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PUBLISHED BY THE
FLORIDA ANTHROPOLOGICAL SOCIETY, INC.
NUMBER 2 PART I
THE FLORIDA ANTHROPOLOGIST is published quarterly in March,
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VOLUME 31, NUMBER 2
Editor's Page ....................................... 35
Archeological Evidence of Snake Consumption
among the Aborigines of Florida,
by Arlene Fradkin ............................. 36
Hurricanes and Anthropologists in Florida,
by J. Anthony Paredes ......................... 44
by Charles Hudson ............................. 52
The Use of Soil Science at a South Carolina
Thom's Creek Culture Shell Ring,
by Michael Trinkley and H. Trawick Ward ....... 64
The first volume in the Florida State Museum's Ripley P.
Bullen Monographs in Anthropology and History series can now
be ordered from the University Presses of Florida, 15 N.W. 15th
Street, Gainesville, FL, 32601. Tacachale--Essays on the
Indians of Florida and Southeast Georgia during the Historic
Period contains articles by Charles Fairbanks, Ripley Bullen,
Kathleen Deagan, Lewis Larson, William Sturtevant and others,
and is edited by J.T. Milanich and Samuel Proctor. The series
was originated to honor Ripley Bullen and his many contributions
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Judge Harold R. Clark of 1213 Mapleton Road, Jacksonville,
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letter or telephone (904-392-1721).
Dr. Elizabeth S. Wing has notified the editor that the
acknowledgements to accompany her paper on McLarty Site
subsistence which appeared in volume 31, number 1 of The Florida
Anthropologist were inadvertently left off. They should read:
The author is grateful for the opportunity to study the faunal
remains excavated from the McLarty site by Carl J. Clausen.
The journal El Escribano published by the St. Augustine
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ARCHEOLOGICAL EVIDENCE OF SNAKE CONSUMPTION
AMONG THE ABORIGINES OF FLORIDA
Research regarding the nature of the subsistence and dietary
patterns of the prehistoric inhabitants of Florida has only
recently been initiated. Although such studies have concentrated
upon the use of mammalian and fish resources due to their signifi-
cant protein content in terms of numbers and the amount of meat
they could have provided, little work has been conducted on the
consumption of the smaller dietary contributors, such as snakes.
The lack of interest in such faunal remains may be a function
of the difficulty they pose for identification or of the food
preferences and cultural taboos of the archeologists, since such
foods are excluded from the typical American diet. Indeed, some
archeologists have disregarded certain faunal remains recovered
in midden deposits, labelling such finds as incidental or ir-
relevant. However, the recovery of large quantities of snakes
in archeological middens, in terms of both number of fragments
as well as individuals, necessitates a more serious consideration
of the nature of their presence.
The purpose of this paper is to investigate the use of
snakes as an edible resource in Florida. The location of
archeological sites displaying significantly large amounts of
snake remains as well as the variety of species exploited are
examined. The percentages of sites within each Florida geographical
area that contain snake remains are compared and critically dis-
cussed. Finally, several ethnohistorical sources documenting
the consumption of snakes among Florida aborigines are cited.
At present, the faunal materials of 67 prehistoric
Floridian aboriginal sites have been identified and catalogued
in the Florida State Museum's zooarcheology collection. These
constitute the sample on which this study is based. The sites
are primarily of the post-preceramic Archaic period, from 2000
B.C. into the historic period, and they are located in a variety
of habitats both inland and coastal. Their faunal samples range
in size from approximately 130 fragments to over 100,000 frag-
It should be emphasized that taxonomic classification of
the species represented by snake bones indeed is very difficult.
Vertebrae, which are the predominant find, may differ only very
slightly among different kinds of snakes; the vertebrae of the
middle precaudal series (thoracic region) are the most constant
The Florida Anthropologist, vol. 31, no. 2, pt. 1, June 1978
in structure and therefore most reliable for purposes of
identification (Auffenberg 1963). Hence, while certain skeletal
remains may be identified to the lowest taxon, the species,
e.g., Agkistrodon piscivorus, other osteological fragments could
be determined only to the generic, e.g., Natrix, or family,
e.g., Crotalidae, level. This analysis is based on identifica-
tions to the generic level; for example, all the species of
the genus Natrix were combined as Natrix.
For the purpose of this study, the standard division of the
State of Florida into five geographical units, as used by the
Florida State Museum was employed (Fig. 1):
Area 1 covers the panhandle from Escambia County to the
eastern border of Jefferson County.
Area 2 extends eastward to Baker, Bradford, and Alachua
Counties, and south to Levy and Marion Counties.
Area 3 continues from Citrus and Sumter southward along
the west coast to include Sarasota and DeSoto Counties; its
eastern border covers Polk and Hardee Counties.
Area 4, which is east of Areas 2 and 3, begins at Nassau
County south to Osceola and Indian River Counties.
Area 5 includes all of southern Florida.
A list of all the sample sites for each area was prepared.
The lists of species identified in each site were examined in
order to determine the presence or absence of snake remains and
a percentage of the total number of sites within each area with
snakes was then computed (Table 1).
% OF SITES # OF SITES
AREA WITH SNAKE WITH SNAKE
1 25 2 sites out of 8
2 100 4 sites out of 4
3 29 2 sites out of 7
4 41 7 sites out of 17
5 71 22 sites out of 31
37 sites out of 67
38 SNAKE CONSUMPTION
Fig. 1. Archeological divisions of Florida.
It should be noted that the sample size of Area 2, i.e., 4
sites, is indeed quite small. The resulting high percentage
may represent one of two alternative hypotheses: either 100%
is an accurate reflection of snake use; or the high percentage
is misleading because of small sample size. The analysis of
that area is put aside until more data are available.
Based on Table 1, it appears, with.the possible exception
of Area 2, that there exists a marked difference between northern
and southern Florida. Areas 1, 3, and 4 are characteristically
poor in sites with snakes, exhibiting few or no remains, while
the number of sites with substantial quantities of such bones
seems to be quite numerous in Area 5.
The discrepancy between Areas 1, 3, and 4 vs. Area 5 must
be explained. Why were sites with huge quantities of snakes
abundant in southern Florida while sites in northern Florida
contain very few snake remains? In order to answer this question,
two possibilities must be investigated: availability (i.e.,
habitats and seasonality), and preference.
