Journal of Archaeological Research, VoL 3, No.

L 1995

Worldwide Cross-Cultural Studies and Their Relevance for Archaeology
Melvin Ember 1 and Carol R. Ember 1,2

Archaeological inference based on ethnographic analogy may or may not be correct. What is worse, there is no systematic way to tell. With certain provisos, it is better to generate archaeological inference from the results of worldwide cross-cultural tests of relational hypotheses. Such tests may provide more benefits than within-region comparisons. This paper discusses a number of ways in which worldwide cross-cultural research may be used in archaeological inference, including: generalizing about societal types, inferring from presumed causes, inferring from material correlates, and inferring from noncausal associations. The paper concludes with a discussion of how comparative archaeology could help cross-cultural researchers test causal theories diachronically.
KEY WORDS: inference; archaeology;cross-cultural; indicators.

INTRODUC~ON Archaeologists often rely on ethnographic analogy to make inferences about the materials they collect and excavate. Descendant or similar cultures may suggest parallels in archaeologically known cultures, but such inferences may or may not be correct. What is worse, there is no systematic way to tell. We suggest here that, with certain provisos, a better way to generate archaeological inference is to use the results of worldwide crosscultural studies that test relational hypotheses. We admit at the outset that not many of the kinds of things we suggest here have been done yet. We 1Human Relations Area Files, P.O. Box 2054, Yale Station, New Haven, Connecticut
2Department of Anthropology, Hunter College, CUNY, 695 Park Avenue, New York, New


York 10021.
10594}161/95/03004)087507.50,t0 © t995 Plenum Publishing Cortx)ration


Ember and Ember

hope that our discussion, and our examples, will encourage more such work and more interchange between cross-cultural researchers and those archaeologists who want to generalize to and about the archaeological record. Cross-cutturalists have accumulated a large number of statistically significant findings about the worldwide ethnographic record (Ember and Ember, 1993; Ember and Levinson, 1991). The question we address here is, How could archaeologists use those findings, and future ones, to draw reliable inferences about the archaeological record? We begin with a brief review of the assumptions of the cross-cultural research strategy. Then we discuss the advantages and disadvantages of within-region versus worldwide comparisons. While archaeologists tend to be regionalists, and therefore might be most comfortable with within-region comparisons [e.g., Feinman and Neitzel's (1984) study of middle-range societies in the New World], we discuss how worldwide comparisons may provide more benefits than within-region comparisons. Then we examine the types of inferences that might be drawn from worldwide cross-cultural research. The literature of cross-cultural research is quite large now; nearly a thousand studies have been published, most in the last 20 years or so. So our discussion of the relevance of cross-cultural research for archaeology is far from exhaustive.

THE STRATEGY OF CROSS-CULTURAL RESEARCH The fundamental assumption of a cross-cultural test is that if an explanation (theory or hypothesis) has merit, measures of the presumed causes and effects should be significantly and strongly associated synchronically (Whiting, t954). A synchronic association (correlation) describes a relationship between two or more variables that are measured for each sample case as of a brief time period (which may vary considerably across the cases, from some time in the 18th century or even earlier to some time in the 20th century). When we make a cross-cultural test, then, we are examining a series of ethnographic "snapshots," each capturing some features of a culture or society as of a particular time and usually a particular locality. (By a society we mean a territorial population whose members speak a language that is different from those of neighboring societies.) Regardless of the different time loci across the sample cases, a statistically significant result should be obtained if there is a systematic or quantitatively describable relationship between or among the measured variables, Most cross-culturalists assume that it is possible to falsify a theory on the basis of hypothesis-tests using cross-cultural data. If the meaning of a causal theory is 'clear and internally consistent, and if the theory logically

How you sample depends on what you are interested in. The results of a single field study or a within-region comparison may or may not be applicable to other places. But statistical support for implied hypotheses cannot be said to "prove" a theory. then the hypothesis-tests could provide inconclusive or contradictory statistical results that would falsify the theory. "Humans are unicorns. [For how cross-cultural research to test theory compares with other types of comparative research." The derived hypothesis. or only horticulturalists. humans eat meat. "Humans eat meat. that is. subject to possible revision on the basis of future research. To be sure. therefore. Although we can never prove a theory. with bands of fewer than 75 people and total populations in the hundreds. we are obliged to conclude that parts or all of the theory are probably false too. That is. what population or universe of societies you want to generalize your results to. You could choose to sample only foragers. (But that will change as accounts of modern cultures continue to be added to the ethnographic record. unicorns eat meat. see Ember (1991). But the statistically significant results of a worldwide cross-cultural comparison are probably applicable to most societies and most regions. from small hunter-gatherer societies. to large societies dependent on intensive agriculture with cities and populations in the millions." may be true.] The typical cross-cultural study compares all types of society. We say "probably" because all understanding in science is tentative. the general scientific strategy is to seek more and more comprehensive explanations. or only societies from a particular world region. and the results of a cross-national comparison may or may not be applicable to the world of preindustrial cultures. To be sure. Consider the syllogism. we can be more confident about it the more its implications are supported statistically. the typical cross-cultural sample contains few or no modern industrial societies.) Despite not being as broadly comparative as it could be.Worldwide Cross-Cultural Studies 89 suggests or implies testable hypotheses. or if the results are not significantly different from chance results. the cross-cultural type of study has a better chance than other kinds of comparison of coming close to the goal of discovering that an observed relationship has more or less universal validity. although most cross-cultural or comparative studies involve a worldwide sample or a sampling of all types of society. so cross-cultural research is typically not as broadly comparative as it could be. which is what we seek when we do science. so that your set of cases accurately represents the statis- . This is because logically incorrect premises could lead to correct predictions. but it is a fallacy to affirm the premises from the consequent. If the hypothesis-tests produce results that are contrary to predictions derived from the theory. The most important thing is to sample in an unbiased way. not all do. the more there are confirming or supportive tests in the absence of nonsupportive tests.

