Ohio History Journal

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Cultural anthropology is a comparatively old branch of learn-

ing if we mean by it the contemplation of the objects of material

culture and a vague awareness of "strange" customs.      The

Babylonians of the time of Hammurabi are said to have had

museums of artifacts recovered from the Sumerians; and the

Greeks, notably Herodotus, evinced a lively interest in the customs

of barbarians. It is only during the last one hundred years, how-

ever, that cultural anthropology has emerged as a science--"the

science of custom"--and it is within the last thirty years that it

has made some claims to be a generalizing science. By science, of

course, we mean the search for and establishment of more or less

generally valid conclusions regarding relations between entities,

established through impartial observation, collection, measure-

ment and classification of data, and involving rigorous checking

of hypotheses. Relatively few such generalizations have been

established for cultural anthropology to date.

Both physical and cultural anthropology have for a long time

enjoyed rather a favorable position in the minds of exact scientists,

partly perhaps because they did not understand or care much

about them, partly because the anthropologists made a great show

of measuring and classifying their material, which, in the case

of the cultural anthropologists, consisted largely of artifacts. The

tardiness in valid generalizations in cultural anthropology has

arisen, in part at least, through confusion as to the proper data of

the science and correlative confusion as to the objectives to be

pursued. As long as culture was thought of primarily in terms of

material artifacts little progress could be made. Classify and

measure artifacts as you will, relations of any significance between

1 Parts of this paper were read before the Ohio Valley Sociological Society in

its annual meetings at Columbus, May, 1938.