Re: Early Amerind assimilation (Was: Re: Romans in the New World?)

Anthony West (aawest@CritPath.Org)
Wed, 31 Jul 1996 08:02:43 GMT

In article <4tjoff$> Beth Williams) writes:
>I did notice in another post that you listed your AB in anthro. from
>Chicago... I can only assume that you never took a course with Jane
>Buikstra while there?
Never heard of her. Perhaps not my time period. Redfield, the
young McKim Marriott. South Asian concentration. My physical
anthro was paleo-oriented.

>How exactly do you think we bioarchaeologists work? Dump a couple of
>boxes of unprovenienced bones (white or otherwise) from *various
>curators collections* and *Name that Characteristic*? The work may not
>be *undoable*, but whoever undertook it would be laughed out of every
>major peer meeting.
Forensic anthropologists and paleoanthropologists have
been "racing" as well as sexing bones for generations.
Racing is controversial among academics, who generate
publications thereby, but it is pretty reliable in
police work.

Are you saying that colonial-period archeologists have
no database of white bones, but only of black and red
bones, because they have systematically dug up only the
latter? I think that well-curated remains from the
period may exist here and there, for all races. If you,
a professional, swear that they don't, I'll heed you
and quote you.

>>>*Culturally* also runs into problems, as how does one
>>>distinguish between cultural *diffusion* and *appropriation* by the
>>I'm not sure one does. Did Native Mexicans "diffuse"
>>tacos to Chi-Chi's, or did Chi-Chi's just
>>"appropriate" them?
>The example is simplistic and juvenile.
No, it's mature. I'm asking about cross-cultural
influences. You're saying I can't ask until I sort
"diffusion" from "appropriation" first. This
distinction may be sharp iu some cases, pointless in

So here's a case. Mexican food. Native Mesoamerican
kit, modified by colonial Spaniards. Recently found
across the USA. Without a doubt, my people are too
stupid to have independently invented the enchilada.
They got it from somewhere else. How? So my questions
are: (1) is this diffusion or appropriation? (2)
Does it matter in this case? In what other cases?

>Why assume then that there are
>ways in which Indians *genetically* effected European/African
>societies, if you can't prove that an *integration*, i.e., Indians
>marrying and living, with society's blessing, with their non-Indian
>mates, occurred on any significant level?
Mary Beth, that's what I'm *asking*. Do you know of anybody
who has looked into this area? I haven't found anybody who
has explored it systematically, one way or the other.
Apparently you haven't either. So we share an ignorance
together, you and I.

>>>(And was the American East Coast a *social frontier*, or a point
>>>of aggressive invasion?)
>>Both, surely? Whenever whites and Indians occupied
>>the same neighborhood as neighbors rather than as
>>foes (a state that has arisen continuously on this
>>continent in various places, and still occurs today),
>>that's what I'd call a social frontier.
>Do you think perhaps that you've been brainwashed by years of
>Thanksgiving Day mythology? The whole construct of a *frontier*
>indicates unequal power, as one group pushes into the territory of
>another, and hence, *diffusion* versus *appropriate* become paramount
>in the understanding of Contact dynamics.
You are shrewd but Usenet is a bad medium for mind-
reading, and my brain is hard to wash.

Sometimes a frontier is just a frontier: a boundary
neighborhood where two or more peoples come together.
The Spanish/Portuguese frontier has been peaceable and
equal for 300 years but it's still a social frontier.

I can understand, tho, that an Indian would not load
the word "Frontier" with the same glamorous overtones
that one of my people is apt to do.

>MB Williams
>Dept. of Anthro., UMass-Amherst
Tony West