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Archaeology/Anthropology

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On Memory and Forgetting in Ancient Athens

Athens, 403 B.C.E. The bloody oligarchic dictatorship of the Thirty is over, and the democrats have returned to the city victorious. Renouncing vengeance, in an act of willful amnesia, citizens call for—if not invent—amnesty. They agree to forget the unforgettable, the "past misfortunes," of civil strife or stasis. More precisely, what they agree to deny is that stasis—simultaneously partisanship, faction, and sedition—is at the heart of their politics.

What biological and cognitive forces have shaped humankind's musical behavior and the rich global repertoire of musical structures? What is music for, and why does every human culture have it? What are the universal features of music and musical behavior across cultures? In this groundbreaking book, musicologists, biologists, anthropologists, archaeologists, psychologists, neuroscientists, ethologists, and linguists come together for the first time to examine these and related issues.

Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion

In this controversial book, Randy Thornhill and Craig Palmer use evolutionary biology to explain the causes of rape and to recommend new approaches to its prevention. According to Thornhill and Palmer, evolved adaptation of some sort gives rise to rape; the main evolutionary question is whether rape is an adaptation itself or a by-product of other adaptations. Thornhill and Palmer address, and claim to demolish scientifically, many myths about rape bred by social science theory over the past 25 years.

The Na of China

The Na of China, farmers in the Himalayan region, live without the institution of marriage. Na brothers and sisters live together their entire lives, sharing household responsibilities and raising the women's children. Because the Na, like all cultures, prohibit incest, they practice a system of sometimes furtive, sometimes conspicuous nighttime encounters at the woman's home. The woman's partners—she frequently has more than one—bear no economic responsibility for her or her children, and "fathers," unless they resemble their children, remain unidentifiable.

Selected Essays

Culture in Practice collects the academic and political writings from the 1960s through the 1990s of anthropologist Marshall Sahlins. More than a compilation, Culture in Practice unfolds as an intellectual autobiography. The book opens with Sahlins's early general studies of culture, economy, and human nature. It then moves to his reportage and reflections on the war in Vietnam and the antiwar movement, the event that most strongly affected his thinking about cultural specificity.

When animals, including humans, communicate, they convey information and express their perceptions of the world. Because different organisms are able to produce and perceive different signals, the animal world contains a diversity of communication systems. Based on the approach laid out in the 1950s by Nobel laureate Nikolaas Tinbergen, this book looks at animal communication from the four perspectives of mechanisms, ontogeny, function, and phylogeny.

The Anthropology of Incest

The sharing of a sexual partner between relatives has always been taboo. In this stunning work, anthropologist Françoise Héritier charts the incest prohibition throughout history, from the strict decrees of Leviticus to modern civil codes, and finds a secondary type of incest, which she calls the incest of two sisters. The term refers not to incest between two sisters, or between two sisters and their mother, but to a love triangle of sorts in which the transfer of bodily fluids among sexual partners, two of whom are related to each other, creates undeniable bonds.


The term "folkbiology" refers to people's everyday understanding of the biological world—how they perceive, categorize, and reason about living kinds. The study of folkbiology not only sheds light on human nature, it may ultimately help us make the transition to a global economy without irreparably damaging the environment or destroying local cultures.

"I was determined not to let the slightest detail escape me."
Pierre Clastres

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