from Emmanuel Anati, Editor of EXPRESSION
ON THE DIFFUSION OF CULTURE
An invitation to share your experience and knowledge in a forthcoming
issue of EXPRESSION quarterly journal.
Dear friends and colleagues,
How are human abilities, concepts, and traditions born, and how do
they travel and have their course? This question arises in almost
every study or research in anthropology and archaeology. It may arise
in every event, conversation, thought or daily habit. It may arise
even when you think about your meal: how was this dish invented, where
is it from? After fire was mastered, grilled meat became the most
widespread dish, and did not need a plate. Food today, apart from fire
or heat, requires a plate and a cooking pot. How, why and where did
such habits become part of culture?
The first homeland of humankind is believed to be a corner of Africa.
Other primates grew there as well and they are still there. Over 2
million years ago the ancestors of man produced the first tools to
enhance the abilities of their hands, and expanded their territory,
reaching Asia and Europe. How? Why? But we could also ask how and why
did Magellan, Cook, Vasco da Gama, Bougainville and others want to
discover new unknown lands. More recently explorations of Antarctica
were followed by the explorations of the moon which may soon be
followed by explorations of the planet Mars. Human colonies are not
yet present there, but plans for colonization may come and culture may
expand beyond any previously conceived limits.
Human colonization never stopped. High mountain ranges, regions of
thick forest and faraway islands were reached and settled much before
the invention of wheeled vehicles and motor boats. Islands, like
Crete, have traces of human presence already over 100,000 years ago.
By then seafaring had developed enough to allow the landing of entire
clans on islands where they settled down for generations.
From what we know, Australia was first populated some 60,000 years
ago. Some 40,000 years ago humans had crossed Beringia and were
present already in five continents. How and why did this diffusion
take place? In the course of a few millennia, hundreds of islands were
populated in the Pacific and seafaring people introduced and developed
different habits and patterns of culture. Major islands, like
Greenland or Madagascar, became populated by different waves of
migrants. The history of man is made of many stories, many events,
many adventures, many acts of daring and courage that reveal the
marvelous human adventure of curiosity and inquisitiveness. They
reveal your heritage, whoever you are, the identity of your ancestors:
explorers, discoverers, conquerors pushed by the biggest fault and the
biggest gift of our species: curiosity.
The diffusion of cultures never stopped. Clamorous events like the
diffusion of European culture in Australia totally changed its ethnic
identity; the diffusion of Christianity in Latin America or of Islam
in Asia and Africa introduced new values and changed beliefs, cult
practices, behavior, concepts, and social traditions. Society and
human relations were no longer the same. The diffusion of culture
imposes new patterns and eliminates previous ones.
The diffusion of cultures, the colonization of new living spaces, in
deserts, isolated islands, in almost inaccessible mountain ranges, the
expansion of cultural patterns, the elimination of other cultural
patterns, and the meeting and mingling of cultures and traditions
resulted in modern humanity. This reality is made up of an infinity of
adventures. Some may find space in a forthcoming issue of EXPRESSION.
Small details may inspire big thoughts.
Culture marks the destiny of humankind. Near Eastern Neolithic
peasants penetrated into Europe, it was an “illegal invasion of
extra-communitarians” that changed the ethnic identity of Europe and
created a new European identity and civilization which, in the course
of time, conquered the rest of the world. The spread and conquests of
the Chan agricultural people submitted pastoralists and hunters and
created the Chinese identity and civilization and the biggest nation
on earth. The Roman empire submitted “Barbarians”, conquered people
from Iberia, Gallia, North Africa and the Near East, and created a new
cultural and social pattern: it was the bases of a conceptual
background that favored the birth and growth of Christianity. Many
other events defined the diffusion of culture. Every story, every
tradition, every archeological testimonial find is relevant. Even
small events of tribal migrations, of cultural influence, are part of
Queries like the roots of Aboriginal arrival in Australia, the
diffusion of colonization of Polynesia, the colonization and
subsequent abandon of early cultural adventures in the Tassili and
other areas of the Sahara Desert, the early penetration of peoples in
the tropical forest of Amazonia or in that of the Congo, the process
of colonizing some tough regions like the Tibet high range or the
Kalahari, the Rub el-Khali or the Gobi deserts, are significant events
revealing the spirit of man. Every story, every myth, like every
archeological find, tells us a chapter of the diffusion of culture.
Sometimes, a piece of pottery, a rock painting, the introduction of a
domestic animal or plant, or other relics of human action, may reveal
a story of migration or of influence, or of cultural diffusion.
Colleagues and friends having stories, ideas, documents to share are
cordially invited to join and propose their papers.
Please consider that EXPRESSION is not a periodical specialized in a
specific sector or area of archeology, it is a journal on conceptual
anthropology, addressed to institutions and individual readers in 80
countries around the world. Make your text appealing to this kind of
audience. Avoid dry technical report. Tell your story to a world of
This forthcoming issue on “Cultural Diffusion” is planned for 2020.
Deadline for submission of final texts is December 10, 2019. Early
proposals or drafts of texts are welcome. Do not leave it to the last
minute. Details on how to present your paper are specified in the last
issue of EXPRESSION which may be requested for free to
Cordial regards and best wishes,
(General editor of EXPRESSION)