Ohio History Journal

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6






During the past half century, or throughout the period that

anthropology has been an academic discipline in American uni-

versities, all branches of the subject--physical anthropology, eth-

nology and archaeology, anthropological linguistics and folklore--

have put much emphasis upon original field research. No student

of anthropology is considered professionally fully trained until he

or she has had actual experience in the field collecting original data

on a field problem. For the ethnologist this usually means field

work among primitive or, today, semi-literate peoples having a

culture different from his own.

All anthropologists recognize the two-fold value of field ex-

perience--not only does it serve to educate the novice by affording

him contact with a contrasting culture but field work also provides

most of our present-day knowledge of primitive peoples. However,

anthropologists would be a brash lot indeed if they were to insist

that their entire corpus of knowledge rests in field reports. This

is especially true, as it happens, for ethnologists, who are concerned

not only (a) with describing cultures, in whole or in part, but

also (b) with analyzing them in terms of pattern, structure, or

growth and change.

It is on this latter point that I wish to speak for a moment. The

dynamic problem of culture growth and culture change is one which

has engrossed many culture historians, several of whom have made

notable attempts to deal with it in long range terms by such

means as the comparative method. Various postulates, such as that

of age-area, have been used--and their validity controverted--in

efforts to reconstruct historically the culture-history of primitive

peoples within particular areas over long periods of time. Although

trained American ethnologists have consistently refused to consider

the problem of origins, they have not hesitated to occupy them-

selves with problems which the trained historian refuses to con-

sider, namely, problems of historical reconstruction based on in-