The distributional results indeed may be a reflection of
the differences in the kinds of habitats commonly found in
northern vs. southern Florida. Area 1 contains a predominance
of forests of long-leaf pine, mixed hardwoods, and pines, and
a scattering of swamp forests with few prairies, while Areas 3
and 4 consist primarily of pine flatwoods with pockets of swamp
forests and few prairies. Area 5, on the other hand, contains
an abundance of wet-to-dry prairie, marshes, sloughs, and grass-
lands. These environmental contrasts, in turn, effect the kinds
and quantity of snakes available since the latter are found in
To further investigate geographical distribution, a list
was compiled of the particular kinds of snakes present in each
area. A total of 11 genera of snakes were identified. Table 2
presents a checklist of the areas in which these remains were
recovered. Natural habitats of the fauna and the location of
such environments within Florida should be noted, since certain
snakes, i.e., Elaphe (rat snake), Coluber (racer), and Thamnophis
(garter snake), may inhabit any environment and may be found
throughout the state, while other snakes are more restricted in
Farancia, the mud snake, and Natrix, water snake, are
aquatic and are found throughout the marshes and swamps of
southern Florida while they are limited in northern Florida to
the scattered streams, prairies, and marshes. Agkistrodon, the
cottonmouth moccasin, also is common in the river swamps of the
south and restricted to wet pine flatwoods in the north. Remains
of these three genera were not found in the faunal samples of
sites located in Area 1. On the other hand, Pituophis (pine
GENERA AND NAME
Snakes by area.
1 2 3
X X X X
x x x x
X X X X
X X X
x x x x
x x x x
X X X X
X X X X
snake), Crotalus (eastern diamondback rattlesnake), and
Masticophis (eastern coachwhip), are found in high pine-turkey-
oak and high pine flatwoods, habitats much more common in northern
Florida (Carr and Goin 1955). This was reflected in their greater
number in Area 1 sites as opposed to the relatively few fragments
uncovered in archeological sites in Area 5.
The remaining snakes listed inhabitat all the areas though
in different habitats. Drymarchon (indigo snake) is found in
high pine land in northern and central Florida and in the Everglades
in the south, while Lampropeltis (king snake) inhabits pine flat-
woods in northern Florida, prairies in the central portion, and
the Everglades in.southern Florida (Carr and Goin 1955).
Drymarchon was recovered in archaeological sites of Areas 3 and 4
but not in the Everglades sites; Lampropeltis occurred only in
faunal samples in Area 5.
Although the various species of snake do vary in relative
quantity within the two regions (northern vs. southern Florida)
due to contrasting habitats, it appears that such variation is
complementary; that is, while certain kinds may be easily
accessible in northern Florida, others occur more frequently in
the southern portion of the state. Thus snakes are, in essence,
abundant throughout Florida; the natural variability is not in
the quantity, but rather in the kinds of snakes available for
exploitation. The latter fact explains the differences in
species recovered in northern vs. southern Florida archeological
Availability, however, does not only refer to habitat
location. Another aspect that must be considered is seasonality.
In southern Florida, the relative lack of extreme temperature
fluctuations during the annual cycle allows for the possible
exploitation of snakes year-round. In northern Florida, however,
snakes are not as accessible from October 1st to April 1st.
During the cooler months, some snakes disappear or hibernate
either in gopher tortoise burrows, or in such places as ground
holes remaining from rotting pines. Nevertheless, this is not
characteristic of all snakes and therefore cannot account for
the total absence of such remains in so many northern sites.
Another major factor therefore must be examined--preference
by the aborigines. The relative abundance of southern Florida
sites exhibiting large numbers of snakes indicate that the
aborigines of that region intentionally exploited this resource
presumably for food. For example, at the Tamiami Trail site in
Dade County, snake remains constituted 53.4% of the total fauna--
in terms of total number of fragments--and 18% of the total
MNI (Minimum-Number-of-Individuals method) count. The in-
habitants of northern Florida, on the other hand, did not consume
such food and simply did not exploit snakes, though they were
readily available. The recovery of merely a few snake vertebrae
can be considered as incidental to the site.
Ethnographic data on Southeast Indians reveal the various
uses of snakes, particularly in ritual, ceremonial, and
shamanistic activities. Among certain Indian groups, snakes
were associated with the Under World, and had influence over
other plants and animals. The Cherokees, for example, had a
great fear of snakes and killed such creatures only on rare
occasions, employing elaborate ritual precautions. The rattle-
snake was the most important and the Southeast Indians used its
parts in various ways: teeth-to cure diseases; flesh-to protect
oneself against disease; and, oil-for rheumatism (Hudson 1976:
166). Fangs were used by doctors for scarification (Lawson
1860, in Swanton 1946:252).
Nevertheless, snakes must have been part of the aboriginal
subsistence pattern. Such an assumption is based on the
contextual nature of the snake remains: the latter were found
in association with other faunal materials within midden deposits
and were present in significant quantity. At the Tamiami Trail
site, for instance, the large number of snake remains were
recovered with deer, raccoon, gar, catfish, mud turtle, snapping
turtle, and sharks, all animals primarily exploited for purposes
of consumption. Furthermore, those snake vertebrae recovered
were not of one individual; the elements represented a number of
individuals as well as a variety of species. Another factor is
that snake meat does contain certain essential nutrients, such as
protein. Such food probably served as a supplement rather than
as a major contributor to the diet. Mammals and fish remained of
Additional evidence supporting the use of snakes by the
aboriginal inhabitants as a source of food include several
ethnohistorical documents for both northern and southern Florida.
Unfortunately, very few European accounts mention the consumption
of snake meat. Le Challeux, a French Huguenot colonist, stated
that snakes were consumed by Indians in northern Florida. This
is also indicated by one of the De Bry engravings of Le Moyne's
drawings which shows snakes being dried over a fire (Gaffarel
1875:462; Le Moyne 1875:9-10).
References also have been made to South Florida, particularly
those Indians living around Lake Okeechobee. Fontaneda, a
Spaniard shipwrecked in South Florida in the mid-16th century,
stated that "The natives eat lizards, snakes, and rats which
infest the lakes ." (Fontaneda in Swanton 1946:282). The
latter source supports the archeological evidence since the major
site of the Lake Okeechobee area, Fort Center, which exhibits a
long period of occupation from 500 B.C. to historic times (Sears
1974), had a great variety and abundance of snake remains.
There is ample evidence to conclude that snakes were consumed
and formed a supplemental part of the aboriginal diet in Florida.
The problem remains as to why a discrepancy exists between the
relative number of sites containing such fauna in northern and
southern Florida. A greater preference and, hence, a deliberate
exploitation of snake meat in South Florida is suggested. Whether
or not such a preference was economically motivated, e.g., the
use of a greater range of protein sources in South Florida, needs
to be ascertained. Collections of faunal remains from more sites
need to be recovered and the presence or absence of snakes
determined. An in-depth quantitative analysis of the relative
amount of snakes will allow a more conclusive statement regarding
differential use of snakes as a food source.
