Eds. Renfrew, Colin and Ezra Zubrow. The ancient mind: elements of cognitive archaeology.   New Directions in Archaeology Series. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994.

PART 1 Introduction

1.  Towards a cognitive archaeology
Colin Renfrew

Renfrew argues that post-processualists have declared the death of processualism too soon. Current processualist projects are focused on cognition; they assemble material artifacts and offer clearly stated and testable chains of inference about the practices, processes, and thinking represented by those remains. These models of cognitive processes, or  mappa, are constructed on the assumption that humans share a similar self-consciousness.

Part II  The Interdisciplinary Underpinning

2.  Interpretation and testability in theories about prehistoric thinking
James A. Bell

Bell make a brief for, and explains "testability:"  a testable theory is one that can be proved wrong by data, must be modified when it is shown to be wrong by the addition of new data; and must remain testable if portions are changed to fit new data. A theory must be "close to the data," and if the theory includes entailment, the entailed statement must also be testable.  A theory must be consistent:  in other words, all of it must be true under some condition.  Generalization is useful if and only if it allows for more testable statements.  Bell offers testable theories about the weights of Mohenjo-daro as an example.

3.  Archaeology and cognitive science.
Erwin M. Segal

Segal introduces some key concepts of cognitive science:  1) physical symbol systems which include information, a place for it go, and a method for it to be retrieved and enacted upon, and;  2) information processing systems, which include effective procedures for carrying out cognitive tasks.  Segal offers a description of cognitive tasks as problems to be solved, and gives four stages in problem-solving:  1) identifying the problem space as defined by starting and goal (ending) states; 2) identifying intermediate stages within the start and end state; 3) identifying the particular tasks and the order in which they will be carried out 4) identifying the resources available to support the tasks that move the thinker from the initial stage to the goal, or end state.   Segal applies these concepts to hand choppers and to the weights of Mohenjo-daro.

4.  From domain specific to generalized intelligence:  a cognitive interpretation of the Middle/Upper Paleolithic transition
Steve Mithen

Mithen proposes that Lower and Middle Paleolithic humans had a high degree of intelligence within specific technical and social areas, but that these skills lived in mental "silos" -- humans did little "cross-over" thinking and little to pro-actively restructure environments..  His evidence is a "lack of fine-grained environmental adaptation"  as evidenced by simple tools.  Furthermore, he argues that visual symbolism arose  in the later Middle Paleolitic when (and only when) cross-over thinking became possible -- the ability to manipulate and use symbols  being the sign of that "unsiloed" thinking.

5.  Are images animated?  The psychology of statues in Ancient Greece
Alain Schnapp

(Not quite certain I understood Schnapp's point!) In Greek culture an iconic -- aniconic spectrum of representations of divinity obtained across media (stone, music, words).  Using Greek terms and texts, Schnapp argues that religious statues served a range of cultic purposes: the intent of statues was to make the absent gods present, but within proportions, and none so beautiful as to deceive the viewer.  This, in opposition to the Winkelmann-inspired view that the Greeks developed from aniconic imagery to iconic imagery.  N.B. This article v. much in the vein of the "heterarchy" arguments.

Part III Approached to Cult Practice and Transcendental Belief Systems

6.  The archaeology of religion
Colin Renfrew

Renfrew argues three things: first, that we ought not bring our understanding of what religion ought to look like how it ought to function into our exploration of other and prehistoric cultures; second, that religion must have been personally meaningful to its practictioners (this, if I understand the point as he makes it, I would contest); and third, that the presence of religious practice can be identified by certain features, as follows:

1) Ritual is carried out in a special or liminal space; attention-focusing devices are often used and symbols are repeated.
2) Concepts may include ostentation and hiddenness; cleanliness and pollution, any or all of which may be reflected in architecture.
3) Deities may be represented with abstractions, and will be figured in relation to rites of passage, especially death.
4) Worship may include a set of practices which may be figured within that space; remains of offerings -- including drink, food, animals and human sacrifices may also be found.
Renfrew makes a few additional points: that burial deserves more attention as a place where religious beliefs about the soul and afterlife -- and not only bids for social status -- are expressed.  Also, specific parts of symbolic systems ought to be analyzed carefully before statements about the whole are inferred;  inferences that cannot be supported ought not be made.

