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Dr. A.M.Tozzer. 
ceived Maroh 31, 1938. 




Robert H. Lowie, Ph.D. 

Associate Curator, Anthropology 
American Museum of Natural History 






iEfU). U^S3 CL c.T. 



I. Culture and Psychology ... 5 

II. Culture and Race .... 27 

III. Culture and Environment . . 47 

IV. The Determinants of Culture . . 66 
V. Terms of Relationship ... 98 


This booklet is an attempt at popularization. 
The first four chapters are practically identical 
with as many lectures, delivered in 191 7 as 
the January course offered by the Department 
of Anthropology of the American Museum of 
Natural History. The purpose of the January 
series, which was instituted in 1914 by Dr. 
P. E. Goddard and the writer, is to acquaint 
an audience of intelligent laymen with some of 
the results of modern ethnological work, the 
emphasis being on principles and problems, 
rather than on purely descriptive detail. The 
course, in short, occupies an intermediate po- 
sition between technical discourses addressed 
to scientists and the more popular lectures 
which are designed to furnish mainly entertain- 
ment. Each year different topics have been 
chosen and several members of the staff have 
cooperated. Owing to the dearth of recent 
ethnological literature reflecting the position of 
American field-workers, and at the same time 
accessible to the interested outsider, I was 
easily persuaded to issue the 191 7 lectures in 
the present form. 


The last chapter may not seem to fit within 
the scope of this publication. It is obviously 
more technical than the rest in treatment and 
may appear to deal with too special a topic. 
My object, however, was to conclude with a 
concrete illustration of ethnological method, and 
I naturally selected a subject to which I had 
paid considerable attention during the last two 
years. It is a subject in which Morgan was able 
to arouse the interest of hundreds of laymen; 
and I can see no reason why an up-to-date 
exposition of the problems involved should not 
be able to hold their attention. 

Robert H. Lowie 

May^ 191 7 


With the beginning of the European war the 
word 'culture* acquired a sense in popular English 
usage which had long prevailed in ethnological 
literature. Culture is, indeed, the sole and ex- 
clusive subject-matter of ethnology, as conscious- 
ness is the subject-matter of psychology, life 
of biology, electricity of a branch of physics. 
Culture shares with these other fundamental 
concepts the peculiarity that it can be prop- 
erly understood only by an enlarged familiarity 
with the facts it summarizes. There is no royal 
shortcut to a comprehension of culture as a 
whole by definition any more than to a compre- 
hension of consciousness; but as every analysis 
and explanation of particular conscious states 
adds to our knowledge of what consciousness 
is, so every explanation of particular cultural 
phenomena adds to our insight into the nature 
of culture. We must, however, start with 
some proximate notion of what we are to 
discuss, and for this purpose Tylor's definition 
in the opening sentence of his Primitive CuUure 
will do as well as any: "Culture ... is that 
complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, 
art, morals, law, custom, and any other capa- 



bilities and habits acquired by man as a member 
of society." 

For purely practical reasons, connected with 
the minute division of labor that has become 
imperative with modern specialization, ethnology 
has in practice concerned itself with the cruder 
cultures of peoples without a knowledge of writ- 
ing. But this division is an illogical and artificial 
one. As the biologist can study life as manifested 
in tlje human organism as well as in the amoeba, 
so the ethnologist might examine and describe 
the usages of modern America as well as those of 
the Hopi Indians. In these lectures I shall there- 
fore not hesitate to draw upon illustrations from 
the higher civilizations where these seem most 

Indeed, it may be best for pedagogical reasons 
to commence with an enumeration of instances of 
cultural activity in our own midst. And since 
there is a persistent tendency to associate with 
culture the more impressive phenomena of art, 
science, and technology, it is well to insist at the 
outset that these loftier phases are by no means 
necessary to the concept of culture. The fact 
that your boy plays 'button, button, who has the 
button?' is just as much an element of our cul- 
ture as the fact that a room is lighted by elec- 
tricity. So is the baseball enthusiasm of our 



grown-up population, so are moving picture 
shows, this dansants, Thanksgiving Day mas- 
querades, bar-rooms, Ziegfeld Midnight Follies, 
evening schools, the Hearst papers, woman 
suffrage clubs, the single-tax movement, Riker 
drug stores, touring-sedans, and Tammany 

These, then, represent the type of phenomena 
comprised under the caption of culture. They 
exist, and science, as a complete view of reality, 
cannot ignore them. But a question ominous for 
the worker who derives his bread and butter from 
ethnological investigation arises. All the phe- 
nomena mentioned and the rest of the same order 
relate to man, and they relate to man not as an 
animal but as an organism endowed with a higher 
mentality. Tylor's definition expressly speaks of 
'capabilities and habits*. But there is a science 
that deals with capabilities and habits, to wit, 
psychology. Is it, then, necessary to have a dis- 
tinct branch of knowledge, or can we not simply 
merge the cultural phenomena in those of the 
older science of psychology? It is this question 
that concerns us here. On the answer must de- 
pend our conception of culture and our attitude 
towards a science purporting to deal with cul- 
tural phenomena as something distinct from 
other data of reality. 



In seeking light on this subject we must under- 
stand what sort of problems arise from the con- 
templation of cultural facts and attempt to con- 
nect them with the established principles of 
psychology. A few concrete examples will illus- 
trate the situation. 

One of the striking characteristics of our 
civilization, a trait of our material culture 
that is nevertheless an invaluable, nay in- 
dispensable, means for the propagation of 
knowledge under modem conditions, is the 
existence of paper, that is, of a cheap, readily 
manufactured material for writing and printing. 
The obvious problem that develops from this 
fact is. How did we get the art of paper- 
manufacture? Now we shall search in vain 
our psychological literature in quest of an ex- 
planation. Hoffding and James, Wundt and 
Titchener have no answer to offer. An answer, 
nevertheless, exists. Europe learnt the art 
of paper-making from the Arabs, who as early as 
795 A.D. had established a paper factory in 
Bagdad. These in turn got their knowledge from 
the Chinese, who must be regarded as the origi- 
nators of the technique. The answer is a per- 
fectly satisfactory one, but it is obviously not 
couched in psychological terms: its nature is 
purely historical. 



Nevertheless, an objection may plausibly be 
raised here. Though an explanation has cer- 
tainly been given, it does not account for all as- 
pects of the phenomena we are considering. 
There is a psychological basis for each and every 
one of the events in our historical series. This 
series we may subdivide into three stages — the in- 
vention by the Chinese, the borrowing of this inven- 
tion by the Arabs, and its transmission from Arab 
to European. Now the two last-named processes 
of transmission may not suggest the necessity of 
a special explanation at all. One may think that 
all that was required was for the Europeans to 
watch the Arabs and for the Arabs to watch the 
Chinese, and presto! the thing was done. This 
indeed, seems to be the view of an influential 
school of modem ethnologists. But the case is 
far from being so simple. We know of many 
instances, in the higher no less than in the lower 
cultures, corresponding to what the biologist 
calls symbiosis — a, condition where distinct com- 
munities or countries persist in a division of 
labor for mutual benefit, each trading some of 
its intellectual or material products for equiv- 
alents secured from the other. In many parts 
of Africa there are fixed markets in which ne- 
groes from fairly remote localities congregate 
for the barter of wares, which are thus diffused 



far from their source of origin; but it is the fin- 
ished products, not the arts, that are diffused. 
In New Guinea trading- vessels carry such objects 
as pottery hundreds of miles from the area of 
manufacture to natives who remain as ignorant 
of the ceramic technique as before. In northern 
Arizona the Hopi Indians occupying three emi- 
nences not more than eight miles distant from 
one another have no perfect uniformity of indus- 
trial knowledge. Pottery, which flourishes on 
the eastern Mesa, is wholly unknown as an art, 
though constantly used in its specimens, by the 
people of the central Mesa; a certain type of 
basketry plaque is made only at Oraibi village; 
another type is manufactured exclusively on the 
central Mesa. Conditions more ideal a priori 
for a transfer of knowledge than among the prac- 
tically homogeneous neighboring Hopi groups 
could not be conceived. Nevertheless, it has not 
taken place. Cultural diffusion, therefore, can- 
not be taken for granted. We cannot take one 
people, place it alongside of another, and effect a 
cultural osmosis in the same way in which we 
produce a chemical reaction when two sub- 
stances are brought together under proper con- 
ditions of temperature. We are face to face with 
a selective, with a psychological condition. But 
when we turn once more to our text-books of psy- 



chology, we again find nothing that fits the case. 
About choice in general we get ample informa- 
tion. But we may rummage all the psychologi- 
cal seminar rooms in the world and yet shall find 
no reason why the Arabs learned the technique 
of paper-making from the Chinese instead of ig- 
noring it or only importing Chinese paper. 

Nor are we more fortunate when we turn to 
psychology for an account of how the original 
Chinese inventor came to conceive his epoch- 
making idea. This fact, of course, falls under the 
heading of Imagination', and about imagination 
psychologists have much to tell us. But what, 
after all, does their interpretation amount to? 
We learn that imagination, as distinguished from 
the power of abstract thought, is the power of 
forming new concrete ideas. Since even the con- 
crete individual idea is complex, being a product 
of association, its elements may be linked differ- 
ently so as to produce new combinations. ''The 
inventor of a new mechanism," says Hoffding, 
''combines given elements, the laws of whose ac- 
tivity he knows, into a totality and a connection 
which has no complete parallel in experience." 
The scientist tries all possible combinations among 
his elements of experiences, forming a succession 
of individual ideas, which are rejected until the 
one appears that adequately represents reality. 




We need hardly go farther to realize the im- 
potence of psychological science for illuminating 
the psychology as well as the history of the paper- 
making art. The formulation of psychological 
science is admirable, but it is too general. It ex- 
plains the invention of the steam-engine and the 
phonograph, the sewing-machine and the har- 
vester no less than the origin of paper-making. 
We, however, do not want to know merely what 
ultimate psychological processes the invention of 
paper-making shares with all other inventions 
/vhatsoever, but also the differential conditions 
that produced this one and unique result under 
the given circumstances. It is as though we 
asked about a man's character and were told 
that he was a vertebrate. The type of psycho- 
logical explanation we want is by no means un- 
known; however, we shall find its illustrations 
not in text-books of psychology, but in histories 
of literature, science, and art. When Taine 
raises the question how such a bore as Dr. Sam- 
uel Johnson could conceivably have attained his 
position in English literature and answers that 
it is because of the English predilection for Ser- 
mons, he is giving the type of solution — ^whether 
right or wrong — that we want to secure for our 
cultural problem; it explains why the average 
Englishman, as a member of English society, ac- 



quires the habit of regarding Johnson in a certain 
way. When we inquire why Newton closes his 
treatise on optics with a statement as to the van- 
ity of human things, our curiosity is satisfied 
when this expression appears as only one instance 
of the blending of theological and scientific 
thought current in his day. It is nonsense to say 
that these explanations are purely historical; 
they are psychological, for they take fully into 
account the subjective attitudes involved in the 
phenomena studied; and it is hopeless to expect 
this sort of explanation from psychological sci- 
ence, which deals with a quite distinct and far 
more generalized form of mental activity. 

To turn from the technique of paper manufac- 
ture to a very different cultural feature in order 
to test the possibility of merging the observed 
phenomena in the principles of psychology. In 
several parts of the globe, and most prominently 
in parts of South America, the aborigines practise 
a custom known as the 'couvade', which forces 
the father of a new-bom child to subject himself 
to a period of inactive confinement and a series 
of rigorously observed dietary and other regula- 
tions. Let us, for the sake of bringing out the 
point in high relief, ignore all historical considera- 
tions and concentrate exclusively on the sub- 
jective elements involved. Whence, then, this 



strange and wholly irrational association of ideas 
between fatherhood and a group of taboos? Now 
the subject of the association of ideas occupies 
hundreds of pages in psychological literature, 
yet all this, in itself valuable enough, material 
has no bearing on our problem, because it is 
again far too general. We do not doubt for a 
moment that the association we desire to have 
illuminated is due either to contiguity or to a 
perceived similarity of ideas, but why have we 
this particular association instead of the limitless 
multitude of associations that would be equally 
intelligible by the same formulae? 

Again, many aboriginal tribes of Australia are 
subdivided into two halves, membership in which 
is inherited through the father, in some cases, 
through the mother in others. These moieties 
are what is technically called 'exogamous*, i.e., 
marriage with a fellow-member is strictly forbid- 
den. The regulation is, indeed, so stringent, the 
feeling of horror evoked by a transgression so vio- 
lent, that in former times offenders were promptly 
put to death. This sentiment is so strong that 
even when visiting a remote tribe, perhaps a 
hundred miles away, where there is no possibility 
of blood-kinship, an Australian will avoid mar- 
riage with a member of the moiety bearing the 
same name as his own. Here, surely, there is 



matter for psychology. An Australian has a 
violent emotional reaction akin to our aversion 
to incest, and may translate his feelings into the 
most violent action. Or, looking at the matter 
from another angle, the Australian exercises an 
admirable self-control, eschewing on principle 
marital relations with half the women of his 
community. Yet all that psychologists tell us of 
the ethical feelings and the will leaves the prob- 
lem before us wholly untouched. Why this par- 
ticular curious feeling developed, what place it 
occupies in mental life, the psychologist fails to 
explain. We get, again, simply general formulae 
about feeling and will that are equally applicable 
to the case of a man's beating his wife or a boy's 
resisting the temptations of a lollypop. And 
this, it must be noted, is dealing with the distinc- 
tively psychological aspect of the data. Whether 
the rule in question originated in a common 
center and thence spread to other tribes, is also a 
cultural question of great importance, and this 
historical phase of the subject psychology is 
avowedly incompetent to deal with. Psychology^^^ 
then, failsthroughout to supply us with the inter- 
pretation we want. It is as impotent to reduce 
to really interpretative psychological principles 
the subjective aspect of cultural phenomena as 
it is to explain the historical sequence of events.^ 



It is not necessary to multiply examples to 
establish the point. It is clear that cultural phe- 
nomena contain elements that cannot be re- 
duced to psychological principles. The reason 
for the insufficiency is already embodied in Ty- 
lor's definition of culture as embracing 'capabil- 
ities and habits acquired by man as a member of 
society*. The science of psychology, even in its 
most modern ramifications of abnormal psychol- 
ogy and the study of individual variations, does 
4iot grapple with acquired mental traits nor with 
the influence of society on individual thought, 
feeling and will. It deals on principle exclusively 

^with innate traits of the individual. Now, 
whether the sharp separation assumed here be- 
tween the innate and the acquired, between indi- 
vidual activity as determined by uniquely indi- 
vidual potentialities and as determined by social 
environment, can be made in practice or not, one 
thing is clear: there are phenomena that are ac- 

^ quired and in no sense innate, that are socially 
and not individually determined. When a Chris- 
tian reacts in a definite way to the perception of 
a cross, it is clearly not because of an individual 
psychic peculiarity, for other Christians react in 
the same way. On the other hand, we are not 
dealing with a general human trait since the re- 
actions of a Mohammedan or a Buddhist will be 



quite different. Innumerable instances of this 
sort show that individual thought, feeling and vo- 
lition are co-determined by social influences. In 
so far forth as the potency of these social factors 
extends we have culture; in so far forth as 
knowledge, emotion, and will are neither the re- 
sult of natural endowment shared with other 
members of the species nor rest on an individual 
organic basis, we have a thing sui generis that 
demands for its investigation a distinct science. 
Does it follow from the foregoing that there is 
no possible relation between psychology and cul- 
ture, that psychological results are a matter of 
utter indifference to the ethnologist? In their 
desire to vindicate for their own branch of knowl- 
edge a place in the sun, some ethnologists have 
come very near, if they have not actually reached 
such a conclusion. To me the case appears in a 
somewhat different light. Whatever division of 
labor may be desirable for the economy of sci- 
entific work, knowledge as a whole knows noth- 
ing of watertight compartments. Further, the 
nominally distinct sciences are not subordinated 
to one another, but coexist in a condition of 
democratic equality and cooperativeness. We 
cannot reduce cultural to psychological phenom- 
ena any more than we can reduce biology to 
mechanics or chemistry, because in either case 



the very facts we desire to have explained are 
ignored in the more generalized formulation. 
But for specific purposes, the student of culture 
can call for aid upon each and all of the other 
branches of learning. It is a very important 
cultural problem whether the natives of South 
America knew the bronze technique, i.e., whether 
they consciously produced the observed alloy of 
copper and tin. But how can the ethnologist 
solve this problem? Only by requisitioning the 
services of the chemist. 

Now very few would deny that services of the 
kind rendered by chemistry can also be rendered 
to the study of culture by psychology. Indeed, 
most people would at once admit that the rela- 
tionship with psychology is a priori likely to be 
far more extensive and thorough-going. A few 
concrete examples will illustrate how this relation- 
ship may be conceived. 

Among the quaint conceits with which primi- 
tive cultures abound is that of attaching to 
particular numbers a peculiar character of sanc- 
tity. ''Everything in the universe,'* a Crow 
Indian once told me, ''goes by fours." As a 
matter of fact, most things in Crow religious life 
are adjusted to this conception. An important 
ceremonial act is thrice feigned so as to be 
actually performed at the fourth attempt; 



religious processions halt four times; songs are 
sung in sets of four; in mythic tales it is the 
fourth trial that carries an heroic feat to a 
successful issue. Now this cultural fact very 
largely eludes psychological interpretation. The 
first thing that strikes us is that this feature is 
no peculiarity of the Crow, but is rather widely 
distributed among their immediate neighbors 
and even remote Indian tribes, though jointly 
occupying a continuous area. Since outside of 
this region other numbers figure as mystic, we 
cannot regard the view of the sacredness of 
Four as a general trait of human psychology 
but must assume that the concept was borrowed 
by most of the tribes now holding it. A wider 
survey teaches us that corresponding, though 
not identical, conceptions are very common. 
Seven figures in parts of Asia, Three in European 
folklore, Five in Oregon and northern Nevada, 
Six among the Ainu of Yezo, Nine among the 
Yakut, Ten among the Pythagorean philosophers 
of ancient Greece, very much as Four does among 
the Crow. Now the fact that a particular Crow 
Indian regards Four as a sacred number does 
not mean that this is an individual peculiarity 
of his any more than the Christian's reaction to 
a cross is a proof of some psychological idio- 
syncrasy. Individually the Crow Indian may 



be quite indifferent to the number and yet he 
would view it as sacred because he has been 
taught so to regard it. This is, of course, the 
vital difference between ethnology and psy- 
chology which has already been emphasized. 
Nevertheless, the association must at one time 
have been formed in an individual mind, whether 
among the Crow or elsewhere, and the question 
arises as to what such an association means. 
Francis Galton showed some time ago that such 
associations of definite personal characteristics 
with numbers occur by no means infrequently 
among Europeans. The phenomenon we are 
dealing with is thus linked with a group of re- 
lated phenomena and in so far forth is explained. 
There are ethnologists who would not admit 
that such an explanation has anything to do 
with ethnology. They would contend that as 
soon as we cease to investigate the group as 
such we are passing from ethnology, the science 
of culture, to psychology, the science of indi- 
vidual minds. This seems an unnecessarily 
narrow doctrinaire view. Knowledge, as stated 
above, is not subdivided by hard-and-fast 
partitions. Interest certainly does not stop at 
an arbitrary point in the investigation but is 
centered on a comprehension of the whole 
phenomenon. Where that phenomenon is an 



alloy of tin and copper, a decision as to its 
nature is naturally left to chemistry; it seems 
not unreasonable that where it is a type of 
association we should turn for enlightenment to 

Another field supplies an additional illustra- 
tion. One of the important subjects for ethno- 
graphic study is artistic form. The ethnologist 
notes in a purely descriptive way the decorative 
patterns employed by various tribes, the fact that 
curvilinear motives are prominent among the 
Maori of New Zealand while the rawhide bags of 
Plains Indians are covered with angular paint- 
ings. Here, once more, it is clear that many of 
the problems that arise are purely cultural. 
There are, nevertheless, psychological elements 
involved that may be misunderstood without 
psychological knowledge. Let us assume, e, g., 
that a certain tribe is artistically characterized 
by a fondness for squares. What does this 
predilection signify? It is a psychological 
commonplace that through an optical illusion 
we exaggerate the height as compared with the 
width of a rectangle; accordingly, the geometri- 
cal square does not coincide with the psycho- 
logical square. This simple piece of information 
enables us to understand what we are actually 
dealing with in the case of a square pattern. At 



the same time it sharpens our observation 
regarding such patterns. It is quite conceivable 
that in one place tribal taste should prefer the 
actual square while elsewhere the psychological 
square occupies the seat of honor. This would 
be a purely ethnographic fact, yet its discovery 
might be considerably expedited by some knowl- 
edge of experimental aesthetics. 

Let us turn from mystic numbers and decora- 
tive designs to another aspect of primitive life. 
The Turkish tribes of western Siberia have a 
form of religion based on the belief that certain 
individuals enjoy the hereditary privilege of 
acting as intermediaries between their ancestral 
spirits and the people at large. With the aid of 
his sacred drum the shaman, as such an inter- 
mediary is technically called, is able to summon 
the supernatural beings, cure the sick, foretell 
the future, separate his own soul from his body 
and send it to the upper realms of light or the 
nether regions of darkness. Now, although a 
particular individual inherits the shaman's office 
from his father, he receives no formal instruction 
nor does he make any active preparation for his 
mission. His call comes in the form of a sudden 
paroxysm. He is seized with a feeling of languor 
and a fit of violent convulsions, with abnormal 
yawning, and a powerful pressure on the chest, 



which causes him to utter inarticulate screams. 
He begins to shiver with cold, rolls his eyes, sud- 
denly leaps up and madly circles about until he 
falls down covered with perspiration and writh- 
ing in epileptic spasms on the ground. His mem- 
bers are devoid of sensation, his hands grasp 
without discrimination red-hot iron, knives, pins; 
he swallows such objects without suffering the 
slightest injury, and again ejects them from his 
mouth. Finally, the prospective seer seizes a 
shaman's drum and assumes the shaman's office. 
Disobedience to the spirit's call would spell dis- 
aster, madness and death amidst the most hor- 
rible tortures.^ 

The naive reaction to this narrative on the 
part of common sense in the familiar form of 
common ignorance will probably be that the 
European traveler who is our authority is a very 
gullible individual if he believed his native in- 
formant's statements. How can an individual be 
seized with such a spasm as that described ? How 
is it possible for him to become devoid of sensa- 
tion? Nevertheless, nothing is more certain than 
that the account given is substantially correct. 
It is simply a particular form of nervous afflic- 
tion very common throughout Siberia and at- 
tested by dozens of trustworthy eyewitnesses.' 
This Arctic hysteria, as it has been misnamed 

[23 1 


(for there is nothing distinctively Arctic about 
it), manifests itself principally in two ways. 
Either the individual falls victim to an indiscrim- 
inate mania for mimicking the acts of others; or 
he is seized with the sort of paroxysm described 
for the Turkish shaman. Nothing is clearer than 
that in neither case is there usually conscious 
deception. Sometimes the imitation mania sub- 
jects the sufferer to ridicule and pain, as when an 
old woman in imitation of a Cossack, seized a 
salmon with her teeth, ran up a hill and down 
again, unable to prevent herself from plunging 
into the water, though normally she was barely 
able to walk. Similarly, the numerous hysterical 
individuals of the other type who do not become 
inspired shamans cannot possibly derive any ben- 
efit from their fits. 

Abnormal psychology here steps in and teaches 
us that such trances are involuntary and not the 
result of fraud, that they occur in our own civi- 
lization and are accompanied with extraordinary 
lack of sensibility to pain, in short, psychiatry 
classifies the observed phenomena and tells us 
what we are really dealing with. It prevents a 
misconception alike of the shaman's activities 
and of the attitude of his people towards him. 

When, however, abnormal psychology has so 
far enlightened us, it has by no means exhausted 



even the purely subjective aspect of the case. 
How does the prospective shaman seized with 
his fit know about the shamanistic drum that 
forms a necessary accessory of his office? How 
does he know what mode of activity is expected 
from him? These are not things which he can 
get directly from his trance for we shall hardly 
accept the aboriginal theory that he is inspired by 
the ancestral spirits. He can derive his knowl- 
edge, however informally, only as the member of 
a group holding certain definite views as to the 
shamanistic office. The cultural phenomenoiVv 
then, even on its psychological side, comprises a 
very appreciable plus over and above the facts 
that psychology can explain, and these additional 
data accordingly require treatment by another 
science. . 

