trait(s) used to formulate the comparison and by the researcher’s explicit formulation of their source-side domain. Many peoples hunt and/or gather food from wild sources: in arguing for the inclusion or exclusion of case studies when considering “hunter–gatherer diversity,” archaeologists are forced to confront a series of questions addressing their analogical assumptions. Is hunting for subsistence more relevant than commercial or recreational hunting? Is the type of technology (guns, nets, bows) used important? Do the physiology and behavior of the hunted species matter? And so on. By amassing large quantities of data from a disparate set of case studies, the archaeologist can argue for greater or lesser degrees of support for extending the analogy to their unknown case(s). If a particular feature or relationship is shown to be present in every single ethnographically known group included in the source-side set, for example, then an analogy that extends this feature to a member of an analogical subject-side set (in the archaeological past) may be said to be stronger than one that extends a feature known only from very few of the source-side groups.

Several problems remain, however. The strength of these models depends on demonstrating the wide (ideally, universal) applicability of their insights: general comparative analogies must avoid the danger of transforming specifics into universals. However, the more cases that are drawn into the analysis (strengthening the analogy), the more likely it is that particularities will have to be excluded: while this does not necessarily present a logical problem, it does mean that insights derived from this strategy are likely to be very generalized. Another issue faced by general comparative models that rely on ethnographic data is one faced by all ethnographically derived models: even the most diverse set of case studies cannot escape the “tyranny” of the ethnographic record.


Although they may be used in combination, direct-historical arguments are relatively distinct from formal and relational analogies: some scholars, in fact, describe them as homologies rather than analogies.55 This opposition is drawn from biology, founded on evolutionary principles pertaining to genetic inheritance and the modification of features over time, in accordance with selection pressures. One term describes structures derived from a common ancestor (homologies), and the other describes the independent results of convergent evolution (analogies): bat and bird forelimbs display analogous innovations (wings) that imply no lineal relationship, while homologies in their limb skeletal elements reveal shared tetrapod ancestry.56 When evaluating homology versus analogy in evolutionary biology, not all traits are created equal, as selection pressures exert variable influences on particular structures: unrelated groups of mammals, both placental (nimravids, felids) and marsupial (thylacosmilids), have repeatedly converged upon sabre-tooth dentition.57 Other characters are markedly conservative: middle ear bones reveal that proboscidians and sirenians share ancestry, despite their now-widely diverging lifestyles.58 Simply put, traits oriented toward external pressures (foraging strategies, modes of locomotion, and so on) have the greatest tendencies toward convergence (analogy), creating a set of recurring “ecomorphic” bauplans.59

In archaeological cases, however, things are rarely clear-cut—primarily because it is far from obvious which specific observed material traces reflect “vertical” transmission through time, in situations where there are also many mechanisms for “horizontal” transmissions across space. Fundamentally, direct historical analogies use particular ethnographies (or suites of ethnographies) to inform on particular assemblages of archaeological data, justifying privileging the former by establishing its connections and continuities with the latter: the primary relation of similarity is in the community producing the two analogical domains. Most cautiously, such a relation does not imply a causal relationship (i.e., that such a feature was present because a group was antecedent to the ethnographic case studies), but rather indicates that unobserved traits are plausible in light of the source-side ethnographies.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, direct historical approaches to constructing ethnographic analogies occasion a substantial overlap with historical research. The source-side domains of direct historical analogies unite disparate suites of documents: ethnographic monographs written by contemporary anthropologists; observations by earlier anthropologists; accounts by colonial travelers, administrators, and other literate historical observers; oral histories collected today or recorded in historical documents. Each of these facets requires detailed historical contextualization if it is to strengthen the links between source- and subject-sides of the analogy.60 Paul Lane, for example, criticizes Tom Huffman’s use of Shona ethnography as a case study for understanding cattle bride-wealth practices in primarily agriculturalist prehistoric settings, without also examining the impacts of the introduction of a cash economy, wage labor, and ploughs in the late 19th century on Shona practices.61

The potential for direct historical analogies to impose reified ethnographic frameworks represents a significant caution on their use; being designed to detect continuity, they may end up unduly emphasizing it. As ethnographic and historical texts are, for many research questions, inevitably “richer” in relevant detail than a fragmentary and stubbornly “opaque” archaeological record, the source-side documentation can quickly become overwhelmingly tyrannical. Connections between source and subject, once established, become a license to transfer the source wholesale back in time: the archaeological case study ceases to be analogical to the historical or contemporary case and instead becomes identical to it. When done well, however, the process is a dialogical one, in which archaeological data always have the potential to escape the bounds imposed by the analogy. This point cannot be stressed strongly enough: it insists that archaeological data are epistemologically equivalent to those derived from other sources.

As direct historical analogies are founded upon authorship, a key step in constructing them lies in establishing a community or set of communities to which authorship is attributed, thus defining the suite of ethnographic data that will constitute the source-side domain. Often, and especially in earlier uses, this is couched in terms of spatial distributions, founded on the assumption that (all things being equal) it is important to look first to ethnographic data from communities living in the same geographical area as the archaeological sites in question. Gertrude Caton-Thompson’s excavations at Great Zimbabwe in the late 1920s, for example, drew upon her observations among local Shona communities when developing her conclusion that the ruins were the product of a “native civilisation.”62 Significantly, however, as analytical and heuristic tools, these analogical “communities” need not necessarily correspond with particular contemporary or historical groups as defined in emic discourse, and membership of these “analogical” communities varies according to the criteria used to delineate them.

As is typical for analogical arguments, direct historical approaches hold that specific further similarities are plausible in light of specific continuities—despite the (inevitable) differences accruing between communities separated by time and/or space. This observation stresses the fact that the researcher aims to elucidate specific issues when producing an analogy. One of the most famous examples of direct historical ethnographic analogy developed for African archaeology is the so-called shamanistic or trance hypothesis for interpreting a variety of southern African rock arts, most firmly associated with the work of J. David Lewis-Williams and colleagues.63 Ann Brower Stahl’s work in the Banda area of Ghana provides another excellent case study through which to explore direct historical and related approaches, providing nuanced discussions that stress the need to focus on apparent contradictions between ethnographic and archaeological (and historical) data to avoid overemphasizing similarities between source- and subject-side domains.64

When constructing the shamanistic interpretative framework, proponents argue, it is not necessary to a priori exclude Gǀui and Gǁana Bushmen of the Central Kalahari on the grounds that since the middle decades of the 20th century, they have taken up goat herding and hunting from horseback.65 Such developments may be highly significant in determining the time they spend hunting or their prey choices; they may not, however, necessarily have had the same impacts on their ritual and religious practices. Therefore, this is not to argue that these Central Kalahari groups are privileged in light of a transcendent “Bushman-ness” that has been passed down unchanged over time, but rather that specific elements of ethnographic data drawn from them have applicability in interpretation, when juxtaposed with particular archaeological data, research agendas, and (perhaps) other ethnographies.

