ah well

Sun, 23 Jan 1994 09:50:34 EDT

Well hey! The dissertation is defended, the letters have gone
out to the addresses in the anthropology newsletter, the replies
have come in, replies that could have been written by a robot
instead of the overworked secretaries who undoubtedly printed
them up, and none of these replies has asked for anything more
than an affirmative action card reply. It is now late January
and the message is clear... Thus I have no reputation to be
overly worried about and am thus free to say the following...

culture is what people expect to happen. where there are enough
people with similar expactations of what will happen, there you
have a culture. Where there are differences in two distinct
groups of people in what they expact to happen then you have two

Jeez, what a silly thing to say, I know. but.... an example, say
an example of how a "cultural artifact" may have been created.

Say we have a long in the tooth australopithecus, one of the
variety that has been around a while, say A robustus or even a
little africanus, cruising the savannah. This A. whatever comes
upon a carcass, a dead animal as it were, a large mammal maybe
with skin to be gotten through to get to meat below. Now say our
A. whatever had also, as it cruised the savannah, recently
encountered a sharp rock which had cut its own skin in a most
painful and memorable manor, and say as our A. whatever is
attempting to remove the skin from its potential food, and say
our A. whatever's mind associates what it is currently doing
(trying to cut the skin of a dead animal) with events in the
recent past (its own skin being cut by a sharp stone) and creates
the expectation that sharp stones cut skins (as in its own) and
thus possibly the skin of dead animals as well. Now suppose our
A. whatever remembers where it encountered this sharp stone and
returns to collect it and hence to the carcass and hence tests
its newly created expectation that sharp stones cut skins and
validates this expectation through the experience of cutting the
skin of the carcass at hand. Now suppose that the next time this
particular a. whatever is cruising the savannah as part of its
theorized multi-male band and this band comes upon a carcass to
scavenge and this A. whatever searches the scene for a sharp
stone and returns and demonstrates to its fellows the efficacy of
sharp stones for cutting skins such that they now have the
association of sharp stones and skin cutting and thus the
expectation that sharp stones cut skins, what do we have? Stone
tools? Possibly. Suppose these A. whatevers put their stamp on
these stones as in OLDAWAN (TM) we have a cultural artifact. An
object, a physical thingie whose existence is derived from the
expectations of its creators. Possible? Well maybe not... those
form letters do not even come anymore...