The Marvels of Culture

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Aaron Berneking
10.12.12
ANTH 203
Dr. King

The Marvel of Culture
Throughout this course there has been a significant amount of discussion on the topic of culture. While this class is biological anthropology instead of cultural anthropology, the analysis of culture is the one topic that I find most interesting and fundamental to any field of anthropological study. The pursuance of an anthropology degree has led me to many different definitions and understandings of the term ‘culture’, but it was not until the discussion of non-human animals that I fully grasped the deep layer meaning. In the past, I saw culture as a type of human social learning that included symbols, traditions, and most importantly language. It was easiest for my brain to grasp such an abstract concept when directly relating it to language and the oral communication restricted to humans. In this course, however, I have learned that culture has the capacity to show up in non-human communities as well, specifically in primates. The definition that I learned in class on the 5th of September includes any “group specific behavior transmitted non-genetically for reasons other than genetics or ecology” (King 2012).

While the idea of culture may span multiple fields of anthropology, I find it extremely important to biological anthropology in order study the use of tools among non-human primates. This aspect of the topic answers the question, “Is language required for culture” (King 2012)? The answer to that question is no. In 1999, Andrew Whitten wrote a paper on the existence of culture among chimpanzee populations; his research showed that tool use among chimp populations is definitely cultural. This notion was justified by the discovery that tool use patterns among different chimp populations varied, but the variation always occurred due to non-genetic and non-ecological factors (Whiten 1999). This, and Whitens other works, shows that culture exists by means of social learning and...
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