The suite of groups designated as the “Bushman community” varies considerably, depending on whether genetic, linguistic, economic, or some other criteria are used to define it. Genetically, such a group might include large numbers of Afrikaans, SeSotho, or isiZulu speakers, who would be excluded if linguistic definitions were sought.66 A prominent series of debates in southern African rock art studies since the mid-1990s67 has argued that—for the painted rock art of the southeastern mountains of the subcontinent—it is permissible and useful, in light of long trajectories of interactions between Bushmen and Bantu-speaking farmers in the region, to expand the repertoire of ethnographic sources used in the interpretation of imagery to include elements drawn from the testimonies of speakers of Sotho and Nguni languages. Pieter Jolly, for example, has highlighted rock art depictions of clothing and ritual paraphernalia to argue for continuity between contemporary ritual practitioners in the Maloti-Drakensberg and the makers of the rock art imagery. Sam Challis has gone further. He argues that—for a particular colonial-period corpus of paintings from the region—the motifs chosen by the artists (especially baboons and their associations with mounted cattle-raiders) show such overlap with beliefs recorded in a disparate set of Khoekhoe, Bushman, Bastaard, and Bantu-speaker ethnographic data that it is possible to speak of a novel creolization around a complex of beliefs shared among diverse Maloti-Drakensberg communities.68

In creating a direct historical source-side domain, then, the archaeologist assembles a corpus of evidence, whether in selecting particular sources pertaining to an individual “society” or group or in creating a bricolage from a diverse suite of ethnographies. The shamanistic framework provides an apt illustration of this assemblage process: a series of papers debate whether practices comparable to the “trance dances” recorded by anthropologists working with Kalahari Bushmen were present among more southerly forager communities in the 18th and 19th centuries.69 These papers explore whether the “shamanic” ritual specialists of the Kalahari had their counterparts in the south70 and reveal similarities in eland hunting rituals in both areas.71 The detailed iconography foreclosed by the subject-side rock art domain facilitates its standing as an independent source. Perhaps the best evidence for “trance dance” practices in the Maloti-Drakensberg Mountains comes not from heavily mediated snippets of historical texts extracted from missionary accounts that refer to Bushman “dances of blood,”72 but from rock art depictions of the practice (Figs. 2 and 3).73

Ethnographic Analogy in Archaeology: Methodological Insights from Southern AfricaClick to view larger

Figure 2. Southern Bushman (San) Rock Paintings of “Dance” Scenes.

Photo by Author.

Ethnographic Analogy in Archaeology: Methodological Insights from Southern AfricaClick to view larger

Figure 3. Southern Bushman (San) Rock Paintings of “Dance” Scenes.

Image Courtesy of SARADA.

The iconographical complexity of its subject-side domain helps the shamanistic model avoid the danger of what Peter Garlake evocatively described as “playing futile games of ‘ethnographic snap,’”74 identifying a single compelling material culture “hook” on the subject side on which to hang a large amount of source-side data. In the late 1980s, southern African archaeological scholarship, through an increasing desire to ask “people-to-people” (rather than people-to-environment) questions about Later Stone Age (LSA) prehistory, saw a surge in the use of ethnographic data. As part of this expansion, both Lyn Wadley and Aron Mazel turned to models of reciprocal gift exchange (hxaro)75 derived from ethnographies of the Kalahari Juǀ'hoansi. They discussed the ramifications of certain items of material culture (particularly ostrich eggshell beads) as indices of social and economic relationships, and as suggestive of the practices of aggregation and dispersal that accompany Juǀ'hoan hxaro exchange. However, when the ethnographic dataset on reciprocal gift exchange in southern Africa is expanded, it becomes apparent that such exchanges were widespread among both southern African “Khoisan” pastoralists and foragers, and occurred in diverse forms: hxaro among the Juǀ’hoansi, ǁai among the Nharo, ma!khunigus among the Damara, and soregus among the Nama76—arguably even the maat relationships obtaining between colonial Griqua and BaTlhaping.77 Any attempt to link particular forms of exchange with particular social and political regimes (such as egalitarianism) must therefore account for this diversity, and if it is to be useful archaeologically, it needs to be linked to some materially recoverable evidence. Expanding further, various forms of reciprocal and nonreciprocal exchange are differentiated according to the materials involved. Furthermore, such exchange systems were not ubiquitous: Central Kalahari Bushman communities at Kutse, for example, did not participate in hxaro-like exchange networks,78 though meat and tobacco sharing and long-term loans of possessions occurred within sharing “cliques.” Arguments that particular forms of material culture (ostrich eggshell beads, arrow armatures) reflect specific forms of exchange practice therefore need to contend with the argument that similar exchange systems may utilize very different items, while differentiated systems can be based on the same material goods.79

The development of the shamanistic framework also furnishes a good example of how formal and direct historical analogies may be combined and how analogies may prove an impetus to further research. In the late 1980s, formal analogical neuropsychological components80 were added to the model, suggesting that—as anatomically modern humans—LSA painters and engravers would have possessed the same brain chemistries and physiologies as those present in contemporary human populations. As altered states of consciousness derive from this brain chemistry, by looking for correlates of these physiological states (e.g., entoptic patterns, references to somatic and other hallucinatory imagery) in the rock art and in ethnographic data relating to shamanic activities (i.e., trance experiences), this formal analogy is tied to direct historical frameworks as an independent strand of evidence. Incidentally, it is through this formal analogical “tacking”81 that the shamanistic model came to be applied to European Palaeolithic rock art (on the basis that Palaeolithic painters, too, were anatomically modern),82 though (lacking its direct historical foundation) the argument for relevancy is here correspondingly weakened. The effects of this weakened connection can easily be detected in the specificity of the interpretations forwarded for each archaeological case. In southern Africa, it is possible to explore in detail the body postures and material culture that index particular sociocultural practices, and the specific ideas the painters aimed to invoke by delineating particular animal species.83 For Palaeolithic caves, however, such specificity is lost, and it is not possible to speak to the complex network of social and cultural associations within which the bison, horses, cervids, and other megafauna depicted on cave walls were presumably situated.84


Archaeology is a fervently (maybe even fervidly) imaginative—and imagined—field, both in its practice and subject matter85: full of lost civilizations, monuments to primal religions, and people killing each other in gruesome and inventive ways. Whereas many archaeologists strive to escape from the romanticism of such tropes, storytelling exercises remain deeply embedded in archaeological practice: a simple GoogleScholar search for Neanderthal cannibalism, for example, generates a number of results that—one suspects—exist more in proportion to the cultural salience of “cannibalistic ape-men” than to the material traces of such behaviors.

Analogical thinking plays a crucial role in archaeological imaginings, providing tools with which to think that, if used judiciously, can force our narratives into new tracks. Analogies constructed in this vein do not require particularly close direct historical links. For example, Parker-Pearson and Ramilisonina86 explore an analogy between two areas for which it would be absurd to postulate any form of historical contiguity: the late Neolithic/early Bronze Age monumental landscape in and around Stonehenge, and contemporary and historical Madagascar. Such discussions also do not depend overmuch on a rigorous analysis of the relevancy of the chosen similarity; they may simply take the ethnographic case study as evidence that such a reading is not impossible. Parker-Pearson and Ramilisonina formulate a relational analogy based on the materials used to construct monumental landscapes. They argue that the physical characteristics of particular materials “resist certain interpretations and understandings and invite others,” and they use Madagascan ethnography as a springboard for discussing a ritual landscape comprising relationships between the living and the dead.

Whatever type of analogy is used to assist with archaeological imaginings, it is vital that it generate statements that are amenable to testing through archaeological means. It is through this testing that the tyranny of the ethnographic record may be challenged and that ahistorical characterizations of ethnographic case studies may be avoided. Consider the material signature of a hypothetical archaeological site: an aggregation of residential buildings that differ markedly in size, associations with exotic goods, storage facilities for agricultural surplus, and so on. Applying a generalized ethnographic model might encourage interpretations of inequality: higher-status groups or individuals being linked with larger buildings, exotic good monopolies, and surplus accumulation. This analogy, however, can also generate testable possibilities that serve to strengthen or weaken its assumptions: bone isotopes might reveal differences in supposed high-/low-status diets; genetic studies could provide information on relatedness in elite and nonelite populations; and artifact analyses comment upon craft or other forms of specializations. Concurrencies and discrepancies between these various sources of evidence combine to strengthen the original analogy or to demonstrate the deviance of the archaeological case study from ethnographic expectations.