7.  Ancient Zapotec ritual and religion:  an application of the direct historical approach
Joyce Marcus and Kent V. Flannery

Marcus and Flannery use three sources of information-- ethnographic continuity; the architecture of public space; and ritual paraphernalia in its context -- to analyze Zapotec ritual and religion.  (It seems to me that Marcus and Flannery argue from the known to the known -- not actually uncovering anything -- but being unfamiliar with the research, I could be missing what is new in their analysis.) They conclude that the Spanish records capture Zapotec state religion; household ritual is less accessible.  The arc of development moves from storage pits for lime (possibly a media for hallicinogens) to the presence of carved ritual symbols, to established calendars, rites and sacrifices and finally to widespread religious paraphernalia and sacred temple spaces.

8.  The meaning of death:  funerary beliefs and the prehistorian
Chris Scarre

Scarre, a European prehistorian, argues from the difficulties of interpreting the meaning of Egyptian pyramids (a primeval mound or a stone-crystallized sun ray?) that even with ethnographic data -- writing in particular -- conclusions are difficult to reach; so, too,  European burial practices, which have some but not all specific features in common --symbols, bone mixing and alignment -- change enough, and are different enough from place to place, to simply be beyond clear understanding.

9.  Prehistoric cognition and the science of archaeology
James N. Hill

Hill proposes two methods of assembling data about prehistoric thinking:  the Established Generalization Testing method and the Tight Local Analogy method.  For the first, he uses various studies showing rare copper and conch artifacts in burials but not middens, combined with the notion of supply and demand, to conclude that these items were considered valuable by Indian Knoll people.  For the second, he offers a study of the bird and pipe artifact assemblages found throughout the southeast US, together with ethnographic studies, to argue the meaning of bird and pipes.   Hill is not a strong proponent of cognitive archaeology, concluding that cognitive studies can be better done by ethnographers than archaeologists, since archaeologists have access to practices that may not reflect beliefs. (He cites the study done by Harris on Indian cattle management practice).

Part IV Prehistorical Conceptions of Space and Time

10.  Symbols and signposts -- understanding the prehistoric petroglyphs of the British Isles
Richard Bradley

Bradely brings together the studies of prehistoric land use and the analysis of prehistoric art in order to address the question "how did prehistoric people perceive the landscapes in which they lived?" (96)  Using British petroglyphs -- those with cup and ring motifs -- he considered the size, the ease with which different motifs could be told apart, the extent to which particular motifs had been elaborated, the range of different devices found on the same carved surface, and the extent to which separate elements were combined. (100, top).   Petroglyphs are found in lowland sites, suitable for year-round occupation, and highland sites, suitable for seasonal occupation. Where the audience for a particular glyph site could have been more varied, more heteregeneous, such as an upland and seasonal viewing point which strangers might seek, the patterns were more distinct, more easily read. Where the audience for a glyph site was more likely to be homogeneous, a lowland site occupied by one group year-round, it was more likely to be complex in its use of symbols. After sorting out the possible reasons for the variations in his data, he concludes that the material landscape and symbolic style is pursued in a structured way.  Bradley's work is a clever use of processual techniques to explore a hypothesis.  Possible objections?  First, Bradley is using a framework of seasonal versus year-round occupation to divide up the landscape, and more subtly, the notion of an easily readable "keep out" sign for year-round sites.  This is a reasonable way to divide up the landscape, but it is only one way.  Second, although Bradley quantifies this effort carefully, the ease of distinction between motifs and the extent of the elaboration of motifs might be challenged. To affirm a motif is distinct from its surroundings, or is more complexly coordinated its surrounding elements than other motifs are, is a matter of judgment that might be influenced by the hypothesis itself.