My conclusions as to the relation of psychology 
to culture are, accordingly, the following: The 
cultural facts, even in their subjective aspect, are 
not merged in psychological facts. They must 
not, indeed, contravene psychological principles, 
but the same applies to all other principles of the 
universe; culture cannot construct houses con- 
trary to the laws of gravitation nor produce 
bread out of stones. But the principles of psy- 
chology are as incapable of accounting for the 
phenomena of culture as is gravitation to ac- 



cpunt for architectural styles. Over and above 
the interpretations given by psychology, there is 
an irreducible residuum of huge magnitude that 
calls for special treatment and by its very exist- 
\ence vindicates the raison d'itre of ethnology. 
We need not eschew any help given by scientific 
psychology for the comprehension of specifically 
psychological components of cultural phenom- 
ena; but as no one dreams of saying that these 
phenomena are reduced to chemical principles 
when chemistry furnishes us with an analysis of 
Peruvian bronze implements, so no one can dare 
assert that they are reduced to psychological 
principles when we call upon psychology to eluci- 
date specific features of cultural complexes. The 
'capabilities and habits acquired by man as a 
member of society' constitute a distinct aspect 
of reality that must be the field of a distinct 
science autonomous with reference to psychology. 



If culture is a complex of socially acquired 
traits, it might appear that race could not pos- 
sibly have any influence on culture, since by 
racial characteristics we understand those which 
are innate by virtue of ancestry. This, however, 
by no means follows. In order that certain 
traits be acquired, a certain type of organic basis 
is an absolute prerequisite; a chimpanzee or a 
bat is not able to acquire human culture 
through social environment. From an evolu- 
tionary point of view it appears, therefore, very 
plausible at first blush that within the human 
species, likewise, differences in organization should 
be correlated with the observed cultural mani- 
festations of varying degree and complexity. 
There was, undoubtedly, some stage in human 
evolution where the organic basis for culture had 
not yet been acquired. Can the several races be 
regarded as transitional forms, each possessed of 
certain capabilities determining and limiting its 
cultural achievement? This question can be 
viewed in two ways. Comparative psychology 
may give us direct information as to qualitative 
and quantitative racial differences that would 
affect cultural activity. Or, we may infer such 



differences as the only possible causes for the 
observed cultural differences. Both modes of ap- 
proach are helpful for a comprehension of the 

Until recent years the psychological evalua- 
tion of primitive tribes rested largely on the off- 
hand judgments of travelers and missionaries. 
With the advent of more exact psychological 
laboratory methods, these have been, in some 
measure, applied by competent investigators to 
aboriginal populations. Unfortunately, the re- 
sults hitherto secured are somewhat meager. 
There are technical difficulties, among them the 
necessity of examining fairly large numbers of in- 
dividuals in order to get a good sample of the 
population. Worse still, laboratory methods are 
most effective in regard to what may be called the 
lower mental operations, which partake almost 
more of a physiological than of a strictly psycho- 
logical character. Clearly enough, what we 
should be most desirous of knowing is how prim- 
itive compares with civilized man in logical 
thought and imagination. But these are pre- 
cisely the things not readily tested, and here the 
additional technical difficulty comes in that they 
can hardly be examined at all without a far more 
intimate knowledge of the native languages than 
the investigator is likely to command. Never- 



theless, something has been done and I will at- 
tempt to present as briefly as possible the essen- 
tial results, following Thomdike's convenient 

Although some observers have attributed un- 
usual acuity of sense perception to the more prim- 
itive peoples of the globe, the investigations of 
Rivers, Woodworth, and others in the main es- 
tablish the psychic unity of mankind in this 
regard. For example, though the Kalmuk are 
renowned for their vision, only one or two of the 
individuals tested exceeded the European record, 
and while Bruner found Indians and Filipino in- 
ferior in hearing a watch tick or a click trans- 
mitted by telephone, the fairness of these tests 
for natives unused to such stimuli has been rea- 
sonably challenged. In their reaction-time tests, 
widely different groups were very similar. In 
the tapping test, measuring the rate at which 
the brain can at will discharge a series of im- 
pulses to the same muscle, marked differences 
were also lacking; but when accuracy as well as 
rapidity were examined, the Filipino seemed de- 
cidedly superior to the whites. Optical illusions 
were shared by all races tested, which indicates, 
as Woodworth points out, that simple sorts of 
judgments as well as sensory processes are com- 
mon to the generality of mankind. Woodworth 

[29 1 


subjected his subjects to an intelligence test, de- 
manding that blocks of different shapes be fitted 
into a board with holes to match the blocks. In 
speed the average differences between whites, 
Indians, Eskimo, Ainu, Filipino, and Singha- 
lese are small and there is considerable overlap- 
ping. On the other hand, the Igorrote and Philip- 
pine Negrito, as well as a group of supposed 
Pygmies from the Congo, proved remarkably de- 
ficient. 'This crumb," concludes our investiga- 
tor, '*is about all the testing psychologist has yet 
to offer on the question of racial differences in 

It may well be, as Thorndike suggests, that if 
higher functions were studied, more striking 
differences would be revealed. But up to date 
we can simply say that experimental psycholog- 
ical methods have revealed no far-reaching 
differences in the mental processes of the 
several races. Even the Igorrote and Negrito 
deficiency may be due, Woodworth suggests, to 
their habits of life rather than to their native 

Since exact methods tell us nothing of those 
higher operations we are most eager to know 
about, it might be deemed advisable to fall back 
on general estimates by the most competent ob- 
servers. Unfortunately, the personal equation 



enters here to an extent that completely nullifies 
the value of individual judgments. Travelers in 
foreign lands are likely to make quite unusual 
demands on the capacities of the natives with 
whose aid they are working, and in this way too 
frequently arrive at an unfair conclusion as to 
their mental characteristics. In a corresponding 
test Europeans might do little better. It is, at 
all events, remarkable that unbiased observers 
who are fairly sympathetic and remain in long 
contact with a primitive people usually entertain 
a rather favorable opinion of their powers. Thus, 
Prince Maximilian of Wied-Neuwied, expresses 
the view that, whether other varieties of man- 
kind differ or not, the American aborigines are 
not inferior to the whites,^ and corresponding es- 
timates have been made of other races. Still, 
these are merely personal opinions and we must 
turn to our second method for possibly more ob- 
jective, if indirect, evidence on the subject. Are, 
then, cultural differences necessarily the result of 
racial differences? 

In thus investigating the relations between 
race and civilization we may fruitfully employ 
the method of variation. Making the racial fac- 
tor a constant, we may inquire whether culture, 
too, is thereby made a constant, and whether a 
change in racial propinquity is correlated with a 

[31 1 


proportionate change of culture. On the other 
hand, we may start with culture as a constant 
and inquire whether each form or grade of 
culture is the concomitant of definite racial 
characteristics and whether a change in culture 
is accompanied by a corresponding change of 

/ To begin with the latter method, which may 
be briefly disposed of: Taking our own type of 
culture, as represented in western Europe and 
North America, we find that it is shared by at 
least one people of quite distinct stock, the Jap- 
anese, who have already made important con- 
tributions to the general civilization of the world 
in such lines as biology and scientific medicine. 
An obvious objection is that the Japanese are not 
the originators of our cultural foundation but 
have borrowed it ready-made (as they once bor- 
rowed that of China), and merely added a few 
additional stones to the superstructure. This fact 
cannot, of course, be questioned, but as soon as 
we investigate historically the origin of our own 
modern civilization we find that it, too, is largely 
the product of numerous cultural streams, some 
of which may be definitely traced to distinct 
races or sub-races. Our immediate indebtedness 
to Rome and Greece has been drilled into us with 
such fulsomely exaggerated emphasis in our 



schooldays that the less said about it the better 
for a fair estimate of general culture history. N. 
That the Greeks were merely the continuators 
and inheritors of an earlier Oriental culture, 
must be considered an established fact. Our 
economic life, based as it is on the agricultural 
employment of certain cereals with the aid of 
certain domesticated animals, is derived from 
Asia; so is the technologically invaluable wheel.* 
The domestication of the horse certainly origi- 
nated in inner Asia; modern astronomy rests on 
that- of the Babylonians, Hindu, and Egyptians; 
the invention of glass is an Egyptian contribu- 
tion; spectacles come from India;* paper, to 
mention only one other significant element of our 
civilization, was borrowed from China. What is 
right for the goose, is right for the gander; and 
if the Japanese deserve no credit for having ap- 
propriated our culture, we must also carefully 
eliminate from that culture all elements not dem- 
onstrably due to the creative genius of our race 
before laying claim to the residue as our distinc- 
tive product. As Thomdike, among others, has 
pointed out,** the races have not remained in 
splendid isolation, but any particular one has ob- 
tained most of its civilization from without, and 
"of ten equally gifted races in perfect intercourse 
each will originate only one-tenth of what it 

[33 1 -^ 


gets." This, to be sure, represents an ideal con- 
dition, and we have no right to assume gratui- 
tously that the peoples in contact are all equally 
gifted; but it is worth noting that momentous 
ideas may be conceived by what we are used to 
regard as inferior races. Thus, the Maya of 
Central America conceived the notion of the 
zero figure, which remained unknown to Euro- 
peans until they borrowed it from India; and 
eminent ethnologists suggest that the discovery 
\p{ the iron technique is due to the Negroes. 

In short, the possessors of a culture are not 
necessarily its originators; often they are dem- 
onstrably borrowers of specific elements of the 
greatest significance. The same culture may 
thus become the property of distinct races, as is 
rapidly becoming the case in modern times. 
Owing to the very extensive occurrence of dif- 
fusion the question what a particular people or 
race has originated becomes extremely compli- 
cated; while it is an established fact that im- 
portant additions to human civilization have 
been made by diverse stocks. 

It may not be out of place to point out that 
not only the more tangible elements of culture, 
but very much subtler ingredients than those 
hitherto mentioned are shared by distinct groups 
of mankind. Thus, common to ourselves and the 

[34 1 


Chinese, though strikingly lacking among the 
Hindu, who, nevertheless, are racially nearer to 
us, is a marked sense for historical perspective. 
Common to the ancient Romans, the modem 
Germans, and the modem Japanese, is the talent 
for rationalistic organization of administrative af- 
fairs. We cannot assume under the circum- 
stances that the Japanese are organically nearer 
to the Germans than to other Asiatics. These 
instances seem the more valuable because here 
borrowing is excluded. The racial factor may in 
some way be involved; it is conceivable that 
only with a certain minimum of organic equip- 
ment could a particular cultural trait be devel- 
oped or even assimilated. But obviously the 
same cultural traits may be coupled with differ- 
ent racial characteristics. 

But what results from making race a constant? 
That no essential organic change has taken place 
in the human race during the historic period is 
universally admitted without question by biolo- 
gists, physical anthropologists, and brain special- 
ists. Accordingly, when we concentrate ouis 
attention on a definite people and follow their 
fortunes during historic times, we are dealing 
with a genuine constant from the racial point of 
view. It requires no very great acquaintance 
with history to note startling cultural diversity 

[35 1 


correlated with this stability of organic endow- 

The culture of the Mongol proper about the 
beginning of the thirteenth century was that of 
an essentially primitive people, sharing the sha- 
manistic beliefs of their general habitat and ig- 
norant of writing. Suddenly we find them at- 
taining an extraordinary political importance, 
dominating Asia and menacing Europe, con- 
versant successively with several forms of script, 
practising the art of printing, and becoming 
ardent exponents of Buddhism. Today they ap- 
pear fallen from their high estate, devoid of polit- 
ical power, and with their semi-sedentary nomad 
life again give the impression of primitiveness, 
though tempered with evidences of a higher 
civilization.* These changes are not only mani- 
festly independent of the racial factor, but can 
in part be directly traced to other causes. Bud- 
dhism, of course, was derived ultimately from 
India. Under Jenghis Khan both Chinese char- 
acters and an alphabet derived from the Syrian, 
which had been spread through central Asia by 
Nestorian missionaries, came into use; while an- 
other system of writing was based on that of 
Tibet, and the art of printing was learned from 
the Chinese.^ The political predominance of the 
Mongols was due to a few powerful personalities; 

[36 1 


and economic factors seem to have been at least 
potent agents in the degenerative process of 
Mongol civilization. In short, we have a group 
of determinants that are not even remotely con- 
nected with hereditary racial traits. 

Somewhat similar results appear from a con-^ 
sideration of Manchu history. The Manchu 
were originally an insignificant and rude tribe of 
the Tungusic family in eastern Siberia. Through 
contact with the Mongols they became a literary 
people. They subjected China in 1644, and 
adopted the Chinese speech and mode of thinking 
to such an extent that their language is no longer 
spoken and almost every vestige of their formej 
lore is irretrievably lost.^ 

An equally striking illustration is furnished by 
the Arabs. Here, too, we have a people of crude 
civilization suddenly emerging from an unim- 
portant position in the world's affairs to blossom 
forth not only as a military and political, but a 
cultural power as well, deriving from Persia and 
Babylonia the impulse to philological and his- 
torical studies, from Byzantium the technique of 
naval warfare, the art of paper-manufacture from 
the Chinese, Euclid from the Syrian outposts of 
Greek culture, and from India the decimal nota- 
tion.* We find further that they were not passive 
assimilators, but original elaborators and active 

[37 1 


transmitters of the received elements, to whom 
European science is under a lasting debt of grati- 
tude and whose art constitutes at least a highly 
creditable and individual achievement. 

The conclusion suggested by these examples is 
very strongly corroborated by an examination of 
our own race. We need not enter into the sub- 
tleties of sub-racial classifications for the present 
purpose, but will simply regard the European 
race in relation to European culture generally. 
It is clear that all those startling technological 
advantages that most sharply divide us from 
other peoples are a mushroom growth little over 
a century old. In the first half of the nineteenth 
century matches were unknown and the processes 
of fire-making were not superior to those of many 
primitive tribes. The steam-engine and the in- 
dustrial revolution are of very little greater an- 
tiquity, not to speak of electrical contrivances 
and applied chemistry. The difference between 
ourselves and our forefathers is at first blush so 
tremendous that a priori it would seem to be ex- 
plainable only by very great mental differences, 
yet nothing is more certain than that their in- 
nate mentality was exactly the same. The 
cultural difference becomes more and more glar- 
ing as we proceed backwards, say, to the period 
antedating the art of printing. A portion of our 

[38 1 


Middle Ages compares rather unfavorably with 
contemporaneous Arabian or Chinese civiliza- 
tion. "If we go back to the fifteenth century," 
says Professor Giles, "we shall find that the 
standard of civilization, as the term is usually 
understood, was still much higher in China than 
in Europe; while Marco Polo, the famous Ve- 
netian traveler of the thirteenth century, who 
actually lived twenty-four years in China, and 
served as an official under Kublai Khan, has 
left it on record that the magnificence of 
Chinese cities, and the splendor of the Chinese 
court, outrivaled anything he had ever seen or 
heard of/'i® 

Certainly the racial factor, which is a constant, 
cannot account for the amazing changes in cul- 
ture which we encounter in passing from one 
period of our era to another. If we are interested 
in explaining these cultural phenomena, we must 
cast about for some other determinants. 

In a subject that is constantly confused by 
partisanship it is important to make no greater 
claims for an argument than the facts absolutely 
warrant. Accordingly, I hasten to explain what 
has really been shown and what I have failed to 
show hitherto. It is, I think, fair to say that 
culture cannot be adequately explained by race, 
and that the same race varies extraordinarily in 



culture even within a very narrow space of time. 
But we have not furnished proof that, say, the 
Central African Pygmies, the Tasmanians, or the 
aborigines of Australia would have been capable 
of attaining unaided to the level of our civiliza- 
tion. What we can say, however, is this: The 
Chinese and some of our American Indians, such 
as the ancient Central Americans and Peruvians, 
did attain a very high level, which may be 
equated with that of Europe at a relatively re- 
cent period. The difference between European 
culture then and now cannot be due to hered- 
itary causes, and it would, therefore, be unjusti- 
fiable to allege that such causes account for the 
difference between Europe of today and China 
or ancient Central America. Quite generally it 
is true that the so-called primitive tribes are any- 
thing but primitive in the strict sense of the term. 
Ingenious contrivances, such as the boomerang, 
occur among the Australians, usually regarded 
as one of the lowliest of races, and here we also 
find a remarkable complexity of social organi- 
zation. The Negroes of Africa are not only 
conversant with the art of metallurgy, which is 
possibly their own invention, but are conspicu- 
ous for their ability to form large and power- 
ful political states and have shown at least the 
ability of assimilating the culture of Islam. 



If we contrast Negro culture on the average not 
with the highest products of Dutch, Danish, or 
Swiss culture, but with the status of the illiterate 
peasant communities in not a few regions of 
Europe, the difference will hardly be so great as j 
to suggest any far-reaching hereditary causes. 
As the highly civilized Manchu of today have . 
for their next racial kin very crude Siberian pop- , 
ulations, so the white race, even today, embraces 
very primitive as well as highly advanced con- 
stituent groups. We cannot wholly isolate the \ 
racial factor from others, and we cannot give an . 
ocular demonstration of what the several inferior 
races, so-called, are capable of achieving under ; 
the most favorable conditions. But with great^ 
confidence we can say that since the same race 
at different times or in different subdivisions at 
the same time represents vastly different cultural 
stages, there is obviously no direct proportional 
relation between culture and race. And if great 
changes of culture can occur without any change 
of race whatsoever, we are justified in consider- 
ing it probable that a relatively minute change 
of hereditary ability might produce enormous dif-, 
ferences. An analogy may render the matter 
clearer. Suppose that it is of vital importance 
to lift a heavy weight, say 400 pounds, to which 
only a single individual has access at the same 




time. Then a very slight difference in muscular 
power will either accomplish or fail in producing 
the desired effect, and the ultimate effect (say 
in repelling an attack on a fortress under rel- 
atively primitive conditions) will be entirely 
incommensurate with the additional strength re- 
quired to produce it. So we may readily under- 
stand how a slightly greater mechanical aptitude 
might render one race able to launch a remark- 
able series of inventions for which another, by 
barely missing the required degree of develop- 
ment, would be forever debarred. This is only 
a special form of the Darwinian doctrine of the 
survival value of small variations, applied not to 
the question of the struggle for existence (with 
which, nevertheless, it may be most intimately 
related), but to the creation of new cultural 

This aspect of the subject naturally leads to 
another that is closely connected with it and is 
essential to an understanding of the entire ques- 
tion. Mental endowment is a variable phenom- 
enon within any particular people or tribe. 
However democratic may be our ideals, the 
doctrine that all individuals are bom equal in 
point of ability can no longer be seriously main- 
tained. Every race must, therefore, be regarded 
not as representing a single point of mental de- 



velopment, but as a continuum of mental values 
with a certain range of variation. In compar\ 
ing the different races we must, accordingly, 
apply the canons used by statisticians in com- 
paring series of variable measurements. Here a 
matter of vital importance challenges our atten- 
tion. Two series may have the same average 
value and yet differ considerably in range. Now 
it is obvious that, where the number of individ- 
uals considered is small, excessive values are less 
likely to occur than in a larger series. In a gath- 
ering of a hundred men, we are not likely to find 
a man above 6 feet 6 inches in height; the aver- 
age stature of all New Yorkers will probably not 
be any greater than that of one hundred men 
selected at random, yet in the entire city we shall 
find a number of individuals of gigantic stature. 
When we apply this fact to our special problem 
we see at once that extraordinary deviations 
from the norm cannot be expected to occur in a 
tribe of 500 or even 5,000, while among the vast 
populations of India, China or the Caucasian 
countries of America and Europe such favorable 
variants are likely to occur with considerable ab- 
solute frequency. These variations, as has al- 
ready been suggested, need not even be excessive 
to produce significant cultural results. Again, 
we may urge the principle of minimal variations. 



A little greater energy or administrative talent 
may be just sufficient to found a powerful state; 
a slightly greater amount of logical consistency 
may lead to the foundation of geometrical rea- 
soning or of a philosophical system ; a somewhat 
keener interest, above the purely utilitarian one, 
in surrounding nature may give a remarkable 
impetus to the development of science. 

y Now this puts an entirely different construc- 
tion on the facts. Assume that racial differences 
are at the bottom of some of the observed cultural 
differences. This fact would not necessarily 
mean, then, that the average ability of the inferior 
races is less, but only that extreme variations of 
an advantageous character occur less frequently 

V among them. This, for example, is the view 
taken by Professor Eugen Fischer, the physical 
anthropologist, a very firm believer in racial 
differences, but as regards variability rather than 
in point of average intellectual equipment. It 
is also essentially, if I understand him, the point 
made by Professor Thorndike. But precisely 
because the population of the several races differs 
so enormously, we are for many of them without 
a fair standard of comparison. Statistically, any 
actual number of measurements is only a small 
sample of an infinite series; but we have no 

" means of ascertaining empirically what the ex- 



treme variations of which Veddas or Australians 
are organically capable, would be like. This, 
necessarily, leaves the ultimate problem of racial 
differences unsolved. Nevertheless, our consid- 
erations have not been in vain. They show, for 
one thing, how many factors have to be weighed 
in arriving at a fair estimate of racial capabilities, 
factors which are naively ignored in most popular 
discussions of the subject. We can, farther, say 
positively that whatever differences may exist 
have been grossly exaggerated. In the simpler 
mental operations, comparative psychological 
studies indicate a specific unity of mankind. Dif- 
ferences in culture are certainly not proportion- 
ate to mental differences, i.a., relatively slight 
differences in native ability may well have pro- 
duced tremendous cultural effects. Since, finally, 
cultural differences of enormous range occur 
within the same race, and even within very much 
smaller subdivisions, the ethnologist cannot 
solve his cultural problems by means of the rac^ 
factor. Even if an ultimate investigation should 
definitely fix the cultural limits to which a given 
race is hereditarily subject, such information 
could not solve the far more specific problem 
why the same people a few hundred years earlier 
were a horde of barbarians and a few hundred 
years later formed a highly civilized community. 



The supposed explanation by racial potentialities 
would be far too general to interpret the actual 
happenings. Racial psychology, no less than 
general psychology, thus fails to solve the prob- 
lems of culture. 

[46 1 


The influence of geographical environment on 
culture seems a matter not so much of logical 
inference as of direct observation. Taking our 
own continent, we know that cotton is raised in 
the South, that our wheat belt lies in Minnesota 
and the adjoining states and Canadian provinces, 
that the Rocky Mountain and some of the 
Plateau states are the seat of the mining industry 
while Florida and California form our tropical 
fruit orchards. With these obvious facts are 
combined correlations not so clear, perhaps, yet 
very convincing to the mind as yet undebauched 
by ethnological learning. What seems more nat- 
ural than that culture in its highest forms should 
develop only in temperate regions, that the 
gloomy forests of the North be reflected in a 
mythology of ogres and trolls, that liberty 
should flourish amidst snowy mountain tops and 
languish in the tepid plain, or that islanders 
should be expert mariners? 

This geographical theory of culture bears a 
certain resemblance to the classical association- 
ist theory in psychology. According to that doc- 
trine, the mind is something in the nature of a 
wax tablet on which the outer world produces 



impressions and all the higher mental activities 
are, in the last instance, reducible to combina- 
tions of the represented impressions or 'ideas'. 
Modem psychology, however, regards this sys- 
tem, fascinating as it appears at a first glance, 
as little better than an historical curiosity. The 
association of ideas itself is now conceived 
merely as a special manifestation of the synthetic 
nature of consciousness. In short, the tables are 
completely turned, and association, instead of 
explaining consciousness, is interpreted in terms 
of consciousness. The analogy with the geo- 
graphical view of culture will become apparent 
in the course of our discussion. 