The presence of cultigens in archaeological contexts, for example, served to undermine the assumption (based on analogy with historical ethnographic data) that the precolonial indigenous inhabitants of the American Great Plains were of necessity nomadic foragers.87 “Negative” examples such as this, which falsify previously held assumptions, tend to pack a greater rhetorical punch when considering the role of archaeological data in constructing ethnographic analogy: they provide a clear and concise demonstration of the ability of this data to push back against the model. This approach can be seen in Martin Hall’s discussion of an architectural style and settlement layout pattern (“Type B”) in KwaZulu-Natal, which is quite unlike that of the Zulu homestead described in historical writings.88 Based on ethnographic observations pertaining to the relationship between Zulu homestead architecture and social organization, he suggests that these discrepancies should warn against transposing further elements of “Zulu ethnography” back in time to understand Type B communities89—even where historical continuities in populations may be assumed.

The southwestern Cape of South Africa provides an excellent case study for considering the reconstruction and comprehension of past lifeways that differ from known ethnographic cases. Direct historical analogies between LSA foragers and contemporary and historical “Bushman” populations in the Karoo and Kalahari have been used to good effect in developing interpretative frameworks for understanding LSA rock art. There is, therefore, good reason to believe these ethnographies are useful entrepôts for understanding other aspects of their archaeology: the analogical expectations would lead to the expectation of traces of small, kin-based social units with relatively egalitarian political structures, pursuing a gender-based division of labor in which men are primarily responsible for hunting larger bovids and women for gathering plant resources. This thumbnail sketch could, of course, be expanded in any number of directions: reliance on projectile and poison technologies in hunting tactics; territories defined by rights of access to perennial water sources; highly portable, ephemeral residential dwellings; and so on.

A disparate suite of late Holocene archaeological data (c. 3000–1000 years bp) from the southwestern Cape introduces a number of important caveats to the generic expectations of this analogical model, though the scope and import of correlations between this data continue to provoke lively debate.90 Regardless of which side of these debates one favors, however, the archaeological evidence for large shellfish “mega-midden” sites,91 palaeopathological evidence for interpersonal violence and resource stress,92 isotopic and osteological evidence for restrictions in diet and mobility at a range of scales,93 and—ultimately—the spread of cattle-based pastoralism94 all point to social, political, and economic contexts that are dissimilar to those captured by the “Bushman ethnographies” of the Kalahari and Karoo. Treating these archaeological observations as a counterpoint ethnographic “case study” to those of the source-side domain, we can recognize whether modifications of the source-side domain would be necessary to accommodate the archaeological case study. For example, the small body size of contemporary Bushman populations is often discussed either as a result of living in a resource-stressed environment (for scholars who view Bushmen as the rural poor) or as a physiological adaptation to hot, arid climes (for those who view Bushmen socioeconomies as stable evolutionary strategies)95—skeletal evidence from southern Cape archaeological sites, however, confirms small statures even in communities occupying productive ecozones, in areas that do not experience the high temperatures and aridity of the Kalahari. When done well, then, this approach allows archaeological data to be written back in to the original source-side community in a way that challenges anthropological assumptions and reverses the common assumption that the deploying ethnographic analogy “de-historicizes” the past.

Discussion of the Literature

The use of ethnographic analogical reasoning to understand human prehistory predates the formalization of archaeology as an academic discipline.96 In southern Africa, for example, the early traveler M. H. Lichtenstein understood LSA shellfish middens in the southern Cape (South Africa) as the traces of long-term “Hottentot” (Khoekhoe) occupation.97 Conversely, colonial writers argued from perceived analogies between far-flung material cultures that contemporaneous indigenous populations did not descend from prehistoric occupants, within a framework that sought to legitimize white settler land appropriation.98 Such perspectives resonate today with the tenacious appeal of popular “fringe” archaeological interpretations, which see traces of Celtic crosses or Ogham script in the rock engravings at Driekopseiland,99 or which attribute stone-walled settlements in northern South Africa to contacts with ancient Indian or (even more extremely) extraterrestrial visitors.100

Ethnographic analogies have remained prominent within all of the major intellectual paradigm shifts within archaeological thought, as it has developed from the late 19th century until today. The evolutionary principles of later 19th- and early 20th-century archaeology, for example, drew on ethnographic case studies (particularly from hunter–gatherer communities, and especially those using stone tools) to describe specimens of primitive man.101 Similarly, cultural-historical approaches, which defined material culture as part of an expression of national identity, were a priori concerned with ethnicized readings of prehistory, and therefore based their interpretations on defined suites of ethnographic data.102

The legacies of the “New Archaeological,” structural, and cognitive archaeological perspectives on ethnographic analogical reasoning of the 1970s and 1980s remain particularly important within southern African scholarship, as two prominent models for understanding southern Africa prehistory were first formulated during this period: the so-called shamanistic” (or trance) hypothesis for interpreting LSA and historical rock arts, and the use of the Central Cattle (and Zimbabwe) Patterns in understanding Iron Age settlement layouts and worldviews. Associated primarily with the work of David Lewis-Williams and Thomas Huffman, respectively, attempts to refine, repudiate, or rehabilitate these ethnographically derived models dominate a huge swath of archaeological research in the subcontinent to this day.103

As archaeology becomes an ever more diverse field and as practitioners become increasingly specialized in their techniques of analysis, regions, and chronological periods, a diverse set of research questions is being generated that produce data that often are not commensurate with one another. Archaeologists focusing on the spread of modern humans out of Africa will naturally turn to different forms of evidence to those chosen by archaeologists exploring African interactions with Christianity in colonial periods. While more general theoretical perspectives on analogical reasoning remain significant—the writings of philosopher and anthropologist Alison Wylie on the epistemological significance of this reasoning to archaeology are particularly salient to this discourse—it is more common to find critiques concerned with addressing the source and scope of the particular analogies as they are applied to particular suites of archaeological data. Peter Mitchell, for example, has expressed concerns that Later Stone Age archaeologists frequently return to ethnographic data drawn from a “holy trinity” of just three communities (the Juǀ'hoansi, Gǀwi-Gǁana, and ǀXam) of the diverse Bushman populations of the subcontinent.104

These Bushman communities attain a particular visibility in archaeological analogies, both within southern Africa and for anthropology globally,105 where they have historically been considered as archetypal foragers. This characterization continues to exert an influence on research focusing on the archaeology of early hominids or Middle Stone Age human “cultural” evolution, where southern African data is prominent on the world stage. Although such studies tend to be situated within the general comparative analogies of behavioral ecology rather than within direct historical approaches, the prominence of hunter–gatherer groups within behavioral ecology means that some scholars draw on Bushman ethnographies in attempting to comprehend human occupation of southern Africa over tens of thousands of years. This approach has sparked recent debates over whether such extrapolations represent “primordialist” misapplications of analogical argumentation.106

Primary Sources

The sources used by archaeologists in constructing ethnographic analogies comprise data ranging from published academic monographs (from local and global contexts) through a range of historical sources (oral and textual) to their own primary fieldwork. Inevitably, these data assemblages constitute idiosyncratic corpora, defined by the scope of research interests, collaborations, linguistic competencies, and a host of other factors.

Key ethnographic sources for analogies focusing on southern African foragers include the following:

  • The Bleek-Lloyd archive; a voluminous collection of 19th-century ethnohistorical texts recording information obtained from ǀXam Bushman interlocutors, in their interactions with the German philologist Wilhelm Bleek and his sister-in-law Lucy Lloyd.

    • This archive has been digitized in its entirety and is available online. A digital copy of the archive also accompanies Pippa Skotnes, Claim to the Country: The Archive of Wilhelm Bleek and Lucy Lloyd, (Cape Town: Jacana, 2007).

  • The Kalahari expeditions of the Marshall family; much of this research can be found in Lorna Marshall, The Kung of Nyae Nyae (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976).