In any case. Thus. for example. and if the investigator uses ways to test for and minimize error (Ember et al. The coding of variables for a society in a cross-cultural study is generally based on the ethnographic information that is available for at least one community or locality in the society. However. The hundreds of ethnographers who contributed to the ethnographic record. if you have sampled randomly. error is not as serious a problem as some might think. Most ethnographers conduct their fieldwork in a single community. p. In our own research on war. 526-527) noted years ago. who came from many different countries at many different times to make observations according to many different theoretical perspectives. are not likely to have chosen their field sites in the s a m e ~oiased way. pp. and it is that group they mostly write about. choosing a simple random sample of cases with the aid of a table of random numbers) is the best way to protect against biased results. as John Whiting (1954. if the sample is representative. It is often presumed that the coding of qualitative information is likely to introduce error. because we can assume that the focal communities in the ethnographic record were not selected for study according to some single biased plan. we found that results improve substantially when our statistical analyses do not include cases about which two independent coders disagreed substantially in their initial ratings (Ember and Ember. So the fact that the community described in the ethnography may or may not be representative of the society is not a serious problem for statistical inference about crosscultural relationships among variables.] The cross-cultural study typically uses qualitative (full-text) ethnographic information and codes it nominally or ordinally. Other things being equal. most cross-cultural studies are really comparisons of localities in different societies. because of coder mistakes or false statements in the ethnography. This would be a problem if cross-culturalists were interested in establishing the typical values (on variables) for a given society. rather than inferring what is characteristic of communities in a particular society. 172). But crosscultural researchers are usually interested in discovering relationships between and among variables across societies.. because random sampling (e.g. errors are not likely to produce falsely significant results.90 Ember and Ember tical population (of societies) to which you want to generalize your results. or using cases you have books on in your own personal library. 1991).. Using cases that are widely known. Therefore. we can assume that any errors in . 1992b. see Ember and Otterbein (1991). random sampling from a more or less complete list is the best way to sampie representatively. is biased sampling. despite the titles of books and articles referring to the society as a whole. [For a general discussion of crosscultural sampling strategies. errors are usually random and therefore usually make it more difficult to find systematic relationships.

the full-text database known as the Human Relations Area Files (HRAF) contains information on two or more points in time for a substantial proportion of its sample cases. the English translations can be found only in the HRAF database. . (About 750 of the 8000 or so sources were originally written in languages other than English. The HRAF database facilitates information retrieval because you do not have to do hours of research to construct bibliographies for each of your sample cases. Now usually available in microfiche format. often cross-referenced.) Each file on a culture includes hundreds or thousands of pages of ethnographic text. contrary to what many both in and outside anthropology still believe. you do not have to chase down the books and other materials you need to look at (which might otherwise have to be obtained by interlibrary loan). are located at more than 300 institutions in the United States. which currently covers more than 350 societies past and present. which comprises about 700 different. and you do not have to search through every page of a source (that may lack an index) to find all the locations of desired information.Worldwide Cross-Cultural Studies 91 the data provided by those ethnographers are likely to be randomly distributed. which will gr6atly facilitate comparative research. they must do so themselves! Nearly a million pages of ethnography have been processed so far for inclusion in the HRAF database. 3 It should be noted that. Complete and incomplete sets of the database. the HRAF database does not provide coded information. and 24 other nations. Rather the full-text database provides sections from ethnographic documents that have been indexed (by topic) and grouped (by culture) for easy retrieval of the desired kinds of information. Canada. (1982). For example. categories of information. But the ethnographic record may now provide more opportunity for diachronic research than we think. This fact may at least partly explain why there has been little cross-historical research using ethnographic data. The indexing system used is the Outline of Cultural Materials by Murdock et al. The HRAF database gives you all of the information on a 3Retrieving and coding information from the ethnographic record is greatly facilitated by the annually growing HRAF database. If users of H R A F want to code its full-text information to measure variables. Societies for which we have a lot of ethnography are generally described for only one or at most just a few points in time. and hence a random sample of the ethnographic record is probably an unbiased or representative sample of recent cross-cultural variation. and it is probably no accident that most cross-cultural researchers think it is more efficient to test explanations nonhistorically (synchronically for each case) first. the sections of which have been are indexed for the topic(s) covered therein. the HRAF database wilt be converted over the next decade to electronic format.