To begin with the culture of our own country: 
The environmental features of southern Cali- 
fornia, of Nevada, and the South have not 
changed during the last few centuries. Yet, what 
do we find on considering the aboriginal cultures 
of these regions? Southern California and Ne- 
vada were unreclaimed desert wastes inhabited 
by a roving, non-agricultural population, the 
natural mining resources of the latter state re- 
mained untouched, no attempt was made to grow 
cotton in the Southern cotton area. How can 
such facts be interpreted on a geographical basis? 
Quite obviously, the reverse holds. The utiliza- 
tion of part of the environment, instead of being 



an automatic response, has for an indispensable 
prerequisite a certain type of culture. Granted 
the existence of an agricultural technique, at- 
tempts may be made to apply it even in a for- 
bidding arid climate, where a more primitive 
culture would not be able to develop it. The un- 
favorable environment may have checked such 
development, and in so far forth exerted cultural 
influence at one stage, but it is unable to check 
it at another stage, where the preexisting cul- 
ture, instead of 'remaining put', molds the en- 
vironment to its own purposes. 

The case I have chosen is an extreme one 
because I have correlated environment with 
extremes of culture — one of the lowest forms of 
aboriginal North American culture and our 
modem advanced scientific methods of subduing 
nature to our will. But if we consider only the 
cruder forms of civilization the same point 
appears with equal clearness. 

Professor Kirchhoff , by no means an extreme 
adherent of the geographical school since he 
does not reduce man to a mere automaton in the 
face of his surroundings, nevertheless believes in 
a far-reaching influence of the environment and 
cites in particular the resemblances between 
inhabitants of arid territories. Unfortunately 
for his argument we have glaring instances in 

[49 1 


which desert-like conditions coexist with dis- 
parate modes of culture not only in similar but in 
identical regions of the globe. 

Thus, the Hopi and Navajo Indians have both 
occupied for a long period the same part of 
northeastern Arizona and on the environmental 
theory we should therefore expect among them 
the same mode of life. In this, however, we are 
thoroughly disappointed. The Hopi are inten- 
sive farmers who succeed in raising crops where 
white agriculturists fail; the Navajo also plant 
corn but to a distinctly lesser extent and under 
Spanish influence have readily developed into a 
pastoral people, raising sheep for food and wool. 
Though the same building material is available, 
the Hopi construct the well-known terraced 
sandstone houses with a rectangular cell as the 
architectural unit, while the Navajo dwell in 
conical earth-covered huts. North American 
ceramic art attains one of its highwater marks 
among the Hopi, while the pottery of the Navajo 
is hopelessly crude in comparison. Cotton was 
raised by the Hopi, but there is no trace of its 
use by the neighboring people. What is true of 
the material aspect of native life applies equally 
to its less tangible elements. There is at least 
one marked difference in the sexual division of 
labor: with the Hopi it is the man's business to 



spin and weave while this work falls to woman's 
share among the Navajo. The Hopi were always 
strict monogamists, while among the Navajo 
polygamy was permissible. In conjunction with 
their agricultural pursuits Hopi ceremonialism 
centered in the magico-religious production of 
rain; the Navajo applied often the identical 
ritualistic stock-in-trade to the cure of sickness. 
A stringent regulation of the Navajo social code 
forbids all conversation between son-in-law and 
mother-in-law; but the Hopi merely view the 
taboo as a Navajo idiosyncrasy. The general 
cast of Hopi psychology, as fashioned by Hopi 
society, is that of an eminently peaceable popu- 
lation ; the Navajo rather recall in their bearing 
the warlike and aggressive tribes of the Plains. 
Where resemblances occur, as e. g., in the objec- 
tive phase of the native cults, we are able to 
prove that the parallelism is due not to an 
independent response to environmental stimuli, 
but to contact and borrowing. But quite apart 
from such cases, the basic differences in Hopi 
and Navajo civilization show that the environ- 
ment alone cannot account for cultural phe- 

If we pass from the southwestern United States 
to South Africa, a corresponding situation con- 
fronts us. The same area at one time formed 



the habitat of the Bushmen and the Hottentots; 
yet, their mode of life varies fundamentally. 
The Bushmen are essentially hunters and seed- 
collectors, while the Hottentots are an eminently 
pastoral people. Caves and crude windbreaks 
form the Bushman's original dwellings, while 
the Hottentots have mat-covered portable bee- 
hive-shaped huts. The Bushman's principal 
weapons are bow and arrow, with the Hottentot 
these implements are of secondary importance 
as compared with the spear. It is true that not 
only material objects but even myths and folk- 
tales are shared by both tribes, but in many 
instances of this sort we have clearly a case not 
of independent response to the same external 
conditions but rather the result of borrowing. 
Thus, some of the traits common to Hottentot 
and Bushman, for example, a fair number of 
mythic episodes, occur likewise among the 
Bantu Negroes inhabiting contiguous but geo- 
graphically different territory. One of the most 
interesting traits of ancient Bushman culture is 
the life-like representation of animals on rocks 
and the walls of caves. Oddly enough, these 
engravings and mural paintings, which dis- 
tinguish the Bushmen from their South African 
neighbors, have their nearest parallels in the 
Spanish cave-paintings of Palaeolithic Europe. 



The picturing of the mammoth and reindeer by 
these old South European artists clearly proves 
that they belonged to a glacial epoch, during 
which geographical conditions could hardly have 
resembled those of the Kalahari desert.* 

One other illustration from the same general 
region of the Dark Continent is suggestive. The 
Ovambo and Herero, neighbors though they are, 
differ in the essential features of their economic 
life. While the Ovambo depend only to a very 
limited extent on their herds, deriving their 
sustenance mainly from the cultivation of millet 
and other plants, the Herero are the only non- 
agricultural Bantu people, being predominantly 

Instead of comparing the effect of environment 
as a whole on different peoples, we can also 
isolate its single factors, such as the presence of 
particular species of plants or animals. One of 
the strongest cases against the creative influence 
of environment on culture lies in the phenomena 
relating to the domestication of animals in the 
Old and the New World. The one animal 
domesticated in both hemispheres is the dog, 
which occurs in Neolithic Europe and is also found 
with archaeological remains in America. But 
while in the Old World there is in addition an 
imposing series of species subjected to man for 



definite economic utilization, it is only in Peru 
that the American natives entered into a sym- 
biotic arrangement with other animals, viz., the 
llama and the alpaca. Why was not the bison 
of the great Plains tamed like the buffalo of 
southern Asia or the various races of cattle in 
the Eastern Hemisphere? No valid reason can 
be advanced on geographical grounds. More 
striking still in this regard is the difference 
between the hyperborean populations of Asia 
and North America. The Chukchee of north- 
easternmost Siberia and the Eskimo share the 
same climatic conditions and their territories 
are both inhabited by the reindeer (caribou). 
Yet the Chukchee breed half-tamed reindeer on 
a large scale, using the animals for food and 
draught with sledges, while no attempt in this 
direction was made by the Eskimo or any of 
their Indian neighbors. The same external 
condition fails to produce the same cultural 
result. But even among the Chukchee there is 
evidence that the use of reindeer did not take 
place in response to an environmental stimulus. 
It appears that the extraordinary development 
of reindeer breeding is a relatively new thing 
with the Chukchee, who were formerly hunters 
of sea-mammals like the Eskimo. Before the 
recent eflflorescence of their reindeer culture, the 



Chukchee waged war on their southern neigh- 
bors, the Koryak, for the purpose of carrying off 
their herds; and altogether it seems that both 
Chukchee and Koryak adopted the idea of 
taming the reindeer from tribes of the Tungus 
stock living to the west and south.* We are, 
then, dealing with another instance of accultura- 
tion due to contact. 

The facts of domestication are unusually 
suggestive as regards our general problem for 
they show in an absolutely convincing manner 
that even where the same animals have been 
domesticated by different peoples the use to 
which they are put may differ widely and give 
a distinct aspect to this phase of culture. Thus, 
we find that of Siberian reindeer-breeders the 
Tungus and Lamut use their animals only for 
transportation, not for slaughter, and that many 
bands, unlike other Arctic populations, ride on 
their reindeer instead of harnessing them to 
sledges. It is true that a rationalistic motive 
can be given for the fact that the Chukchee do 
not ride reindeer-back since their variety seems 
physically unfit for the saddle. That, however, 
is not the essential point. We should like to 
know how the Tungus came to use the saddle 
with their animals while other tribes with the 
same variety did not do so, and for this positive 



reaction to their faunal environment geography 
furnishes no clue. A similar group of questions 
arises in connection with the horse. Wild horses 
were game animals in Solutrean times in Europe, 
their flesh forming in fact the staple diet. Do- 
mestication certainly set in at a very much later 
period and its economic consequences vary 
appreciably with different peoples and in 
different times. The Kirgis, for example, milk 
their mares, thus obtaining the famous kumyss, 
though the operation is difficult and even 
dangerous.* The ancient Babylonians, Chinese, 
and East Indians used the horse as a draught- 
animal harnessed to war-chariots. Its use for 
riding was an invention of Central Asiatic 
nomads. In the most recent period the con- 
sumption of horse flesh is a matter of course 
among the poorer classes of continental Europe, 
revolting as the idea is not only to the white 
American but to some of the Plains Indians as 
well, according to the testimony of some of my 
informants. There is thus no such thing as the 
presence of the horse determining its cultural 
use in a definite sense. 

Again, the ancient Chinese kept both sheep and 
goats, but the idea of utilizing wool for clothing 
was foreign to them. We have historical 
evidence for the fact that the use of wool for 



felt and rugs was taught to the Chinese in more 
recent times by the nomadic populations of 
central Asia. Most startling of all perhaps is 
the different attitude assumed in different 
countries towards cattle. To us nothing seems 
more obvious than that cattle should be kept 
both for meat and dairy products. This, how- 
ever, is by no means a universal practice. The 
Zulu and other Bantu tribes of South Africa use 
milk extensively but hardly ever slaughter their 
animals except on festive occasions. On the 
other hand, we have the even more astonishing 
fact that Eastern Asiatics, such as the Chinese, 
Japanese, Koreans and Indo-Chinese, have an 
inveterate aversion to the use of milk. Though 
the Chinese, as Dr. Laufer points out, have 
raised a variety of animals from which milk 
could be derived and have been in constant 
contact with Turkish and Mongol nations whose 
staple food consists in dairy products, they have 
never acquired what seems so obvious and useful 
an economic practice. Accordingly, Dr. Laufer 
justifiably concludes that "our consumption of 
animal milk cannot be looked upon as a self- 
evident and spontaneous phenomenon, for which 
it has long been taken, but that it is a mere 
matter of educated force of habit."* In other 
words, the use of environmental factors is not 



an automatic and necessary response to them 
but varies with the culture of the peoples 

The creative impotence of environment and 
more particularly the subordinate part it plays 
as compared with purely cultural determinants 
of culture, such as the influence of a certain trait 
in a neighboring tribe or the preexistence of in- 
digenous cultural features, may be instructively 
illustrated by several other instances. 

Thus, we find that of the Northern Atha- 
baskans of western Canada, the southern Carrier 
and the Chilcotin Indians share with the 
Shuswap Indians of Salish stock the use of semi- 
subterranean huts which even in winter seem 
like ovens. Are we to recognize in this an 
adaptation to the inclemencies of the climate? 
Hardly, when we find that this type. of dwelling 
is used precisely by those Athabaskans living 
farthest south, where of course the climate is 
much milder, while the more northern tribes of 
the family get along with crude double shelters 
about a central fireplace. The use of the semi- 
subterranean lodge by the Carrier and Chilcotin 
is perfectly explained as a contact phenomenon. 
They have simply adopted the idea from their 
Salish neighbors: the cultural environment has 
proved more effective than the physical environ- 



ment in determining a cultural trait. Other 
members of the same family furnish correspond- 
ing instances. Though many of the Northern 
Athabaskans have long, snowy winters, only the 
Loucheux, who are in contact with the Eskimo, 
have adopted the wooden goggles of the Eskimo, 
which serve as a protection against snow-blind- 
ness. Similarly, they are the only members of 
the stock to substitute for the widespread 
Canadian toboggan the Eskimo sledge with 

As the physical environment is overshadowed 
in cultural significance by a neighboring culture, 
so it may vanish into nothingness in the face of 
what we may call cultural inertia — the tendency 
of a preexisting cultural trait of indigenous 
growth to assert itself. A familiar example of 
this tendency is the exact imitation of forms of 
implements in quite different and often refrac- 
tory material. Thus, the Central Eskimo 
generally make lamps and pots out of soapstone. 
In Southampton Island, where this material is 
lacking, they have not devised a new form but 
have at the expenditure of much ingenuity and 
labor cemented together slabs of limestone so as 
to produce the traditional shape.^ The same 
phenomenon appears in other fields. Grooved 
copper axes have been found in parts of the 



United States; their shape is patterned exactly 
on the stone axes characteristic of the same 
localities. The beginnings of the copper and 
bronze ages in Europe are equally suggestive in 
this regard. The incipient metallurgist does not 
automatically make the most of his material but 
slavishly follows his stone or bone models. His 
copper ornaments imitate bear's teeth or bone 
beads, his implements resemble the stone celts 
and hammers of an earlier era.* As Professor 
Boas points out on the basis of Bogoras' descrip- 
tions, an equivalent development may be traced 
in the history of the Chukchee tent. This type 
of habitation is extremely clumsy and not at 
all well adapted to the roving life of the Rein- 
deer division of the tribe, considerably hamper- 
ing their progress. It represents, however, a 
variety of the older form of stationary house 
used when the Chukchee were a purely maritime 

It might be objected that maladjustments of 
this sort are transitional, that just as the copper 
and bronze workers ultimately freed themselves 
from the influence of the preexisting stone 
technique so the Chukchee would finally have 
abandoned their inconvenient tent and developed 
a new and more readily transportable lodge. 
This sounds, of course, very plausible but misses 



the point of the argument. Undoubtedly, a more 
and more perfect adaptation to elements of the 
physical surroundings has repeatedly taken 
place. But the very fact that culture history, 
on its material side, implies this progressive 
adjustment also implies that the cultural phe- 
nomena at different periods of time differ where 
the same environmental stimuli persist and 
therefore cannot be explained by them, which is 
what we have been trying to prove. 

Indeed, environment is not only unable to 
create cultural features, in some instances it is 
even incapable of perpetuating them. Thus, 
pottery was once distributed over an extensive 
region in the New Hebrides but is now restricted 
to a few isolated localities on a single island. 
Again, in southeastern New Guinea ancient 
pottery has been found that vastly surpasses its 
present representatives in point of craftsman- 
ship.^® A similar phenomenon has been noted in 
the Southwest of the United States, where the 
evolution and deterioration of glazed earthen- 
ware may be clearly traced in the same region." 
Dr. Rivers has pointed out an even more instruc- 
tive example of cultural degeneration. In the 
Torres Islands of Melanesia the natives have no 
canoes for traversing the channels which separate 
their islands from oiie another but are obliged to 



use unseaworthy bamboo rafts inadequate even 
for fishing purposes. Yet there is evidence that 
the Torres Islanders once shared the art of 
canoe-making with their fellow-Oceanians and 
that it has died out in recent times independently 
of European influence. It is difficult to con- 
ceive of any people less likely a priori to lose the 
art of navigation than a South Sea Island group; 
yet, their maritime environment proved inade- 
quate to preserve so vital a feature of their 
daily life. 

To sum up: Environment cannot explain 
culture because the identical environment is 
consistent with distinct cultures; because cul- 
tural traits persist from inertia in an unfavorable 
environment; because they do not develop 
where they would be of distinct advantage to a 
people; and because they may even disappear 
where one would least expect it on geographical 

Shall we then cavalierly banish geography 
from cultural considerations? This would be 
manifestly going beyond the mark. Geographi- 
cal phenomena can no more 6e discarded than 
can psychological phenomena. They repre- 
sent in the first place a limiting condition. 
As cultures cannot contravene psychological 
principles so they cannot, except in a limited 



measure, override geographical factors. To use 
some drastically clear if somewhat hackneyed 
examples, the Eskimo do not eat coconuts nor do 
the Oceanians build snow-houses; where the 
horse does not occur it cannot be domesticated; 
in the Hopi country where watercourses are 
lacking navigation naturally did not develop. 
As Jochelson points out, the Koryak of north- 
eastern Siberia cannot cultivate cereals because 
of the low temperature and they cannot succeed 
as cattle-breeders because of the poor quality 
of thegrasses.^2 This minimum recognition of 
environment as a purely negative factor, how- 
ever, does riot do full justice to it. Take the 
bison out of the Plains Indian's life and his 
cultural atmosphere certainly changes. Never- 
theless, we have seen that the presence of the 
bison by no means fully determined the cultural 
employment possible. Instead of hunting it as 
the Solutrean Europeans did the wild horse, the 
Indian might have domesticated it as his name- 
sake by misnomer in Asia domesticated the 
buffalo. The environment, then, enters into 
culture, not as a formative but rather as an 
inert element ready to be selected from and 
molded. It is, of course, a matter of biological 
necessity for a people to establish some sort of 
adaptation to surrounding conditions, but such 


Culture and ethnology 

adaptation is no more spontaneously generated 
by the environment than are strictly biological 
adaptations. There are alternatives to adapta- 
tion — migration and destruction. 

It is true, as Dr. Wissler has forcibly pointed 
out, that when some kind of adjustment has 
once been established it will tend to persist in 
the region of its origin.^' This, however, illus- 
trates not so much the active influence of envi- 
ronment as rather the tremendous force of 
cultural inertia which tends to perpetuate an 
old muddling-along adjustment, however imper- 
fect, provided only it has bare survival value. 

Altogether we may illustrate the relations of 
culture to environment by an analogy used by 
Dr. Wissler in another connection, which also 
brings us back to my initial analogy of the envi- 
ronmental theory with the associationist system 
in psychology. The environment furnishes the 
builders of cultural structures with brick and 
mortar but it does not furnish the architect's 
plan. As the illustrations cited clearly prove, 
there is a variety of ways in which the same 
materials can be put together, nay, there is 
always a range of choice as regards the materials 
themselves. The development of a particular 
architectural style and the selection of a special 
material from among an indefinite number of 



possible styles and materials are what character- 
ize a given culture. Since geography permits 
more than a single adjustment to the same 
conditions, it cannot give the interpretation 
sought by the student of culture. Culture can 
no more be built up of environmental blocks 
than can consciousness out of isolated ideas; 
and as the association of ideas already implies 
the synthetizing faculty of consciousness, so the 
assemblage and use of environmental factors 
after a definite plan already implies the selective 
and synthetic agency of a preexisting or nascent 

[65 1 


Psychology, racial differences, geographical 
environment, have all proved inadequate for the 
interpretation of cultural phenomena. The 
inference is obvious. Culture is a thing sui 
generis which can be explained only in terms of 
itself. This is not mysticism but sound scien- 
tific method. The biologist, whatever meta- 
physical speculations he may indulge in as to 
the ultimate origin of life, does not depart in his 
workaday mood from the principle that every 
cell is derived from some other cell. So the 
ethnologist will do well to postulate the prin- 
; ciple, Omnis cultura ex cuUura.^ This means 
that he will account for a given cultural fact by 
merging it in a group of cultural facts or by 
demonstrating some other cultural fact out of 
which it has developed. The cultural phe- 
nomenon to be explained may either have an 
antecedent within the culture of the tribe where 
it is found or it may have been imported from 
without. Both groups of determinants must be 

The extraneous determinants of culture 
summed up under the heading of 'diffusion' or 
'contact of peoples' have been repeatedly 



referred to in the preceding pages. A somewhat 
detailed examination seems desirable, for it is 
difficult to exaggerate their importance. 

* 'Civilization," says Tylor, **is a plant much 
oftener propagated than developed;"* and the 
latest ethnographic memoir that comes to hand 
voices the same sentiment: *'It is and has always 
been much easier to borrow an idea from one's 
neighbors than to originate a new idea; and 
transmission of cultural elements, which in all 
ages has taken place in a great many different 
ways, is and has been one of the greatest pro- 
moters of cultural development."* 

A stock illustration of cultural assimilation is 
that of the Japanese, who in the nineteenth 
century adopted our scientific and technological 
civilization ready-made, just as at an earlier 
period they had acquired wholesale the culture 
of China. It is essential to note that it is not 
always the people of lower culture who remain 
passive recipients in the process of diffusion. 
This is strikingly shown by the spread of Indian 
corn. The white colonist '*did not simply borrow 
the maize seed and then in conformity with his 
already established agricultural methods, or on 
original lines, develop a maize culture of his 
own," but *'took over the entire material com- 
plex of maize culture" as found among the 



, aborigines.* The history of Indian corn also 
illustrates the remarkable rapidity with which 
cultural possessions may travel over the globe. 
Unknown in the Old World prior to the discovery 
of America, it is mentioned as known in Europe 
in 1539 and had reached China between 1540 

,and 1570.^ 

The question naturally arises here, whether 
this process of diffusion, which in modem times 
is a matter of direct observation, could have been 
of importance during the earlier periods of human 
history when means of communication were of 
a more primitive order. So far as this point is 
concerned, we must always remember that 
methods of transportation progressed very 
slightly from the invention of the wheeled cart 
until the most recent times. As Montelius 
suggests, the periods of 1700 b. c. and 1700 A. D. 
differed far less in this regard than might be 

\supposed on superficial consideration. Yet we 
know the imperfection of facilities for travel did 
not prevent dissemination of culture in historic 

The great Swedish archaeologist has, indeed, 
given us a most fascinating picture of the 
commercial relations of northern Europe in 
earlier periods and their effect on cultural 
development." We learn with astonishment that 



in the ninth and tenth centuries of our era, 
trade was carried on with great intensity be- 
tween the North of Europe and the Moham- 
medan culture sphere since tens of thousands of 
Arabic coins have been found on Swedish soil. 
But intercourse with remote countries date^ 
back to a far greater antiquity. One of the 
most powerful stimuli of commercial relations 
between northern and southern Europe w£ls 
the desire of the more southern populations to 
secure amber, a material confined to the Baltic 
region and occurring more particularly about 
Jutland and the mouth of the Vistula. Amber 
beads have been found not only in Swiss pile- 
dwellings' but also in Mycenaean graves of the 
second millennium b. c. Innumerable finds of 
amber work in Italy and other parts of southern 
Europe prove the importance attached to this 
article, which was exchanged for copper and 
bronze. The composition of Scandinavian 
bronzes indicates that their material was 
imported not from England but from the far- ^ 
away regions of central Europe. That bronze 
was not of indigenous manufacture is certain 
because tin does not occur in Sweden at all while 
the copper deposits of northern Scandinavia 
remained untouched until about 1500 years after 
the end of the Bronze Age. Considering the 



high development of the bronze technique in 
Scandinavia and the fact that every pound of 
bronze had to be imported from without, it 
would be difficult to exaggerate the extent of 
contact with the southern populations. But 
intercourse was not limited to the South. For 
example, Swedish weapons and implements have 
been discovered in Finland. Again, crescent- 
shaped gold ornaments of Irish provenance have 
been found in Denmark, while a Swedish rock- 
painting represents with painstaking exactness 
a type of bronze shield common at a certain 
prehistoric period of England. 