    • The papers of Lorna and Laurence Marshall may be found at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, as can their photographic collections.

    • John Marshall’s archive is housed in the Human Studies Film Archive of the Smithsonian Museum. His films have been the subject of a good deal of academic discussion, and interested readers are referred to a 2003 Visual Anthropology Review special edition devoted to this corpus. See Robert J. Gordon, “Introduction: A Kalahari Family,” Visual Anthropology Review 19.1–2 (2003): 102–113.

  • Results of work by the Harvard Kalahari Research Group (HKRG); originally headed by Richard Borshay Lee and Irven DeVore, this group continued and expanded the ethnographic work of the Marshall family.

    • Richard Lee’s archive is housed at the University of Toronto.

    • The work of this project and its successors has generated a vast corpus of data and hundreds of research publications; much of this data is utilized by archaeologists for analogical insight. For an overview of the research of the HKRG, see Richard B. Lee and Irven DeVore, eds., Kalahari Hunter–Gatherers: Studies of the !Kung San and the Neighbours (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976). Broader overviews can be found in Alan Barnard, Hunters and Herders: A Comparative Ethnography of the Khoisan Peoples (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1992), and in Shelagh M. Willet, The Khoe and San: An Annotated Bibliography (vols. 1 and 2) (Gaborone, Botswana: Lightbooks, 2002/2003).

    • The so-called Kalahari Debate has had a profound impact on the use of Bushman analogies. A key and foundational text here is Edwin N. Wilmsen, Land Filled with Flies: A Political Economy of the Kalahari (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989).

    • Texts of particular importance to rock art interpretation, emerging from the Kalahari ethnographies of HKRG scholars and others, include those of Richard Katz, Boiling Energy: Community Healing among the Kalahari Kung (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982); Megan Biesele, Women Like Meat: The Folklore and Foraging Ideology of the Kalahari Juǀ'hoan (Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press, 1993); and Matthias Guenther, Tricksters and Trancers: Bushman Religion and Society (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999).

  • The African Rock Art Digital Archive at the Rock Art Research Institute (University of the Witwatersrand) houses several hundred thousand photographs, tracings, and redrawings of rock art images, primarily from southern Africa.

    • Many of these have been digitized and are available at the SARADA project.

Further Reading

West Africa

Bassey, W. Andah. “The Bantu “Homeland” Project: Ethnoarchaeological Investigations in Parts of the Benue Valley Region.” West African Journal of Archaeology 13 (1983): 23–60.Find this resource:

David, Nicholas. “Integrating Ethnoarchaeology: A Subtle Realist Perspective.” Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 11 (1992): 330–359.Find this resource:

David, Nicholas. “Lost in the Third Hermeneutic? Theory and Methodology, Objects and Representations in the Ethnoarchaeology of African Metallurgy.” Mediterranean Archaeology 14 (2001): 49–72.Find this resource:

David, Nicholas, ed. Metals in Mandara Mountains Society and Culture. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press , 2012.Find this resource:

Gosselain, Olivier P. “Technology and style: potters and pottery among Bafia of Cameroon” Man (N.S.) 27 (1992): 559–586.Find this resource:

Gosselain, Olivier P., and Alexandre Livingstone Smith. “The Ceramics and Society Project: An Ethnographic and Experimental Approach to Technological Choices.” KVHAA Konferenser 34 (1995): 147–160.Find this resource:

Gosselain, Olivier P., Judy Sterner, and Kodzo Gavua. “Why Pots Are Decorated.” Current Anthropology 29.3 (1988): 365–389.Find this resource:

Insoll, Timothy. “Shrine Franchising and the Neolithic in the British Isles: Some Observations Based upon the Tallensi, Northern Ghana.” Cambridge Archaeological Journal 16.2 (2006): 223–238.Find this resource:

LaViolette, Adria J. “Ethno-archaeology in Jenne, Mali: Craft and Status among Smiths, Potters and Masons.” Cambridge Monographs in African Archaeology 49. Oxford: Archaeopress, 2000.Find this resource:

Ogundiran, Akinwumi.“Four Millennia of Cultural History in Nigeria (ca. 2000 B.C-A.D. 1900): Archaeological Perspectives.” Journal of World Prehistory 19 (2005): 133–168.Find this resource:

Sterner, Judy. “Who Is Signalling Whom? Ceramic Style, Ethnicity and Taphonomy among the Sirak Bulahay. Antiquity 63 (1989): 451–459.Find this resource:

East Africa (including Madagascar)

Dietler, Michael, and Ingrid Herbich. “Domestic Space, Social Life and Settlement Biography: Theoretical Reflections from the Ethnography of a Rural African Landscape.” Arqueo Mediterrània 11 (2009): 11–23.Find this resource:

Kus, Susan. “Archaeologists as Anthropologist: Much Ado about Something after All?” Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 4.3/4 (1997): 199–212.Find this resource:

Kus, Susan, and Victor Raharijaona. “Between Earth and Sky There Are Only a Few Large Boulders: Sovereignty and Monumentality in Central Madagascar.” Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 17 (1998): 53–79.Find this resource:

Lyons, Diane. “How I Built My House: An Ethnoarchaeological Study of Gendered Technical Practice in Tigray, Ethiopia.” Ethnoarchaeology 1.2 (2009):137–162.Find this resource:

Moore, Henrietta L. Space, Text, and Gender: An Anthropological Study of the Marakwet of Kenya Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1985.Find this resource:

Schmidt, Peter R. Iron Technology in East Africa: Symbolism, Science and Archaeology. Oxford: James Currey, 1997.Find this resource:

Schmidt, Peter R. “Tropes, Materiality, and Ritual Embodiment of African Iron Smelting Furnaces as Human Figures.” Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 16.3 (2009): 262–282.Find this resource:

Wayessa, Bula S. “The Technical Style of Wallaga Pottery Making: An Ethnoarchaeological Study of Oromo Potters in Southwest Highland Ethiopia.” African Archaeological Review 28.4 (2011): 301–326.Find this resource:

Southern Africa (in addition to references in text)

Fewster, Kathryn J. “The Potential of Analogy in Post-processual Rrchaeologies: A Case Study from Basimane Ward, Serowe, Botswana.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.) 12 (2006): 61–87.Find this resource:

Fowler, Kent D. “Zulu Pottery Technology and Group Identity in the Phongolo Basin, South Africa.” Southern African Humanities 27 (2015): 81–111.Find this resource:

Fredriksen, Per Ditlef. “When Knowledges Meet: Engagements with Clay and Soil in Southern Africa.” Journal of Social Archaeology 11.3 (2011): 283–310.Find this resource:

Pikirayi, Innocent, and Anders Lindahl. “Ceramics, Ethnohistory, and Ethnography: Locating Meaning in Southern African Iron Age Ceramic Assemblages.” African Archaeological Review 30.4 (2013): 455–473.Find this resource:

van der Merwe, Nikolaas J., and Donald H. Avery. “Science and Magic in African Technology: Traditional Iron Smelting in Malawi.” Africa 57.2 (1987): 143–172.Find this resource:

Whitelaw, Gavin. “Pollution Concepts and Marriage for the Southern African Iron Age.” Cambridge Archaeological Journal 23.2 (2013): 203–225.Find this resource:


(1.) Alison Wylie, “The Reaction against Analogy,” Advances in Archaeological Method and Theory 8 (1985): 63–111, 107.

