Testing ethnological theories on prehistoric kinship
Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology
Although not a new topic, there is a growing trend in ethnology to interpret changing kinship terminology, social organization, and marriage practices deep into prehistory. These efforts are largely guided by phylogenetic, neoevolutionary, and historical particularist theoretical models using 19th to 20th century ethnographically recorded kin terminology. However, the “high-level” theoretical models and their assumptions are untestable without data dating to prehistory. Archeological kinship analysis based on cross-cultural “mid-level” factual correspondence between social organization and patterns in material culture, which is not biased by any given “high-level” theory, can empirically test the ethnological models and assumptions. Archeological case studies on the Chontal Maya and Hohokam illustrate problems in phylogenetic, neoevolutionary, and historical particularist theoretical assumptions. Instead, the results are consistent with contemporary anthropological theory emphasizing practice and agency within historically contingent political economic social contexts.
Link to Published Version
Ensor, B. E. (2017). Testing ethnological theories on prehistoric kinship. Cross-Cultural Research, 51(3), 199–227. https://doi.org/10.1177/1069397117697648