11.  Knowledge representations and archaeology: a cognitive example using GIS
Ezra B. W. Zubrow

Zubrow's work was a bit difficult to follow; however as I understand it, he uses a kind of cross between generative grammar and what looks to me like SQL coding to propose cognitive universals: in other words, categories which are connectors or relationships which all humans everyhwere will recognize.  Among them are inclusion, bisection, continguity, equality, temporality and orientation.  He expands the latter category a bit by discussing figure-ground relationship. He then proposes an "ideal," derived from cultural ethnography, which may be sought in any activity. To this ideal he applies a visual measuring system, using GIS and a "stretching" algorhithm, to look at the differences betwen the ideal and the actual data, creating a 3-D-like topographical map of distortion. In his case, he looks at Iriquois trade routes and the layout of longhouses. Trade routes map very well to ideals, but longhouse layout  does not conform as well to the patterns found in wampum belts.  In one way the work seems like an exercise:  having pre-decided an ideal, any data can be mapped against that ideal for relative difference.  In another way, the work is very illuminating and exciting because it allows a systematic, quantified and visual representation of the difference between hypothesis and data.  It would be interesting to compare his cognitive universals to other writers on this topic.

12.  Dials:  a study in the physical representation of cognitive systems
Charles O. Frake

Frake ably canvasses are a series of suggestive ideas as emodied in directional dials.  He contrasts three dials in common use -- the 360 degree dial,  the hour dial, and the compass dial -- and delves into the history of the compass.  He explains the Italian system of naming the winds and contrasts it to the Melanesian system.  He argues that historians and ethnographer have mistaken the difference between the Melanisian star names of the points (whose position varies considerably) and the concept of 32 fixed points; if one examines the teaching process, one learns that both Western and Aboriginal groups use a similar set of 32 paired and fixed points for navigation. Furthermore, he argues that the 32 point compass exists because it is the finest division that can be made reliably made by eye.  Finally, Frake asks why Mediterranean sailors adopted Northern terms for directions, especially since the Northern sailors did not use the navigation aids that the Italians had perfected?  The Portuguese and Spanish were expansionist, eager to distinguish themselves from the past.  Frake suggests that for this reason, and also because the Northern system incorporated a neat and simple correlation between solar time and lunar tides, they took the Northern nomenclature and set it into their own new scientific (imperialist) system.  Frake discusses differences between cognitive systems, finds links between them, and suggests why one may have obtained over another.

Part V The Material Basis of Cognitive Inference:  Technology

13.  Cognitive aspects of technique
S. E. van der Leeuw

van der Leeuw offers a severely shortened review of his rather complex "theory of everything:"  inevitably, I will not do it justice, as he himself may not have done it justice.  Defining a problem is described as "searching for a perspective which includes a sufficient number of symmetries" and creating a solution is "defining the dimensions which capture these symmetries." (135) Finding a solution fixes a dynamic and non-linear process into a static perception.  Each new solution is a new viewpoint.  In creation, however, the reverse is true.  Realizing the idea (solving the problem) projects a linear, static symmetry into the unlimited possibilitiesof the material world. van Leeuw's study is cross-cultural comparisons of the chaine operatoire of a variety of pottery-making traditions. He considers typology, partonomy and sequence to be fundamental steps.  Further points of consideration include the speed of manufacture of raw materials and the tools available.  The interplay between concept and execution is "cultural;" between execution and raw material the interaction does not necessarily call cultural ideals into question. Finally, van Leeuw considers particuarly the pottery-making tradition of Micharacan, Mexico.  He lists 21 steps in that tradition and describes the types which are horizontally conceived and those which are vertically conceived. "The choice of executive functions affects the range of shapes made, as well as the choice of new shapes which could introduced within the local context.  It is thus by an analysis of the interface between shapes and the ways they are made, that we may hope to  elicit (parts of) the cognitive structure of the executive functions in the area, as well as rediscover the conceptualizations themselves."  (139)