(2.) Paul Lane, “The Use and Abuse of Ethnography in the Study of the Southern African Iron Age,” Azania 29/30 (1994/1995): 51–64; Paul Lane, “Barbarous Tribes and Unrewarding Gyrations? The Changing Role of Ethnographic Imagination in African Archaeology.” In African Archaeology: A Critical Introduction, ed. A. B. Stahl (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005), 24–54; Paul Lane, “Past to Present: Ethnoarchaeology,” in Handbook of Material Culture, eds. C. Tilley, W. Keane, S. Kuechler, M. Rowlands, and P. Spyer (London: SAGE, 2006), 402–424; Paul Lane, “Hunter–Gatherer–Fishers, Ethnoarchaeology and Analogical Reasoning,” in Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology and Anthropology of Hunter-Gatherers, eds. V. Cummings, P. Jordan, and M. Zvelebil (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 104–150.

(3.) Particularly Akinwumi Ogundiran, “Pioneers of Archaeological Thought and Practice in Postcolonial Nigeria,” In Theory in Africa, Africa in Theory: Locating Meaning in Archaeology, eds. Stephanie Wynne-Jones and Jeffrey B. Fleisher (Abingdon, U.K.: Routledge, 2015), 90–110; Timothy Insoll, “Broadening the Archaeological Perspective: Some Lessons from the Sub-Saharan African Landscape?,” in Theory in Africa, Africa in Theory, eds. Wynne-Jones and Fleisher, 232–252; Susan Kus, “Off the Coast, but Hopefully not Too Off-the-Cuff: Thoughts on Anthropological Archaeology and Theory in Practice in Africa,” in Theory in Africa, Africa in Theory, eds. Wynne-Jones and Fleisher, 252–268.

(4.) Nicholas David and Carol Kramer, Ethnoarchaeology in Action (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2001)

(5.) Susan McIntosh, “Changing Perceptions of West Africa’s Past: Archaeological Research Since 1988,” Journal of Archaeological Research 2.2 (1994): 165–198; Scott MacEachern, “Foreign Countries: The Development of Ethnoarchaeology in Sub-Saharan Africa,” Journal of World Prehistory 10.3 (1996): 243–304; Diane Lyons, “Ethnoarchaeological Research in Africa,” in The Oxford Handbook of African Archaeology, eds. Peter J. Mitchell and Paul Lane (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 87–102.

(6.) Alison Wylie, “An Analogy by Any Other Name Is Just as Analogical: A Commentary on the Gould-Watson Dialogue,” Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 1 (1982): 389–390.

(7.) Full discussion of analogical argumentation is beyond the scope of this essay. See Paul Bartha, “Analogy and Analogical Reasoning,” in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Edward N. Zaita (Winter 2016 Edition).

(8.) See Byrony Orme, “Archaeology and Ethnography,” in Colin Renfrew (ed.) The Explanation of Culture Change: Models in Prehistory, ed. Colin Renfrew (London: Duckworth, 1973), 481–492, and Byrony Orme, “Twentieth-Century Prehistorians and the Idea of Ethnographic Parallels,” Man (N.S.) 9.2 (1974): 199–212.

(9.) For discussion of these issues in geology and palaeontology, see Stephen J. Gould, “Is Uniformitarianism Necessary?” American Journal of Science 263 (1965): 223–228, and Stephen J. Gould, Time’s Arrow Time’s Cycle: Myth and Metaphor in the Discovery of Geological Time (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987), especially Chapter 4, 99–180.

(10.) Conversely, the need to calibrate dates recognizes that recent events (such as nuclear testing) mean that modern atmospheric isotope ratios are not necessarily good analogues for these ratios over time.

(11.) Gould, Time’s Arrow, 105.

(12.) Vere G. Childe, Man Makes Himself (London: Watts, 1936). See Bruce G. Trigger, A History of Archaeological Thought, 2d ed. (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1996), Chapter 7, 314–385.

(13.) Trigger, A History, 410–414.

(14.) A key paper here is Sally McBrearty and Alison S. Brooks, “The Revolution That Wasn’t: A New Interpretation of the Origin of Modern Human Behaviour,” Journal of Human Evolution 39 (2000): 453–563. For reviews of the literature on behavioral modernity, see Ofer Bar-Yosef, “The Upper Palaeolithic Revolution,” Annual Review of Anthropology 31 (2002): 363–393; April Nowell, “Defining Behavioral Modernity in the Context of Neandertal and Anatomically Modern Human Populations,” Annual Review of Anthropology 39 (2010): 437–452; and Curtis W. Marean, “An Evolutionary Anthropological Perspective on Modern Human Origins,” Annual Review of Anthropology 44 (2015): 533–556.

(15.) See papers in Jason W. Moore, ed., Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History, and the Crisis of Capitalism (Oakland, CA: P. A. Press, 2016).

(16.) Hugh Trevor-Roper, “The Rise of Christian Europe,” The Listener 70 1809 (1963): 871–875.

(17.) Mary Beard, Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town (London: Profile Books, 2008); see Figure 32, 84.

(18.) Elizabeth M. Lewis, “The Role of ollae perforatae in Understanding Horticulture, Planting Techniques, Garden Design, and Plant Trade in the Roman World,” in The Archaeology of Crop Fields and Gardens, eds. Jean-Paul Morel, Jordi T. Juan, and Juan C. Matamala (Bari: Edipuglia, 2006), 207–219.

(19.) Mark Robinson, “Domestic Burnt Offerings and Sacrifices at Roman and Pre-Roman Pompeii, Italy,” Vegetation History and Archaeobotany 11 (2002): 93–99.

(20.) For more on the “imagined” Pompeii, see Shelley Hales and Joanna Paul, eds., Pompeii in the Public Imagination: From Its Rediscovery to Today (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).

(21.) David Lowenthal, The Past Is a Foreign Country (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1985); Leslie P. Hartley, The Go-Between (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1953), 1.

(22.) Richard A. Gould, Living Archaeology (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1980), 30–31.

(23.) There exists a good deal of scholarship exploring developments in “hunter–gatherer studies”; for a comprehensive overview, see papers in Alan Barnard, ed., Hunter–Gatherers in History, Archaeology and Anthropology (Oxford: Berg, 2004), particularly Mark Pluciennik, “The Meaning of ‘Hunter–Gatherers’ and Modes of Subsistence: A Comparative Historical Perspective,” in Hunter–Gatherers in History, ed. Barnard, 17–30. Robert Bettinger, Hunter–Gatherers: Archaeological and Evolutionary Theory (New York: Plenum, 1991) provides a more detailed discussion of the special status of foragers in studies of human evolution.

(24.) Lane, “Barbarous Tribes,” 25.

(25.) Edwin N. Wilmsen, Land Filled with Flies: A political Economy of the Kalahari (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989).

(26.) Richard B. Lee and Irvin deVore, Man the Hunter (Chicago: Aldine, 1968); Richard B. Lee and Irvin deVore, Kalahari Hunter–Gatherers: Studies of the !Kung San and Their Neighbours (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976).

(27.) Overviews of the earlier years of this debate may be found in Alan Barnard, The Kalahari Debate: A Bibliographic Essay (Occasional Paper No. 35) (Edinburg: University of Edinburg, Centre of African Studies, 1992); Adam Kuper, “Post-Modernism, Cambridge, and the Great Kalahari Debate,” Social Anthropology 1.1A (1993): 57–71, and Donald V. Kurtz, “Winnowing the ‘Great Kalahari Debate’: Its Impact on Hunter–Gatherer Studies: A Review of Current Literature,” Political and Legal Anthropology Review 17.1 (1994): 67–80; Alan Barnard, “Kalahari Revisionism, Vienna and the ‘Indigenous Peoples’ Debate,” Social Anthropology 14.1 (2006): 1–16, provides a somewhat updated discussion. No more recent summary of the literature appears to be known, but echoes of the debate continue to provoke anthropological and archaeological research.

