Chapter 1 Introduction
It was the development of ability to communicate through speech and tool making capacity that the Homo sapien sapien species got separated from rest of the higher mammals as these two capacities have been fundamental for ‘culture’ which is the most diagnostic feature of human society. In this the use of tools made of wood, stone, and bone appears to have been preceded. Thus “culture” could be broadly classed as material culture and non-material culture. Material culture is central to an understanding of culture and social relations through artefacts which give assumptions of a particular community or society. Culture and society are seen as being created and reproduced by the ways in which people make, design, and interact with objects. The word material in material culture refers to a broad range of objects. Understandings of material culture has been central to anthropology since its inception; during the late 19th and early 20th century anthropologists primarily collected material culture (Kroeber, Boas: 1896-1905) that was displayed in museums in Europe and North America. Daniel Miller has called for “an independent discipline of material culture” (Miller 1987:112). According to Miller and Tilley (1996:5) “the study of material culture may be most broadly defined as the investigation of the relationship between people and things irrespective of time and space. The perspective adopted may be global or local, concerned with the past or present, or the mediation between the two.” Joseph (2001:121) views that “Henry Glassie view of culture in which material items were symbols and grammar, a text through which one could understand the meaning and intention of historic actions and not merely their historical and economic consequences”. The term ‘material culture emphasises how apparently inanimate things within the environment act on people, and are acted upon by people, for the purposes of carrying out social functions, regulating social relations and giving symbolic meaning to human activity. The phrase “material culture” is a broad one. Perhaps the simplest way to define the term is that material culture represents the “things” or the “stuff” which we create and use on a daily basis, the material products of a culture. Some artefacts denote our class and social status. As folklorist Henry Glassie argues, material culture often reveals much about a past that is difficult to study in other ways. Historians of material culture describe, categorize, and compare the characteristics of artificially constructed objects that have survived in physical or representational form-their size, shape, colour, design, weight, and volume. With the help of literary and archival records they identify and measure the quantity, as well as the quality, of goods and determine how they were made, distributed, and related to each other; when and where they appeared; and who acquired them for what use. Prehistory and archaeological studies heavily rely upon the cultural relics and the material objects left over by the bygone cultures of yester years to reconstruct the way of life of those people who have not maintained any written records. One of the studies carried out in relation to material culture is that of Von Hugeland ranked categories of things, and was more interested in ivory ornaments and carved wooden items such as clubs and spears and pots or baskets (Thomas 1989). The usage of artefacts also distinguishes people for each other, culturally, biologically and also by age wise. Thus the necessity of studying material culture is to understand multiple features of the culture environment and people. The material culture is often studied by archaeologists as a source to establish the time factor (Schiffer 1990). Through material culture meanings...
References: Dash (2004). Social and cultural anthropology, New Delhi: Atlantic Publication
Miller, D. and Tilley, C. 1996. Editorial. Journal of Material Culture Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 5–14.
Material Culture by Henry Glassie Review by: J. W. Joseph Historical Archaeology, Vol. 35, No. 2 (2001), pp. 121-122
Thoms, N. 1989’ “Material culture and colonial power; Ethnographical collecting and the established of colonial rule in Fiji Man”, News series, 24(1); 41-56
Buchi, victor.2004. “Material culture; Critical Concept in the Social Sciences. New York Routledge publication.
Schiffer, Mechael Brain and Andhera Miller. 1999. “The material life of human beings; artefacts, behaviour communication”. New York; Routledge publication
Thurston, (1909). The Castes and Tribes of Southern India, I (A and B) Madras: Government Press.
Please join StudyMode to read the full document