14.  Mindful technology:  unleashing to chaine operatoire for an archaeology of mind
Nathan Schlanger

Unlike other writers, who doubt that anything so identified as the ancient mind, or even "an" ancient mind, can be recovered,
Schlanger argues quite positively that the system embodied in the chaine operatoire (the term coined by scholar Leroi-Gourhan), as expressed in ancient tools and artifacts, allows for an analysis of the complex mundanities of existence, and thus entrance into the mind performing those actions.  Schlanger's focus is on lithic artifacts. Combining scholarly work in a variety of fields, he offers "objects," "operation" and "knowledge" as a tripartite approach to an artifact.  He highlights the mental steps one must take in creating a stone tool: finding striking surfaces (platforms), planning how to remove flakes from the core, reacting to the exigencies of the stone and the blows (as they may and do go awry), envisioning the final product, and reworking that product for other uses.  The artificer must forsee, choose, assess and decide (148).  The chaine operatoire is a useful way to look at the products of mind and hand together:  having defined either end of the process (and that the tools or product is the one intended must necessarily be speculative), one can locate manufacturing decision points based on that ostensible intended outcome, and the materials used.

15.  Prehistoric technology:  a cognitive science?
C. Karlin and M. Julien

By what metod can we identify the stages in a system of technology, or a chaine operatoire?  Karlin and Julien's brief summary of pre-human hominids takes in early tool-making and suggests that the tools were simple enough to be copied just by observation.  Of particular note in this development were the adoption of fire and the invention of the bi-face hand-axe.(153)  While the thoughts of the artificer remain forever unknown and unknowable, technical skills, they argue, capture and embody concepts and signal complexity of thought.  Lithic remains are especially suggestive:  they are imperishable, they scatter in situ and in abundance, and they have characteristic marks matching specific operations.  A stone worker holds an ideal form in mind -- a desire -- and makes constant incremental recursive physical adjustments to the constraints of the stone as it takes the shape of the tool.  Based on studies of Pincevent, Etoilles, and Verberie, one important development appears to have been the ability to envision a stone as a certain volume, a 3-D volume, of blades.  Karlin and Julien recount a series of assemblage refitting studies in which flint knappers are grouped into three levels according to their ability to anticipate, plan and react.   The assemblages suggest specific categories within cognition:  reaction, reflection, decison and execution.  A more complex series of parallels introduces the ideas of knowlege, know-how, intention to do and execution. While the scheme seems right -- or at least it is difficult to think of any other cognitive process or categories of thought for tool-making, -- one feels, or senses, that these groupings are suggested by the modern interaction with the tools, with the act of refitting or of making tools, but not by the artifacts themselves. One suspects that a different culture would group these acts of thinking and creation differently. (Cf Archaeology, September-November 2003, "Woman the Toolmaker" p. 50).  Karlin and Julien assert that management and use of stone along migratory paths also shows specialization and planning capability.  Given these processes, how was proficiency acquired and passed along?  Intense analysis of sites evidence different skills being tested and perfected.  What is not evident is whether or not apprentices traveled in age sets or gender groups or by some other system. (again cf the article above).  In summary Karlin and Julien argue that pre-human tool making, expressed in simple and repetitive movements became, at a certain point, something  quite different.  Assemblages in stone evidence individual planning capability which became, in 3-D, and superimposed on the environment, the ability of a group to manage and plan around seasons.

Part VI The Material Basis of Cognitive Inference:  Writing Systems

16. Variation and change in symbol systems:  case studies in Elamite cuneiform
John S. Juseteson and Laurence D. Stephens

Justeson and Stephens begin with two premises:  first, our only access to cognition is through correspondences between the environment and behavior.  Second, perceptual and motor processes are universal, but the categorization of experience and action is culturally specific.  Using these premises, Justeson and Stephens analyze change in writing systems in terms of general information processing issues -- repetition and categorization.  For these two authors the material manifestations of patterns of correspondence in Elamite cuneiform offer good grounds for investigation. Because I found the technical language used in presenting the examples quite hard to follow, I am a bit uncertain that I have truly understood the argument.  If I've got it right,
they track in some detail the Consonant-Vowel-Consonant changes (harmonic to broken spellings), suggesting that repetition of spelling conventions, and their proximity in texts are a mechanism for enforcing logical categories.  If one pairing of morphemes is replaced by another pairing, then a correlation between the original pairings and the new pairings is being created or established because they are categorized and processed together. In other words, tracking the gradual changes in spelling is like(?)  tracking changes in thought-categories.  Over time, Elamite had less pairings to work with, became less orthographically complex and thinkers had to make more use of a smaller set of signs. I'd like to see another author pursue this same line of thinking in, say, Old English.  Would a linguist or colonial historian accept the idea that changes in orthographic patterns signified changes in thought categories?