(28.) Richard B. Lee and Matthias Guenther, “Problems in Kalahari Historical Ethnography and the Tolerance of Error,” History in Africa 20 (1993): 185–235; Jacqueline Solway and Richard B. Lee, “Foragers, Genuine or Spurious? Situating the Kalahari San in History,” Current Anthropology 31.2 (1990): 109–142.

(29.) Peter Mitchell, “Why Hunter–Gatherer Archaeology Matters: A Personal Perspective on Renaissance and Renewal in Southern African Later Stone Age Research,” South African Archaeological Bulletin 60.182 (2005): 67–68.

(30.) Francesco d’Errico, Lucinda Blackwell, Paola Villa, Ilaria Degano, Jeannette J. Lucejko, Marion K. Bamford, Thomas F. G. Higham, Maria Perla Colombini, and Peter B. Beaumont, “Early Evidence of San Material Culture Represented by Organic Artifacts from Border Cave, South Africa,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 109.33 (2012): 13214–13219. See also Paola Villa, Sylvain Soriano, Tsenka Tsanova, Ilaria Degano, Thomas F. G. Higham, Francesco d’Errico, Lucinda Blackwell, Jeannette J. Lucejko, Maria Perla Colombini, and Peter B. Beaumont, “Border Cave and the Beginning of the Later Stone Age in South Africa,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 109.33 (2012): 13208–13213.

(31.) d’Errico et al., “Early Evidence,” 13214.

(32.) Peter Mitchell, “San Origins and Transitions to the Later Stone Age: New Research from Border Cave, South Africa,” South African Journal of Science 108 (2012): 11–12; Justin Pargeter, “The Later Stone Age Is not San Prehistory,” The Digging Stick 31.3 (2014):1–4, 23; Justin Pargeter, Alex MacKay, Peter Mitchell, John Shea, and Brian A. Stewart, “Primordialism and the ‘Pleistocene San’ of southern Africa,” Antiquity 90.352 (2016): 1072–1103.

(33.) Alison Wylie, “‘Simple’ Analogy and the Role of Relevance Assumptions: Implications of Archaeological Practice,” International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 2 (1988): 139.

(34.) Martin Wobst, “The Archaeo-Ethnography of Hunter–Gatherers or the Tyranny of the Ethnographic Record in Archaeology,” American Antiquity 43 (1978): 303–309.

(35.) Robert Ascher, “Analogy in Archaeological Interpretation,” Southwestern Journal of Archaeology, 17 (1961): 317–325; Daniel Stiles, “Ethnoarchaeology: A Discussion of Methods and Applications,” Man 1.1 (1977): 87–103; Thomas H. Charlton, “Archaeology, Ethnohistory, and Ethnology: Interpretive Interfaces,” Advances in Archaeological Method and Theory 4 (1981): 129–176; Richard A. Gould and Patty J. Watson, “A Dialogue on the Meaning and Use of Analogy in Ethnoarchaeological Reasoning,” Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, 1 (1982): 355–381; Ann B. Stahl, “Concepts of Time and Approaches to Analogical Reasoning in Historical Perspective,” American Antiquity 58.2 (1993): 235–260; David and Kramer, Ethnoarchaeology; Martin Porr, “Archaeology, Analogy, Material Culture, Society: An Exploration,” in Ethno-analogy and the Reconstruction of Prehistoric Artefact Use and Oroduction, eds. Linda R. Owen and Martin Porr (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 3–15.

(36.) Elaboration on the “theory-laden” nature of scientific data can be found in Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolution (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970). For further discussion of this issue with respect to archaeological analogy, see Wylie, “The Reaction,” 87–88.

(37.) Henri Breuil, “The White Lady of the Brandberg, South-West Africa, Her Companions and Her Guards,” South African Archaeological Bulletin 3.9 (1948): 2–11.

(38.) Breuil, “The White Lady of the Brandberg, South-West Africa, Her Companions and Her Guards,” 8–9.

(39.) For discussion, see J. David Lewis-Williams, Patricia N. Bardill, Megan Biesele, Stephenie Yearwood, John Clegg, Whitney Davis, David Groenfeldt, Ray R. Inskeep, Tim Jones, Graeme Pretty, et al., “The Economic and Social Context of Southern San Rock Art [and Comments and Reply],” Current Anthropology, 23.4 (1982): 429–449; and J. David Lewis-Williams, “The Empiricist Impasse in Southern African Rock Art Studies,” South African Archaeological Bulletin 39.139 (1984): 58–66.

(40.) Wylie, “The Reaction,” 94–95.

(41.) This topic has generated a considerable volume of literature; see, for example, Justin Pargeter, “Howiesons Poort Segments as Hunting Weapons: Experiments with Replicated Projectiles,” South African Archaeological Bulletin 62.186 (2007): 147–153; Paola Villa and Michel Lenoir, “Hunting Weapons of the Middle Stone Age and the Middle Palaeolithic: Spear Points from Sibudu, Rose Cottage and Bouheben,” Southern African Humanities 18.1 (2006): 89–122; Marlize Lombard, “Distribution Patterns of Organic Residues on Middle Stone Age Points from Sibudu Cave, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa,” South African Archaeological Bulletin 59.180 (2004): 37–44; and Marlize Lombard, “Evidence of Hunting and Hafting during the Middle Stone Age at Sibudu Cave, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, A Multianalytical Approach,” Journal of Human Evolution 48 (2005): 279–300.

(42.) Wilhelm H. I. Bleek and Lucy C. Lloyd, Specimens of Bushman Folklore (London: George Allen, 1911), 275.

(43.) See further discussions in David and Kramer, Ethnoarchaeology, and Jerimy J. Cunningham, “Transcending the ‘Obnoxious Spectator’: A Case for Processual Pluralism in Ethnoarchaeology,” Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 22 (2003): 389–410. A recent World Archaeology special edition presents a number of ethnoarchaeological papers of interest to Africanist scholars; Shadreck Chirikure, “‘Ethno’ Plus ‘Archaeology’: What’s in There for Africa(ns)?,” World Archaeology 48.5 (2016): 693–699; Alfredo González-Ruibal, “Ethnoarchaeology or Simply Archaeology?,” World Archaeology 48.5 (2016): 687–692; and Jerimy J. Cunningham and Scott MacEachern, “Ethnoarchaeology as Slow Science,” World Archaeology 48.5 (2016): 628–641.

(44.) Lewis Binford, Nunamiut Ethnoarchaeology (New York: Academic Press, 1978); Lewis Binford, Bones: Ancient Men and Modern Myths (New York: Academic Press, 1981).

(45.) John E. Yellen, Archaeological Approaches to the Present: Models for Reconstructing the Past (New York: Academic Press, 1977).

(46.) Gould, Living Archaeology; Richard Gould, “The Archaeologist as Ethnographer: A case from the Western Desert of Australia,” World Archaeology 2 (1971): 143–177.

(47.) Trigger, A History, 452–456.

(48.) Ian Hodder, Symbols in Action: Ethnoarchaeological Studies of Material Culture (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1982).

(49.) Polly Wiessner, “Style and Social Information in Kalahari San Projectile Points,” American Antiquity 48.2 (1983): 253–276.

(50.) Lane, “The Use and Abuse,” 52.

(51.) Robert L. Kelly, The Foraging Spectrum: Diversity in Hunter–Gatherer Lifeways (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995).

(52.) Lewis Binford, “Willow Smoke and Dogs’ Tails: Hunter–Gatherer Settlement Systems and Archaeological Site Formation,” American Antiquity 45.1 (1980): 4–20.

(53.) James Woodburn, “Egalitarian Societies” Man (N.S.) 17.3 (1982): 431–451.