Special thanks to Dr. Elizabeth Wing for making the
Florida State Museum Zooarchaeological collection available for
this study. This paper was presented in revised form at the
Southeastern Archaeological Conference, November 1976, in
Tuscaloosa,Alabama. Identification of the animal assemblages
recovered from each of these sites was undertaken by a number
of individuals during the past decade with the financial support
of the National Science Foundation and Lykes Brothers.
1963 The Fossil Snakes of Florida. Tulane Studies in
Carr, Archie, and Coleman J. Goin
1955 Guide to the Reptiles, Amphibians and Fresh-water
Fishes of Florida. Gainesville: University of
1875 Histoire de la Floride Frangaise. Paris: Librairie
de Firmin-Didot et Cie.
1976 The Southeastern Indians. Knoxville, Tennessee:
University of Tennessee Press.
Le Moyne, Jacques
1875 Narrative of Le Moyne, an artist who accompanied
the French expedition to Florida under Laudonniere,
1564. Translated from the Latin of De Bry.
Sears, William H.
1974 Archeological Perspectives on Prehistoric Environ-
ment in the Okeechobee Basin Savannah. In
Environments of South Florida: Present and Past,
by Patrick J. Gleason, pp. 347-351. Miami Geological
Society, Memoir 2.
Swanton, John R.
1946 The Indians of the Southeastern United States.
Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology,
Bulletin 137, Washington, D.C.
HURRICANES AND ANTHROPOLOGISTS IN FLORIDA
J. Anthony Paredes
Despite the exotic popular image of anthropology, the
discipline has a distinct contribution to make to the solution
of practical problems in contemporary American society. The
concepts and techniques of cultural anthropology were developed
in the natural laboratory of non-Western societies. Yet, with
its emphasis on the description of "whole cultures" anthropology
has great potential for contributing to understanding our own
society as a complex cultural system. In addition, anthropology--
more specifically, ethnography, can bring a new dimension to under-
standing specific, societal problems.
Oftentimes the value of anthropology in the solution of
"practical" problems derives not so much from any powerful
theoretical framework, but rather from the methodological stance of
cultural anthropology. That stance includes: (1) a predilection
not to take anything for granted, no matter how trivial seeming;
(2) an abiding concern for the native point of view--"letting
the people speak for themselves," as it were; (3) a commitment
to explaining the particulars of everyday behaviors in historical
and ecological context; and, (4) perhaps most importantly of
all, a drive toward achieving an integrated understanding of the
general interrelationships among the parts of any cultural system
as a whole before framing narrowly directed hypotheses for testing.
The natural tendency of most anthropologists, then, is to get out
among the people, regardless of whether the people be the Bushmen
of the Kalahari (e.g., Lee 1969) or the Hippies of University
City (Partridge 1973).
The peculiar characteristics of anthropology may be as use-
ful for the study of temporary crisis situations in our society
as for the study of chronic problems such as poverty or alcoholism.
This paper presents a brief accounting of the role of anthropologists
in the study of a crisis situation, namely, the social impact
of Hurricane Eloise on Panama City, Florida.
During the evening of September 22, 1975, Hurricane Eloise
veered from its projected course toward Pensacola and headed toward
the Ft. Walton-Panama City area. In the early morning hours of
September 23, 1975, thousands of Panama City residents hastily
fled from the now threatening hurricane. At 6:00 a.m., September
23rd, Hurricane Eloise landed midway between Ft. Walton Beach
and Panama City Beach with a storm surge of eighteen feet and
The Florida Anthropologist, vol. 31, no. 2, pt. 1, June 1978
sustained wind speed of approximately 125 m.p.h. in the Panama
City area. Although the coastline was damaged extensively,
almost miraculously no deaths were directly attributed to the
hurricane. Had the storm landed a few weeks earlier during the
tourist season the story might have been much different. Even
so, the extensive property damage done by Eloise attracted broad
attention from news media and government agencies of the state
One of those agencies mobilized to deal with the aftermath
of the disaster was the State University System of Florida Sea
Grant College Program. As part of its response the Sea Grant
Program hoped to mount a study of the social and psychological
reactions of the people who had experienced the devastating hurricane.
Also, it was hoped that something might be learned from the Eloise
experience for developing evacuation plans for other Florida
cities with limited access routes. Since I was involved at the
time in an on-going research project supported by Sea Grant and
lived near the scene of the disaster, Sea Grant Program director
Hugh Popenoe contacted me in mid-October to request that I
develop a proposal for the study of the social impact of Hurricane
Developing the Research Plan
As an anthropologist my immediate reaction to Dr. Popenoe's
request was to wonder how local people would react to such a
study and what, if anything, they might deem worth study by
social scientists. Secondly, I wondered who would help me do
the work if such a research project were undertaken. At the
minimum I felt that I should talk with the Area Coordinator of
the Marine Advisory Program in Panama City to get a "reading" on
local opinions about social research on Hurricane Eloise. (The
Marine Advisory Program is a branch of Sea Grant modeled along
lines similar to those of the Agricultural Extension Service.)
In a telephone conversation, the coordinator, Mr. Jeffrey Fisher,
indicated that the community had been inundated with agency
personnel and researchers in the wake of the hurricane. At first
he felt that there might not be much to be gained by a research
project, then reconsidered and suggested that it might be
instructive to have the "man in the streets" evaluation of the
performance of news media and public agencies before, during, and
after the hurricane.
Retrospectively, I am now even more certain than I was then
that the next step should have been a brief visit to Panama City.
A few days spent casually interviewing all types of Panama
Citians--from public officials and ministers to motel owners and
barmaids--would have greatly enhanced the quality of the question-
naire survey we subsequently conducted. However, the press of
time and duties at the university made such a venture impossible.
Instead, I proceeded to assemble a research team consisting of
HURRICANES AND ANTHROPOLOGISTS
a psychologist, a sociologist, a geographer, and myself to
prepare a proposal letter to Sea Grant. Of those of us on the
team only the geographer, Jay Baker, was a specialist in disaster
research. In fact, within two weeks after the hurricane hit,
Dr. Baker had taken a group of students to interview property
owners along the affected coastline to elicit attitudes on set-
back legislation. During late October the four of us brain-
stormed a proposal with three principal objectives. The first
derived from the original suggestion from Sea Grant--an investiga-
tion of evacuation patterns. The second concerned beliefs, at-
titudes, and knowledge of hurricane forecasting and was grounded
in the literature of previous hurricane research. The final ob-
jective sought to learn more about local attitudes toward the
performance of news media and public agencies regarding the storm.