we can expect that the smaller the region. For example. and call up other things at the same time. However. from all of the sources processed for that culture. This fact by itself may minimize the possibility of discovering a relationship that is true (if we look only at the data from one region). We know that . with the first installment of the Electronic HRAF. that place will be your computer screen. when the investigator is looking to test hypotheses. if there is no variation on either the independent or dependent variable. even when the true association is strong cross-culturally. We return to the latter point toward the end of this paper.92 Ember and Ember particular topic. If that region is all that the researcher is interested in generalizing to. when we discuss how cross-archaeological as well as cross-cultural research could test causal explanations of cultural variation and change. Any measure of association will be zero or close to zero (suggesting no relationship) when there is no or little variability on a crucial variable. Up until now. Hypotheses are usually tested with some measure of correlation or association. but only a limited amount. a within-region comparison is all that is called for. These features may generate an intuitive awareness of the context of certain phenomena of interest. and therefore comparing within a region may be a good way to generate hypotheses. withinregion comparisons can be disadvantageous. A within-region comparison offers a significant advantage to the investigator who specializes in that region. WITHIN-REGION VERSUS WORLDWIDE COMPARISONS Because individual anthropologists specialize largely in the study of particular regions. that place has been one or more microfiche (with some 200 pages on each). He or she is likely to be throughly familiar with the complex of cultural and historical features found in that region. in a Windows platform. Beginning in 1994. In the bivariate case. it seems advisable to look for cross-historical and perhaps cross-archeological data (to test for a presumed sequence) only after an explanation has successfully survived a comparative nonhistorical test. that would also reduce the likelihood of obtaining a significant result. where you will be able to search and scroll through the texts of interest to you. suppose that the researcher is interested in the strength of the relationship betWeen economic and political development. in a single place. the correlation has to be zero. We trust that this fact will become more widely known in the future. it is likely that when they think of comparisons the focus is on a particular region. Even if there is some variability. In any case. In general. the less the variation on a given variable. which may translate into more cross-historical hypothesis-tests in the future.

All these problems are exacerbated if the true relationship of interest is weak. a high multiple regression coefficient).Worldwide Cross-Cultural Studies 93 there is a strong relationship cross-culturally (Abrahamson. South America).g. But the cases within a region may show little variation on one of the variables of interest (e. Hill. you will see nothing. in others negative. but a within-region analysis might add to what we know from a worldwide analysis. But if the relationship is curvilinear and the researcher looks at the variation within a small region. If the worldwide comparison does not provide a strong result (e. Consider the example of a parabolic relationship between two variables. see Burton and White (1991). For example. What is true for a region may or may not be true for the world.g. also Hiatt (1970) and White (1967). If there is not much there. it is also important to consider two other factors: the form of the relationship being considered and the strength of that relationship. The correlation between the variables may look very different in one region versus another.] But when we examined the relationship within large regions (e. In evaluating the possible generalizability of the results of a withinregion analysis. 1963. Oceania.] When we (Ember and Ember.. in some regions it might look positive. those few variable cases may falsely suggest the presence of a relationship that is n o t true cross-culturally. we got sometimes . 1979). [For more discussion of the advantages of within-region comparisons.g.. if we are dealing with a bivariate relationship which is linear. cf. When there is considerable variability in a few cases. and it gives us the opportunity to avoid conclusions based on the peculiarity of a given region. little or no variation on the economic side). or the absence of a relationship that/s true cross-culturally. we found no significant relationship. How do we deal with such problems? Ideally. [Our results were replicated by Divale (1974. There is another way we may be misled by the results of a within-region comparison. in a region with only a small number of cases. any part of the range on one variable should be linearly related to the other variable. we could do both worldwide and within-region comparisons. and therefore it will be difficult or impossible to see any relationship within the region even if there is some political variation. The worldwide comparison need not involve a large number of cases (and therefore may not be too expensive in time and coding) if the cases are selected randomly. 1971) used a worldwide sample to test Murdock's (1949) theory that the division of labor by sex determines marital residence (particularly matrilocal versus patrilocal). the results may be misleading.. and in still others there may seem to be no relationship at all. 1975). 1969. and the variability you examine is limited. a within-region comparison may suggest (particularly to a specialist in that region) additional predictors that might also predict cross-culturally. Ember.

probably because those groups did not vary very much socioeconomically. . but Schatk (1982. In short. a worldwide study may not tell us enough to account for most of the variation within a particular region. Keeley (1992. even when based on systematic cross-cultural surveys. as compared with worldwide analyses. It is not as often understood that we should not casually generalize from one or a few societies to a class of supposedly similar societies (past and/or present). So. p. if we want to understand hunter-gatherers of the past. we should look at hunter-gatherer groups in the ethnographic record. money) in a worldwide sample of hunter-gatherers. which seemed to support Murdock's theory. But even more ill-advised is generalization without systematic surveys at all! Generalizations about Societal Types Most anthropologists know that we should not generalize from our own society to others. storage. we would not have discovered that North America is unusual! So why does North America show a relationship? Ember (1975) found that division of labor did predict residence for hunter-gatherers. Previously. a within-region analysis may be misleading about the direction. of a worldwide relationship.) However. 1971). We call this ethnocentrism. had found a moderate association between division of labor and residence. without the worldwide findings. For example. class distinctions. Driver and Massey (1957).94 Ember and Ember opposite results from one region to the next (Ember and Ember. He found a strong relationship between population density and socioeconomic complexity (sedentism. 30) gives us another example of how regional analyses can yield misleading results. INFERENCES THAT CAN BE DRAWN FROM CROSS-CULTURAL STUDIES There are several types of inferences that can be drawn from crosscultural studies. looking just at North American societies. as well as existence. On the other hand. referred to by Keetey) found a negative relationship among Northwest coast groups. We discuss immediately below how this type of inference by itself is ill-advised. the reasoning goes. so North America may be unusual (cross-culturally speaking) because the ethnographic record for North America includes a high proportion of huntergatherers. One type of inference is to presume that extant or recent cases will tell us something about traits of cases in the past. (Our own results for North America were like Driver and Massey's.