(54.) Alain Testart, “The Significance of Food Storage among Hunter–Gatherers: Residence Patterns, Population Densities, and Social Inequalities,” Current Anthropology 23.5 (1982): 523–537; Theron D. Price and James A. Brown, “Aspects of Hunter–Gatherer Complexity,” in Prehistoric Hunter–Gatherers: The Emergence of Cultural Complexity, eds. Theron D. Price and James A. Brown (San Diego: Academic Press, 1985), 3–20; Jeanne E. Arnold, “The Archaeology of Complex Hunter–Gatherers,” Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 3.1 (1996): 77–126.

(55.) Paul Lane, “Reconstructing Tswana Townscapes: Toward a Critical Historical Archaeology,” in African Historical Archaeologies (New York: Springer-Science+Business Media, 2004), 270; Justin Pargeter, Alex MacKay, Peter Mitchell, John Shea, and Brian A. Stewart, “Primordialism and the ‘Pleistocene San’ of Southern Africa,” Antiquity 90.352 (2016): 1073.

(56.) A useful reminder of the constructedness of these terms; homology and analogy are mutually exclusive in evolutionary terms, but a single anatomical structure can be both, depending on the researcher’s frame of reference.

(57.) For this, and other examples of convergence in marsupial and placental mammals, see Donald R. Prothero, The Princeton Field Guide to Prehistoric Mammals (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017), 13, 39, 42, 125–132.

(58.) Prothero, The Princeton Field Guide to Prehistoric Mammals, 59.

(59.) W. J. Bock, “Toward an Ecological Morphology,” Vogelwarte 29 (1977): 127–135; think here of the similar body shapes of horses, greyhounds, and cheetahs, all highly cursorial species.

(60.) Ann B. Stahl, “Change and Continuity in the Banda Area, Ghana: The Direct Historical Approach,” Journal of Field Archaeology 21.2 (1994): 181–203.

(61.) Lane, “The Use and Abuse,” 57–58.

(62.) Lane, “Barbarous Tribes,” 27.

(63.) Foundational texts include J. David Lewis-Williams, Believing and Seeing: Symbolic Meanings in Southern San Rock Paintings (London: Academic Press, 1981); J. David Lewis-Williams, “The Economic and Social Context of Southern San Rock Art,” Current Anthropology 23 (1982): 429–449. For a recent, concise overview, see J. David Lewis-Williams, “Southern African Rock Art and Beyond: A Personal Perspective,” Time and Mind 6.1 (2013): 41–48.

(64.) Compare Stahl, “Change and Continuity” with Ann B. Stahl, Making History in Banda: Anthropological Visions of Africa’s Past (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2001).

(65.) Kazunobu Ikeya, “Goat Raising among the San in the Central Kalahari,” African Study Monographs 14.1 (1993): 39–52; Jiro Tanaka, “The Recent Changes in the Life and Society of the Central Kalahari San,” African Study Monographs 7 (1987): 37–51.

(66.) Sarah J. Marks, Francesco Montinaro, Hila Levy, Francesca Brisighelli, Gianmarco Ferri, Stephania Bertoncini, Chiara Batini, George B. J. Busby, Charles Arthur, Peter Mitchell, et al., “Static and Moving Frontiers: The Genetic Landscape of Southern African Bantu-Speaking Populations,” Molecular Biology and Evolution 32.1 (2015): 29–43; Carina M. Schlebusch, Michael de Jongh, and Himla Soodyall, “Different Contributions of Ancient Mitochondrial and Y-Chromosome Lineages in ‘Karretjie people’ of the Great Karoo in South Africa,” Journal of Human Genetics 56 (2011): 623–630. For syntheses, see Tom Güldemann and Mark Stoneking, “An Historical Appraisal of Clicks: A Linguistic and Genetic Population Perspective,” Annual Review of Anthropology 37 (2008): 93–109, and Peter Mitchell, “Genetics and Southern African Prehistory,” Journal of Anthropological Sciences 88 (2010): 73–92.

(67.) Pieter Jolly, “Melikane and Upper Mangolong Revisited: The Possible Effects on San Art of Symbiotic Contact between South-eastern San and Southern Sotho and Nguni Communities,” South African Archaeological Bulletin 50 (1995): 68–80; Pieter Jolly, “Symbiotic Interaction between Black Farmers and South-eastern San: Implications for Southern African Rock Art Studies, Ethnographic Analogy and Hunter–Gatherer Cultural Identity,” Current Anthropology 32.2 (1996): 277–305; William D. Hammond-Tooke, “Selective Borrowing? The Possibility of San Shamanistic Influence on Southern Bantu Divination and Healing Practices,” South African Archaeological Bulletin 53 (1998): 9–15; William D. Hammond-Tooke, “Divinatory Animals: Further Evidence of San/Nguni Borrowing?,” South African Archaeological Bulletin 54 (1999): 128–132; Pieter Jolly, “Sharing Symbols: A Correspondence in the Ritual Dress of Black Farmers and the South-eastern San,” South African Archaeological Society Goodwin Series 9 (2005): 86–100; see also Jeremy C. Hollmann, “Allusions to Agriculturalist Rituals in Hunter–Gatherer Rock Art? eMkhobeni Shelter, Northern uKhahlamba-Drakensberg, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa,” African Archaeological Review 32 (2015): 505–535.

(68.) Sam Challis, “Creolisation on the Nineteenth-Century Frontiers of Southern Africa: A Case Study of the AmaTola ‘Bushmen’ in the Maloti-Drakensberg,” Journal of Southern African Studies 38.2 (2012): 265–280; Sam Challis, “Re-tribe and Resist: The Ethnogenesis of a Creolised Raiding Band in Response to Colonisation,” in Tribing and Untribing the Archive: Volume 1, Scotsville, eds. Carolyn Hamilton and Nessa Liebhammer (Kwazulu Natal, South Africa: UKZN Press, 2016), 283–299.

(69.) J. David Lewis-Williams and David G. Pearce, “The Southern San and the Trance Dance: A Pivotal Debate in the Interpretation of San Rock Paintings,” Antiquity 86.333 (2012): 696–706; Anne Solomon, “The Death of Trace: Recent Perspectives on San Ethnographies and Rock Arts,” Antiquity 87.338 (2013): 1208–1213; J. David Lewis-Williams and David G. Pearce, “San Rock Art: Evidence and Argument,” Antiquity 89.345 (2015): 732–739.

(70.) J. David Lewis-Williams, “Ethnographic Evidence Relating to ‘Trance’ and ‘Shamans’ among Northern and Southern Bushmen,” South African Archaeological Bulletin 47.155 (1992): 56–60.

(71.) J. David Lewis-Williams and Megan Biesele, “Eland Hunting Rituals among Northern and Southern San Groups: Striking Similarities” Africa 48.2 (1978): 117–134.

(72.) Thomas Arbousset and Francois Daumas, Narrative of an Exploratory Tour to the North-east of the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope (Cape Town: A. S. Robertson and Saul Solomon, 1846), 246–247.

(73.) J. David Lewis-Williams, “A Dream of Eland: An Unexplored Component of San Shamanism and Rock Art,” World Archaeology 19.2 (1987): 165–177; see Figure 2, 167.

(74.) Peter Garlake, “Archetypes and Attributes: Rock Paintings in Zimbabwe,” World Archaeology 25.3 (1994): 346.

(75.) Lyn Wadley, Later Stone Age Hunters and Gatherers of the Southern Transvaal (Oxford: British Archaeological Reports, 1987); Aron D. Mazel, “People Making History: The Last Ten Thousand Years of Hunter–Gatherer Communities in the Thukela Basin,” Natal Museum Journal of Humanities 1 (1989): 1–168.

(76.) Alan Barnard, “Ethnographic Analogy and the Reconstruction of Early Khoekhoe Society,” Southern African Humanities 20 (2008): 67–69.

(77.) William J. Burchell, Travels in the Interior of Southern Africa, vol. 2 (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1824), 555.