To some degree, at least, the "native" point of view was represented
in these objectives. Data were to be collected through a random
sample survey. Our proposal was approved on November 14, 1975.
In the meantime I had arranged for two University of Florida
anthropologists, Paul Doughty and Anthony Oliver-Smith, to serve
as consultants on the project: both these men had done research
on disasters in Latin America.
During November and December the four of us at F.S.U.
devoted ourselves to the tasks of developing the sampling
procedure we would use and to creating the interview instrument
for collecting the data. Both of these tasks were accomplished
in a series of free-wheeling meetings of the four principal
investigators. Having been more a participant than an observer,
it is now very difficult for me to sort out the different contri-
butions each of us made to the final product. One thing is clear,
though, what finally emerged was truly a blending of our various
interests and not the product of any particular disciplinary
leaning. We worked extremely well as a group, and in the con-
struction of the interview schedule each potential question to be
asked was negotiated amongst ourselves. It was a truly inter-
disciplinary undertaking. Nonetheless, Jay Baker brought to the
group his previous knowledge of hurricane research, thus insuring
comparability with other studies. Don Smith, the sociologist,
provided his expertise in the design of questionnaires and a
knowledge of the sociological variables bearing upon information
dissemination and crowd behavior; Smith had also lived in Panama
City some years before and could give us some first-hand know-
ledge of the community. The psychologist, Jack Brigham, played
a low-key but very important role as a constant monitor of
possible subtle biases in the phrasing of questions, as well as
suggesting novel dimensions of attitudes and behaviors to be
explored. As the anthropologist on the team, I was the source
of some merriment in my unrelenting penchant for "off the wall"
suggestions for potentially relevant variables to be explored.
More importantly, it was I who was perhaps most insistent on
the inclusion of numerous open-ended questions in the survey
instrument in order to tap the "native" view of Hurricane Eloise
in a manner which imposed as little a priori structure as possible.
Finally, sensitive to the profound influence that seemingly
minor differences in environment can have on human cultures, I
was probably the principal proponent for dividing the inter-
view sample into three sub-groups: those living along the beach,
those living near inland bays, and those living on higher ground
in the central portion of Panama City. According to Baker this
kind of sorting of the research population had not been done in
previous hurricane studies, but in our study this division
produced some extremely interesting differences in behavior and
In the end we agreed to the tripartite sampling using a block
and nth house form of selection of specific households for inter-
viewing. Our final interview schedule was nine pages in length,
consisting of sixty-nine tightly spaced items. The questions
covered a broad range of topics of individual behavior and
attitudes regarding Hurricane Eloise and a sprinkling of standard
demographic and socio-economic items. But, the interview
schedule was not aimed at testing any specific hypotheses, rather,
we were confident that the range of information gathered by
this instrument would permit us to examine many different kinds
of questions pertinent to the social impact of Hurricane Eloise.
Before committing ourselves to the instrument, however, Smith
and Baker consulted with Fisher and some of his associates in
Panama City and some minor revisions were made in the interview
schedule as a result.
Field Research and Analysis
During January 15 through 18, 1975, our research group
descended upon Panama City. All of the primary investigators
except Smith were in the field along with ten graduate student
interviewers who had been selected from the various disciplines
represented by the faculty researchers. Also accompanying us
in the field were the two University of Florida consultants.
Our arrival was announced in the local newspaper in a story written
by Paredes and released by Fisher. Area Agent Fisher also made
arrangements for the senior researchers to meet and interview
local officials--such as the Civil Defense Director, who had
played a role in evacuation and/or recovery from Hurricane Eloise.
While the students administered the survey interviews to
205 Panama Citians, with an assist from Brigham and myself, the
senior researchers conducted open-ended interviews with the
officials with whom Fisher had arranged appointments and with
others such as Salvation Army and police personnel. From these
interviews Doughty and Oliver-Smith were able to draw some
parallels with problems of information dissemination and
bureaucratic organization of disaster relief resources which they
had encountered in Peru, thus lending a touch of the cross-
cultural perspective characteristic of anthropology. As we talked
with these key individuals I was reminded again of how unfortunate
HURRICANES AND ANTHROPOLOGISTS
it was that we had not had adequate opportunity for extensive
participant observation and key informant interviewing in the
community before construction of the interview schedule. Had
we done so, certain questions concerning the operation of and
citizen response to various relief agencies could have been
more precisely directed to the historical particulars of that
hurricane, in that place, at that time. Nonetheless, these
interviews with key officials, as well as ordinary citizens we
met, did provide us with at least a "feel" for the flesh and
blood reality of community response to the disaster and a context
within which to place our survey results. Perhaps the most
memorable example of this was when several of us sipped a mid-day
beer at an open air, beachside tavern--"open air" thanks to
Eloise--and listened to the proprietor describe the throngs of
construction workers who frequented his place during the clean-up
and rebuilding following the storm; this casual interview provided
us with at least a clue as to why nearly 30% of our beach sector
respondents expressed the opinion that Hurricane Eloise actually
had beneficial effects on the local economy.
Once we were back on the campus the survey data were coded
and analyzed by computer and a report to Sea Grant (Baker et al.
1976) was prepared by the four principal investigators, each
assuming responsibility for a portion of the report. In addition,
at the suggestion of Doughty, I had a graduate student, Mr.
George P. Foster, conduct a detailed content analysis of the
Pensacola and Panama City newspapers for the period immediately
before and after the hurricane. This project, too, produced
valuable insights into public views of the disaster and provided
important contextual information within which to interpret our
survey results. As Baker remarked on seeing the completed news-
paper study, "it's too bad we didn't have this done before we
did our interviewing."
Some of the highlights of our survey results include:
--Even though more than 70% of the respondents were monitoring
weather reports at least every hour on the night before the
hurricane hit, less than half of them stayed up past midnight
on that evening;
--More residents of the beach area (30%) reported making no
preparations for the hurricane than did respondents in the
other two areas, but more of the beach people (62%) stayed
up past midnight;
--Even though most of the respondents relied upon mass media for
information about the oncoming hurricane, nearly a third
learned through interpersonal networks that the storm was
actually going to hit the area;
--Fifty-nine percent of the respondents evacuated their homes,
three fourths of these doing so between 2:00 a.m. and 4:30 a.m.
on September 23, 1975;
--Sixty-four percent of all evacuees left for out-of-town loca-
tions rather than using well-publicized public shelters in
the city, but among the inland residents alone the majority
who evacuated sought refuge within Panama City;
--Less than half our respondents thought that the hurricane would
have detrimental effects on the local economy; perceived ef-
fects of the storm on other aspects of community life were
negligible, but nearly a third of the bay area respondents
thought the hurricane had engendered greater religious feeling
within the citizenry;
--On the whole respondents reported that both news media and
public agencies had performed admirably during the disaster
and only a minority had criticisms of either.