Montelius shows that historical connections 
of the type so amply attested for the Bronze 
Age also obtained in the preceding Neolithic era. 
Swedish hammers of stone dating back to the 
third pre-Christian millennium and flint daggers 
have been found in Finland, and earthenware 
characteristic of Neolithic Scandinavia also 
turns up on the Baltic coast of Russia. Stone 
burial cists with a peculiar oval opening at one 
end occur in a limited section of southwestern 
Sweden and likewise in England. Since such 
monuments have been discovered neither in 
other parts of Sweden nor in Jutland or the 
Danish islands, they point to a direct intercourse 
between Britain and western Sweden at about 



2,000 B. c. A still older form of burial unites 
Scandinavia with other parts of the continent. 
Chambers built up of large stones set up edge- 
wise and reaching from the floor to the roof, the 
more recent ones with and the older without a 
long covered passage, are highly characteristic of 
Sweden, Denmark, the British Isles, and the 
coasts of Europe from the Vistula embouchure 
to the coasts of France and Portugal, of Italy, 
Greece, the Crimea, North Africa, Syria, and 
India. Specific resemblances convince the most 
competent judges that some, at lesist, of these 
widely diffused 'dolmens' are historically con- 
nected with their Swedish equivalents, and 
since the oldest of these Northern chambers go 
back 3,000 years before our era, we thus have 
evidence of cultural diffusion dating back, 
approximately five millennia. ^ 

It is highly interesting to trace under Mon-'^ 
telius* guidance the development of culture as it 
seems to have actually taken place in southern 
Sweden. Beginning with the earliest periods, we 
find the coastal regions inhabited by a popula- 
tion of fishermen and hunters. At a subsequent 
stage coarse pottery appears with articles of bone 
and antler, and there is evidence that the dog 
has become domesticated. In the later Neo- 
lithic era perfectly polished stone hammers and 

[71 1 


exquisitely chipped flint implements occur, 
together with indications that cattle, horses, 
sheep and pigs are domesticated and that the 
cultivation of the soil has begun. Roughly 
speaking, we may assume that the culture of 
Scandinavia at the end of the Stone Age re- 
sembled in advancement that of the agricultural 
North American and Polynesian tribes as found 
by the first European explorers. We may assume 
a long period of essentially indigenous cultural 
growth followed towards its close by intimate 
relations with alien populations. Nevertheless, 
it was the more extensive contact of the Bronze 
period that rapidly raised the ancestral Swedes 
to a cultural position high above a primitive 
level, with accentuation of agriculture, the use 
of woolen clothing, and a knowledge of metal- 
lurgy. It was again foreign influence that later 
brought the knowledge of iron and in the third 
century of our era transformed the Scandi- 
navians into a literary people, flooded their 
country with art products of the highest then 
existing Roman civilization, and ultimately 
X introduced Christianity. 
^ The case of Scandinavian culture is fairly 
typical. We have first a long-continued course 
of leisurely and relatively undisturbed develop- 
ment, which is superseded by a tremendously 



rapid assimilation of cultural elements from 
without. Through contact with tribes possessing 
a higher civilization the ancient Scandinavians 
came to participate in its benefits and even to 
excel in special departments of it, such as 
bronze work, which from lack of material, they 
would have been physically incapable of devel- 
oping unaided. Piffusion was the determinant, 
of Scandinavian cultural progress from savagery 
to civilization. 

It is obvious that this insistence on contact of 
peoples as a condition of cultural evolution does 
not solve the ultimate problem of the origin of 
culture. The question naturally obtrudes itself: 
If the Scandinavians obtained their civilization 
from the Southeast, how did the Oriental cultures 
themselves originate? Nevertheless, when we ex- 
amine these higher civilizations of the Old World, 
we are again met with indubitable evidence that 
one of the conditions of development is the con- 
tact of peoples and the consequent diffusion of 
cultural elements. This appears clearly from a 
consideration of the ancient civilizations of 
Egypt, Babylonia, and China. 

We now have abundant evidence for a later 
Stone Age in Egypt with an exceptionally high 
development of the art of chipping, as well as 
specimens of pottery and other indications of a 



sedentary mode of life. About 5,000 b. c. this 
undisturbed evolution began to suffer from a 
series of migrations of West Asiatic tribes, 
bringing in their wake a number of cultivated 
plants and domesticated animals, as well as vari- 
ous other features which possibly included the art 
of smelting copper, while the ceramic ware of the 
earlier period agrees so largely with that of Elam 
in what is now southern Persia that a cultural 
connection seems definitely established. 
^ If from Egypt we turn to the most probable 
source of alien culture elements found there, wz., 
to the region of Mesopotamia, possibly the oldest 
seat of higher civilization in Asia, we find again 
that the culture of Babylonia under the famous 
lawgiver Hammurabi (about 2,000 b. c.) is not 
the product of purely indigenous growth but rep- 
resents the resultant of at least two components, 
that of the Sumerian civilization of southern 
Babylonia and the Accadian culture of the 
North. It is certain that the Accadians adopted 
the art of writing from the Sumerians and were 
also stimulated by this contact in their artistic 
development. The evolution of Sumerian civili- 
zation is lost in obscurity but on the basis of well- 
established historical cases we should hesitate to 
assign to them an exclusively creative, and to 
other populations an exclusively receptive, rdle. 



We may quite safely assume that the early 
splendor of Sumerian civilization was also in 
large part due to stimuli received through foreiga 
relations. That cultural elements of value may 
be borrowed from an inferior as well as from a 
higher level, has already been exemplified by the 
case of maize. It is also, among other things, 
illustrated by the history of the Chinese. ^^ 

The Chinese have generally been represented 
as developing in complete isolation from other 
peoples. This traditional conception, however, 
breaks down with more intimate knowledge. Dr. 
Laufer has demonstrated that Chinese civiliza- 
tion, too, is a complex structure due to the con- 
flux of distinct cultural streams. As an originally 
inland people inhabiting the middle and lower 
course of the Yellow River, they gradually 
reached the coast and acquired the art of naviga- 
tion through contact with Indo-Chinese sea- 
farers. Acquaintance with the northern nomads 
of Turkish and Tungus stock led to the use of the 
horse, donkey and camel, as well as the practice 
of felt and rug weaving, possibly even to the 
adoption of furniture and the iron technique.^ 
Most important of all, it appears that essentials 
of agriculture, cattle-raising, metallurgy and pot- 
tery, as well as less tangible features of civiliza- 
tion are common to ancient China and Baby- 

[75 1 


Ionia, which forces us to the conclusion that both 
the Chinese and Babylonian cultures are rami- 
fications from a common Asiatic sub-stratum. 
It would be idle to speculate as to the relative 
contributions of each center to this ancient 
cultural stock. The essential point is that the 
most ancient Asiatic civilizations of which we 
have any evidence already indicate close contact 
^f peoples and the dispersal of cultural elements. 

Contact of peoples is thus an extraordinary 
promoter of cultural development. By the free 
exchange of arts and ideas among a group of 
formerly independent peoples, a superiority and 
complexity is rendered possible which without 
such diffusion would never have occurred. The 
part played in this process by the cruder popu- 
lations must not be underestimated. They may 
/contribute both actively and passively; actively, 
by transmitting knowledge independently ac- 
quired, as in the case of the felt technique the 
Chinese learned from the northern nomads; 
passively, by forming a lower caste on which the 
economic labors devolve and thus liberating 
their conquerors for an enlarged activity in the 
Vess utilitarian spheres of culture. 

Nevertheless, before peoples can communicate 
their cultures to others with whom they come in- 
to contact, they must first evolve these cultures. 



The question thus remains, What determines this 
evolution? In order to gain a proper perspective 
in this matter, we must for a moment consider 
the progress of human civilization as a whole. 
Archaeological research shows that the modern 
era of steel and iron tools was preceded by an 
age of bronze and copper implements, which in 
turn was preceded by a stone age subdivided 
into a more recent period of polished, and an 
earlier of merely chipped, stone tools. Now the 
chronological relations of these epochs are ex- 
tremely suggestive. The very lowest estimate 
by any competent observer of the age of Palaeo- 
lithic man in Europe sets it at 50,000 years;® 
since this is avowedly the utmost minimum value 
that can be assigned on geological grounds, we 
may reasonably assume twice that figure for the 
age of human culture generally. Using the rough 
estimate permissible in discussions of this sort, 
we may regard the end of the Palaeolithic era as 
dating back about 15,000 years ago. In shorf^ 
for more than eight-tenths of its existence, the 
human species remained at a cultural level at 
best comparable with that of the Australian. 
We may assume that it was during this immense 
space of time that dispersal over the face of the 
globe took place and that isolation fixed the 
broader diversities of language and culture, over 

[77 1 


and above what may have been the persisting 
cultural sub-stratum common to the earliest un- 
divided human group. The following Neolithic 
period of different parts of the globe terminated 
"^at different times and had not been passed at all 
by most of the American aborigines and the 
Oceanians at the time of their discovery. How- 
ever, from the broader point of view here as- 

/sumed, it was not relieved by the age of metal- 
lurgy until an exceedingly recent past. The earli- 
est estimate I have seen does not put the event 
back farther than 6000 b. c. even in Mesopo- 
tamia. During nine-tenths of his existence, then, 
man was ignorant of the art of smelting copper 
from the ore. Finally, the iron technique does 
not date back 4,000 years; it took humanity 
ninety-six hundredths of its existence to develop 
this art. 

We may liken the progress of mankind to that 
of a man a hundred years old, who dawdles 
through kindergarten for eighty-five years of his 
life, takes ten years to go through the primary 
grades, then rushes with lightning rapidity 
through grammar school, high school and col- 

i lege. Culture, it seems, is a matter of exceedingly 
slow growth until a certain 'threshold' is passed, 
when it darts forward, gathering momentum at 
an unexpected rate. For this peculiarity of 

[78 1 


culture as a whole, many miniature parallels ex- 
ist in special subdivisions of culture history. 
Natural science lay dormant until Kepler, Gali- 
leo and Newton stirred it into unexampled activ- 
ity, and the same holds for applied science untiK 
about a century ago. 

This discontinuity of development receives • 
strong additional illustration from a survey of 
special subdivisions of ancient culture. Though 
the Palaeolithic era certainly preceded the later 
Stone Age, archaeologists have hitherto failed to 
show the steps by which the later could develop 
out of the earlier. This gap may, of course, be 
due merely to our lack of knowledge. Yet when 
we take subdivisions of the Palaeolithic period, 
the same fact once more confronts us. There is 
no orderly progression from Solutrean to Magda- 
lenian times. The highly developed flint tech- 
nique of the former dwindles away in the latter 
and its place is taken by what seems a sponta- 
neous generation of bone and ivory work, with a 
high development of realistic art. 

In view of the evidence, it seems perfect non^ 
sense to say that early European civilization, by 
some law inherent in the very nature of culture, 
developed in the way indicated by archaeological 
finds. Southern Scandinavia could not possibly 
have had a bronze age without alien influence/" 

[79 1 


In this case, discontinuity was the result of 
cultural contact. It may be that the lack of 
definite direction observed throughout the Stone 
Age may in part be due to similar causes, the 
migrations and contact of different peoples, as 
Professor Sollas suggests. But it is important to 

• note that discontinuity is a necessary feature of 
cultural progress. It does not matter whether 
we can determine the particular point in the 
series at which the significant trait was intro- 

,/auced. It does not matter whether, as I have 
suggested in the discussion of racial features, the 

• underlying causes of the phenomena proceed with 
perfect continuity. Somewhere in the observed 

' cultural effects there is the momentous innova- 
N^ tion that leads to a definite break with the past. 
From a broad point of view, for example, it is 
immaterial whether the doctrine of evolution 
clings to the name of the younger pr the elder 
Darwin, to Lamarck or St. Hilaire; the essential 
thing is that somehow the idea originated, and 
that when it had taken root it produced incal- 
culable results in modem thought. 
"^ If culture, even when uninfluenced by foreign 
contact, progresses by leaps and bounds, we 
should naturally like to ascertain the determi- 
nants of such 'mutations.' In this respect, the 

• discontinuity of indigenous evolution differs 



somewhat from that connected with cultural de- 
velopment due to diffusion. It was absolutely 
impossible that Scandinavia should produce 
bronze in the absence of tin. . But a priori it is 
conceivable that an undisturbed culture might 
necessarily develop by what biologists call *or- 
thogenetic evolution', i.e., in a definite direction 
through definite stages. This is, indeed, what is 
commonly known as the classical scheme of 
cultural evolution, of which men like Morgan are 
the protagonists. Now, how do the observed 
facts square with this theoretical possibility? 

As Professor Boas and American ethnologists 
generally have maintained,^® many facts are quite 
inconsistent with the theory of unilinear evolu- • 
tion. That theory can be tested very simply by^ 
comparing the sequence of events in two or more 
areas in which independent development has 
taken place. For example, has technology in 
Africa followed the lines ascertained for ancient 
Europe? We know today that it has not. 
Though unlike southern Scandinavia, the Dark 
Continent is not lacking in copper deposits, the 
African Stone Age was not superseded by a Copp, 
per Age, but directly by a period of Iron. Sinrfi- 
larly, I have already pointed out that the posses- 
sion of the same domesticated animals does not 
produce the same economic utilization of them 



while the Tungus rides his reindeer, other Si- 
berians harness their animals to a sledge; the 
Chinaman will not milk his cattle, while the 
Zulu's diet consists largely of milk. That a par- 
•'^icular innovation occurred at a given time and 
place is, of course, no less the result of definite 
causes than any other phenomenon of the uni- 

• verse. But often it seems to have been caused 
by an accidental complex of conditions rather 
than in accordance with some fixed principle. 

For example, the invention of the wheel revo- 
lutionized methods of transportation. Now, why 
did this idea develop in the Old World and never 
take root among the American Indians? We are 
here face to face with one of those ultimate data 
that must simply be accepted like the physicist's 
fact that water expands in freezing while other 
^§ubstances contract. So far as we can see, the 
invention might have been made in America as 
well as not; and for all we know it would never 
h^ve been made there until the end of time. 
This introduces a very important consideration. 

• A given culture is, in a measure, at least, a unique 
phenomenon. In so far as this is true it must 
defy generalized treatment, and the explanation 
of a cultural phenomenon will consist in referring 
it back to the particular circumstances that pre- 
ceded it. In other words, the explanation will 



consist in a recital of its past history; or, to put 
it negatively, it cannot involve the assumption of 
an organic law of cultural evolution that would 
necessarily produce the observed effect. / 

Facts already cited in other connections may 
be quoted again by way of illustration. When a 
copper implement is fashioned not according to 
the requirements of the material, but in direct 
imitation of preexisting stone patterns, we have 
an instance of cultural inertia: it is only the past 
history of technology that renders the phenom- 
ena conceivable. So the unwieldy Chukchee 
tent, which adheres to the style of a pre-nomadic 
existence, is explained as soon as the past history 
of the tribe comes to light. 

Phenomena that persist in isolation from their 
original context are technically known as 'sur- 
vivals', and form one of the most interesting 
chapters of ethnology. One or two additional 
examples will render their nature still clearer. 
The boats of the Vikings were equipped for row- 
ing as well as for sailing. Why the superfluous 
appliances for rowing, which were later dropped? 
As soon as we learn that the Norse boats were 
originally rowboats and that sails were a later 
addition, the rowing equipment is placed in its 
proper cultural setting and the problem is solved. 
Another example may be offered from a different 



phase of life. Among the Arapaho Indians there 
is a series of dance organizations graded by age. 
Membership is acquired by age-mates at the 
same time, each receiving the requisite ceremo- 
nial instructions from some older man who passed 
through the dance in his day. These older men, 
who are paid for their services by the candidates, 
may belong to any and all of the higher organiza- 
tions. Oddly enough, each group of dancers is 
assisted by a number of 'elder brothers', all of 
whom rank them by two grades in the series of 
dancers. This feature is not at all clear from the 
Arapaho data alone. When, however, we turn 
to the Hidatsa Indians, with whom there is evi- 
dence this system of age-societies originated, we' 
find that here the youngest group of men does 
not buy instructions from a miscellaneous as- 
semblage of older men, but buys the dance out- 
right from the whole of the second grade; this 
group, in order to have the privilege of perform- 
ing a dance, must buy that of the third grade, and 
so on. In all these purchases the selling group 
seeks to extort the highest possible price while 
the buyers try to get off as cheaply as possible 
and are aided by the second higher group, i.e., 
the group just ranking the sellers. Here the 
sophomore-senior versus freshman- junior rela- 
tionship is perfectly intelligible; both the fresh- 



man and the junior, to pursue the analogy, bear 
a natural economic hostility against the soph- 
omore, and vice versa. The Arapaho usage is 
intelligible as a survival from this earlier Hidatsa 

Our own civilization is shot through with sur- 
vivals, so that further illustrations are unneces- 
sary. They suggest, however, another aspect of 
our general problem. Of course, in every culture • 
different traits are linked together without there 
being any essential bond between them. An il- 
lustration of this type of association is that men- 
tioned by Dr. Laufer for Asiatic tribes, vis., that 
all nations which use milk for their diet have epic 
poems, while those which abstain from milk have 
no epic literature. This type of chance associa- 
tion, due to historical causes, has been discussed 
by Dr. Wissler^^and Professor Czekanowski.^ But 
survivals show that there may be an organic re- - 
lation between phenomena that have become 
separated and are treated as distinct by the de- 
scriptive ethnologist. In such cases, one trait is • 
the determinant of the other, possibly as the 
actually preceding cause, possibly as part of the 
same phenomenon in the sense in which the side 
of a triangle is correlated with an angle. 

A pair of illustrations will elucidate the matter. 
Primitive terms of relationship often reveal char- 



acteristic differences of connotation from their 
nearest equivalents in European languages. On 
the other hand, they are remarkably similar not 
only among many of the North American Indians 
but also in many other regions of the globe, such 
as Australia, Oceanica, Africa. The most strik- 
ing peculiarity of this system of nomenclature 
lies in the inclusiveness of certain terms. For 
example, the word we translate as 'father' is 
applied indiscriminately to the father, all his 
brothers, and some of his male cousins; while 
the word for 'mother* is correspondingly used for 
Ahe mother's sisters and some of their female 
' cousins. On the other hand, paternal and mater- 
nal uncle or aunt are rigidly distinguished by a 
difference in terminology. As Morgan divined 
and Tylor clearly recognized, this system is con- 
nected with the one-sided exogamous kin organi- 
zation by which an individual is reckoned as be- 
longing to the exogamous social group of one, 
and only one, of his parents. The terminology 
that appears so curious at first blush then re- 
solves itself very simply into the method of 
calling those members of the tribe who belong to 
the father's social group and generation by the 
same term as the father, while the maternal 
uncles, who must belong to another group be- 
cause of the exogamous rule, are distinguished 



from the father. In short, the terminology ♦ 
simply expresses the existing social organization. 
In a world-wide survey of the field Tylor found 
that the number of peoples who use the type of 
nomenclature I have described and are divided 
into exogamous groups, is about three times that 
to be expected on the doctrine of chances: in 
other words, the two apparently distinct phe- 
nomena are causally connected.^' This interpreta- 
tion has recently been forcibly advocated by Dr. 
Rivers, and I have examined the North American 
data from this point of view. It developed, as a 
matter of fact, that practically all the tribes with 
exogamous 'clans', i.e., matrilineal kin groups, or 
exogamous 'gentes', i.e., patrilineal kin groups, 
had a system of the type described, while most 
of the tribes lacking such groups also lacked the 
nomenclature in question. Accordingly, it fol- 
lows that there is certainly a functional relation - 
between these phenomena, although it is con- 
ceivable that both are functionally related to still 
other phenomena, and that the really significant . 
relationship remains to be determined. ^' 

As a linked illustration, the following phenom- 
ena may be presented. Among the Crow bt^ 
Montana, the Hopi of Arizona, and some Mela- 
nesian tribe?, the same term is applied to a 
father's sister and to a father's sister's daughter; 



indeed, among the Crow and the Hopi the term 
is extended to all the female descendants through 
females of the father's sister ad infinitum. Such 
a usage is at once intelligible from the tendency 
to call females of the father's group belonging to 
his and younger generations by a single term, re- 
gardless of generation, if descent is reckoned 
through the mother, for in that case, and that 
case only, will the individuals in question belong 
to the same group. And the fact is that in each 
of the cases mentioned, group affiliation is traced 
through the mother, while I know of not a single 

N^^nstance in which paternal descent coexists with 
the nomenclatorial disregard of generations in 
the form described. 
My instances show, then, that cultural traits 
• may be functionally related, and this fact renders 
possible a parallelism, however limited, of cul- 
tural development in different parts of the globe. 
The field of culture, then, is not a region of com- 

» plete lawlessness. Like causes produce like effects 
here as elsewhere, though the complex condi- 
tions with which we are grappling require unusu- 
al caution in definitely correlating phenomena. 
It is true that American ethnologists have shown 
that in several instances like phenomena can 
be traced to diverse causes; that, in short, un- 
like antecedents converge to the same point. 



However, at the risk of being anathematized as a 
person of utterly unhistorical mentality, I must 
register my belief that this point has been over- 
done and that the continued insistence on it by 
Americanists is itself an illustration of cultural 
inertia. Indeed, the vast majority of so-called 
convergenqies are not genuine, but false analogies 
due to our throwing together diverse facts from 
ignorance of their true nature, just as an un- 
tutored mind will class bats with birds, or whales 
with fish. When, however, rather full knowledge 
reveals not superficial resemblance but absolute 
identity of cultural features, it would be mirac- 
ulous, indeed, to assume that such equivalence 
somehow was shaped by different determinants. 
When a Zulu of South Africa, an Australian, and 
a Crow Indian all share the mother-in-law taboo 
imposing mutual avoidance on the wife's mother 
and the daughter's husband, with exactly the 
same psychological correlate, it is, to my mind, 
rash to decree without attempt to produce evi- 
dence that this custom must, in each case, have 
developed from entirely distinct motives. To be 
sure, this particular usage has not yet, in my 
opinion, been satisfactorily accounted for. Nev- 
ertheless, in contradistinction to some of my col- 
leagues and to the position I myself once shared, 
I now believe that it is pusillanimous to shirk 



the real problem involved, and that in so far as 
any explanation admits the problem, any ex- 
planation is preferable to the flaunting of fine 
phrases about the unique character of cultural 
phenomena. When, however, we ask what sort 
of explanation could be given, we find that it is 
by necessity a cultural explanation. Tylor, e.g., 
thinks that the custom is correlated with the 
social rule that the husband takes up his abode 
with the wife's relatives and that the taboo 
merely marks the difference between him and the 
rest of the family. We have here clearly one 

• cultural phenomenon as the determinant of 


It is not so difficult as might at first appear to 

'' harmonize the principle that a cultural phenom- 
enon is explicable only by a unique combination 
of antecedent circumstances with the principle 
that like phenomena are the product of like ante- 
cedents. The essential point is that in either 

' case we have past history as the determinant. 
It is not necessary that certain things should 
happen; but if they do happen, then there is at 
least a considerable likelihood that certain other 
things will also happen. Diversity occurs where 
the particular thing of importance, say the wheel, 
has been discovered or conceived in one region 
but not in another. Parallelism tends to occur 



when the same significant phenomenon is shared 
by distinct cultures. It remains true that in 
culture history we are generally wise after the 
event. A priori, who would not expect that 
milking must follow from the domestication of 

When we find that a type of kinship terminol- 
ogy is determined by exogamy or matrilineal 
descent, we have, indeed, given a cultural ex- 
planation of a cultural fact; but for the ultimate 
problems how exogamy or maternal descent came 
about, we may be unable to give a solution. Very 
often we cannot ascertain an anterior or corre- 
lated cultural fact for another cultural fact, but 
can merely group it with others of the same kind. 
Of this order are many of the parallels that figure 
so prominently in ethnological literature. For 
example, that primitive man everywhere be- 
lieves in the animation of nature seems an irre- 
ducible datum which we can, indeed, paraphrase 
and turn hither and thither for clearer scrutiny 
but can hardly reduce to simpler terms. All we 
can do is to merge any particular example of such 
animism in the general class after the fashion of 
all scientific interpretation. That certain ten- 
dencies of all but universal occurrence are char- 
acteristic of culture, no fair observer can deny, 
and it is the manifest business of ethnology to 

[91 1 


ascertain all such regularities so that as many 
cultural phenomena as possible may fall into 
their appropriate categories. Only those who 
would derive each and every trait similar in dif- 
ferent communities of human beings from a 
single geographical source can ignore such gen- 
eral characteristics of culture, which may, in a 
sense, be regarded as determinants of specific 
cultural data or rather, as the principles of 
which these are particular manifestations. 

Recently I completed an investigation of 
Plains Indian societies begun on the most rigor- 
ous of historical principles, with a distinct bias in 
favor of the unique character of cultural data. 
But after smiting hip and thigh the assumption 
that the North American societies were akin to 
analogous institutions in Africa and elsewhere, I 
came face to face with the fact that, after all, 
among the Plains Indians, as among other tribes, 
the tendency of age-mates to flock together had 
formed social organizations and thus acted as a 
cultural determinant. 