depend mostly on gathering. a perusal of the materials in the Human Relations Area Files (HRAF) on the San (formerly called Bushmen) reveals that in the 1920s there was frequent armed combat between bands. time period. [See Source 3 (Lebzelter) in the San file in the H R A F database. in contrast to the bilocal. The lesson from this example is that we should not generalize from cases that may be untypical of some set of societies. and lack intercommunity fighting. and went to war fairly frequently! So should we generalize from these results for recent hunter-gatherers (or. As we should know by now--from the history of science as well as from the postmodernist critique--cases may become classics for other reasons than representativeness. 1968). hunter-gatherers). For example. and peaceful !Kung of the 1950s and 1960s. So what do we know about recent hunter-gatherers? How do we know it is wrong to generalize from the !Kung (as of the 1950s and 1960s)? A survey of foraging societies in the ethnographic record (Ember. never mind a long.] Indeed. 1989). more precisely. Second. but we would still suggest that such generalization or inference may be ill advised. Before we say why. page 30 of the HRAF translation from the German. Why? Because even if we know that something is likely to be true for the ethnographic record. In the example of the !Kung San. a culture is not unchanging. 1984.Worldwide Cross-Cultural Studies 95 some have generalized from the !Kung San as if they were typical of past and present hunter-gatherers (Lee.g. 1976. that does not necessarily make it true for the archaeological record. This . they are n o t like most recent hunter-gatherers (as we will see). But these generalizations are wrong. "fisher-hunter-gatherers") to foraging societies in the past? We could. It is unreasonable to expect even a single case to remain invariant over a short. Lee and DeVore. The only valid way to establish that a trait or correlation is typical for some set of societies is on the basis of systematic research that measures variables for a representative or very large sample of that particular set (e. we might expect that most recent hunter-gatherers would have bilocal residence. and it would probably be more likely to be valid than generalizing on the basis of a few cases. some researchers have suggested that the San were only sometime foragers who relied mainly on herding in the not-so distant past (Schrire. Wilmsen. derived most of their calories from fishing (with hunting generally next in importance). described foragers of the last few hundred years were mostly patrilocal. One reason is that classic or well-known cases are not necessarily (or even likely) to be representative of a type of society. we should first make some general remarks about when generalization is justified.. If we generalize from the !Kung (in the 1950s and 1960s). 1978) shows that. mostly gathering. Generalization from one or a few cases is never warranted.

. Some examples we discuss below will spell out why this is so. those conditions can then be controlled statistically to remove their effects (see. the social and physical environments of foragers in the past were sometimes if not often different from the environments of recent foragers. 1990). 1990). including serious depopulation due to introduced diseases (C. especially if you consider that recent foragers have been interacting with. polar regions. were pristine in the sense of being completely unaffected by that contact (cf. even those described shortly after first contact with the West. 1992a. many societies had already been subject to a variety of forms of culture contact with a variety of effects. Ember. On the contrary. 1975).96 Ember and Ember is because few if any societies described in the ethnographic record. expanding states) that did not exist until after 10. and often running away from. we argue that contact conditions (as well as other conditions) can be measured for their degree of effect on cultural variation. 1988. Whatever the earliest time of description. 1993). For one thing. The effects of Western expansion in the ethnographic record may suggest to some that cross-cultural comparisons of cases in that record will not help archaeological inference at all. Ember.R. Moreover. et al. 12-13). 1975. the Arctic. pacification (Ember and Ember. Schrire. But that view assumes it is impossible to discount or control on the effects of Western expansion. Thus. 1972. 1992b). And Bailey et al. and changes in subsistence patterns (Bradley et al. But--and this is a major caveat--to infer from the results of cross-cultural hypothesis-tests. 1981. We now turn to the kinds of archaeological inference we can draw from cross-cultural (comparative ethnographic) tests of relational hypotheses. pp. and tropical forests). (1989) have argued that foragers were unlikely to live in tropical forests until after the rise of agriculture.000 years ago (Cohen. 1977. and tropical forests until after 30.. 1981).g. 1984). pastoralists.000 years ago (Myers.g.. the adaptations of recent foragers in marginal regions may not be particularly relevant to inference about archaeologically known or knowable foragers. Ember and Ember. Some have suggested that humans did not live in deserts. certain kinds of societies (e. many recent hunter-gatherers lived in marginal environments (deserts. depletion of resources by exploitative Western agents (Bodley. So what we observe among them should not be casually extrapolated to the past. we suggest that cross-cultural results can best help archaeological inference if those results tell us about relationships between or among variables. e. Moreover. we must have a way of archaeologically inferring at least one of the variables in the relationship. agriculturalists.. Hassan. Trigger. 1992. M. . Ember.