In connection with this last point I have hypothesized that in
view of the nearly complete absence of human bodily injury
caused by the exceptionally powerful Hurricane Eloise, our
respondents manifested what might be called a "grateful relief
syndrome" when we interviewed them some months after the storm.
A Possible Role for Anthropology in Hurricane Preparedness
One of the things we had hoped to learn by our study was
how to distinguish between those who will evacuate in times of
disaster and those who will not. Although we found that those
who lived in the most hazardous areas, those who live in neighbor-
hoods where public officials had passed through suggesting that
residents leave, and persons aged 18-25 and those over 61 years
of age were most likely to evacuate, we were generally disappointed
with these results, particularly since in those areas where
public officials had gone through the streets urging evacuation
one third of the residents still did not leave their homes.
Earlier studies of hurricane response have also failed to dif-
ferentiate with any precision between "stayers" and leaverss"
(Baker et al. 1976:27-28, 58-64). Obviously the right questions
are not being asked to identify the variables bearing on this
critical piece of behavior in times of disaster. In this connec-
tion, it is important to emphasize that none of our very interesting
descriptive statistical results from the survey explain them-
selves. We do not know, for example, why inland residents chose
locations in Panama City rather than out-of-town destinations
when they evacuated, nor do we know what factors differentiate
those individuals who saw the hurricane as having deleterious
economic effects from those who held the opposite view, nor as
a final example, do we know why in the face of generally favorable
evaluation of media and agency performance there was nonetheless
HURRICANES AND ANTHROPOLOGISTS
a small minority of respondents who were critical. The task at
hand, then, is to identify the right explanatory variables.
It is the contention of this author that the search for
significant explanatory variables in social and behavioral
response to hurricanes and other disasters might best be conducted
using the time-honored methods of field ethnography conducted in
the framework of the holistic, structural-functional view of
socio-cultural systems. Entailed in such a search would be the
investigation of a host of standard ethnographic topics ranging
from house type preferences to belief in immanent justice and
the study of power relations in community social structure. With
a foundation of such information it would then be possible to
frame more precise hypotheses concerning disaster response and
develop penetrating survey instruments.
In this direction I offer two specific suggestions. First,
provisions should be made to establish a network of Florida
researchers skilled in the techniques of participant observation
and unobtrusive interviewing who can be mobilized to be on the
scene of a hurricane before it even makes its landfall. That is,
a kind of "anthropological strike force" which would work cheek
by jowl, as it were, with Civil Defense Agency and Red Cross
personnel and collect the kinds of qualitative data needed to
properly inform later quantitative follow-up studies. (The author
would welcome communications from persons interested in forming
such a "strike force.") Secondly, a sample of Florida's coastal
communities should be comprehensively studied using anthropological
methods--both qualitative and quantitative--to reveal the standing
structure of disaster mobilization readiness and the role of
natural disasters in the personal experiences and belief
systems of Florida's coastal citizens. Such studies should be
done at a leisurely pace during ordinary times. The time to
study hurricane preparedness is when balmy breezes drift in from
the sea, not when a howling gale is blowing the roof off the
house in the middle of the night.
An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 1977
Annual Meeting of the Florida Academy of Sciences. I would like
to thank Hugh Popenoe and the Sea Grant Program for their help
in making this research opportunity possible. The Florida Sea
Grant Program is supported by the Office of Sea Grant, National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of
Commerce. The Florida Program began in 1972 to support and
encourage marine research, education, and advisory services.
Baker, Earl J., John C. Brigham, J. Anthony Paredes, and Donald
1976 The Social Impact of Hurricane Eloise on Panama
City, Florida, Technical Paper of the State
University System of Florida Sea Grant College
Program. (Mimeographed.) Gainesville: University
of Florida. (Bound with A Longitudinal Study of
Public Attitudes Toward Hazard Zone Land Use
Controls by Earl J. Baker.)
Lee, Richard B.
1969 Eating Christmas in the Kalahari. Natural History
Magazine 78(10):14 ff.
Partridge, William L.
1973 The Hippie Ghetto: The Natural History of a
Subculture. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston,
Florida State University
Anthropologists and psychologists have collected considerable
evidence that people in primitive and folk cultures suffer from
a variety of disorders which we explain in terms of psychological
or psychosomatic causes. Some of these disorders are specific
to particular parts of the world, such as susto in Latin America,
in which a person suffers a trauma and subsequently believes
that his soul has forsaken his body, and he becomes restless,
depressed, and introverted; the windigo psychosis of the Algonkian-
speaking Indians of central and northern Canada, in which the
afflicted individual develops a repulsive, cannibalistic craving
for human flesh; and the latah syndrome of Southeast Asia, in
which a person becomes fearful, passive, self-effacing, automatically
obeying any command, however ridiculous or inappropriate. Other
illnesses are even more restricted, occurring only in specific
cultures, as pibloktoq among the Eskimos, in which a person becomes
agitated to the point of becoming oblivious to his surroundings,
talking and acting wildly and aggressively, and sometimes doing
injury to himself (Honigmann 1967:397-410). Still other illnesses
in primitive societies resemble psychological and psychosomatic
disorders common in our own society (Kiev 1972).
We also know that folk therapists are frequently able to
cure or alleviate these illnesses. There are, in fact, a few
documented instances where folk therapists have succeeded in
curing illnesses after our own medical doctors and psychiatrists
have failed (Madsen 1964; Lambo 1956). However, our attempts to
explain how it is that folk therapists achieve these successes
have never been very satisfactory. Perhaps the majority of
anthropologists and psychiatrists argue that folk therapy is
"fundamentally magical, that is, nonrational attempts to deal
with nonrational forces" (Kiev 1964). The assumptions behind
this argument are seldom explicitly stated, but they are as fol-
lows. (1) Our concepts of illness and our theories of what
causes illness are well founded and are therefore rational.
(2) Folk therapists operate with concepts of illness and notions
of what causes illness which are radically different from ours.