Beyond such interpretative principles for 
special phases of civilization, there are still 
broader generalizations of cultural phenomena. 
One has been repeatedly alluded to under the 
caption of cultural inertia, or survival— the 
irrational persistence of a feature when the 



context in which it had a place has vanished. 
But culture is not merely a passive phenomenon 
but a dynamic one as well. This is strikingly 
illustrated in the assimilation of an alien cultural 
stimulus. As I have already pointed out, it is 
not sufficient to bring two cultures into contact 
in order to have a perfect cultural interpenetra- 
tion. The element of selection enters in a signifi- 
cant way. Not everything that is offered by a 
foreign culture is borrowed. The Japanese have 
accepted our technology but not our religion 
and etiquette. Moreover, what is accepted may 
undergo a very considerable change. While the 
whole range of phenomena is extremely wide and 
cannot be dismissed with a few words, it appears 
fairly clear that generally the preexisting culture 
at once seizes upon a foreign element and models 
it in accordance with the native pattern. Thus, 
the Crow Indians, who had had a pair of rival 
organizations, borrowed a society from the 
Hidatsa where such rivalry did not exist. 
Straightway, the Crow imposed on the new 
society their own conception, and it became the 
competitor of another of their organizations. 
Similarly the Pawnee have a highly developed 
star cult. Their folklore is in many regards 
sinlilar to that of other Plains tribes, from which 
some tales have undoubtedly been borrowed. 



Yet in the borrowing these stories became 
changed and the same episodes which elsewhere 
relate to human heroes now receive an astral 
setting. The preexisting cultural pattern syn- 
thetizes the new element with its own precon- 

Another tendency that is highly characteristic 
of all cultures is the rationalistic explanation of 
what reason never gave rise to. This is shown 
very clearly in the justification of existing 
cultural features or of opinions acquired as a 
member of a particular society. Hegel's notion 
that whatever exists is rational and Pope's 
'whatever is, is right' have their parallels in 
primitive legend and the literature of religious 
and political partisanship. In the special form 
of justification employed we find again the 
determining influence of the surrounding cul- 
tural atmosphere. Among the Plains Indians 
almost everything is explained as the result of 
supernatural revelation ; if a warrior has escaped 
injury in battle it is because he wore a feather 
bestowed on him in a vision; if he acquires a 
large herd of horses it is in fulfilment of a spiri- 
tistic communication during the fast of adoles- 
cence. In a community where explanations of 
this type hold sway, we are not surprised to find 
that the origin of rites, too, is almost uniformly 



traced to a vision and that even the most trivial 
alteration in ceremonial garb is not claimed as 
an original invention but ascribed to super- 
natural promptings. Thus, the existing culture 
acts doubly as the determinant of the explana- 
tion offered for a particular cultural phenomenon. 
It evokes the search for its own raison d*itre; 
and the type of interpretation called forth con- 
forms to the explanatory pattern characteristic 
of the culture involved. 

Culture thus appears as a closed system. ^ 
We may not be able to explain all cultural 
phenomena or at least not beyond a certain 
point; but inasmuch as we can explain them at 
all, explanation must remain on the cultural 

What are the determinants of culture? We 
have found that cultural traits may be trans- 
mitted from without and in so far forth are 
determined by the culture of an alien people. 
The extraordinary extent to which such diffusion 
has taken place proves that the actual develop- 
ment of a given culture does not conform to 
innate laws necessarily leading to definite 
results, such hypothetical laws being overridden 
by contact with foreign peoples. But even 
where a culture is of relatively indigenous growth 
comparison with other cultures suggests that 



one step does not necessarily lead to another, 
that an invention like the wheel or the domesti- 
cation of an animal occurs in one place and does 
not occur in another. To the extent of such 
diversity we must abandon the quest for general 
formulae of cultural evolution and recognize as 
the determinant of a phenomenon the unique 
course of its past history. However, there is not 
merely discontinuity and diversity but also 
stability and agreement in the sphere of culture. 
The discrete steps that mark culture history may 
not determine one another, but each may 
involve as a necessary or at least probable con- 
sequence other phenomena which in many 
instances are simply new aspects of the same 
phenomenon, and in so far forth one cultural 
element as isolated in description is the deter- 
minant or correlate of another. As for those 
phenomena which we are obliged to accept as 
realities without the possibility of further analy- 
sis, we can, at least, classify a great number of 
them and merge particular instances in a group 
of similar facts. Finally, there are dominant 
characteristics of culture, like cultural inertia or 
the secondary rationalization of habits acquired 
irrationally by the members of a group, which 
serve as broad interpretative principles in the 
history of civilization. 



In short, as in other sciences, so in ethnology * 
there are ultimate, irreducible facts, special func- 
tional relations, and principles of wider scope 
that guide us through the chaotic maze of detail. 
And as the engineer calls on the physicist for a 
knowledge of mechanical laws, so the social 
builder of the future who should seek to re- , 
fashion the culture of his time and add to its 
cultural values will seek guidance from eth- 
nology, the science of culture, which in Tylor's 
judgment is 'essentially a reformer's science.' 



Most descriptive monographs on primitive 
tribes contain lists of the words with which the 
natives designate their relatives by blood and 
marriage. The reason is far from obvious. Why 
should not this topic be left in the hands of a 
linguist-lexicographer? It is true that primitive 
usage in this regard is very quaint from our point 
of view, but so are primitive conceptions on a 
variety of subjects that likewise find expression 
in speech. The refinement of spatial distinctions 
in North American languages, the classification 
of colors or animals or other groups of natural 
phenomena are of equal intrinsic interest from a 
psychological point of view. Why, then, single 
out a particular department of the aboriginal 
vocabulary in a treatise on culture? The answer 
is simply this, that kinship terms have a direct 
relation to cultural data. 

The very fact that primitive tribes frequently 
use terms of kinship as words of address where 
we should substitute personal names is a social 
practice of ethnological interest. But the essen- 
tial point is that the terms used are often very 
^ definitely correlated with specific social usages. 
Generally speaking, the use of distinct words for 



two types of relatives is connected with a real 
difference in their social relations to the speaker. 
Thus, a majority of primitive tribes draw no dis- 
tinction between the father's sister's daughter 
and the mother's brother's daughter. But among 
the Miwok of California, where one of the 
cousins may be married while the other is within 
the prohibited degrees, a discrimination is made 
in language. Again, in many regions of the globe 
an altogether special bond connects the maternal 
uncle with the sister's son, and accordingly we 
find that he is very often sharply distinguished 
from the paternal uncle in nomenclature. 

On the other hand, we can often explain very 
naturally the use of a single word for two or more 
relatives whom we designate by as many distinct 
words. The Vedda of Ceylon, for example, call 
the man's father-in-law and maternal uncle by 
the same term. The reason is that here a man 
commonly marries his mother's brother's daugh- 
ter; the mother's brother is his father-in-law, 
and this identity is expressed in the terminology. 
A different illustration is supplied by the Crow 
of Montana, who have one term for the man's 
mother-in-law and his wife's brother's wife. The 
simple explanation is that both stand to him in 
the relationship of mutual avoidance, and it is 
this social fact that is expressed by the common 



designation. The same Indians apply the word 
for 'father' in a very inclusive manner, possibly 
to dozens of individuals; but closer examination 
shows that all of the people so addressed are en- 
titled to the same kind of treatment by the 
speaker, to a peculiar form of reverence, and to 
a preferential rank in the distribution of gifts. 

These few and casual examples possibly suffice 
to show why kinship terms deserve the ethnol- 
ogist's attention. Terms of relationship are, in 
• some measure, indices of social usage. Where 
relatives whom other people distinguish are 
grouped together, there is some likelihood that 
the natives regard them as representing the same 
relationship because they actually enjoy the same 
privileges or exercise the same functions in tribal 
life. Where relatives whom other peoples group 
together are distinguished, there is some proba- 
bility that the distinction goes hand in hand with 
a difference in social function. 

Lewis H. Morgan, the pioneer in this domain 
of knowledge, was keenly alive to the social im- 
plications of kinship nomenclature. But while 
he endeavored to give an ultimate interpretation 
of it in terms of various social conditions, he was 
confronted with the fact that not every tribe 
had a terminology sui generis, but that nomen- 
clatures of remote peoples were sometimes mar- 



velously similar. Morgan boldly argued that 
such community of nomenclature established ulti- 
mate racial unity and on this ground coolly 
suggested a racial connection between the Ha- 
waiians and the South African Zulu, between the 
natives of India and those of the Western 

These speculations as to racial affinity have 
been rightly disregarded by later students, be- 
cause to accept Morgan's premises means run- 
ning counter to the most obvious facts of physical 
anthropology. As Lubbock pointed out, we can- 
not assume that the Two-Mountain Iroquois are 
more closely akin to remote Oceanians than to 
their fellow Iroquois because some of their kin- 
ship terms resemble in connotation those of the 
Hawaiians. Nevertheless, Morgan was right in 
feeling that some historical conclusions could be 
drawn from similarities of relationship nomen- 
clature. We must simply bring this particular 
group of ethnological data under the same prin- 
ciple as other cultural phenomena. When the 
same feature occurs within a definite continuous • 
region, we shall assume that it has developed in 
a single center and spread by borrowing to other 
parts of the area. When the same feature occurs . 
in disconnected regions, we shall incline to the 
theory of independent development and shall in- 



quire whether the course of evolution may have 
been due to the same cultural determinants, i.e., 
in this case, to the same social institutions. 

After these preliminary remarks, we may turn 
to a closer scrutiny of the facts. 

^Systems'. Abstractly considered, it is con- 
ceivable that every individual relative might be 
designated by a different term of relationship by 
every other individual, just as each object in 
nature might theoretically be defined by some 
distinctive word instead of being placed in some 
such category as 'tree', 'animal*, or 'book'. In- 
deed, primitive people go rather far in their 
distinctions. Thus, in the Menomini family circle 
boys are not called 'son' or 'brother', but each is 
addressed by a word indicating the order of his 
birth, the oldest being 'mudjikiwis', the second 
'osememau', the third 'akotcosememau', the 
fourth 'nanaweo'.^ But in this, as in every other 
department of language, economy has been ex- 
ercised and instead of a chaotic number of dis- 
tinct terms for every possible relationship, there 
is always a limited series, many distinct individ- 
ual relationships being always grouped together 
under a single head. Thus, in English we apply 
the word 'brother' to a number of individuals 
regardless of their age relatively to ourselves or 
to one another and irrespective of the sex of the 



speaker. Yet, as the Menomini instance shows, 
the age distinction might very well have been 
expressed in speech and there are many Indian 
languages in which one set of terms is used by 
female and another by male speakers. 

All the terms used by a people to designate 
their relatives by blood or marriage are jointly 
called their 'kinship system'. This phrase is 
wholly misleading, if it is understood to imply 
that all the constituent elements form a well- 
articulated whole, for this probably never applies 
to more than a limited number of them, as will 
appear presently. But as a convenient word for 
the entire nomenclature of relationship found in 
a particular region the word 'system' may be 
provisionally retained. We may say, then, that 
systems of different peoples vary in their mode 
of classifying kin and it seems the ethnographer's 
first duty to determine the types of system found 
and their geographical distribution. 

At the present moment a satisfactory grouping 
of the world's kinship systems is impossible, ow- 
ing to our lack of knowledge of many areas. The 
task is also rendered very difficult by the fre- 
quent coexistence of distinct and even contra- 
dictory principles in the same 'system'. Each of 
these may be defined separately, but to weld 
both or all of them into a unified whole defies 



our efforts. For example, the Masai of E^st 
Africa, in referring to the paternal uncle, simply 
combine the stems for 'father', baba, and *broth- 
er', alasche, thus forming by juxtaposition of 
these primary terms the compound expression 
ol alasche le baba, which means literally 'the 
brother of the father'. This mode of defining a 
relative's status by combining primary terms of 
relationship or a primary term with a qualifying 
adjective as in our 'grandfather', is technically 
known as 'descriptive', and ethnologists are 
wont to speak of descriptive systems. As a 
matter of fact, this descriptive principle is highly 
characteristic of the Masai — ^but not when rel- 
atives are directly addressed by them. In such 
vocative usage, as it may be called, the father's 
brother is called baba like the father himself; the 
mother's brother is not designated by a phrase 
composed of primary stems but by a new stem, 
abula, which is also used reciprocally for the 
nephew; while koko serves to call both a pater- 
nal and a maternal aunt. These connotations 
introduce into the Masai 'system' a discordant 
principle by which relatives, instead of 
being defined descriptively, are grouped together 
in classes. But this 'classificatory' feature by 
no means characterizes all the vocative nomen- 
clature. By far the majority of relatives are 

[104 J 


addressed by terms suggestive of the presents 
of live stock presented to them by the speaker; 
if the gift consisted of a bull, the word used is 
b-ainonif from oinoni, bull; if an ass was given 
away, the vocative term is ba-sigiria, from si- 
giria, ass; and so forth. Accordingly, the voc- 
ative terms cited above are only employed by 
children, who have not yet presented stock to 
their kin.* In short, Masai terminology is molded 
by at least three entirely disparate principles. 

We shall, accordingly, do well to amend our 
phraseology and to speak rather of kinship cat- 
egories, features, or principles of classification 
than of types of kinship systems. 

The Descriptive Principle. When we approach 
our subject in a purely empirical way, we are 
confronted with the fact that features do not, as 
a rule, occur sporadically but are distributed over 
continuous areas. Imperfect as is our knowledge 
of African systems, for example, we know that 
the descriptive feature of the Masai nomen- 
clature does not appear everywhere, but flour- 
ishes especially among East African tribes, such 
as the Shilluk, Dinka, and other Upper Nile pop- 
ulations, and perhaps more widely where Arabic 
influence extends, the Arabian terminology being 
of a markedly descriptive character. In East 
Africa, indeed, there is almost quantitative proof 

[105 J 


of the dependence of kinship terminology on his- 
torical connection and geographical proximity. 
Among the Baganda, as among most Bantu 
Negroes, the descriptive feature is lacking and 
such a relative as the mother's brother's son, in- 
stead of being designated by a compound expres- 
sion, is classed with the brother.* The Masai, 
who live surrounded by Bantu tribes, have a 
purely descriptive system for non-vocative usage 
but their vocative forms are in part classificatory, 
while some neighboring Bantu peoples have a 
correspondingly mixed system. The Shilluk and 
Dinka seem to use the descriptive principle ex- 
clusively, as do the Arabs. The Masai are un- 
doubtedly closely allied with the Nilotes and 
markedly different from the Bantu. The con- 
clusion is, therefore, inevitable that their termi- 
nology — ^whatever may be its ultimate raison 
d'Ure — is a function of their historical relations. 
They have descriptive features because they be- 
long to a group of peoples of whom such features 
are characteristic. They have classificatory fea- 
tures because they have come into contact with 
peoples whose systems were characterized by 
such features and from whom they have bor- 
rowed them. The Shilluk lack the classificatory 
principle because they have not had the same 
alien influences as the Masai. The restriction of 



descriptive features to a definite part of Africa 
and their amalgamation with other features in 
the marginal section of this area show that kin- 
ship nomenclatures follow precisely the same 
rules as other elements of culture and that their 
distribution indicates probable or corroborates 
known tribal relations. 

The descriptive principle is not restricted to 
East Africa and the Semitic family, but has been 
found in the Persian, Armenian, Celtic, Estho- 
nian, and Scandinavian languages.** Although 
guesses might be offered, I do not feel that our 
present knowledge permits definite statements as 
to the historical relations suggested by the total 
range of the descriptive principle on the face of 
the globe. 

The Hawaiian Principle, While the term 'de- 
scriptive' admits of a fairly unambiguous defi- 
nition, the same cannot be said for the word 
'classificatory*. Morgan, after explaining his use 
of the former, states that a system of the second 
type reduces blood-relatives to great classes by 
a series of apparently arbitrary generalizations, 
applying the same terms to all the members of the 
same class. '*It thus confounds relationships, 
which, under the descriptive system, are dis- 
tinct, and enlarges the signification both of the 
primary and secondary terms beyond their seem- 



ingly appropriate sense."* This is looking at the 
matter from the arbitrarily selected point of view 
of our own nomenclature (which Morgan im- 
properly, as Rivers has shown, regarded as de- 
scriptive). Objectively considered, even descrip- 
tive terminologies are classificatory, inasmuch as 
they do not individualize, but content themselves 
with such generalizations as classing together, 
say, all the father's brothers instead of uni- 
formly specializing according to age. For this 
reason I regard as misplaced Dr. Rivers' empha- 
sis on whether a term designates a single individ- 
ual or a wider group. What, then, lies at the 
basis of the classificatory principle? Dr. Rivers, 
following Tylor, reduces it to the clan factor or 
rather to the influence of the dual organization 
of ancient society, by which it was divided into 
exogamous moieties. But this important sug- 
gestion, to which we shall have to revert, applies 
avowedly only to one form of the classificatory 
system and involves, therefore, the hypothesis 
that this preceded other forms. This may prove 
to be valid, but we cannot prejudice an empirical 
survey by taking its proof for granted and can- 
not, therefore, simply substitute 'clan' for *classi- 
ficatory* systems — apart from the fact that to 
talk of systems instead of principles or features 
in this connection is demonstrably misleading. 



It is quite clear that 'classificatory' can be used 
only in a loose sense, to indicate wider groupings 
of kin than those to which we are accustomed; 
and that there is no necessary evolutionary rela- 
tion between the two forms usually classed under 
this head. The empirical data are simply these. 
In certain systems, blood-relatives are classed 
according to generation regardless of nearness of 
kinship and of their maternal or paternal affilia- 
tions; in others, there is bifurcation, the mater- 
nal and paternal kin of at least the generations 
nearest to the speaker being distinguished. We 
may call the former the *unforked merging', or 
geographically the 'Hawaiian' mode of classifi- 
cation; the latter may be correspondingly re- 
ferred to as 'forked merging', or 'Dakota'. One 
point which it is essential to remember even at 
this early stage of our survey is that these prin- 
ciples, together with the descriptive one, are 
very far from exhausting the varieties found. 

Let us now consider the 'unforked' principle 
somewhat more closely as it finds expression 
among the Hawaiians. These people apply a 
single term, makua, to both parents and to all 
their parents' brothers and sisters, sex being dis- 
tinguished only by qualifying words meaning 
'man' and 'woman'. All related individuals of 
one's generation are classed as brothers and sis- 



ters, certain distinctions being drawn according 
to the age of their parents relatively to that of 
one's own parents and also according to the 
speaker's sex, but none resulting fronfi the differ- 
ences in nearness of kinship. The children of all 
these brothers and sisters are classed with one's 
own children, and their children with one's grand- 
children, while a single term embraces grand- 
parents and all related members of their gene- 
ration J This age-stratification of blood-relatives 
with disregard of differences as to father's or 
mother's side occurs not only in Hawaii, but also 
in New Zealand, Kusaie, the Gilbert and Mar- 
shall Islands.® It is not uninteresting to note that 
Hawaii and New Zealand, though far removed 
from each other, coincide closely in other cultural 
features not shared with fellow-Polynesians, as 
Professor Dixon has recently shown in his treat- 
ment of Oceanian mythology. The geographical 
proximity of Micronesia to Hawaii hardly re- 
quires mention. Dr. Rivers points out® that cer- 
tain Polynesian tribes in contact with Mela- 
nesians, whose systems display essentially the 
forked principle, e.g., the Tongans, use an inter- 
mediate nomenclature. We are thus again able to 
summarize the data in terms of historical con- 
nection. The assumption may be made that the 
ancient Polynesian terminology was that of 



Hawaii and New Zealand, which was modified 
where the Polynesians came into contact with 
diverse populations, and is shared by populations 
whose territory was presumably traversed by the 
Hawaiians. Dr. Rivers also states that the 
Burmese, Karen, Chinese and Japanese systems 
conform to the Hawaiian principle. He seems to 
depend on Morgan's statement of the case, which 
may require revision. But, accepting the data 
as given and assuming that the Malay proper 
classify kin according to the unforked method, 
we should still have a perfectly continuous dis- 
tribution for the Hawaiian features. 

This would no longer hold if we accepted Mor- 
gan's view that the Zulu of South Africa share 
the Hawaiian form, on which slender basis he 
advances the hypothesis that Kaffir and Poly- 
nesian have a common ancestry.^® As a matter of 
fact, the Zulu nomenclature secured by Morgan 
does in some instances slur over the difference of 
paternal and maternal lines, to the exclusive 
dominance of the generation factor. Thus, man 
and woman call all the brother's and sister's chil- 
dren their sons and daughters without distinction, 
and the children of the father's sister are classed 
with one's brothers and sisters. 

Nevertheless, even Morgan's list reveals fun- 
damental deviations from the Hawaiian principle. 



As he notes, the mother's brother is not classed 
with the father's brother and father, and the 
assumption that he formerly was is mere guess- 
work. What particularly astonished Morgan, 
however, was that the father's sister was not 
called mother, but father. This is, indeed, 
amazing, if we start from our own notions as to 
the necessity of distinguishing parental sex, and 
in addition assume that the Zulu system is a 
variant of the Hawaiian one. If we free our 
minds from these preconceptions, there is no 
mystery; the father's sister is classed with the 
father simply in order to express the difference 
from the maternal line in accordance with the 
principle of bifurcation. 

In order to gain greater clearness in this matter 
it is necessary to extend our investigation to 
other Bantu tribes, preferably to those whose 
territories approach that of the Zulu. The es- 
sential point to ascertain is whether paternal and 
maternal uncles and aunts are merged in one 
group or are distinguished." Among the Thonga, 
who live north of the Zulu, the father's sister, as 
in Zulu, is classed with the father, the word 
meaning literally 'female father' and thus em- 
phasizing her separation from the mother's side 
of the family. The Herero, according to Schinz, 
seem to claiss all aunts with the mother in voca- 



tive usage, but when not directly referring to 
these relatives they employ quite distinct ex- 
pressions for the father's and the mother's sisters. 
In Baganda the difference between the two sides 
is marked. Mange is mother, and the same word 
with the qualifier muto means mother's sister, 
while father's sister is sengawe. Even clearer is 
the case for the maternal uncle. In the Ronga 
group of the Thonga he is called by a distinct 
word, malume, which almost coincides with Mor- 
gan's Zulu term. In the Djonga division he is 
classed with the grandfather, not the father. By 
a quite distinct stem, the Herero sharply dis- 
tinguish the mother's brother from the father and 
his brothers. The same applies to the Baganda. 
As for the correlative term, from which Morgan 
infers that the Zulu once called the maternal 
uncle 'father', the Ronga have a distinct word 
for nephew, mupsyana, while the Djonga who 
class the mother's brother with the grandfather 
consistently enough call the sister's son 'grand- 
son'. Among the Herero, though uncles and 
aunts generally regard their nephews and nieces 
as their own children, the maternal uncle applies 
to them a distinct term, ovasia. Among the 
Baganda a man calls his son mutabani or mwana, 
but his sister's son is mujwa. I may add that 
the altogether peculiar bond of familiarity that 



links together mother's brother and sister's son^^ 
among some Bantu people is inconsistent with 
Morgan's assumption that the relationships of 
maternal uncle and father were once grouped 
under a single head among tribes of this family, 
for as stated above, such specific social relation- 
ships are generally expressed by specific terms 
for the relatives. 

The conditions obtaining within the speaker's 
generation at first seem to lend some support to 
the conception of the Bantu system as dominated 
by the Hawaiian principle, since the terms for 
brother and sister are more widely employed by 
some Bantu than is compatible with the forked 
division of kin. But closer inspection proves 
that, whatever may be at the root of the Bantu 
classification, it is not the Hawaiian notion of 
marking off generations. Even in Morgan's Zulu 
series, while a man calls his maternal uncle's 
children by a special term, they address him 
as brother; that is to say, members of the same 
generation and sex are not all classed together. 
Among the Herero, where the children of a 
brother and sister (but not of Geschwister of the 
same sex) regularly intermarry, they are placed in 
a category distinct from that of the children of 
two brothers and two sisters, who are one anoth- 
er's brothers and sisters. In Thonga a boy calls 



his mother's brother's daughter 'mother', and she 
calls him 'son'. To be sure, the Baganda draw 
no distinction between the brother, the father's 
brother's, the father's sister's, the mother's 
brother's and the mother's sister's son. On the 
other hand, only the father's brother's daughter 
and the mother's sister's daughter are a man's 
sisters; his father's sister's and his mother's 
brother's daughter belong to the special category 
of kizibwewe, quite distinct from that of the 
sister, mwanyina. 