Although Ember's (1975) crosscultural study of foragers did not test for the independent and combined effects of the three predictors of bilocality (depopulation. 1975. disease-produced depopulation by itself seems to predict bilocal or. bilocal. and high rainfall variability around a low mean (Ember. small community size (under 50). For example. or if the adult sex ratio had been severely skewed (which can happen by chance in a small community). But we do have cross-cultural studies of what predicts variation in residence. People from Europe. Service. and neolocal). they would have to move to another band if an appreciable number of kin in their original band had died because of introduced diseases. usually because of introduced European diseases. Similarly. Ember's (1975) study suggests that the likelihood of matrilocality versus patrilocality could be estimated for foragers from the importance of fishing (a predictor of patrilocality). That inference would be more justifiable if we had material indicators of the various patterns of residence (validated by cross-cultural studies) that could be applied to the archaeological record. avunculocat. The theory is that couples in a foraging band might have to move to other bands (with wife's or husband's relatives) because it had become difficult or impossible to continue practicing unilocal residence. and their diseases. also Ember and Ember. the importance of gathering (a predictor of matrilocality). multilocal residence (Ember and Ember. or if there had been a shortfall of rain in an already arid environemt (which might compel the band to split up). suffice it to say here that we have not yet discovered material correlates of all five major patterns of residence (patrilocal. Given that couples in foraging noncommercial societies had to live and work with or near kin. and the overall contribution of men to'subsistence (which predicts patrilocality only among fora- . If we could infer those predictors archaeologically. cross-cultural research on foragers suggests three predictors (and presumed causes) of bilocal residence: sudden and drastic depopulation. 1962). multiple regression analysis using the cross-cultural data could be used to generate an inference about the likelihood of bilocality in a particular site. 1972. if the causal conditions can be measured archaeologically. 1972). more accurately. Therefore. matrilocal. We return to this possibility later. we can expect that sudden and drastic depopulation and hence bilocal residence was probably less likely in the distant past than in recent centuries. 1978) is not sufficient reason to infer that it was probably so in the past. In nonforaging societies.Worldwide Cross-Cultural Studies 97 Inferring from Presumed Causes Just because patrilocality is the most typical residence pattern in a sample of recent foragers (Ember. and rainfall variability in an arid environment). small community size. spread into distant parts of the world only in the last 500 years. we could infer the likelihood of a particular pattern of residence. cf.

it is likely that the latter are the causes. high rainfall variability around a low mean is more likely to be a cause of bilocality among foragers than an effect. given that the hypotheses at issue have been mostly tested synchronically. if we had the results of the appropriate multiple regressions and some archaeological indicators of the presumed causes? The answer is no. In our discussion so far. etc. It would be difficult to argue that bilocality may be a cause of rainfall! So. rather than vice versa. Although we do not currently have a material correlate of internal warfare (within the society). we speak of presumed or likely causes. Could we know for sure what the residence pattern was in a particular site. rather. We do not discuss inferences made by archaeologists about past environments. we concentrate on material correlates that are suggested by existing cross-cultural comparisons of the ethnographic record. there is room to question whether we have got the causality right. if we can link cultural variables to environmental or ecological variables. archaeologically recoverable material correlates are an essential part of the enterprise we are discussing here. Inferences from Material Correlates Since inference from the present to the past requires at least one of the conditions to be estimated. subsistence patterns. for which archaeologists certainly have more expertise than we do. not for sure. Population of a Site Naroll (1962) was the first cross-culturalist to look for an archaeologically recoverable correlate in ethnographic data. Statistically based conclusions are more likely to be true than generalizations based on a few nonrepresentative cases. For example. Still--and this is an important point (particularly for archaeological inference)--if the presumed causes are environmental or ecological variables. But. of course. it is doubtful that the causality is the other way around.98 Ember and Ember gers). 1971). and it also allows us to compute the degree of confidence we can justifiably place in our conclusions.. Much more cross-cultural work remains to be done. He suggested that the population of a 'site could be estimated from the total living floor area . But statistical analysis allows us to estimate how much of the variation is explained by the predictors. But the findings so far point to the great potential of cross-cultural research in this connection. it would help us infer residence in an archaeological site because such warfare is the strongest predictor of patrilocality in the ethnographic record (Ember and Ember.

p. trying to replicate Naroll's findings. and size of settlement had little effect on the result. So knowing the floor area of the average dwelling in a site would entitle the archaeologist to infer the pattern of marital residence with a measurable degree of confiderlce. Assuming that archaeologists could rule out bilocality as a possibility (unlikely unless the society had recently been depopulated. 1977) have now replicated Ember's (1973) finding that matrilocal societies have significantly larger houses than patritocal societies. if the archaeologically known floor area is 14. Marital Residence We noted above that we do not yet have material correlates of all the patterns of marital residence. see also Keegan and Maclachlan. Ember (1973) expected that sisters would be likely to live together in the same house if residence were matrilocat. Extrapolating from Murdock's (1949. but unrelated women would not do so if residence were patrilocal. Divale. and he got the same result in a larger and more representative sample. we could be 95% confident that the society was patrilocal rather than matrilocal. This formula has been widely used by archaeologists.Worldwide Cross-Cultural Studies 99 (summing over all dwellings or extrapolating from a sample thereof). 114) computed a mean floor area of 28. using the formula 10 m 2 = 1 person. Interestingly. 31) observation that sororal cowives usually live in the same house (but nonsororal cowives do not). controls for climate. p. using the formula of 6 m 2 per person. nonrandom sample.8 m 2. Combining Ember's data and his own. 1989). it occurs in only about 4% percent of recent societies (Ember. only avunculocality would still be a possible inference. 1967)]. or its communities included fewer than 50 people. Judging2 by the results. Western influence.7 m .6 m E for patrilocal societies versus a mean of 175. If the area is 79. . it was based on a small.5 to 42. when Brown substituted his corrections of those errors. However. or there was high rainfall variability around a low mean). but two cross-cultural studies (Brown. 1987. Brown's replication suggests that archaeologists can confidently estimate the magnitude of a site's population from the floor area of a typical dwelling multiplied by the number of dwellings. and assuming the unlikelihood of neolocality [which is associated cross-culturally with commercial exchange (see Ember. found some serious errors in Naroll's codings. Brown (1987).0 m 2 for matrilocal societies. 1974. However. we could be 95% confident that the society was matrilocal rather than patrilocal. the formula for estimating a site's population turned out to be 6 m 2 per person.2 to 270. Divale (1977. avunculocality is relatively rare.