(3) Therefore, folk therapists cannot be said to be thinking
or acting rationally when they treat their patients. (4) From
this one could conclude that folk therapists are irrational or
stupid, but since this is an obviously ethnocentric judgement,
they are instead said to be "nonrational," "magical," or
A major objection to this line of argument arises when we
encounter cases of beliefs and practices in primitive and folk
societies which seem odd initially on the surface, but which
The Florida Anthropologist, vol. 31, no. 2, pt. 1, June 1978
are subsequently found to actually work or else to describe un-
suspected facts about the world that we can understand in our
own terms. If we were to assume a priori that these odd-seeming
beliefs and practices are "nonrational," then we would investigate
them no further, misunderstanding their true status in the
cultures in which they exist, and robbing ourselves of the pos-
sibility of adding this new knowledge to our own (Hudson et al.,
The problem of determining what is or is not rational in
folk and preliterate societies is a complicated and controversial
matter, far too much so to summarize in this brief space (Wilson
1971). But it can be said that some anthropologists and philo-
sophers are arguing that social anthropologists do make judgements
about the rationality of beliefs in other societies even when
they cloud them with wooly terms like "nonrational." If this is
in fact the case, then we ought to make these judgements explicit.
The fundamental difficulty in making judgements about the
rationality of beliefs and practices in other cultures is that
we can only do it when we can "translate" them into terms which
correspond to our own knowledge of what is real and efficacious.
Such judgements are easiest when made with reference to what
might be termed low-level or common sense knowledge in other
cultures. For example, if a folk therapist administers an herb
to his patient, and if the patient recovers, we can identify
the herb, collect a specimen, and determine whether it has known
pharmaceutical properties. Such determinations and judgements
are relatively easy because Western science has amassed a great
deal of information of this sort. Moreover, if it turns out
that we possess no knowledge about the pharmaceutical properties
of a particular herb, we can collect a specimen and do laboratory
research on it to find out whether it has such properties. The
caution here is that while our knowledge of the natural world
is great, it is nonetheless finite, and we should always allow
for the possibility that folk or preliterate people know some-
thing we do not know.
Judgements about the rationality of beliefs and practices
in other cultures are most difficult when they are made with
respect to what might be called high-level or "theoretical"
knowledge--knowledge entailing fundamental assumptions and
theories about the nature of man in society. The principal dif-
ficulty is that our own larger conceptions and theories about
the nature of man have been conditioned by our own historical
and social experience. We in the West stand at the end of a
centuries-long process of specialization of labor and individuali-
zation. Hence, we largely assume that all illnesses which do
not have biological causes must have psychological or psychosomatic
causes. We assume that the causes of mental illnesses are to be
found within the psyche of the afflicted individual, and the
best way to cure such illnesses is through the dyadic therapist-
patient relationship. Consequently, when we see the primitive
therapist in action, with his patient surrounded by kinsmen and
neighbors, exorcising spirits, placating angry gods, and
seeking to discover the identity of witches, and sorcerers, we
conclude that he is employing "nonrational," "magical," or
"religious" means. By and large we cannot see a rational connec-
tion between what the witchdoctor thinks and does and the allevia-
tion of his patient's illness.
But the fact remains, as previously stated, that primitive
and folk therapists sometimes succeed in curing their patients.
And for many cures there is no such easy explanation as the
administration of efficacious herbs. The most common way of
explaining these cures is to argue that the folk therapist suc-
ceeds because he uses folk psychology to induce psychological
effects in his patient similar to the effects induced by our own
clinical psychologists and psychiatrists. For example, it has
been argued that the folk therapist gains psychological leverage
by taking advantage of his patient's helpless dependence on
others and from the fact that his patient expects him to be
able to achieve a cure. Furthermore, the Rumpelstilskin effect
may be used--the therapist makes his patient feel better merely
by naming his disease or by identifying its cause (Torrey 1972).
Taking advantage of all this, the folk therapist then manipulates
his patient's psyche and is able to bring about marked attitude
changes or else affect his patient through suggestion (Kiev
1964). While it would not be prudent to deny that the folk
therapist uses these and similar techniques, the important thing
is to realize that we are able to see the sense of what he does
in these instances because we can translate them into our own
psychological idiom. We see the folk therapist and his patient
in the familiar dyadic relationship. One implication of this
interpretation is that while folk conceptions and "theories" of
illness are nonrational and ill-founded, the folk therapist
does achieve some cures in an accidental way--almost in spite of
At best this kind of interpretation is partial or mis-
leading; at worst it is crudely ethnocentric. Indeed, my main
argument in this paper shall be that not only are many cures in
primitive and folk therapy achieved by means of a rational
theory of illness, but it is moreover a kind of theory which
is poorly developed in our own medical and psychiatric community.
I shall argue that many primitive and folk theories of illness
are not psychological nor psychosomatic, but rather sociological
and--if I may be allowed a neologism--sociosomatic. A
sociological theory of illness is one that looks for causes not
in a person's psyche, but in his social relationships; and a
sociosomatic illness is an illness which has physical manifesta-
tions but whose causes lie in chronically disordered social
relationships. [After coining the term sociosomatic, I learned
from my colleague Leonard Linden that it was independently coined
by John M. Maclachlan (1958:96) who used it in much the same
sense as I. So far as I have been able to determine, the term
has not been used elsewhere.]
In answer to the objection that preliterate people do not
possess theories, I refer to the work of Robin Horton (1967)
who has examined in some detail both the similarities and dif-
ferences between African traditional thought and Western science.
Like Lucien Levy-Bruhl, Horton discerns several differences
between preliterate belief systems and the belief system of
Western science; but there are also some rather striking
similarities between the two. Both preliterate belief systems
and Western scientific theories search for "unity underlying
apparent diversity; for simplicity underlying apparent complexity;
for order underlying apparent anomaly." Both seek to discover
forces which lie outside of everyday life and common sense
knowledge, and these forces--whether they be atoms and molecules
or gods and spirits--explain puzzling occurrences in the real
world. In the second place, both scientific theories and
preliterate belief systems attempt to explain the unknown and
unfamiliar in terms of the known and familiar--that is, by analogy.
In our own society we think of machines and organisms as being
familiar and predictable, and particularly in the behavioral
sciences we therefore use mechanical or organic analogies in
our theories (e.g., functionalism, systems theory), whereas in
primitive and folk societies it is people who are familiar and
more or less predictable, and it is for this reason that their
theoretical entities--gods, spirits, ghosts, and so on--behave
like persons. This is the substance for saying that preliterate
people believe in personalized agencies or causes.