(78.) Susan Kent, “Sharing in an Egalitarian Kalahari Community,” Man (N.S.) 28.3 (1993): 481–483, 496.

(79.) Peter J. Mitchell, “Anyone for Hxaro? Thoughts on the Theory and Practice of Exchange in Southern African Later Stone Age Archaeology,” in Researching Africa’s Past: New Perspectives from British Archaeology, eds. Peter J. Mitchell, Anne Haour, and John H. Hobart. Oxford: School of Archaeology, 35–43.

(80.) Thomas A. Dowson, “Dots and Dashes: Cracking the Entoptic Code in Bushman Rock Paintings” South African Archaeological Society Goodwin Series 6 (1989): 84–94

(81.) Wylie, “Archaeological Cables.”

(82.) J. David Lewis-Williams and Thomas A, Dowson, “The Signs of All Times: Entoptic Phenomena in Upper Palaeolithic Art,” Current Anthropology 29.2 (1988): 202–245; J. David Lewis-Williams, The Mind in the Cave (London: Thames and Hudson, 2002).

(83.) For animal symbolism, see, for example, Jeremy C. Hollmann, “‘Swift-People’: Therianthropes and Bird Symbolism in Hunter–Gatherer Rock-Paintings, Western and Eastern Cape Provinces, South Africa,” South African Archaeological Society Goodwin Series 9.21 (2005): 21–33 and Jeremy C. Hollmann, “ǀKaggen’s Code: Paintings of Moths in Southern African Hunter–Gatherer Rock Art,” Southern African Humanities 19 (2007): 83–101.

(84.) Trigger, A History, 476. See J. David Lewis-Williams, “Wrestling with Analogy: A Methodological Dilemma in Upper Palaeolithic Art Research,” Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 57 (1991): 149–162.

(85.) For recent discussions, see Dragoş Gheorghiu and Paul Bouissac, eds., How Do We Imagine the Past? On Metaphorical Thought, Experientiality and Imagination in Archaeology (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2015); Micheal Shanks, The Archaeological Imagination (Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, 2012); Karin Sanders, Bodies in the Bog and the Archaeological Imagination (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009); and particularly, Jennifer Wallace, Digging in the Dirt: The Archaeological Imagination (London: Gerald Duckworth, 2004).

(86.) Mike Parker-Pearson and Ramilisonina, “Stonehenge for the Ancestors: The Stones Pass on the Message,” Antiquity 72 (1998): 308–326.

(87.) Alison Wylie, “Archaeological Cables and Tacking: The Implications of Practice for Bernstein’s ‘Options beyond Objectivism and Relativism,’” Philosophy of the Social Sciences 19 (1989): 14–15.

(88.) Martin Hall, “The Myth of the Zulu Homestead: Archaeology and Ethnography,” Africa 54.1 (1984): 65–79.

(89.) Hall, “The Myth of the Zulu Homestead: Archaeology and Ethnography,” 75.

(90.) See John Parkington, Katherine Kyriacou, and John W. Fisher, “Late Holocene Settlement along the Atlantic Coast of the Cape: Megamiddens and the Case for and against Human Population Increase,” South African Archaeological Bulletin 70.201 (2015): 124–127; Antonieta Jerardino, “Beating the Same Drum for a Lifetime and Smoke Screens: A Reply to Parkington et al. (2015),” South African Archaeological Bulletin 71.203 (2016): 87–93; John Parkington, “Megamiddens: A Reply to A. Jerardino,” South African Archaeological Bulletin 71.203(2016): 87–97, and Antonieta Jerardino, “Megamiddens and Mega-Refusals over the Years: A Final Reply to Parkington,” South African Archaeological Bulletin 71.203 (2016): 94–97.

(91.) Antonieta Jerardino, “Large Shell Middens in Lamberts Bay, South Africa: A Case of Hunter–Gatherer Resource Intensification,” Journal of Archaeological Science 37 (2010): 2291–2302; Antonieta Jerardino, “Large Shell Middens and Hunter–Gatherer Resource Intensification along the West Coast of South Africa: The Elands Bay Case Study,” Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology 7.1 (2012): 76–101.

(92.) Susan Pfeiffer, “Cranial Trauma as Evidence of a Stressful Period among Southern African Foragers,” in The Compleat Archaeologist: Papers in Honor of Micheal W. Spence, eds. Christopher Ellis, Neal Ferris, Peter Timmins, and Christine White (London: London Chapter Ontario Archaeological Society; [Occasional Paper No. 9] and Museum of Ontario Archaeology, 2010), 259–271; Susan Pfeiffer, “An Exploration of Interpersonal Violence among Holocene Foragers of Southern Africa,” International Journal of Paleopathology 13 (2016): 27–38.

(93.) Judith Sealy and Susan Pfeiffer, “Diet, Body Size, and Landscape Use among Holocene People in the Southern Cape, South Africa,” Current Anthropology 41.4 (2000): 642–655; Susan Pfeiffer and Judith Sealy, “Body Size among Holocene Foragers of the Cape Ecozone, Southern Africa,” American Journal of Physical Anthropology 129 (2006): 1–11.

(94.) Andrew B. Smith, “Pastoral Origins at the Cape, South Africa: Influences and Arguments,” Southern African Humanities 20 (2008): 49–60; Karim Sadr, “Invisible Herders? The Archaeology of Khoekhoe Pastoralists,” Southern African Humanities 20 (2008): 179–203; Judith Sealy, “Isotopic Evidence for the Antiquity of Cattle-Based Pastoralism in Southernmost Africa,” Journal of African Archaeology 8.1 (2010): 65–81.

(95.) Sealy and Pfeiffer, “Diet, Body Size,” 643–644.

(96.) Trigger, A History, 121–165.

(97.) Martin Hinrich Lichtenstein, Travels in Southern Africa in the Years 1803, 1804, 1805, and 1806, Anne Plumptre, trans. (London: Henry Colburn, 1812), 178–179.

(98.) Martin Hall, “The Burden of Tribalism: The Social Context of southern African Iron Age Studies,” American Antiquity 49.3 (1984): 456–458.

(99.) David Morris, “Preserving the Archives of Ancient Africa’? Loony Claims at the Fringes of Archaeology,” The Digging Stick 12.2 (2004): 9–12

(100.) Peter Delius and Maria Schoeman, “Reading the Rocks and Reviewing Red Herrings,” African Studies 69.2 (2010): 235–254.

(101.) Trigger, A History, 166–210.

(102.) Trigger, A History, 211–313.

(103.) For recent perspectives on the Central Cattle Pattern see Shaw Badenhorst, “The Central Cattle Pattern during the Iron Age of Southern Africa: A Critique of Its Spatial Features,” South African Archaeological Bulletin 64.190 (2009): 148–155; Per Ditlef Fredriksen and Shadreck Chirikure, “Beyond Static Models: An Evaluation of Present Status and Future Prospects of Iron Age Research in Southern Africa,” Cambridge Archaeological Journal 25.3 (2015): 597–614; Thomas N. Huffman, “Settlements and Culture: Cognitive Models in African prehistory,” in Theory in Africa, Africa in Theory, eds. Wynne-Jones and Fleisher, 111–136; Gavin Whitelaw, “Economy and Cosmology in the Iron Age of KwaZulu-Natal,” Unpublished doctoral thesis, University of the Witwatersrand, 2016.

(104.) Peter Mitchell, “Why Hunter–Gatherer Archaeology Matters: A Personal Perspective on Renaissance and Renewal in Southern African Later Stone Age Research,” Southern African Archaeological Bulletin 60.182 (2005): 64–71.

(105.) See Alan Barnard, Anthropology and the Bushman (Oxford: Berg Publishers, 2007), particularly Chapter 8.

(106.) Pargeter et al., “Primordialism.”