we might have much stronger predictors of permanence of community which archaeologists could use to draw inferences about sites. If the features mentioned in this paragraph were examined among nonforagers. particularly if they are clustered into compounds. house-type may be a fairly robust indicator of permanence of communities. it may be that if nomadism could be ruled out we could link polygyny to curvilinearity of house more strongly. whereas Robbins obtained an 88% proportion. quadrilateral (four-sided with an inner court). Binford (1990) found that other features of the house (such as surface placement of structures. roof and walls of the same material) as well as warmer temperatures also predict mobility. the converse (that most rectilinear societies have monogamy) is not true. Family and Marriage Whiting and Ayres (1968) also found that frequent polygyny is associated with curvilinear floor plans. Robbins (1966) found 84% of rectangular. quadrilateral. or elliptical house shapes are fully sedentary. These loose ends could be tied up with just a little more cross-cultural research. however. p. the Whiting/Ayres and Robbins studies differ somewhat in regard to the proportions of cases that are correctly predicted by curvilinearity. Whiting and Ayres found 65% of the circular floor plans to be nomadic. While curvilinear shapes predict less sedentary settlements. Whiting and Ayres (1968) found that 80% of societies with rectangular. In addition. Given that Binford (1990. 123) found the same relationship (although it was not statistically evaluated) among hunter-gatherers. However. . Since curvilinearity is also related to nomadism (see above). (The elliptical are not as strongly sedentary.) Seventy-eight percent of societies with one or more of those three shapes as well as curvilinear shapes are seminomadic. and if the various predictors were combined in a multivariate analysis. Whiting and Ayres also found that multiroom dwellings almost always predict either extended families or wealth distinctions. Most societies that have only curvilinear plans have polygyny. single-room dwellings are sometimes associated with extended families. Another aspect of mobility is the number of moves foragers make per year.I00 Ember and Ember Mobility House type appears to be related significantly to degree of permanence of communities. and elliptical house-types to be permanent. which Kelly (1983) found is predicted by resource accessibility and commuting time.

122) that regions with more household involvement in long-distance trade or other economic activities beyond the local community are more likely to have elaborate decoration on the outsides of their houses. . 1992a. 1974). it is also a strong predictor of the presence of territorially contiguous unilineal descent groups. b). And. If it takes one step to enter any one-room dwelling (i. 1). Thus. Peregrine counts the number of "steps" it takes to enter the innermost part(s) of the settlement from outside the settlement. the degree to which the outside of a house is decorated may tell us a lot about the external relations of an archaeological site or region. If there is a trench in addition. societies that have a permeability index of 3 or more almost always have war at least once every 2 years. of course. Chap. [The ratings of war frequency were taken from our cross-cultural study of war [Ember and (Ember. Using graph theory. the permeability index is 1. Since we do not always have skeletal populations.e. If houses have inner rooms that can be gotten to only from outer rooms. 1971. If there is an outer fence around the dwelling or the community. it would also be useful to have separate archaeologically recoverable correlates of internal and external warfare. the permeability index is 3..Worldwide Cross-Cultural Studies 101 Warfare Archaeologists are beginning to infer warfare on the basis of the probable causes of death in skeletal populations. additional steps are added to the score (see also Blanton. 1971). et al. because internal war is not only a very strong predictor of patrilocality (Ember and Ember. Peregrine (1993) has suggested that the degree of settlement "permeability" may be a very accurate indicator of warfare frequency. Cross-culturally. those that have one or two steps almost always have little or no war.] As we noted above. This is the index of permeability. move from the outside to the inside through one entrance). Relations Between Regions A possible guide to future research on indicators of relations between regions is Blanton's (1994) comparative work on house decoration. Ember and Ember. the permeability index is 2.. He suggests (p. and descent groups (lineages) with known links to the common ancestor (Ember. 1983. purely external war is a strong predictor of matrilocality and matrilineality (see Ember and Ember. a newly discovered indicator of war may turn out to be more useful. 1993).

