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Anthropology without Informants

Anthropology without Informants: Collected Works in Paleoanthropology by L.G. Freeman

L. G. Freeman
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Anthropology without Informants
    Book Description:

    L.G. Freeman is a major scholar of Old World Paleolithic prehistory and a self-described "behavioral paleoanthropologist." Anthropology without Informants is a collection of previously published papers by this preeminent archaeologist, representing a cross section of his contributions to Old Work Paleolithic prehistory and archaeological theory.   A socio-cultural anthropologist who became a behavioral paleoanthropologist late in his career, Freeman took a unique approach, employing statistical or mathematical techniques in his analysis of archaeological data. All the papers in this collection blend theoretical statements with the archeological facts they are intended to help the reader understand.   Although he taught at the University of Chicago for the span of his 40-year career, Freeman is not well-known among Anglophone scholars, because his primary fieldwork and publishing occurred in Cantabrian, Spain. However, he has been a major player in Paleolithic prehistory, and this volume will introduce his work to more American Archaeologists.   This collection brings the work of an expert scholar, to a broad audience, and will be of interest to archaeologists, their students, and lay readers interested in the Paleolithic era.

    eISBN: 978-0-87081-970-4
    Subjects: Sociology, Archaeology, Anthropology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xiv)

    This volume encapsulates some of the most significant published work of Leslie G. Freeman, an important—and, I believe, underappreciated—figure in the history of American participation in the study of Paleolithic Europe.

    Leslie Freeman entered this field in the 1960s, a time of intellectual turmoil and important developments in the history of archeology. First came the rise of the movement in American anthropological archeology that came to be known as the “New Archeology.” Led by the charismatic Lewis Binford, a network of relatively junior archeologists challenged prevailing orthodoxy in advancing new claims. They argued that archeology properly was—or...


    • [I. Introduction]
      (pp. 1-4)

      Each of the three chapters in this section addresses a theoretical issue of considerable importance to archeologists of all persuasions. The first and second distinguish the field of behavioral paleoanthropology from other and very different kinds of archeology. When the pieces were written, archeologists in the United States pretty generally assumed that their kind of prehistoric archeology was the only one. But prehistory is defined as lasting until the peoples who are its subject have begun to produce their own written records. In much of the United States, preliterate people were observed by literate outsiders who left good written descriptions...

    • ONE Anthropology without Informants (1977)
      (pp. 5-18)

      Anthropology is unique among the disciplines which study mankind in the breadth and diversity of its approaches. This multiplicity of perspectives is its major strength, lending it a flexibility and adaptability few fields can rival. Ideally, continued feedback among its subfields should ensure that each periodically may come to new insights about the nature of our species. For that ideal to be realized, communication between the subfields must be kept easy and open.

      Just a few years ago, ease of communication could be guaranteed by exposing students in depth to all branches of anthropology. Then, anthropologists shared a basic vocabulary...

    • TWO A Theoretical Framework for Interpreting Archeological Materials (1968)
      (pp. 19-28)

      This essay discusses the proposition that the most serious failings in present models for interpreting archeological evidence are directly related to the fact that they incorporate numerous analogies with modern groups. This has prevented the development of frameworks of theory which might lead to an understanding of the sociocultural significance of archeological residues based directly on the comparison of those residues. The use of analogy has demanded that prehistorians adopt the frames of reference of anthropologists who study modern populations and attempt to force their data into those frames, a process which will eventually cause serious errors in prehistoric analysis,...

    • THREE The Fat of the Land (Partial) (1981) NOTES ON PALEOLITHIC DIET IN IBERIA
      (pp. 29-40)

      In discussing the difficulty of interpreting prehistoric behavior from the evidence in the archeological record, Christopher Hawkes characterized the study of technology as easy, inferences about subsistence economics as operationally laborious but relatively simple and straightforward, reasoning about social-political institutions as much harder, and the study of religious institutions and spiritual life as hardest of all (1954: 161–62). It is scarcely possible to dispute his general diagnosis, which expresses a basic tenet of prehistoric research. Nevertheless, Hawkes’s statement hides a paradox; in specific cases a great deal is known about other aspects of subsistence-related technological systems, but there is...