To cut a long story short, all the evidence is 
opposed to Morgan's assumption that the Bantu 
systems are patterned on the Hawaiian principle 
of grading relatives by generations. There are 
merely occasional suggestions of that principle 
which will be discussed below as to their theoret- 
ical bearing. 

So far as I know, there is only one region of the 
globe outside of Oceania and the possible Asiatic 
range defined above, where a definitely Hawaiian 
classification of relatives by generations has been 
reported, viz., among the Yoruba of West Africa.^* 
Unfortunately, no more recent check data for 
this section seem available. For another part of 
West Africa we have Mr. Northcote W. Thomas' 
tables,^* which reveal a rather perplexing condi- 
tion of affairs that seems to demand intensive 



reinvestigation together with linguistic analysis. 
The principle of bifurcation seems to hold sway 
only in a very limited measure. 

Thus, the Vai do not distinguish the father's 
sister from the mother, though the mother's 
brother is designated by a distinct term from that 
for father and father's brother. Further, the 
term for child is extended also to brother's child 
by both sexes contrary to customary 'forked' 
usage. But this cannot be interpreted as sympto- 
matic of the Hawaiian principle since the sister's 
child is designated by a special word, which, 
moreover, differs for men and women speaking. 
The Vai nomenclature is interesting in showing 
once more that a given 'system' is a complex 
growth that cannot be adequately defined as a 
whole by some such catchword as 'classificatory', 
'Hawaiian', or what not. Not only do we find 
Hawaiian and Dakota elements in the same 
system, but even purely descriptive combina- 
tions of primary terms. Thus, the designation 
of the sister's daughter's husband is manifestly 
composed of the stems for sister's child and hus- 
band, and a corresponding juxtaposition of 
stems results in the term for mother's sister's 

A similar phenomenon is presented by the 
terminology of the Timne, another Sierra Leone 



people. A superficial glance at the list suggests 
the Hawaiian principle: father's brother and 
mother's brother are grouped together, and so 
are the children of the maternal and the paternal 
aunt. But closer consideration shows that while 
uncles are classed together they are sharply sep- 
arated from the father, that while aunts form a 
single group of tUene the word for mother is kara 
or ya, that there is no connection between the 
words for Geschwister and cousins. In short, the 
Hawaiian generation principle does not apply. 

What Mr. Thomas' schedules from eight tribes 
illustrate once more is the overwhelming impor- 
tance of historical, geographical and linguistic 
considerations. A cursory examination of the 
lists shows that not only the mode of classifying 
kin but the words themselves are identical in a 
number of cases in two or more tribes. Thus, 
mama is grandmother in Karanko, Susu, Vai and 
Mendi. It is surely no accident that all of these 
belong to the same prefixless subdivision of the 
Sudanese languages: the similarity is due to 
historical relations. In some cases an identical 
word is shared by members of distinct subdivi- 
sions. Thus, the father's sister is called ntene not 
only in the non-prefixing Susu and Koranko 
speech, but also in the prefixing language of the 
Tinme. A glimpse at Mr. Thomas' map shows, 



however, that the habitat of the Timne adjoins 
that of both of the other tribes ; a kinship nomen- 
clature is, in a measure, a function of geograph- 
ical position. 

The last-mentioned term is suggestive in an- 
other way. Restricted among the Koranko and 
Susu to the father's sister, it is applied by the 
Timne to the maternal aunt as well. Turning 
once more to the map, we discover that this latter 
mode of grouping, though not the same word 
phonetically, occurs among the Bulem, the im- 
mediate coastal neighbors of the Timne, who 
belong to the same linguistic subdivision, and 
also to the Mendi and Vai, to the east and south- 
east, who are members of the complementary 
subdivision. So far, this only indicates the 
spread of a terminological trait over a continuous 
area. But the data further suggest that the word 
ntene may have been borrowed by the Timne 
rather than in the reverse direction, and that, as 
Mr. Thomas himself remarks, the Timne secon- 
darily extended the term to include a maternal as 
well as a paternal aunt. This possibility is the- 
oretically significant, first, because it indicates 
that Hawaiian analogies may develop inde- 
pendently of any such generation principle as 
dominates the Oceanian system; secondly, be- 
cause it suggests that such simplicity of nomen- 



clature, instead of being primitive as Morgan 
supposed, may represent a later development. 
To this point we shall have to revert later. 

The Dakota Principle. Let us now turn to that 
principle which first a/oused Morgan's interest 
and which since his time has occupied perhaps 
more attention than any other, the classificatory 
principle par excellence in Dr. Rivers* opinion, 
which finds expression among such tribes as the 
Iroquois and Dakota. Like the Hawaiian prin- 
ciple, the Dakota alignment groups together, re- 
gardless of proximity of relationship, members of 
the same generation, but differs because in the 
speaker's generation, the first ascending and the 
first descending generations, it separates the pa- 
ternal and the maternal line. Another way of 
expressing the facts is to say that collateral and 
lineal kin are merged irrespective of nearness of 
relationship but with strict bifurcation of the 
parental lines. Thus, in Dakota ^^ the father, 
father's brother, father's father's brother's son, 
father's father's father's brother's son's son are 
all addressed at6; the mother, mother's sister, 
mother's mother's sister's daughter are all called 
ind. So far we have a classing together of kin 
who in English are distinguished from one an- 
other. But there is separation of kin whom we 
class together, inasmuch as the mother's brother 



is designated by a term distinct from that for 
father's brother, viz., by dekcif and the father's 
sister by a term differentiating her from the 
mother's sister, viz.y by^^ *uwi. Now, relation- 
ship is a reciprocal phenomenon, and accordingly 
we may expect that all those whom I class to- 
gether under the term ati or ind will address me 
by a correlative term. Actually, we find that the 
Dakota have a single word, mi tcinkci, for son, 
brother's son (man speaking), father's brother's 
son's son (man speaking), etc., and for sister's 
son (woman speaking), mother's sister's daugh- 
ter's son (woman speaking). To put the matter 
into our own speech, for the sake of simplifica- 
tion, those whom I call father and mother call 
me son. If logic shall prevail, the data hitherto 
cited involve the condition that the mother's 
brother must not call his sister's son 'son', but 
shall designate him by some distinct appellation 
correlative only with the term dekci; and this 
holds for the Dakota system where a man (not a 
woman) calls the sister's son mit *iincka. Further 
this term is also used by a woman addressing her 
brother's son, a point to which I shall have to 
return presently. 

There are other logical implications in the 
features already mentioned. If the term for 
father embraces a number of other collateral rel- 



atives, we must expect a corresponding fusion of 
kin in the speaker's generation. This is exactly 
what happens. Like many other primitive sys- 
tems, that of the Dakota classifies brothers and 
sisters according to relative seniority and the 
speaker's sex, but the same terms are applied to 
the other individuals who jointly designate the 
same members of the next higher generation as 
their fathers and mothers. In other words, a 
considerable number of cousins, irrespective of 
their varying degree, are classed with the brothers 
and sisters. But certain other cousins are not so 
classed: they are the offspring of the father's 
sister and the mother's brother. Corresponding 
exactly to the fact that sister's son (man speak- 
ing) and brother's son (woman speaking) are 
denoted by a single word, we have the correla- 
tive phenomenon that the children of the pa- 
ternal aunt and the maternal uncle are relatives 
of a special order, the boys calling one another 
t *ahd ci and the girls M kd ciy the girls calling 
one another tee pqci and the boys citcS ci. 

In short, so far as the three middle generations 
are concerned, there is at least an approach to a 
real system — ^a unified logical scheme by which 
blood relatives are classified. If I am called 
father by a group of people, they are my sons or 
daughters; if I am their uncle, they are my 



nephews or nieces. In the former case, my sons 
and daughters are their brothers and sisters; in 
the latter my offspring are their cousins, with 
various refinements of nomenclature that are 
immaterial from a broader point of view. 

The system is not perfect, because of the ter- 
minology applied to the offspring of cousins. As 
might be expected, a man regards the children of 
those cousins whom he classes with his brothers 
as brother's sons, i.e., from the foregoing scheme, 
with his own sons. But contrary to what might 
be expected, he puts into the same category the 
sons of those male cousins designated by a dis- 
tinctive term where we should expect a distinct 
correlative designation. Even Herr Cunow, who 
lays stress on the rational character of primitive 
relationship systems, is obliged to admit that 
there is inconsistency here.^* 

It cannot be too strongly urged that a given 
nomenclature is molded by disparate principles. 
It is, therefore, worth while to point out that the 
principle by which brothers and sisters are dis- 
tinguished by seniority and the principle by 
which Geschwister of the same sex use different 
designations from those of opposite sex have no 
functional relation whatsoever with the principle 
by which collateral and lineal kin are merged. 
Another trait of the Dakota system which is 



similarly independent of what I call the Dakota 
principle is the differentiation in stem for voca- 
tive and non-vocative usage or with the first, 
second and third person. Thus, the mother is 
addressed as ind, but 'his mother* is h4 ku, from 
an entirely different root. Passing to the second 
ascending generation, we find a Hawaiian feature 
inasmuch as the principle of bifurcation no longer 
holds, grandfathers of both sides being designated 
by a common term. The Dakota case once more 
shows that, as Professor Kroeber long ago 
pointed out," every system is in reality a congeries 
of systems or categories which must be analyti- 
cally separated unless complete confusion is to 
result. There is no Hawaiian system, no Dakota 
system. But we can legitimately speak of the prin- 
ciple of generations and the bifurcation principle 
of merging collateral and lineal kin; and we can 
speak, by conventional definition of the geo- 
graphical terms employed, of Hawaiian and Da- 
kota features to express these and only these 
elements of the Hawaiian and Dakota nomen- 

To revert to the Dakota principle, as Morgan 
points out,^^ the same principle has in part molded 
the Iroquois system, and when we find that in 
addition to the logically related elements the 
apparently irrational classification of cousins' 



offspring is likewise common to the two termi- 
nologies, the case for historical connection becomes 
very strong. This becomes a certainty when we 
find that in its essentials the principle finds ex- 
pression in the system of the intermediate 
Ojibwa, while among other Algonkian tribes and 
among Siouan tribes other than the Dakota a 
marked variant from the Dakota t5q>e makes its 
appearance. In short, we have the Dakota 
principle spread over a continuous region, which 
is sharply separated from adjoining regions. It 
has, then, developed in a single center in this 
part of North America and has thence spread by 

If we ignore the mode of designating 'cross- 
cousins', i.e., cousins who are children of a 
brother and a sister, and disregard certain other 
deviations constituting sub-types, we get a very 
much wider range of distribution for the Dakota 
principle in North America. The neglect of 
degree of kinship and the clear separation of the 
maternal and paternal line in the middle gene- 
rations are features characteristic, probably, of 
the entire region east of the Mississippi and occur 
also in the Mackenzie River district, among the 
Tlingit and Haida of the Northwest Coast and 
most of the Plains tribes, in a part of the Pueblo 
territory (notably among the Hopi), and among 



the Miwok and adjacent populations in .Califor- 
nia. Since we are not by any means familiar 
with the kinship systems of the entire continent, 
it is necessary to supplement this statement with 
another indicating the regions where the Dakota 
principle is actually known to be lacking. The 
Dakota features are not found among the Es- 
kimo, Nootka, Quileute, Chinook, various Salish 
tribes, the Kootenai, the Plateau Shoshoneans, 
nor in a large section of California to the north 
and east of the Miwok, and they are also absent 
from various Southwestern terminologies. The 
glib assumption of many writers that all of North 
America is characterized by a 'classificatory sys- 
tem' on the Dakota plan, is demonstrably false. 
The only reason for this belief is the historical 
accident that Morgan was conversant with the 
systems east of the Rocky Mountains and prac- 
tically altogether ignorant of those of the Far 
West, and that since his time no one has sys- 
tematically presented the data for what to him 
was a terra incognita. 

Let us extend our search for evidences of the 
Dakota principle to other regions. 

For Mexico, the data are not very satisfactory 
since we are obliged to rely on old Spanish 
sources and cannot be sure that our authorities 
were on the alert for differences from the familiar 

[125 1 


European nomenclature or always correctly rep- 
resented what they did find. Thus, Dr. Paul 
Radin, who has kindly compiled for me a Taras- 
can list from Gilberti's Diccionario de la Lengua 
Tarasca (1559), finds the children of the father's 
brother and of the mother's brother classed with 
the son and daughter (contrary to the generation 
principle), but distinguished from the children 
of the father's and mother's sister. This would 
indicate a departure from both the Hawaiian and 
the Dakota scheme. A bare suggestion of the 
latter is found in a common term for father and 
paternal uncle. The Nahuatl data supplied by 
Molina in his Vocabulario de la Lengua Mexicana 
(1571) show no difference between the paternal 
and maternal aunts and uncles. This does not 
apply to the Maya system reported by Beltran 
in his Arte del Idioma Maya (1742), but here the 
maternal and paternal uncle and aunt are not 
only distinguished from each other, but also from 
the father and mother, so that there is no merg- 
ing of collateral and lineal lines in this generation. 
Accordingly, it is somewhat surprising to find 
that the children of a brother are classed with 
one's own children (male speaking?) and that a 
woman applies the same term to her sister's 
children, in accordance with Dakota usage. A 
very interesting feature of the Maya nomen- 



clature is that differences in generation are con- 
spicuously ignored in several instances. The 
paternal grandfather is classed with the elder 
brother, a single reciprocal term is used for 
daughter's son and mother's father, one word 
denotes the son's son and the younger brother. 
For Central and South America the data, from 
a cursory inspection, seem somewhat more ad- 
equate, though we must eagerly await a more 
thorough-going survey of this region than can at 
present be offered. The Miskito of Nicaragua 
call the mother's sister yaptislip, which is merely 
a modification of yapti, mother, but while the 
father's brother, urappia, is classed with the 
step-father, he is distinguished from the father, 
aisa. At all events, there is a distinctive term 
for maternal uncle, tarti, and correlatively a 
special designation, tubaniy for the sister's son 
(man speaking). For the father's sister our 
authority gives only a descriptive term: saura 
may be the correlative term, but it is simply 
translated 'brother's child'. Of the four terms 
for cousin, one is descriptive (child of brother or 
sister), two coincide with the regular words for 
Geschwister, the fourth is unfortunately not 
clearly defined so that its application to the cross- 
cousin, which would conform to Dakota usage, 
remains problematical. The terms of affinity are 



interesting inasmuch as the principle of reci- 
procity appears here. Thus, dapna means both 
father-in-law and son-in-law, and the same de- 
scriptive expression, oddly enough, is applied to 
the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law in female 
speech.^* The former instance of reciprocity recurs 
among the Chibcha of Colombia and we may 
thus have here another case of the geographical 
localization of kinship features. The Chibcha 
list supplied by one of Morgan's informants,^ im- 
perfect though it is, records some suggestive 
facts. The term for father's brother seems only 
a variant of the word for father, and is clearly 
distinct from that for maternal uncle. The desig- 
nations for both kinds of aunt are doubtful. In 
the speaker's generation 'parallel' male cousins, 
i.e.f the sons of two brothers and of two sisters, 
are grouped with brothers and distinguished from 
cross-cousins, as they are in the Dakota system. 
That a woman calls her father's sister's son by 
the same term as her husband is a fact of some 
theoretical importance since it suggests the pos- 
sible occurrence of cross-cousin marriages. 

From Martins' rather confusing Carib list we 
may reasonably infer that the paternal uncle was 
classed with the father in male speech and dis- 
tinguished from the mother's brother. One of 
three terms used by a man in designating his 

[128 J 


son coincides with that applied to a brother's 
son, but differs from the word applied to the 
sister's son. These are Dakota features; and 
the peculiar statement that children of sisters 
were allowed to marry while those of brothers 
were not, coupled with the remark that Ge- 
sckwisterkinder call one another brothers makes 
us suspect that we have here merely an abortive 
attempt to describe the difference between par- 
allel and cross-cousins recognized on the Dakota 
principle. The Tupi terminology furnished by 
the same writer does not suggest the bifurcate 
feature. Though a single word denotes the 
father, his brother and other paternal kinsmen, 
it seems to extend likewise to the corresponding 
relatives on the mother's side. In the second 
ascending generation the grandfather's brothers 
and male cousins are classed with the grand- 
father — a Hawaiian trait if both sides of the 
family are meant to be included, but one com- 
mon to most systems on the Dakota plan for the 
middle generations.21 From the third great South 
American family I can get no satisfactory evi- 
dence of bifurcation on the Dakota plan. Ac- 
cording to an accessible glossary of various Ara- 
wak tongues, the Siusi is the only language that 
discriminates between the paternal and maternal 
uncle, and even here the former is also dis- 



tinguished from the father, so that there is no 
merging of collateral and lineal kin. Similarly, 
the word for aunt is different from that for 
mother; and here the principle of bifurcation is 
completely discarded, since a single word de- 
notes father's and mother's sister.^ 

Bifurcation may be a dominant feature of 
systems which nevertheless differ markedly from 
the Dakota nomenclature because of their 
demarcation of collateral and lineal kin. Thus, 
the Araucanians of Chile call the father chaOf the 
father's brother wa/te, the mother's brother 
huecu; the mother is nuque, her sister nuquentUf 
the father's sister palu.^ Here the designation 
of the maternal aunt is clearly derived from that 
of the mother but we cannot tell whether this 
merging is an ancient feature which appears in 
other parts of the system or a recent develop- 
ment. We learn from another source that the 
brother's sons are differentiated from the 
sister's,^ but unfortunately there is no state- 
ment as to whether the former in male speech 
and the latter in female speech are classed with 
one's own sons. 

Bifurcation without reduction of the collateral 
lines is characteristic of the system of the Sipibo, 
who inhabit the country about the Ucayali 
River. Here the father is papa; the father's 



brother eppa^ the maternal uncle cuca; the 
mother tita^ her sister huasta^ the paternal aunt 
yaya^ and of the three words for brother's son 
{pia^ nusa, picha) none even remotely resembles 
that for son, baque,^ 

To sum up the facts hitherto cited. If the 
doctrine of the unity of the American race 
depended on the uniformity of kinship termi- 
nologies in the New World, it would have to be 
mercilessly abandoned. Meager as are our data 
for the area south of the United States, we can 
find positive indications of nomenclatures with 
Dakota features only among the Caribs and the 
Chibcha, with occas'onal suggestions elsewhere. 
The Tupi and Arawak systems are markedly 
unforked; the Araucanian and Sipibo termi- 
nologies are forked but non-merging. Taking 
into account the large section of North America 
already defined as lacking bifurcation with 
merging, we thus have an immense territory in 
America in which the Dakota principle does not 

But, as the African facts cited above show, 
the Dakota principle is not confined to a portion 
of the Western Hemisphere. It is impossible 
completely to define its distribution in various 
parts of the globe, but the main regions must be 
indicated. As Morgan pointed out on the basis 



of Rev. Fison's information,^ the principle 
occurs in the nomenclature of the Coastal 
Fijians, and corroborative evidence has recently 
been furnished.*^ Rivers has shown that the 
typical Dakota principle appears in other parts 
of Melanesia, often with a very interesting 
additional feature in the designation of cross- 
cousins, who are not only rigidly distinguished 
from the parallel cousins but classed simultane- 
ously as brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, e, g., 
in Guadalcanar.^ Bifurcation with merging of 
collateral and lineal relatives also characterizes 
at least some of the terminologies of New 
Guinea.2* The same certainly holds for a large 
portion of Australia, though almost everywhere 
certain local refinements are apparent. Thus, 
the Urabunna apply one term to the father and 
the father's brothers, as might be expected. But 
instead of merely separating the mother's sisters 
from those of the father by grouping them with 
the mother, there is an additional dichotomy 
into the mother's elder sisters, luka^ who are 
classed with the mother, and the mother's 
younger sisters who are differentiated as nam- 
uma. Corresponding differentiation occurs in 
the speaker's generation, where the father's 
elder sister's daughters are distinguished not 
only from parallel cousins but from the father's 

[132 1 


younger sister's daughters. Nevertheless, the 
essentials of the Dakota principle are manifest.*® 

Here it is worth while to point out again how 
misleading it is to treat accidentally associated 
features of a given system as functionally cor- 
related. The Urabunna system, like that of 
other tribes, is not an organically unified whole. 
Thus, over and above the usual trait of bifurcate 
merging, we find the feature that a grandparent 
and grandchild use a common term in addressing 
each other. This reciprocity is often referred to 
as characteristic of 'classificatory systems'. It 
is nothing of the kind. In North America it 
occurs precisely in systems lacking the classifica- 
tory principle altogether. Apart from this, 
there is no manifest connection between the 
principles of grouping together relatives of 
alternate generations and the principle of class- 
ing under one head relatives of the same genera- 
tion and side of the family. The mere fact that 
kinsfolk are united whom we happen to sepa- 
rate in nomenclature is a purely negative and 
insufficient reason for postulating an essential 
relationship between two modes of classification. 

Finally, there are a number of Asiatic tribes 
whose systems reveal the essentials of the 
Dakota^ principle. At least a close approxima- 
tion occurs in the nomenclature of the Gilyak of 



the Amur River country, where, except for the 
grouping together of father's and mother's sister, 
the two parental lines are kept apart while on 
either side the customary merging takes place.'^ 
The system of the Tamil, as Morgan emphati- 
cally pointed out, is almost identical with that 
of the Seneca Iroquois.'^ The essential resem- 
blance to this type of the Toda,^ Singhalese and 
Vedda'^ terminologies has since been established. 
We are here again confronted by a problem in 
distribution that does not differ in principle from 
ethnological problems relating to other phases of 
culture. A sharply individualized feature is 
found not like the Hawaiian principle practically 
within the limits of a single continuous area but 
in several diverse and remote regions of the 
globe. It is impossible to hold with Morgan 
that the similarity found is an index of racial 
affinity unless we are willing to assume that the 
Indians of the eastern United States are not 
related at all to those west of the Rocky Moun- 
tains. The principle of diffusion obviously 
accounts for much. No one would hesitate to 
assume that the Singhalese and Vedda systems 
are connected and we should willingly regard 
both as historically related to the nomenclature 
of southern India. We might even be willing to 
grant that the Melanesian and Australian 



variants of the Dakota principle had the same 
source of origin. But how can we explain the 
predominance of the identical principle precisely 
in the eastern regions of North America and its 
absence in a great part of the Far West? And 
how can we account for the African approxima- 
tions to the same pattern? We seem to have an 
independent evolution of the same highly 
characteristic trait in at least three distinct 
areas. Must we content ourselves with simply 
accepting the data as irreducible ethnological 
phenomena or can we carry .our analysis a step 

That the inclusiveness of terms which strikes 
us in the systems sharing the Dakota principle is 
somehow connected with the social divisions of 
the tribes concerned has been repeatedly noted. 
Even in his earlier, purely descriptive work 
Morgan remarked that among the Iroquois clan 
members were brothers and sisters as if children 
of the same mother.^ Similarly among the 
Tlingit we are told that a single word is applied 
to the mother's sister and all other women of 
the same moiety and generation.^® The Yakut 
apply one term to any woman older than the 
speaker and belonging to the same gens.^ Such 
instances might easily be multiplied. It is there- 
fore rather natural to look to a clan or gentile 



system for the explanation of the *classificatory 
feature*, i. e., of bifurcate merging. 