1956]. 1967. 1970b. Keeley (1988) finds in a stepwise regression analysis that latitude accounts for 70% of the variation in dependence on gathering. it and a measure of availability of water may provide fairly robust indicators of reliance on plants. For example. other scales use just three variables (Naroll. Lomax and Arensberg. Naroll. 1970) counts how many of 618 traits are present in a society. as well as in the archaeological record. One of these scales (Carneiro. Murdock and Provost. p. Marsh. we do not have to consider matrilocal residence the cause and size of dwelling the effect. Cultural Evolution and Complexity Cross-cultural researchers have created at least eight different scales to summarize (and compare) societies at different levels of cultural cornplenty [Bowden. 1970). and his measure of population pressure accounts for an additional 3% of the variability. 1977.95). Levinson and Malone (1980. McNett. Inferring from Noncausal Associations We do not have to understand the causality of a relationship in order to use the measured value of one variable to infer the value of another. Freeman and Winch. to predict the presence of something in the ethnographic record. inferences based on cross-cultural comparisons may be useful. 1967). Carneiro and Tobias. 1956) or two (Marsh. 1988). low annual precipitation accounts for 9%. Using a sample of 94 hunter-gatherer groups. predicts matrilocal versus patrilocal residence quite well. assuming they are strong.78 to 0. 34) point out that the various scales are highly correlated with each other (the correlations range from 0. Hence archaeologists who want to infer the degree of complexity of . 1973. The important point is that size of dwelling. There are other kinds of predictive relationships based on cross-cultural research that may have import for archaeologists. Although the effect of latitude would have to be adjusted for climatic variability in earlier time periods. We can use such predictive relationships. whatever the reason. 1963 (also Carneiro.102 Ember a n d Ember Foragers' Dependence on Plant Foods Since the estimation of the plant component of prehistoric diets is barely developed (Keeley. if the average living floor area of dwellings is 200 m E. Some of the most important relate to cultural complexity. 1969. 1957. we can infer matrilocal as opposed to patrilocal residence (as discussed above).

Eleven items formed an almost perfect Guttman scale. 1953) discussion of the folk-urban continuum. For example. 1957). unambiguous written language. The various scales are relevant to archaeological inference for several reasons. If people say that they do not mind if their son (or daughter) marries a person of X group. areas. The starting point (for selecting items) was Redfield's (1947. presence of secondary tools.000 population. because the intercorrelations are strong. type of subsistence. depending on which variable can be measured from archaeological information. A Guttman scale is very efficient because it does not require information on all items to locate a case on the scale. In order of most to least complex. one could infer one aspect or dimension of complexity from another. one could infer number of types of craft specialist from community size (Clark and Parry. the scales can help us evaluate which attributes are not particularly useful for comparative purposes. we might expect that such an ordering reflects an evolutionary sequence of acquisition or development. presence of a state of at least 10. or goes to their children's school. Third. presence . Such a sequence could be checked against the data from stratigraphically known sites. presence of a standard medium of exchange with a value fixed at some worth other than its commodity value. the items and variables used in these scales (assuming they could be assessed on the basis of archaeological information) would allow archaeologists to make systematic or quantitative comparisons of the cultural complexity of different sites. In the latter context. 1980. For example. certain scales suggest evolutionary sequences that can be checked against the archaeological record.Worldwide Cross-Cultural Studies 103 sites or areas could use the scale for which they can find the most archaeological indicators. If a Guttman scale can be found with items that measure cultural complexity. The purpose of a Guttman scale (if one can be found in the data) is to order traits hierarchically. the findings from one time period might suggest what one would find in subsequent or earlier time periods. First. In addition. The classic example of a Guttman scale is one that measures prejudice. 1990). Freeman and Winch (1957) developed a Guttman scale with crosscultural data. we think one of the the most useful scales is a Guttman-type scale that involves a hierarchical and presumably evolutionary ordering of traits (see Freeman and Winch. they almost certainly would not mind if a person of X group lives on their street. the items or traits were the following: presence of a complex. such that if a case has a particular scale score it almost always has all the traits lower on the scale. used by itself. 33). is not a good predictor of complexity (Levinson and Malone. or vice versa. p. and time periods. If confirmed. presence of full-tirfie craft specialists. Second. etc. presence of towns exceeding 1000 in population.

Winkelman. if a society has a written language. In addition. 1971). If it has towns of 1000 people. Guttman scales can now be fairly easily constructed with the help of computer programs. cross-cultural studies of art. According to this scale. 1970a).] Although there are relatively few worldwide. White and Burton. 1970. Perhaps also of interest to archaeologists are the findings in regard to religion and art. 1975). Swanson. McNett. In the following list. 1988. presence of an economy based on agriculture or pastoralism. 1970a). bilateral kinship (Murdock and Provost. 1973. Nimkoff and Middleton. calendrical rites (Davis. using Barry's (1957) coding of art styles. 1973). Fischer (1961). McNett. priests (Davis. However. certain features of art style are strongly linked to cultural complexity. 1960. 1965). lack of belief in animism (Davis. presence of social stratification or slavery. 1960. 1984). 1980). it almost always will have all the other traits. 1988). the ordering of the items by frequency may be attributable to chance and therefore the scale may be untrustworthy (Ember et aL. number of types of religious practitioner (Winkelman. 1990). religious hierarchy (Davis. 1991). frequent group ceremonies (McNett. including the following (this is not an exhaustive list): belief in a high god (Davis. 1971). 1987. 1981. Winkelman.104 Ember and Ember of full-time religious or magical specialists. 1972. 1986b). we know that various measures of cultural complexity predict variation in many cultural realms that are not obviously related to cultural complexity. 1971). 1971. 1986a. possessio~ trances (Bourguignon. 1969). 1971. Ishii-Kuntz and Lee. and presence of trade with other societies. Osmond. The importance of active ancestral spirits and belief in the immanence of the soul are curvilinearly related to complexity--with the highest incidence in nonintensive agricultural societies (Davis. We have already mentioned house shape. found that egalitarian 'as opposed to stratified societies were significantly more . Bourguignon and Evascu. A large number of aspects of religious belief and practice seem to be related to a high degree of cultural complexity. male initiation ceremonies (Precourt. 1971. Schlegel and Barry. polygyny (White. 1970a. and more elaborate funerals (McNett. Lee. there are aspects of culture that relate to complexity curvilinearly. b. but it will almost always have all the other traits below it. if there are only a few items. and positive treatment of the aged (Balkwell and Balswick. they should be tested for statistical significance. 1977. 1973. for example. oaths and ordeals (Roberts. 1970a). it may not have a written language. the first attribute we mention is most likely to be found in the middle of the range of cultural complexity: extended families (Blumberg and Winch. unitineal vs. Cross-culturally. 1975. Underhill. McNett. 1990). presence of full-time governmental specialists. 1986a. [See Ember and Levinson (1991) for other religious correlates of complexity. Lenski.