    • [II. Introduction]
      (pp. 41-44)

      There are two chapters in this section. Their scope is broad and has implications that go far beyond my limited field of experience. Although most of my own research has been centered on Spain, in the first chapter of this section I attempted a more ambitious synthesis of all we thought we knew about the Paleolithic past some thirty years ago. As one of the very few U.S.-trained prehistorians who has been privileged to excavate sites from all three Paleolithic periods—Lower (Torralba, Ambrona, Castillo), Middle (el Conde, Morín), and Upper (el Conde, Morín, el Juyo, Altamira)—I feel that...

    • FOUR By Their Works You Shall Know Them: Cultural Developments in the Paleolithic (1975)
      (pp. 45-72)

      From the materialist viewpoint essential to the paleoanthropologist, cultural systems are socially—rather than biologically—transmitted behavioral complexes by which some organisms mediate their relationship to their surroundings, including other organisms (Kummer 1971).

      As the cultural means of adaptation becomes fully efficient, it serves to mediate between organisms and environment in several ways. First, it alters some set of natural resources, selected deliberately or unconsciously by members of society from among the larger range of environmental offerings. Second, it keeps some set of natural environmental factors which could be deleterious to their survival from impinging directly on a sufficiently large...

    • FIVE Paleolithic Polygons: Voronoi Tesserae and Settlement Hierarchies in Cantabrian Spain (1994)
      (pp. 73-86)

      Sometimes, the application of an unusual analytical technique to a body of commonplace data produces information as interesting as it was unexpected. This chapter discusses suggestive patterns made by drawing Thiessen polygons (also called “Voronoi tesserae”) around Paleolithic sites in the autonomous political region of Cantabrian Spain, where prehistoric investigations have been especially intense over the last few decades. The simple geometric patterns resulting from this purely mathematical procedure suggest that sites used during each of four periods fall into previously unrecognized hierarchical arrangements, that generally agree with informed evaluations of the “importance” of their assemblages, but that have no...


    • [III. Introduction]
      (pp. 87-88)

      The next two chapters discuss the evidence from the sister Acheulean sites of Torralba and Ambrona on the Spanish Meseta. The first and most extensive simply details the excavators’ finds and the interpretations. Our conclusions were challenged, and one critic claimed that what we had recovered were simply the remains of scavenged animals and often unrelated stone tools. Some of these criticisms were dealt with in the first of these chapters. In it, I applied some “innovative” statistical techniques that I had adopted for the study of Lower and Middle Paleolithic materials (these techniques were already well-known to the practitioners...

    • SIX Torralba and Ambrona: A Review of Discoveries (1994)
      (pp. 89-140)

      In the 1960s, F. Clark Howell began a program of multidisciplinary investigations at the Spanish Mesetan sites of Torralba and Ambrona that quickly became classic. Torralba and Ambrona retain among the best-preserved, most carefully excavated, and informative mid-Pleistocene localities known from Western Europe to the present day. It is my belief that in the future these excavations will be increasingly recognized as among Howell’s foremost contributions.

      This chapter reviews the work of the team that excavated and analyzed Acheulean residues and bones at Torralba and Ambrona under Howell’s supervision and outlines the implications of the analysis of those residues.


    • SEVEN Were There Scavengers at Torralba? (2001)
      (pp. 141-158)

      Healthy debate about the hunting capacity of Lower and Middle Paleolithic foraging peoples continues as strongly now as it did more than two decades ago (González Echegaray and Freeman 1998). The multilevel sister sites of Torralba (Fig. 7.1) and Ambrona (Fig. 7.2) in the province of Soria on the high Spanish Meseta, excavated since the 1960s under the direction of F. Clark Howell (the second more recently reinvestigated by M. Santonja), have been prominent among European Acheulean foci of this discussion, and are probably familiar to most readers because their abundant faunas contain several individual elephants of a very large...