A third resemblance between preliterate belief systems
and Western scientific theories is that both of them place things
and events in a wider causal context than that produced by
common sense. Common sense does look for causes, but its vision
is narrow. Thus, in Western society when one experiences a mild
illness, one first searches for a common sense explanation:
it is a "virus," or it is "the bug," or "something is going
around." If this explanation accounts for the illness, then no
further explanation is sought. But if it fails, one then searches
for an explanation in terms of a more exotic microbe, or a
physiological disorder, and if the illness remains refractory
we go to medical or psychiatric specialists who give even more
rarefied diagnoses. The same sort of thing occurs in primitive
and folk societies. First common sense is appealed to, but if
this fails the patient will go to a diviner or to some other
kind of practitioner to discover the cause of his illness. And
because the theoretical idiom is personalized in primitive and
folk societies, the illness is commonly diagnosed as having
been caused by the anger or resentment of an ancestral spirit
or god who has been neglected or offended, or it may be found
to have been caused by witchcraft perpetrated by a relative or
neighbor. Anthropologists have frequently observed that when
these diagnoses are made, the diviner or folk therapist also
is careful to elicit information about his patient's social
relationships with relatives and neighbors, and particularly
whether there may be concealed hatreds, jealousies, or misdeeds
in his patient's social field. Thus, the folk therapist's
sociological theory of disease, with all its personalized causal
agencies, directs him to examine his patient's social field for
the cause of the illness.
These sociological theories of illness fit the facts of
life in small scale societies very well. We know that mental
stress can cause or contribute to many disorders, such as peptic
ulcers, migraine headaches, limb pains, certain kinds of
paralysis, blindness, deafness, diarrhea, impotence, hyper-
tension, angina pectoris, diabetes, and ulcerative colitis, to
name just a few (Groen 1964:6). And in small scale societies,
where all of one's life may be lived out among a small set of
people in a small village, there are considerable sources of
mental stress. Quoting Horton (1967):
(a) When tension arises between people engaged in a
particular activity, it tends to colour a large sector
of their total social life. For in societies of this
kind a person performs a whole series of activities
with the same set of patterns.
(b) Being caught up in hostilities or caught out
in a serious breach of social norms is particularly
crushing, since in societies of this kind it is often
extremely hard to move out of the field in which the
(c) There are a limited number of roles to be
filled, and little scope for personal choice in the
filling of them. Hence, there is always a relatively
large number of social misfits.
It is possible that the stresses and strains of modern urban
life are actually milder than the pressures in small-scale
societies. In our own society, only those people who have
lived a portion of their lives as participants in small, rural
communities have a feeling for those kinds of pressures. Once
we become aware that these pressures exist in primitive societies,
we see that their seemingly bizarre sociological, personalized
theories are grounded in social reality.
Not only do these preliterate theories of illness specify
sociological or sociosomatic causes, they provide the folk
therapist with a means of rearranging the fouled up social
relationships which lay behind his patient's troubles. To
demonstrate this point, I will briefly summarize Victor Turner's
richly detailed case study of curing practices among the Ndembu
of Northern Rhodesia (Turner 1964).
Turner describes the illness and troubles of a single
Ndembu individual, Kamahasanyi, and his treatment by Ihembi,
a Ndembu doctor. The Ndembu believe that all persistent or
severe illnesses are caused by ancestral shades who are angered
when social norms are not upheld, or else by the secret and
hateful actions of witches and sorcerers; serious or complicated
illnesses can be produced by a combination of both of these
causes. That is, a person's ancestral shades can attack him
and cause him to fall ill, and in this weakened condition he
can also be attacked by witches. Kamahasanyi was suffering from
just this sort of thing. His snares failed to catch any antelope
for many weeks; his wife Maria was brazenly trifling with
another man; his neighbors suffered crop losses to wild pigs;
and the village was rife with quarrels. Moreover, Kamahasanyi
was suffering from physical symptoms: he had severe pains in
his back, limbs, and chest; he was troubled by rapid heart
palpitations; and he became fatigued after short periods of
work. He began to withdraw from the village and to shut
himself up in his house for long periods of time.
When Kamahasanyi went to a diviner to try to find out
what his trouble was, he found that he was being afflicted by
the shade of a village headman who had died a few years before.
This shade was angry not at Kamahasanyi himself, but at the
whole village for installing the wrong person, a person who was
far too young, as headman of the village. The Ndembu believe
that shades sometimes "catch" someone in the village and
afflict him, thus "shaming" all the other villagers. The shade
of the dead headman afflicted Kamahasanyi by causing his
incisor tooth to mystically enter Kamahasanyi's body, this
being a common explanation of illness in Ndembu folk medicine.
The next step was to call in Ihembi, whom Turner describes
as "a man about seventy years old, white haired, dignified, but
with a smile of singular sweetness and charm. He had the throaty
voice characteristic of Ndembu hunters, but he put it to lucid
and eloquent use."
I do not have enough space to present here all the
intricacies of the tangled social matrix which lay behind
Kamahasanyi's troubles. Suffice it to say that it went back
four generations (perhaps 80 to 100 years), involving not only
an unsatisfactory succession to the headship of the village,
but also Kamahasanyi's improper affiliation with his father's
people when he should have been closest to his mother's people,
the misconduct of his wife Maria, and conflict among several
hostile factions within the village. The point is that Ihembi
knew and understood all of this. Part of it he knew before
Kamahasanyi came to ask him for help. He learned more from
his assistants and from listening to a steady stream of gossip
from people who visited him, and the rest he learned from actually
visiting Kamahasanyi's village and feeling things out.
By divination Ihembi determined that Kamahasanyi was
indeed being afflicted by the incisor tooth of the shade of
the dead headman, but also by the incisor tooth of his father's
shade, who was angry at him for having quarreled with his blood
kin, and to make things eventworse he found evidence of witch-
craft. Ihembi at first thought that this witchcraft was from
a certain man in the village, but he soon realized that this
notion was sent to him by the real witches, who thought they
could throw him off their trail. But Ihembi was too good a
doctor to be fooled. He learned that the real witches were
Kamahasanyi's wife, Maria, and her mother. However, Ihembi chose
not to make this public because there was too much anger and
hatred in the village already. But he did announce to the entire
village that witchcraft was present, and without naming names
he said that the witches in question should cease their activities.
This was "Ihembi's way of sharply jolting the quarrelsome
villagers into reconciling their differences and behaving better
toward their kinsman Kamahasanyi. For to imply that witchcraft
was at work in the village was the sharpest rebuke Ihembi could
make; he played on the Ndembu villagers' deepest fears."