This hypothesis, which has recently been 
discussed by Swanton,^ was already advanced 
only to be proved inadequate by Morgan him- 
self. Taking the Seneca for illustration, where 
descent is in the maternal line, Morgan shows 
that the children of two sisters would indeed be 
members of the same clan and hence clan 
brothers and sisters but that this explanation no 
longer holds for the children of two brothers. 
By the law of exogamy these would be required 
to marry into another clan and there is no reason 
why their wives should belong to the same clan. 
Hence the brothers' children will not be clan 
brothers and sisters, yet, according to Seneca 
terminology, the offspring of brothers no less 
than of sisters are classed with own brothers and 
sisters. Accordingly, the clan system — though 
it has a definite place in Morgan's scheme of 
evolution — ^is not regarded by him as the deter- 
mining factor of the Seneca-Dakota principle.'^ 

But the objection vanishes if we accept the 
theory that the Dakota principle arose as a 
reflection not of a multiple clan system but of an 
organization with exogamous moieties. This 
theory, which to my knowledge was first devel- 
oped by Tylor^ and has since been advocated by 

1 136] 


Rivers,*^ has obvious advantages. Even on the 
simple clan hypothesis it is clear why the father's 
brothers should be classed with the father and 
separated from the maternal uncles, since the 
latter by exogamy must belong to a different 
clan. The term which we translate 'father' 
would really be seen to mean 'male member of 
the father's clan and generation'. With the 
moiety theory the same facts are explained, but 
also in addition the designations for other 
relatives. To take again the Seneca instance, 
the sons of two brothers must be members of the 
same social division because with a dual organ- 
ization the brothers are restricted to the same 
division in the choice of a mate; hence it is 
quite natural that the sons of brothers should 
call one another brothers. Again, the difference 
between parallel cousins and cross-cousins is 
perfectly intelligible. The mother's brother's 
and the father's sister's son can never be of my 
moiety; if descent is matrilineal they belong to 
my father's moiety, if patrilineal to my mother's. 
Hence it is natural that they should not be 
classed with my brothers who in either case are 
my moiety-mates. This hypothesis also expleiins 
features not yet referred to, but often found in 
conjunction with those grouped under the head- 
ing of the Dakota principle, e. g., the frequent 



classification of the father's sister's husband with 
the maternal uncle. Given exogamous moieties, 
these relatives must belong to the same half of 
society, to my own moiety if descent is maternal, 
to my mother's if it is patrilineal. The Tylor- 
Rivers theory thus explains very satisfactorily 
the rather numerous features that jointly 
constitute what I have called the Dakota princi- 
ple; we can at once see that here is not an 
arbitrary rule of classification but a definite 

However, it is worth noting that while the 
moiety theory explains a number of traits better 
and more simply than the hypothesis of multiple 
clans or gentes of which it is a special form, the 
latter is not in so bad a plight as Morgan would 
have us believe. That I should call my father's 
brothers and male cousins of the paternal line 
'father' and my mother's sisters and female 
cousins of the female line 'mother', follows 
from the general hypothesis of exogamy no less 
than from the moiety theory. The difficulty 
urged is the grouping together of brothers' sons 
who are not clansmen under a matrilineal 
organization with sisters* sons who are. 
But all terms of relationship are correlative: 
the concept of elder brother is meaningless 
without the correlated concept of younger 



brother; so the very fact that I address my 
father's brother as 'father* has as a necessary 
consequence that he should address me as 'son' 
regardless of whether his own son is in my clan. 
Similarly, the fact that my father's brother's 
son and I both address my own father as father 
makes us brothers irrespective of clan affiliation. 
Clan affiliation is still the primary determinant 
since it fixes the connotation of the word trans- 
lated 'father', while the other usages mentioned 
are derivative applications. The objection that 
naturally obtrudes itself is why the term for 
father should be taken as the starting-point 
rather than that for son or brother. The answer 
lies in the fact that in a number of instances the 
term for father has an emphatically clan or 
gentile significance, being extended even to 
father's clansmen of the speaker's generation, 
as among the Crow and Arizona Tewa. Never- 
theless, it cannot be denied that from the point 
of view of summarizing the data comprised 
under the caption of 'Dakota principle' or 
intimately linked with them the moiety theory 
is distinctly superior. Thus, the union of 
father's sister's husband and mother's brother 
under a single head does not follow from a 
multiple clan or gentile organization but is 
intelligible on the basis of a dual division. 



The weakness of the moiety theory lies in 
another direction. In order that the dual 
organization may fashion kinship nomenclature, 
it must of course exist. Now it does occur in 
Australia and Melanesia, though not universally, 
and in part of North America, but it is lacking 
in many regions of this continent and, so far as 
I know, in Africa. If we derive the Dakota 
principle exclusively from the dual organization 
we are therefore obliged to assume either that 
this institution once had a far wider range of 
distribution or that the nomenclature it pro- 
duced traveled independently of the moieties to 
a considerable number of other peoples. This is 
a difficulty that must be frankly recognized. 

In this regard the exogamy hypothesis in the 
broader sense enjoys an obvious superiority. 
Exogamous kin groups occur both in southern 
Africa and in many sections of America from 
which exogamous moieties have never been 
reported. Doubtless here, too, we must reckon 
to a considerable extent with the effect of diffu- 
sion, which repeatedly carried the Dakota 
principle to non-exogamous tribes. Yet when 
we apply the method of variation to the best- 
studied regions of the globe, our confidence in 
the essential correctness of the exogamy hypoth- 
esis is considerably strengthened. In Oceania it 



is the non-exogamous Polynesians who fail to 
distinguish the maternal and paternal sides, 
while the generally exogamous Melanesians 
recognize the principle of bifurcation. In 
North America, the non-exogamous tribes are 
either bifurcating but fail to merge the col- 
lateral and lineal lines or neither bifurcate nor 

Certain instances are especially illuminating 
because they permit a refinement of the method 
of variation by the practical or total elimination 
of other factors to account for the phenomena. 
Thus on the northwest coast of America we find 
certain tribes like the Kwakiutl and Nootka 
who are not organized in strictly exogamous 
groups, and here neither merging nor bifurcation 
occurs. "The terms for 'uncle' and 'aunt* refer 
equally to the father's and mother's fraternity;" 
and specific terms distinguish father and mother 
from more remote kindred. When we compare 
such systems with those of the more northern 
and exogamous tribes, viz., the Tsimshian, 
Haida and Tlingit, we discover at once a strik- 
ing diflFerence. In all these terminologies men 
of the father's are distinguished from those of 
the mother's moiety or clan; and the collateral 
lines are wholly, or almost entirely, merged in 
the lineal lines.^ Here we are not dealing 



simply with a contact phenomenon, for no good 
reason can be given why the Tlingit system 
should not have extended southward or the 
Kwakiutl system to the north. Nor are we 
simply confronted by a diflFerence of tribal 
affiliation: while the Kwakiutl and Nootka 
belong to the same stock, and affinity has 
recently been claimed for the Tlingit and Haida 
languages, the Tsimshian stand apart. It is the 
diflFerence in social organization that runs paral- 
lel with the diflFerence in nomenclature. 

A similar case is aflforded by the Shoshonean 
stock. Within this family specific terms for 
father and mother as opposed to uncles and 
aunts are the rule and cross-cousins are generally 
not distinguished from parallel cousins and 
brothers. There is thus a combination of 
extreme Hawaiian inclusiveness in the speaker's 
generation with the tendency to non-classifica- 
tory nomenclature in the first ascending genera- 
tion. But among the Hopi, the only member of 
the group organized into exogamous clans, 
the Dakota principle holds sway. Since no 
Southwestern system is known that so clearly 
reveals the forked and merging principle, the 
possibility of borrowing seems barred and we 
have proof of the independent evolution of this 
feature in correlation with a clan system. 



So far, then, as the distribution of the Dakota 
principle over discontinuous regions of the globe 
IS concerned, the hypothesis of exogamy gives a 
reasonably satisfactory explanation of the facts, 
while within each continuous area we shall 
assume a greater or lesser degree of dissemina- 
tion. Applying this, e. g,y to the Northwestern 
Indians as a whole, we shall indeed regard the 
evolution of Dakota features as a response to 
the exogamous organization, but when we turn 
to the three exogamous tribes individually, we 
shall face the problem whether the terminology 
did not spread from one tribe to its two neigh- 
bors. It is quite true that theoretically there is 
the possibility that the clan system, not the ter- 
minology, was the diffused feature and that the 
organization in each case independently pro- 
duced an appropriate nomenclature. However, 
we have undoubted instances in which features 
of nomenclature were not associated with any 
social institution, indeed, where the very words 
have been borrowed. Further the development 
of an appropriate terminology is not an absolute- 
ly automatic process, as is shown by the failure 
of some tribes with exogamy to develop one. 
Hence it seems probable that within a limited 
continuous area the Dakota principle developed 
only once and then spread to neighboring tribes. 



That the existence of an exogamous organiza- 
tion among the borrowers would be a favorable 
condition for the adoption of the nomenclature 
is obvious, also that the organization and the 
terminology may be borrowed jointly. 

In order to strengthen the case for the exoga- 
mous theory it is necessary to show that the same 
results could not be accomplished, or not so 
well, by other conditions of equally wide dis- 
tribution. As a matter of fact, an alternative 
interpretation has recently been advanced.** In 
the case of the non-exogamous Califomian Yahi 
Dr. Sapir connects the merging of Imeal and 
collateral lines with the marriage regulations 
obtaining there and suggests that these rules 
"may no doubt not infrequently be examined as 
an equally or more plausible determining 
influence". The practices referred to comprise 
the levirate, i. e., a man's marriage with his 
brother's widow, and marriage with the deceased 
wife's sister. (Why, deceased? we may well ask Dr. 
Sapir, since a man's preemptive right to his wife's 
younger sisters is a widespread custom in North 

I do not doubt for a moment that the customs 
in question have affected kinship nomenclature, 
but I seriously question whether they constitute 
an adequate substitute for exogamy as an inter- 



pretation of the empirical distribution of the 
Dakota principle. The levirate, it is true, is an 
exceedingly widespread institution : Tylor found 
it among one hundred and twenty out of some 
three hundred peoples.^ But the levirate alone 
will not do since it only explains the extension of 
the father term to the father's brother and the 
correlative extension of the term *son' to the 
brother's son (man speaking). It remains to be 
seen, therefore, to what extent the levirate is 
united in different regions of the globe with the 
usage of marryinig two or more sisters, which 
would further explain the classification of 
mother's sister with mother and of the sister's 
children with the children (woman speaking). 
So far as I know, the ra^ge of the two usages 
jointly has not been ascertained; pending its 
determination, the distribution of the Dakota 
principle is not accounted for, as it approximately 
is by exogamy. 

There are certain other objections to the 
levirate hypothesis. One of them was already 
urged by Morgan, who examined it under the 
heading of polygamy and polyandry, which 
together might obviously lead to the same results 
as the Yahi usages.^ These customs do not 
necessarily take in the entire population. A 
man nxay not have a brother to inherit his 



widow, nor have all women sisters to join or 
follow them in wedlock. On the other hand, 
clan or gentile affiliation is an automatic affair 
not touched by such contingencies. 

Further, we may ask, what is really explained 
by the Yahi rules? The relationships of paternal 
uncle and maternal aunt and their discrimina- 
tion from the mother's brother and father's 
sister are certainly accounted for; and correla- 
tively, the distinction between the offspring of 
such relatives. But though discussion has 
hitherto for simplicity's sake been mainly 
restricted to these nearer kindred, the Dakota 
principle involves far more remote relatives. It 
is not only the father's brother but the father's 
father's brother's son and the greatgrand- 
father's brother's son's son that are classed with 
the father; not only the mother's sister but the 
mother's mother's sister's daughter and mother's 
mother's mother's sister's daughter's daughter 
that are classed with the mother. No doubt an 
explanation can be patched together on the 
levirate-polygyny hypothesis. Since my father 
is brother to my father's father's brother's son, 
the latter is my potential father under the 
levirate rule, and so forth. But even with the 
multiple clan or gentile hypothesis, the facts are 
more directly explained. From this point of 



view the relative in question is simply a father's 
clansman with paternal descent, while with 
matrilineal descent the designations for the 
mother's mother's sister's daughter et al, are at 
once clear. The moiety theory, of course, 
accounts for all the relevant data in the simplest 

It is, indeed, manifest that the levirate- 
polygyny rule stands to the exogamous principle 
somewhat in the relation of a part to the whole 
or of a special instance to a broader principle. 
Assume exogamous divisions, and my wife 
becomes ipso facto my brother's potential wife 
while my wife's sisters are my and my brothers' 
potential wives even though marriage be never 
actually consummated except monogamously. 
Incidentally, it is by no means certain that in 
reported cases the levirate is limited to the real 
brother or the multiple sister marriages to own 
sisters; indeed, in some cases the reverse is 
stated, cousins or members of the same clan or 
gens being expressly included. With the dual 
organization the case is especially clear. The 
kinship terms then appear simply as status 
names. I am brother to those who are potential 
husbands of the same group of women and since 
all of us males occupy this common status there 
is correlatively a single term by which all of us 



are called by our children. The status assump- 
tion is supported by such facts as the Gilyak 
rule by which men of a gens must take wives 
from a particular gens and where the gentes as 
units are regarded as standing to each other in 
the relationship of father-in-law and son-in-law.*' 

In short, where the levirate-polygyny usages 
coexist with exogamy, it would be rash to derive 
a merging and bifurcate nomenclature from the 
former rather than from the latter. 

Still another objection is implied in Dr. 
Sapir's own statement of the case. It is not 
necessary for the natives to look at the levirate 
from the point of view hitherto assumed. In- 
stead of defining the paternal uncle in terms of 
his potential fatherhood, they may have a word 
distinct from that for father to designate the 
stepfather and the paternal uncle. Dr. Sapir 
cites the Upper Chinook by way of illustration. 
In other words, the action of the levirate is 
equivocal. It may aflFect nomenclature so as to 
produce the semblance of the Dakota principle, 
but it may also produce quite diflFerent results. 
It may also fail to aflFect terminology at all, as 
apparently is the case in Semitic languages with 
their descriptive nomenclature. 

In this connection a qualification must be made 
that applies equally to the exogamy hypothesis. 



Though the ultimate cause of a terminological 
feature be the levirate, the immediate cause 
in a given instance may well be an historico- 
geographical one. If the Chinook nomen- 
clature is diflFerently aflFected by the levirate 
from that of the Yahi, the proximate reason 
may be simply the fact that the Chinook 
did not come into contact with the same 
peoples as the Yahi and thus had no chance 
to borrow their nomenclature. In other words, 
admitting an influence of the levirate, it is not 
necessary to assume that it has repeatedly 
produced the same terminological eflFects inde- 

I know of at least one instance in which the 
hypothesis advanced by Dr. Sapir seems definitely 
excluded, leaving exogamy in the field as the 
efficient cause. The Hopi system conforms to 
the essentials of the Dakota type, but neither 
the levirate nor the marriage with two sisters is 
in vogue. It cannot be argued that the Dakota 
features were borrowed from some other South- 
western tribe possessing these usages, first, 
because the Dakota features are far more highly 
developed among the Hopi than among other 
Pueblo Indians; secondly, because it is very 
doubtful whether the practices in question occur 
among other Pueblo tribes.^ 



In justice to Dr. Sapir it must be pointed out 
that he does not advance his hypothesis as a 
general interpretation of the phenomena. As 
he suggests, it is most serviceable where the 
exogamous factor does not occur, or, as I should 
add, where diffusion of features from a system 
affected by exogamy seems improbable. I have 
examined his hypothesis as if it were designed to 
account for all the relevant phenomena simply 
in order to bring out clearly its inferiority from 
this point of view to the theory of exogamy. 

There are two series of cases which strongly 
corroborate the theory of the effect of the 
exogamous organization on the kinship nomen- 
clature. They constitute a distinct variant of 
the Dakota principle, the deviation being in the 
designation of cross-cousins. While these are 
still differentiated from parallel cousins, they 
are not placed together in a single category but 
are classed, one group of cousins with the first 
ascending and the complementary group with 
the first descending generation. In short, the 
generation factor which is fundamental in the 
Hawaiian scheme and only modified by dichot- 
omy ,in the usual type of bifurcate merging 
schemes is here overridden by some other factor. 
Now what is the nature of this new determinant? 
Let us look at the facts. 

. [150] 


The Hidatsa class the father's sister's son with 
the father and the father's sister's daughter and 
all her female descendants through females to 
infinity with the father's sister; correlatively, 
the mother's brother's son, in the absence of 
special words for nephew or niece, is classed 
with the son, even by women. That the Crow 
scheme is almost identical, is readily intelligible 
from the historical relations of the two tribes, 
who speak very similar languages of the Siouan 
stock. But the essentials of the classification 
reappear among the geographically, linguisti- 
cally, and culturally remote Hopi, with sugges- 
tions of similar features among the Tlingit and 
even in Melanesia. We are again confronted 
with a puzzling problem of distribution. 

An analysis of the Hidatsa data clarifies the 
situation. According to the statements of the 
natives themselves, the term 'father' is applied 
to any father's clansman irrespective of age and 
would accordingly include the father's sister's 
son. This suggests that the clue to the entire 
situation may lie in the clan feature. As a matter 
of fact, we find the daughter of the father's 
sister's son is not classed with the daughter of 
the father's sister's daughter. The only difference 
that can be connected with this distinction is 
that in clan membership: the former relative, 



owing to the exogamous clan system, can never, 
and the latter relative always must, belong to the 
father's sister's clan. Hence the former, being 
a father's sister's son's, i,e., a 'father's', daughter, 
becomes in Hidatsa speech a sister, while the 
latter is designated by a word translated 'pater- 
nal aunt' but really embracing likewise all the 
lower generations of females in the paternal 
clan. That we are dealing with the clan factor, 
is corroborated by the fact that in Hidatsa 
terminology the mother's brother, instead of 
being designated by a specific word, is classed 
with the elder brother, a term also applied to 
the mother's mother's brother. The last- 
mentioned kinsman may be similarly addressed 
in Hopi. 

Powerful corroborative evidence is supplied 
by a second series of facts. Among the Omaha, 
where descent is reckoned in the paternal line, 
the father's sister's daughter is no longer classed 
with the father's sister but with the sister's 
daughter. These, it may be noted incidentally, 
would belong to the same division if the moieties 
of the Omaha were at one time exogamous, for 
which there is some evidence. But the essential 
point is that here the mother's brother's son 
and all his male descendants through males are 
indiscriminately classed with the maternal 



uncle. It is clear that they are all members of 
the same gens, and corresponding to our Hidatsa 
experiment we find that as soon as we pass out- 
side the gens the terminology changes: my 
mother's brother's daughter's son is not my 
maternal uncle but my brother since his mother, 
the uncle's daughter, is called 'mother', 
belonging as she must to my mother's gens.** 
The Omaha phenomena are absolutely paral- 
leled not only among other Southern Siouans but 
also among a number of Algonquians, viz,, the 
Miami, Sauk and Fox, Kickapoo, Menomini and 
Shawnee. The area covered is an absolutely 
continuous one, and it is impossible not to ex- 
plain such adistribution by diffusion. This conclu- 
sion is accentuated by the fact that the Ojibwa, 
though an Algonquian people with a gentile 
system, do not share the Omaha variant of the 
Dakota scheme but conform to the more usual 
type found among their neighbors, the Dakota. 
The mere presence of a gentile organization, 
though doubtless a favorable basis for the 
development or adoption of the Omaha scheme, 
is not the only determining condition; the 
presence of terminological features in a particular 
tribe is also a function of its geographical posi- 
tion or historical connections. This does not 
interfere with the ultimate interpretation of 



such features but it shows the necessity of 
taking into account the geographico-historical 
situation. At present I cannot suggest what 
may have been the differential condition that 
produced the Hidatsa variant among some 
tribes with a clan system but not among the 
Iroquois: or the Omaha variant among certain 
Algonquian tribes but not the Ojibwa. 

The exogamy hypothesis, with special reference, 
to the phenomena just mentioned, has recently 
been discussed by Professor Kroeber.^ He 
accepts the empirical correlation between exog- 
amy and the merging of lineal and collateral 
kin with bifurcation of the parental lines, but 
interprets it as due rather to the differentiation 
of male and female lines of descent than to 
exogamy itself, which latter he regards as 
'perhaps a common but not necessary develop- 
ment, and an overlying development of the 
former*. "The basic condition," argues Dr. 
Kroeber, * 'would be that in which a woman would 
be felt to be a very different thing from a man in 
relationship — less perhaps as an existing indi- 
vidual than as a factor in the relations of other 
people. Once this point of view prevailed, 
cross-cousins would necessarily be felt to be 
something very different from parallel cousins, 
and cross-uncles and aunts from parallel ones; 



and the distinction would find expression in 
nomenclature." Accentuation of the male and 
female lines of descent with greater weighting of 
the one would possibly lead to clan groups. 

As a theory of the origin of exogamous groups 
I have no particular objection to offer to the 
foregoing. For reasons to be stated below (p. 
163) I heartily concur in the assumption that 
the family, in America at all events, preceded 
the clan or gens. If I understand him correctly, 
Dr. Kroeber's remarks merely paraphrase the 
fact of this sequence. But I do not see that 
acceptance of his view on this point involves a 
rejection of the influence of the clan when that 
has once developed. Of course it is not directly 
exogamy that is expressed but the alignment in 
groups which exogamy brings about. On Dr. 
Kroeber's assumption it is unintelligible why 
father's sister's son and mother's brother's son 
should so frequently be classed together since 
the one is clearly related through the father, the 
other through the mother. We can hardly 
credit the native mind with a tendency to alge- 
braic equalization of a plus and minus quantity 
by which the product of a male and a female 
relationship shall be standardized by a common 
designation. Generally speaking. Dr. Kroeber's 
factors explain only bifurcation but not merging. 



The fact that even remote father's cousins are 
grouped with the father is what the clan or 
gentile hypothesis explains over and above the 
dichotomy of relatives. That such merging 
occurs among tribes with definite exogamous 
groups, and generally not in loosely organized 
ones, can hardly be an accident. Dr. Kroeber's 
case is, however, weakest as regards the Hidatsa 
and Omaha variants of the Dakota scheme. If 
'unilaterality of descent' rather than clan or 
gentile affiliation is the determinant here, then 
why is the Hidatsa variant uniformly found 
among matrilineal tribes and the Omaha variant 
uniformly with a gentile system? In other 
words, why does not the Omaha call his father's 
sister's son 'father' and his father's sister's 
daughter 'aunt'? The cross-cousins in question 
are as clearly related to me through the father 
among the Omaha as among the Hidatsa, but in 
the former case they are not, and in the latter 
they necessarily are, my father's clansfolk. 
Similarly, the mother's brother's son and his 
male offspring are as emphatically related to me 
through my mother among the Hidatsa as any- 
where, but they are not aligned in the same 
social group with one another and they are not 
classed together in terminology. For the sake 
of clearness I will, at the risk of repetition, 



formulate what I consider the probable course 
of events. Among certain loosely organized 
tribes the bifurcation of immediate kin evolved, 
as we find it among a number of our Far Western 
tribes. This tendency was amplified and 
became superseded by a definite clan or gentile 
scheme. As this scheme developed, possibly as 
a part of its growth, kinship terminology became 
not only forked but more inclusive as well. 
Finally, the fully established organization was 
able, in certain instances to exert the extreme 
retro-active influence on nomenclature revealed 
in the Hidatsa and Omaha variants. 

In his extremely valuable paper on Miwok 
organization^^ Mr. Gifford also suggests a rival 
explanation in place of exogamy. The Miwok 
of California are organized in approximately 
exogamous moieties, and their nomenclature 
bears some resemblance to that of the Omaha. 
More particularly is the mother's brother's son 
(and his male descendants through males?) 
classed with the mother's brother. According 
to Mr. Gifford, this is due to the custom of a 
man marrying, either polygamously or after his 
wife's decease, the daughter of his wife's brother. 
This form of marriage is actually practised 
among the Miwok in addition to the more 
generally diffused marriage with the mother's 



brother's daughter. Obviously, the facts of 
terminology are consistent both with this usage 
and with the moiety principle. Mr. Gifford 
objects that among the Miwok "there are no 
clan or moiety brothers and sisters, all relation- 
ship being based on blood and marriage ties." 
This, however, is not the essential point. It 
does not matter whether the unrelated members 
are called brother or sister provided they are 
aligned together in the same social group; the 
very existence of such social groups implies a 
differential attitude towards fellow-members as 
compared with the rest of the tribe. That mere 
affiliation along moiety lines does not solve all 
the mysteries of Miwok terminology, is quite 
true since a sharp distinction is drawn between 
the mother's brother's daughter and the father's 
sister's daughter. Since both these relatives are 
eligible mates from the point of view of exogamy 
while as a matter of fact marriage with the 
paternal aunt's daughter is prohibited, Mr. 
Gifford's objection seems to be sustained. That 
is to say, here the social organization explains 
the classing together of certain relatives but not 
the exclusion of certain other relatives, while 
the specific marriage regulations of the tribe do 
account for this phenomenon. But on the other 
hand, the marriage rules fail where the moiety 



hypothesis succeeds. Why are the mother's 
younger sister, who cannot be married, and the 
father's brother's wife classed with the marriage- 
able cross-cousin and the wife's brother's 
daughter unless it is because they are all mem- 
bers of the same moiety? 