    • [IV. Introduction]
      (pp. 159-160)

      The first of these three chapters treats the origins of the Mousterian and shows that well-excavated assemblages can and do intergrade. For that reason and others, the interpretation of the Mousterian facies as non-overlapping, mutually exclusive sets of related industries can no longer be maintained, nor can the idea that they were the stylistically distinctive products of separate, identity-conscious socio-cultural groups. In Chapter 9 I present some of the evidence suggesting that there are differences between Middle and Upper Paleolithic adaptations and speculate about their causes. Chapter 10 attempts to summarize still more evidence about those differences and to indicate...

    • EIGHT Kaleidoscope or Tarnished Mirror? Thirty Years of Mousterian Investigations in Cantabria (1994)
      (pp. 161-196)

      Thirty years ago, I undertook my first independent Paleolithic research, on the nature of the Cantabrian Mousterian. Motivated by a desire to extend the “new systematics” of artifact and assemblage classification developed by the late François Bordes to an area outside France, I sought to determine whether or not the distinctive and seemingly nontemporal constellations of similar Mousterian assemblages or “facies” he recognized could be identified outside their type area, and to find causes or correlates of their variation. It seemed logical to select, for this kind of study, an area not too distant from southwest France, where the sequence...

    • NINE The Mousterian, Present and Future of a Concept (A Personal View) (2006)
      (pp. 197-212)

      The “Mousterian” is a stone artifact industrial complex restricted mostly to Europe (and in most characteristic form to Western Europe) and parts of Western Asia and North Africa. If we disregard the difficulty of differentiating it from the latest Acheulean and affiliated industries, the Mousterian seems first to appear during the Last Interglacial, more than 130,000 years ago, and to be replaced by Upper Paleolithic industries some 40,000 years ago. The term Mousterian was first applied by Gabriel de Mortillet (1869, 1872) to collections from the site of Le Moustier (Dordogne, France), made by Edouard Lartet in 1864 (which the...

    • TEN Research on the Middle Paleolithic in the Cantabrian Region (2005) WHERE HAVE WE COME FROM? WHERE ARE WE NOW?
      (pp. 213-236)

      The story of investigations of Mousterian sites in Cantabria has respectable antiquity, and Cantabrian research since its commencement has made contributions of great consequence to our understanding of the Mousterian complex of industries. Eduardo de la Pedraja first excavated Mousterian levels at the site of Covalejos in 1872 and Fuente del Francés in 1880; between 1878 and 1880 Sanz de Sautuola himself discovered the archeological deposits in the Cueva del Pendo or San Pantaleón (though without excavating its Mousterian materials). The recovery of Mousterian materials continued sporadically throughout the earlier part of the twentieth century. During the 1950s, the leading...


    • [V. Introduction]
      (pp. 237-240)

      There are five chapters in this section, perhaps because it has been a more recent focus of my research than have the Mousterian and Lower Paleolithic. For much too long I resisted entering a field of study where it seemed to me that ill-informed opinions were as accepted as were well-grounded ones. The specialists in this field of study seemed as “fuzzy-minded” as their audiences. It took my colleague González Echegaray many years to convince me that one could approach the study of Paleolithic art in rigorous fashion and that doing so could be rewarding. With my colleagues, I have...

    • ELEVEN Meanders on the Byways of Paleolithic Art (1987)
      (pp. 241-276)

      From the very moment of first discovery of Paleolithic cave art, concern for its significance and the most appropriate techniques for its interpretation have caused great intellectual ruminations on the part of those scholars fascinated by mankind’s prehistoric past. The broad general lines of the principal speculations on the subject have been summarized, and their substance subjected to a critique as hard as it was overdue, by Peter Ucko and Andrée Rosenfeld in their work Palaeolithic Cave Art (1967). Possibly due to the rigor of its authors, the publication of this admirable little book brought with it unhappy consequences for...