17. Text and figure in ancient Mesogpotamia:  match and mismatch
J. N. Postgate

The addition of meaning to figurines from a site need to incorporate as large a set of data as possible.  Figurines can have a range of purposes:  for instance, a clay dog can be a magical guardian, a gift of thanks to a deity, a toy or a decoration.  For the merchant of religious or magical icons, all of these meanings are summed up as the means of transacting a livelihood from a surrounding culture.  Postgate says that human and animal figurines found together in a site may require an outside data set, in other words, a text, to make sense of them.  Human figurines are suppliants, presenting continous prayers for deliverance from illness or trouble.  Dogs, by contrast, are general gifts, dedications of thanks.  Akkadian apparently has a specific word for anthropomorphic figurines, salmun, which he translates as effigy .  Within this concept Postgate gives four categories of effigies:  the god's image in human form; and the human suppliant or sufferer.  These two are called religious. Types three and four are magical:  a supernatural being and again a human being.  These are used as channels for action, and Postgate undersores the specificity of the latter type of image. It is the ghost, the demon, the man or woman being acted upon.  Animal images, by contrast, are not specific in this way.  Postgate cites other apotropaic figurines which match well with existing texts. Postgate asserts that these conclusions about effigies and substitutes are derived from texts, sites and artifacts.  A group offering sometimes a good, but sometimes a poormatch between texts and figurines are texts and cylinder seals.  For instance, a text relating the myth of the Shepherd Etana, who was taken up to heaven by an eagle, does not match well with a cylinder seal from 500 years earlier, clearly relating this tale, but with puzzling aspects and unclear images.  Also puzzling are the numerous animal-combat cylinder seals -- no textual data gives insight into their meaning.  Conversely, while there are plenty of "bedroom scenes" in Akkadian art, there is no representation of sexual intercourse between the king and Ishtar/priestess, although texts establish this important ritual.  In short, good matches are not an accident, and bad matches may also be significant.

Part VII Conclusion

18. Cognitive archaeology reconsidered
Ezra B. Zubrow

Concluding the anthology is Zubrow's remark, "human behavior has been goal-directed as long as it has been observed." (And that, one presumes, by someone who had a purpose for making and sharing the observations.)  New developments in cognitive archaeology take two directions:  first, material culture reflects not only social behaviors, but also patterns of cognition.  Second, our own patterns of cognition limit and direct archaological practice.  Of course, cognition is set in the larger context of society which rewards only some kinds of material practice -- for example, limited resources may mean that because of differing political goals, national teams working on the same archaeological site might benefit, but still hestitate, to work together. Zubrow cites Childe's scientific and industrial focus, or Hodder's post-modernist interpretation of the archaeological record.  In each endeavor all that is current flows back into the past.  What are the important issues facing cognitive archaeologists?  He focuses on memory.  What are the cross-cultural commonalities in mental patterns of classification as organized by sensory memory?  What kinds of memory about self and location are common across cultures and time?  How are short and long-term memory supplemented and supported by symbols?  Are any symbols more efficient and effective than others at storing and retrieving knowledge?  How do concepts and organizational schemes fall out of use?  What sorts of groupings and patterns are most memorable?  When do people think in images, and when do they think in words?  How do people select certain features of an object or a landscape to convey a general impression?  These are some of the questions he poses. Currently processual concerns address trade, adaptation, status and material culture.  Cognitive studies seem to be the province of the post processualists.  Zubrow hopes that these questions, and these issues will be available to all in the field.