So far as the merging of a maternal uncle's male 
descendants through males with the uncle himself 
is concerned, I do not see how any marriage rule 
would directly explain the extension of the term 
ad infinitum while moiety alignment at once 
renders it intelligible. An advantage which the 
exogamous principle enjoys over every special 
marriage rule is the universality of its sway 
over the population. An individual's wife may 
not have a brother and her brother may not 
have a daughter for the husband to marry, but 
where exogamous groups exist every tribesman 
is by birth a member of a particular group. 

To the subject of specific marriage rules I 
shall have to revert below. My position as to 
the Miwok nomenclature is that special regula- 
tions undoubtedly account for some of its 
features while the dual organization successfully 
explains others and more particularly the Omaha 
variant of the Dakota principle. 

We may sum up our discussion of the Dakota 
principle with the statement that its distribu- 



tion, coupled as it is with exogamous groups, 
supports the theory of an organic connection 
between the two phenomena. On the question 
which I have hitherto shelved, viz., whether it 
is exogamy in any form or more particularly the 
dual organization that gave rise to the features 
under discussion, I am at present unable to 
reach a definite decision. Though the distribu- 
tion of the moiety is far more restricted than 
that of exogamous groups generally, there is no 
doubt that not a few elements of the Dakota 
principle are most readily derived from a dual 
organization. It remains for the future to 
determine what is the relative part taken by 
the multiple kin group and the moiety organiza- 
tion in fashioning kinship nomenclature. 

Before leaving the Dakota principle, it seems 
desirable to allude to two important theoretical 
problems with which it seems connected — ^its 
relations to the Hawaiian principle and its bearing 
on the antiquity of the clan organization. The 
Dakota scheme in its more usual form may be 
logically regarded as merely a complication of 
the simpler Hawaiian one. As Morgan pointed 
out, the two coincide in practically half of all 
the relationships. Inspired no doubt by the 
general trend of evolutionary thought in his 
day, Morgan converted the logical connection 



into an historical sequence and assumed the 
priority of the simpler system. He indicated 
how, if grafted on the Hawaiian scheme, the 
clan or gentile organization would transform it 
into the Dakota type. It does not seem to have 
occurred to him that the evolution might have 
taken place in the reverse direction. Develop- 
ment, as shown precisely by linguistic phenom- 
ena, such as the history of the English language 
— and kinship terms, no matter what else they 
may be, are elements of human speech — is not 
always from the simple to the complex. Mor- 
gan's belief was influenced by the view that 
humanity started their social existence at an 
extremely low level, for which opinion he found 
support in the social conditions he inferred from 
the Hawaiian schedules. These, he argued, 
suggest brother-sister marriage since such mar- 
riages would explain the use of the same term 
for mother's brother and father. Such unions 
certainly would produce the observed termi- 
nology but Morgan failed to consider that an 
alternative explanation was at hand. His 
fundamental error lay in attaching to the 
primary kinship terms of the Hawaiians and 
other peoples the notion of actual cohabitation. 
From this starting-point he consistently argued 
that all men addressed as father had actual 



access to the speaker's mother. As Cunow has 
well shown,*^^ there is not a tittle of evidence 
that this represents the native point of view, 
from which the term 'father' merely indicates 
tribal status with reference to the speaker. 
When we have once recognized this fact, there is 
nothing so intrinsically primitive in the Hawai- 
ian scheme of ranging kin as to demonstrate 
hoary antiquity. 

All empirical considerations, indeed, point in 
the opposite direction. For one thing, all the 
peoples whose systems are characterized by the 
Hawaiian feature rank relatively high in the 
scale of civilization. No one would dream of 
placing the Maori culture below that of, say, 
the Fijians. Secondly, we have the most power- 
ful circumstantial evidence from distinct quarters 
of the globe to prove that Hawaiian features 
develop secondarily within the Dakota scheme. 
Thus, among some Iroquois tribes, the tendency 
has developed to call the father's as well as the 
mother's sister 'mother'. The Crow differ 
from all other Siouan tribes, even from their 
closest relatives, the Hidatsa, in similarly extend- 
ing the word for mother in direct address. 
Among the Torres Straits Islanders a corre- 
sponding change of usage was recorded by Dr. 
Rivers,*^ and similar developments seem to have 



occurred among the Gilyak." Relevant data 
from West Africa have already been cited in 
another connection. 

All this does not prove that as a general 
proposition Morgan's sequence must simply be 
inverted. For this there is no evidence in North 
America, where complete Hawaiian schemes, or 
even approximations thereto, are lacking. But 
the data at our disposal do indicate that in so 
far as a tendency toward Hawaiian elements 
appears it is often due to secondary development. 

To turn next to the problem of the exogamous 
kin group. Some theoretical writers have 
assumed the priority of the clan or gens to the 
'loose*, i. e., clanless or non-gentile, organiza- 
tion in which the family and local group usually 
form the only important social units. To sup- 
port such a view appeals have sometimes been 
made to kinship nomenclatures. So far as 
North America is concerned, this argument is 
certainly without foundation. It was Dr. 
Swanton, I think, who first showed that in 
North America the exogamous system is found 
precisely among the more highly cultured tribes 
while generally speaking it is lacking among the 
more primitive peoples. Now as I have shown 
above, exogamy in North America largely goes 
hand in hand with the Dakota principle. It is 



therefore rather remarkable that the more 
primitive clanless North American tribes of th^ 
Plateau and neighboring regions also lack the 
Dakota principle. The suggestion sometimes 
offered that a clan or gentile system has once 
existed and simply eluded the field worker's 
scrutiny on account of the degeneration of 
aboriginal life under modern conditions thus 
breaks down. We cannot argue positively that 
where the Dakota principle reigns exogamy 
must necessarily have occurred, because the 
correlation, while high, is not perfect and because 
the principle may have been borrowed without 
the social organization. But an exogamous 
organization is so frequently associated with the 
Dakota principle and there is so little reason for 
a change of kinship terminology provided the 
native language is preserved that the total lack 
of Dakota features over a wide area may be 
regarded as exceedingly strong evidence against 
the former or at least ancient existence of 
exogamous groups. 

Supposed Features of 'Classificatory* Systems, 
Under the misnomer 'classificatory systems' 
some writers have included consideration of the 
principle of differentiating elder and younger 
brothers and sisters. The distribution of this 
distinction is simply staggering when one 



attempts to trace it more or less systematically. 
Of North American systems, I can offhand 
recall only two, the Pawnee and Kiowa, in 
which it does not appear. We find it in associa- 
tion with the Hungarian and Chukchee termi- 
nologies, both of which lack the Dakota principle, 
and it occurs with the Hawaiian no less than the 
vast majority of bifurcate systems. So far as I 
know, the only one who has offered any explana- 
tion of the phenomenon is Dr. Rivers, who once 
connected it with a difference in the time of 
tribal initiation.^ But since there are many 
peoples, e.g., in North America, who do not 
practise any form of tribal initiation, the 
hypothesis hardly seems tenable and we must 
rest content to accept the facts of distri- 

Another feature that is often erroneously 
treated in association with the Dakota principle 
is that of reciprocity, which has already been 
referred to as the usage of designating a pair of 
relatives, more particularly two belonging to 
different generations, by a single term. Thus, 
the Shoshone call the mother's father and the 
daughter's son (man speaking) by one term. 
Such usage would be manifestly opposed to the 
Hawaiian principle with which it does not seem 
to be associated. It is found in connection with 



the Dakota scheme in Melanesia and particu- 
larly in Australia, but is markedly absent from 
the merging systems of North America. Since 
here it is highly developed where the Dakota 
principle does not occur, it cannot be regarded 
as an essential element of 'classificatory sys- 
tems'. The question remains how we are to 
account for the facts of distribution. Australian 
data forcibly suggest that, there at least, the 
reciprocal feature is a reflection of social organ- 
ization. Grandparents and grandchildren, by 
the curious rule of descent that regulates 
affiliation with the matrimonial classes of the 
area, are necessarily in the same class, i. e,, a 
father's father and a son's son or a mother's 
father and a daughter's son (man speaking) are 
fellow-members of a class. The fit seems too 
close to admit of an accidental association. But 
when we turn to the North American region of 
reciprocal features the interpretation no longer 
holds since no vestige is found there of any 
institution that might align the relatives under 
discussion in a common group. The inference is 
that there has been convergent development, 
and perhaps the most plausible explanation of 
the North American terms is that they are 
designations not so much of the relatives as of 
the relationship itself.^® 



If we cannot give more than this general inter- 
pretation of the reciprocal feature as found in 
North America, we can on the other hand show 
quite definitely that its occurrence is a function 
of geographical position there. The practical 
absence of this trait in the immense region 
particularly dealt with by Morgan is as remark- 
able as its spread over a practically continuous 
region in the Far West, among the Lillooet, 
Spokane, Kootenai, Nez Perc6, Wishram, Ta- 
kelma, and various Californian and Shoshonean 
Plateau populations, as well as in a considerable 
number of Southwestern tribes. The Pacific, 
Plateau and Southwestern regions obviously 
define the distribution of reciprocity in North 
America, which thus becomes intelligible only 
through diffusion. 

Various Features. The principles of kinship 
nomenclature that have been treated hitherto 
are far from exhausting the variety found in a 
survey of the world. A very odd mode of 
addressing relatives after presentation of a gift 
has been mentioned for the Masai (p. 104), and 
there is little doubt that more extensive knowl- 
edge will reveal equally quaint notions else- 
where. Here I merely wish to enumerate a few 
examples from the particular point of view 
assumed in this chapter. 

[167 1 


It is a remarkable fact that while in Australia 
the principle of bifurcation is consistently carried 
to the grandparental stratum of society in 
conjunction with the reciprocal feature, the 
North American region in which the Dakota 
principle is especially prominent lacks the dis- 
tinction between mother's and father's parents, 
so that Morgan does not even dedicate special 
columns to these relationships in his elaborate 
schedules and notes the discrimination with 
some surprise for the Spokane.^ This feature is 
nevertheless widely spread in the Far West, 
coinciding to some extent with that of reci- 
procity. We find it among Salish and Sho- 
shonean tribes, in California, among the Takelma 
and Wishram, and to some extent in the South- 
west. Both the positive and the negative facts of 
distribution indicate the occurrence of diffi|sion. 

The change of terms after the death of a 
connecting or other relative is another feature of 
considerable interest. Thus, the Kawaiisu of 
California address the father as tnuwuni, but by 
the quite distinct term kuguni after the loss of 
a child.^ Again, the Kootenai have one word 
for the father-in-law before and another after 
the wife's or husband's death. This peculiarity 
appears also among Califomian tribes, the 
Chinook, Quileute, and several Salish tribes. 



This distribution again demonstrates diffusion 
from a common center. On the other hand, the 
probably even higher development of post- 
mortem nomenclature among the Timucua of 
Florida'* cannot be ascribed, in the present 
state of our knowledge, to anything but inde- 
pendent origin, though we are not in a position 
to state what common cause, lacking in the inter- 
vening area, produced the common effect in the 
southeastern United States and in the remote 
regions of the Far West. 

I will only call attention to one other kinship 
usage of more general interest, that embraced in 
the term 'teknonymy', the custom of denoting 
an individual in terms of his relationship to a 
child, viz.y 'father of Mary', 'grandmother of 
John'. This practice exists in South Africa and 
India,^ in Melanesia,®^ and in the Pueblo area 
and on the Northwest coast of North America.®^ 
Tylor connected it with the custom of the 
husband's residence with his wife's kin, of the 
father's assertion of his paternity and his ulti- 
mate recognition as more than a stranger by the 
wife's family with whom a condition of cere- 
monial avoidance obtains. However, it should 
be noted that among the Zuiii and the Hopi, 
though the husband lives with his wife's people, 
there is no parent-in-law taboo, and the wife is 



as often referred to teknonymously as the hus- 
band. Thus, my Hopi interpreter always spoke 
to me of his wife as 'Herman's mother'. Tylor's 
explanation is accordingly inadequate and would 
seem to require at least amplification. But 
'whatever result a systematic survey of the 
subject may lead to, it is certain that the effect 
of diffusion will have to be taken into account. 
It is inconceivable, e. g., that the practice 
originated independently among tribes so geo- 
graphically situated and so intimately related 
in culture as the Zufii and Hopi. 

Special Forms of Marriage and Social Customs. 
There can be little doubt that a well-established 
marriage rule often finds expression in nomen- 
clature. Even the exogamous principle can be 
brought under this head since it expresses the 
potential matrimonial status of members of the 
community. In a dual organization my 'father' 
is one who potentially, if not actually, is a mate 
of women of my mother's group, while a 'moth- 
er's brother' is one who can under no condition 
occupy that status. 

Of the specific forms of marriage the levirate 
has already been considered and the cross-cousin 
marriage briefly mentioned. Dr. Rivers has 
demonstrated the close dependence of nomen- 
clature on the latter practice in Melanesia. Here 



the custom itself is found in full swing, and it 
would be unreasonable to deny that the termi- 
nology had its origin in this usage even in parts of 
Melanesia where it cannot be observed. This 
does not mean that cross-cousin marriage neces- 
sarily obtained throughout the range of distribu- 
tion of the corresponding terminology but that 
the terminology spread from a center where it 
reflected the social institution. Thus, in Gua- 
dalcanar the cross-cousin marriage still persists 
and we find cross-cousins, brothers-in-law and 
sisters-in-law comprised under a single appella- 
tion. In Anaiteum, cross-cousins of opposite sex 
address one another by the terms used for hus- 
band and wife.^ It seems to me methodologically 
quite justifiable to interpret similar features in 
neighboring islands as having their ultimate ori- 
gin in cross-cousin marriage. But the argument 
fails where similar connotations of terms occur 
without evidence of the msirriage rule unless it 
can be demonstrated that no other cause could 
have produced the result. Thus, I must consider 
unsuccessful Dr. Rivers* attempt to deduce, 
though with qualifications, the former existence 
of the institution in question from the system of 
the Dakota Indians.®* The classification of 
brothers-in-law with cross-cousins might be 
simply a reflection of the dual organization, by 



which these relatives would fall within the same 
group; or, to put it differently, if the term cross- 
.cousin is given the wide significance with which 
we are familiar in primitive systems, so as to 
include members of the opposite moiety and one's 
own generation, a man's brothers-in-law are 
necessarily members of the cross-cousin class. 
The superiority of the moiety hypothesis in this 
instance lies in the fact that the dual organiza- 
tion occurs among several contiguous and re- 
lated tribes while the cross-cousin marriage is 
extremely rare in North America and its highest 
development occurs among remote peoples of the 
Pacific region. Regarding special forms of mar- 
riage, it is rather important to ascertain whether 
the terms used by our authorities are to be inter- 
preted in our own or in the more inclusive prim- 
itive sense. For example, Tylor reduced the in- 
stitution of cross-cousin marriage to the principle 
of exogamous moieties by assuming the wider 
significance.^ As Dr. Rivers points out,^ the two 
rules are not identical if marriage is prescribed 
with the own daughter of the own mother's 
brother. In that case, the moiety rule is only 
a larger framework with which the specific in- 
stitution is not incompatible but which does not 
determine cross-cousin marriage. Looking at the 
matter chronologically, I can even conceive the 



development of larger social groups from such 
specific marriage regulations. If in the absence 
of an own cross-cousin, a more remote cousin 
comes to be regularly substituted, we should have 
a whole class of possible mates, of whom the near- 
est cross-cousin would be only primus inter pares. 
It must be understood that while special mar- 
riage regulations, like exogamy, tend to be mir- 
rored in nomenclature, there is no absolute ne- 
cessity for this occurrence. As the New Mexican 
Tewa have exogamous groups without the Da- 
kota principle, so the Miwok of California have 
the cross-cousin marriage with little or no indi- 
cation of it in terminology.*' One factor that 
must always be considered in this connection is 
the time element. A recently acquired custom 
may not yet have developed an appropriate 
nomenclature, while, as Morgan supposed, the 
nomenclature may survive after the custom has 
become obsolete. That the frequency of mar- 
riage according to a certain rule, and the co- 
existence of other rules, possibly antagonistic 
in their effects, must have an influence, is ob- 
vious. As regards the latter point, Mr. Gifford 
shows that while marriage with the cross-cousin 
is not suggested in Miwok nomenclature, mar- 
riage with the wife's brother's daughter is re- 
flected by twelve terms. 

[173 1 


Among the Thonga of South Africa several 
interesting forms of preferential matrimonial 
union occur. As among the Miwok, marriage 
with the wife's, younger sisters and wife's 
brother's daughter is considered peculiarly 
appropriate, and these affinities are subsumed 
under a common caption. Levirate extends 
only to the elder brother's, not to the 
younger brother's, wife, and quite consistently 
these affinities are distinguished by distinct 
words. A man may inherit his maternal 
uncle's wife and therefore classes her with 
the wife. On the other hand, logic does not 
hold sway undisputedly. A man calls cross- 
cousins by the same term as parallel cousins 
and brothers, yet it is possible for a man to 
inherit his parallel cousin's, but not his cross- 
cousin's (father's sister's son's), wife. The 
explanation given by Junod seems quite satis- 
factory from a comparative point of view. My 
cross-cousin cannot belong to my gens, my 
parallel cousin must belong to it.®^ Since the 
Thonga usually distinguish marriage potential- 
ities with considerable nicety, we may reason- 
ably infer that the present terminology for 
cousins is a recent innovation, which conclusion 
once more indicates the relatively late develop- 
ment of Hawaiian features. 



A systematic comparison of the effect of 
definite forms of marriage on nomenclature, in 
different parts of the world is highly desirable. 
When we shall have examined how such an 
institution as the inheritance of a maternal 
uncle's wife affects the systems of the Tlingit of 
northwestern America, of the Banks Islands in 
Melanesia, and the Thonga of South Africa, and 
know the action of whatever coexisting institu- 
tions may occur, we shall have gained consider- 
ably more insight into a very suggestive problem. 
It is fairly clear that a form of marriage does not 
determine nomenclature univocally, as the facts 
relating to the levirate indicate. To ascertain 
in how far parallelism actually occurs, is a 
matter of great moment. 

Conclusion. The question with which this 
chapter opens has now received an answer. 
Terms of relationship form a proper topic of • 
investigation for the ethnologist, first because 
they are often directly correlated with cultural 
phenomena, such as social usages regulating 
marriage; secondly, because the features of 
kinship nomenclature are an index of tribal 
relationship. Any particular system is not a 
unified logical whole but a complex product of 
internal development and foreign connections. 
Accordingly, its features cannot be understood 



by themselves any more than other cultural 
phenomena, but only in association with con- 
comitant traits of the native culture and in the 
light of a comparative survey of like features 
among neighboring tribes and ultimately through- 
out the world. By utilizing our ethnographical 
knowledge in applying the method of variation 
it is possible to ascertain, at least to a consider- 
able extent, the causes, whether primary or 
secondary, that have shaped a given system. 
When, for example, we endeavor to explain 
the system of the Hopi, we can start with the 
fact that their speech constitutes them a member 
of the Shoshonean family, i. e., we can begin by 
comparing Hopi nomenclature with that of the 
Paiute, Paviotso, Ute and Shoshone. One fact 
that strikes us here is the great difference in the 
actual vocables employed by the Hopi from 
those of their congeners, an observation which 
by no means extends to all of their language. 
Morgan held the view that kinship words were 
the most persistent elements of speech, but 
however this rule may work in other stocks, such 
as the Athabaskan, it certainly does not obtain 
among the Shoshoneans, nor, I may add, within 
the Siouan family, where even such closely 
related languages as Crow and Hidatsa reveal 
far greater differences in the lexicon of relation- 



ships than might be expected from other voc- 
ables. It is, however, in the classification of 
kin that the distinctiveness of the Hopi seems 
most remarkable. Their system is not character- 
ized by the prominent features of the Plateau 
Shoshonean terminologies, such as reciprocity 
and the separation of paternal from maternal 
grandparents. On the other hand, they employ 
the Dakota principle with the Hidatsa variation. 
That variant occurs, so far as we now know, 
only among peoples historically quite unrelated 
to the Hopi so that neither genetic connection 
nor dissemination accounts for the similarity. 
On the other hand, all the tribes having this 
feature share exogamous groups with maternal 
descent. Such clans are characteristic of the 
Hopi also, but are lacking among the other 
Shoshoneans. We infer from this that the 
Hidatsa variant among the Hopi is functionally 
connected with their clan system. If the neigh- . 
boring Zuni do not share this characteristic, a 
possible explanation may be found in the rela- 
tive weakness of the Zuiii clan concept, as 
recently expounded by Professor Kroeber, when 
contrasted with its dominance in the social life 
of the Hopi. In other features the intimate 
cultural contact between the Zuiii and Hopi is 
emphatically apparent. Probably for no other 

[177 1 


tribes IS there evidence for such exaggerated 
reliance on teknonymy, while a certain looseness 
in the use of terms common to both seems to be 
a general Southwestern trait. The Hopi system 
thus reflects both the social fabric of the tribe 
and its historical relations, — the ancient ones 
reduced to a few lexical resemblances, while the 
more complex tribal organization and recent 
cultural affiliations with the Southwest, and 
particularly with the Zufii, stand out in bold 

A strictly similar inquiry might be made into 
the system of the Crow. Here the almost com- 
plete coincidence of certain very unusual features 
with Hidatsa ones bears eloquent testimony to 
the exceptionally close genetic relationship of 
the two tribes. Thus, a wife who has been 
married before is distinguished by a specific 
word, and spouses generally refer to each other 
not by a specific term, which seems restricted to 
non-vocative usage, but by a demonstrative 
expression. Not only is there a confusion of 
generations according to the Hidatsa variant, 
but the mother's brother is classed with the 
elder brother and so is the mother's mother's 
brother. The last-mentioned features are partly 
found among the Mandan. All three tribes 
differ from the other Siouans, and indeed from 



all other Plains Indians in having matrilineal 
descent. Since this is likewise the rule among 
genetically unconnected peoples sharing the 
Hidatsa variant, we regard the latter as func- 
tionally connected with the clan organization. 
But there are other traits in which the termi- 
nology of the Crow differs from that of their 
nearest congeners, and here we must systemati- 
cally consider the possible effect of all such 
peoples as the Oglala, or Blackfoot, with whom 
they have come into contact. Such divergence 
may be merely the effect of internal readjust- 
ment. Thus, the Crow classification of the 
father's sister's husband with the father admits 
of a plausible interpretation as the result of 
another peculiarity — the classing of the father's 
sister with the mother in direct address. Instead 
of having two deviations from the Hidatsa 
norm, we should thus have at bottom only one. 
It is clear that a far more intensive investiga- 
tion of kinship terminologies must take the 
place of what has hitherto been attempted. 
Precisely the so-called minor peculiarities of a 
system are important historically because they 
are the differential indications of cultural 
contact with definite tribes. The phonetic 
inadequacy of Morgan's schedules, which has 
been brought to light by Dr. Michelson and Mr. 



Spier,* requires a reexamination of the entire 
field covered. Still more important is the 
thorough-going determination of the innumer- 
able systems, both in and outside of America, 
not touched upon by Morgan at all. Fortunately 
the work of Dr. Rivers, Mr. A. R. Brown and 
Mr. A. M. Hocart in England, of Dr. R. Thum- 
wald in Germany, of Dr. J. R. Swanton, Mr. 
Leslie Spier and Mr. E. W. Gifford in America 
bids fair to reduce our ignorance of the facts. 
With our lamentable absence of knowledge on 
some of the most essential points it would be 
rash indeed to claim for the present sketch a 
more than preliminary value. I am content 
with calling attention to the tremendous eth- 
nological significance of kinship terminologies, 
with combating premature confidence in general- 
izations based on sheer ignorance, and above all 
with suggesting that the most rigorous logical 
formulation of problems is possible in this too 
long neglected domain of the science of culture. 




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