While this strategy is far better than generalizing from a few cases chosen opportunistically.Worldwide Cross-Cultural Studies 105 likely to have simple repetitive elements. Stronger forms of inference use results of cross-cultural (comparative ethnographic) tests of relational hypotheses.' the inference to archaeology will be stronger than an . we may be able to predict even more.] Even when it comes to art styles. If we have strong predictors (causes or correlates) of some aspect of ethnographic variation and there is some way of inferring (from archaeology) at least one of the variables in the relationship. 100). In support of Fischer's theory. it is still a weak form of inference because it presumes that recent cases are like past cases. and few enclosed figures. even though many societies when first described had already been subject to the effects of culture contact. Some of these types of inference are weaker than others. and more enclosed when Athens became more socially stratified. there are remarkable parallels in the findings across these different areas of expressive culture. as if by chance. a lot of empty space. Art styles are not the only kinds of expressive culture that relate to complexity. It may be assumed for this reason that art styles are more likely than other aspects of culture to diffuse. Still.g. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS We have suggested a number of ways that worldwide cross-cultural research may be useful for archaeological inference. But the fact that we can now predict some aspects of stylistic variation suggests that in the future. these effects can be measured and controlled statistically. largely relating to variation in cultural complexity. Dressier and Robbins (1975) found that Athenian vase painting became more complex. p. symmetry.. Some may assume that art is more free to vary than other aspects of culture because it is seemingly unrelated to matters of life and death. And so we encourage archaeologists to join in this quest by starting to think and design their research with cross-cultural issues and knowledge in mind. there may be connections to other aspects of culture. even those described shortly after first contact with the West. then. The weakest is generalizing about societal types (e. unconnected to survival or adaptation. in their graphic art. were completely unaffected by that contact. There is no a priori way to estimate how our quest for predictability may be limited in any area of culture. more crowded. [For a review of these findings see Ember and Levinson (199t. hunter-gatherers) from a representative sample of ethnographic cases. as research continues. But few if any societies described in the ethnographic record. While variation in music and dance may not be as interesting as art to archaeologists.

For example. To be sure. If the theory is correct. past and present. but even if a causal theory survives such tests it still needs to be tested diachronically. the more confidence we can have in the inferences. We conduct synchronic tests of causal theories because they are economical in time and money. particularly comparative archaeology. may also be the study of culture change.] If we had archaeological indicators of the cultural (and other) variables of interest. as long as there is one strong predictor that can be measured archaeologically.106 Ember and Ember inference derived just from the prevalence of a trait in some set of cases in the ethnographic record. And the stronger the relevant statistical associations.] . We presume more such will be found in the future. In this paper. if we look for them. what is culture change if not cultural variation viewed over time? The variations we see cross-culturally are the products of change processes.D. the causes and effects should be highly correlated synchronically. Cross-cultural researchers who study cultural variation are also often studying culture change (if they test causal theories). that could provide diachronic data to help us evaluate many causal theories. we can use a strong cross-cultural association to infer the archaeological likelihood of correlated traits. Inferences using cross-cultural associations and archaeological indicators do not depend on the frequency of a trait in the ethnographic record. After all. These can be used now for archaeological inference. [Ethnohistory can also provide such data. they usually do so synchronically. 1992a) have presented cross-cultural evidence consistent with a theory that fear of resource scarcity (suggested by a history of unpredictable disasters that destroy food supplies) is the major cause of war. For it is archaeology. we could test the temporal orderings suggested by our causal theories against the data from archaeological sequences. The temporal priority presumed in our theory could be tested in a sample of archaeological sequences. past and present. 1973). Cross-culturalists who test causal theories about why cultures vary have much to gain from archaeologists. [Haas and Creamer (1993. when cross-culturalists test causal theories of culture change. This is an important interface between cross-cultural research and archaeology. Hence the study of cultural variation. we have described some material indicators of cultural traits that have emerged from cross-cultural tests of relational hypotheses. using Peregrine's (1993) indicator of warfare and some still-to-be discovered indicator of aperiodic resource scarcity. but they assume that if the theory is true. we (Ember and Ember. more war should occur after the appearance of signs of aperiodic resource scarcity. 133) have suggested a similar explanation of warfare among the Kayenta Anasazi of the 13th century A. but archaeology can or could provide much more (Ember. p.

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