    • TWELVE The Many Faces of Altamira (1994)
      (pp. 277-294)

      It has sometimes been asserted that archeological research lacks contemporary relevance. On the contrary, cases of archeological discoveries that have practical value today are not hard to find; take for example the rediscovery of dew irrigation and more recently Kolata’s reconstruction of the ingenious and productive raised field system of Tiwanaku (Kolata 1993). They have other, less practical, dimensions of meaning, as well. Prehistoric monuments themselves have been turned to use by the modern world in many ways, acquiring an overlay of meaning that is seldom explored by prehistorians. That seems to be particularly true for two kinds of sites:...

    • THIRTEEN Techniques of Figure Enhancement in Paleolithic Cave Art (1987)
      (pp. 295-314)

      Not so very many years ago, the primary aim of those studying Paleolithic art was to catalogue it, to define different styles, and to arrange them (based on superposition and the “logic” of stylistic evolution) in a developmental sequence (Breuil 1974). Sometimes, artistic depictions were convincingly interpreted as faithful reflections of the external environment (González Echegaray 1974) or, less convincingly, as enigmatic representations of religious symbols (Luquet 1926). From the totally a priori premise that the Paleolithic artist was only rarely capable of conceptualizing multifigure compositions (groups were explained as simple juxtapositions), the isolated individual depiction was ordinarily the datum...

    • FOURTEEN The Cave as Paleolithic Sanctuary (2005)
      (pp. 315-328)

      Before embarking on a somewhat speculative discussion of the nature of Paleolithic art and its environment, I should like to qualify what I am about to write. First of all, we ought never to attempt to explain what we do know—the Paleolithic decorations themselves—in terms of something we cannot know or do not know, such as their supposed religious/magical significance. It seems evident to me that Paleolithic art must be approached empirically. We must try to understand it in its own terms. What seem to us to be logical meanings or connections of figures are probably quite unlike...

    • FIFTEEN Caves and Art: Rites of Initiation and Transcendence (2005)
      (pp. 329-342)

      In a previous chapter in this volume, I discussed some of the evidence that leads to the recognition that certain precincts in Paleolithic sites with or without decorations are truly sanctuaries, citing cases from Cueva Morín, the Cueva del Juyo, and the Great Ceiling at Altamira. But the evidence I presented for Altamira was incomplete. The cave and its decorations provide a more extensive demonstration of its uniqueness and the propriety of calling it a sanctuary in its integrity. In its decorations, the Great Ceiling bears a symbolic relationship to the depictions in the Final Gallery of the cave (also...


    • [VI. Introduction]
      (pp. 343-344)

      As one who has personally benefited greatly from contact with situations and investigators in Spain, as have my students, I feel that it is only seemly to conclude the collection with the chapter “The Participation of North Americans and Spaniards in Joint Prehistoric Research in Cantabria.” Although some chauvinists assume that in our collaboration, the Europeans alone have been the recipients of vast knowledge gained in the course of cooperating with their wiser U.S. counterparts, in fact the story is actually one of both give and take. Equally important information has passed in both directions. New World archeology historically resisted...

    • SIXTEEN The Participation of North Americans and Spaniards in Joint Prehistoric Research in Cantabria (2006)
      (pp. 345-358)

      It is a great pleasure for me to be invited to contribute an essay on this topic, since I have enjoyed the most cordial and fruitful relationships with Spanish colleagues, especially in Cantabria, in my own research during the past 37 years. The careers of researchers from other countries run like colored threads through the historical fabric of prehistoric investigations in Spain, against the broad background of their Spanish counterparts. Despite changes in her political climate, and differences in philosophy and orientation between her own professionals, Spanish prehistory has been from the first fully international, and refreshingly open to outsiders....

  8. Afterword
    (pp. 359-362)

    Because I strongly favor international and interdisciplinary research collaboration, more of my publications are co-authored than is the norm. For example, I have published a great deal about the Upper Paleolithic, based on research at the caves of el Conde, Morín, el Pendo, el Juyo, and Altamira. I have also written articles about measurement, education, statistical methods, and improvements in techniques for data recovery, most of which appeared in papers or books co-authored with J. González Echegaray or others. Fascinating though I think the results of such work may be, I have avoided republishing co-authored articles in this book so...