In all, Kamahasanyi went through seven therapeutic sessions
before they succeeded in alleviating his afflictions and at
the same time in bringing old hatreds, jealousies, and animosities
to light, thereby straightening out many of the tangled social
relationships in the village. The last of Ihembi's perfor-
mances--for the purpose of removing the incisor tooth of
Kamahasanyi's father--illustrates how this was accomplished.
The rite proceeded by a series of stops and starts, brilliantly
timed and manipulated by Ihembi. He would first make several
small incisions in Kamahasanyi's flesh and place several small
suction cups made of antelope horns on his body to draw out
the tooth. This was accompanied by drumming and singing on
the part of the assembled villagers. On occasion, Ihembi
would tell the villagers that the singing they were doing was
essential to the cure, and that they should sing harder.
Kamahasanyi sat and trembled, apparently in a dissociated con-
dition. When a horn filled with a small quantity of blood and
fell off his body, everything would stop and Ihembi would
examine the blood that was in the horn for the tooth. If he
did not find it, he would make a statement to all assembled
about why the tooth had not come out. Along with this he gave
a detailed account of his patient's life and the history of
the village. He would urge members of the village to come
forth and confess any secret ill-feeling that they might have
toward the patient, and the patient in turn was asked to confess
any secret feelings he might have toward any of the villagers.
Then the horns were again affixed to Kamahasanyi's body and
another episode began.
Throughout this entire process Ihembi was taking elaborate
pains to bring the villagers around to Kamahasanyi's side. He
was also skillful in assigning various ritual tasks to his
patient's kinsmen and neighbors, getting everyone working to-
gether. While the horns were being applied, Victor Turner
reports that he himself "felt strongly that what was being
drawn out of this man Kamahasanyi was, in reality, the hidden
animosities of the village." Finally, Kamahasanyi fell on his
side writhing convulsively. Ihembi removed the horns from his
body, fished around in their bloody contents, and found a tooth.
He then rushed around showing the tooth to everyone. "Men
and women who had been on cool terms with one another until
recently, shook hands warmly and beamed with happiness." We
must assume that Ihembi produced the incisor tooth by sleight
of hand. Still, Turner gained the impression that Ihembi him-
self considered the tooth to be the one that had mystically been
intruded into Kamahasanyi's body. Perhaps this tooth is like
the wine used in Christian communion services: it is not the
blood of Christ in one sense, but in another sense it is.
Tensions eased in the village and Kamahasanyi's health
improved. When Turner returned to the village a year later,
things were still going well. Turner sums it up in this way:
It seems that the Ndembu "doctor" sees his task
less as curing an individual patient than as remedying
the ills of a corporate group. The sickness of a
patient is mainly a sign that "something is rotten" in
the corporate body. The patient will not get better
until all the tensions and aggressions in the group's
interrelations have been brought to light and exposed
to ritual treatment. I have shown how complex these
interrelations can be and how conflicts in one social
dimension may reverberate through others. The doctor's
task is to tap the various streams of affect associated
with these conflicts and with the social and inter-
personal disputes in which they are manifested--and to
channel them in a socially positive direction. The
raw energies of conflict are thus domesticated in the
service of the traditional social order. Emotion
is roused and then stripped of its illicit and anti-
social quality, but nothing of its intensity, its
quantitative aspect has been lost in the transformation.
Ndembu social norms and values, expressed in symbolic
objects and actions, are saturated with this generalized
emotion, which itself becomes ennobled through contact
with these norms and values. The sick individual,
exposed to this process, is reintegrated into his group
as, step by step, its members are reconciled with one
another in emotionally charged circumstances. (Turner
It might be objected that Ihembi is neither using a
rational theory of illness nor is conscious of his techniques,
but is merely acting out more or less unconsciously. This
objection is based on the assumptions behind our own insight
therapy, in which a therapist helps his patient to understand
his problems through self-examination. In insight therapy,
both therapist and patient are supposed to be highly conscious
of the therapeutic process. But this need not be the case with
Ihembi's sociological therapy. Indeed, part of the efficacy
of Ndembu therapy must lie in the fact that there are no
alternatives in the Ndembu world view, and hence, self-conscious-
ness is scarcely possible. Still, in the sense that Ihembi
interprets his patient's illness in terms of an ordered world
view, and in that this enables him to manipulate the troubled
social relationships which lay behind his patient's illness,
we must conclude that he is behaving rationally.
Several observations may be made at this point. The first
is that the Ndembu theory of illness has an empirical basis.
It is true that it is framed in an exotic idiom--we do not
believe that angry spirits can intrude their incisor teeth into
our bodies--but to characterize the Ndembu theory as "nonrational"
or as "magical" fails to do it justice. Secondly, the Ndembu
doctor actually bears little resemblance to a Western psychiatrist,
whether in theoretical orientation or in therapeutic technique.
Whereas our psychiatrists and psychologists have traditionally
seen pathology as being caused by intrapsychic forces, the Ndembu
doctor sees it as being caused by social forces. Physical
symptoms are diagnosed as psychosomatic by the psychiatrist,
but as sociosomatic by the Ndembu doctor.
Most importantly, when we realize that the Ndembu doctor
conceives of illness as being sociological and sociosomatic, we
can more easily understand how it is that he succeeds in curing
many of his patients. Moreover, there is evidence that the
Ndembu are not unique: many primitive and folk cultures conceive
of illness in this way and have therapeutic techniques similar
to those used by Ihembi (Gluckman 1965:216-267). The Highland
Maya, presently one of the least assimilated groups in Mexico
and Guatemala, conceive of many illnesses as being sociosomatic.
Their view of the cosmos is closely patterned after the structure
of their social universe, so that when an illness is diagnosed
as having been caused by a disorder in the cosmos, this often
metaphorically refers to a disorder in the patient's social
relationships. Highland Maya curing ceremonies are fully as
social and as dramatic as Ndembu curing ceremonies (Holland and
Tharp 1964). June Nash characterizes the Highland Maya tech-
niques of taking a patient's pulse as "a kind of exploratory
'sociopsy' comparable to biopsy in modern medicine. The
symptoms are not physiological clues such as those used
in western medicine, but rather what the blood tells about the
patient's relations with other people in his social environment"
(Nash 1967). It would seem, therefore, that many folk and pre-
literate societies operate with sociological theories of illness,
albeit framed in an exotic idiom, and that they are able to
use these theories in a remarkably rational fashion to alleviate
suffering, whereas we ourselves lack any such comprehensive
sociological or sociosomatic theory of illness.
Most medical researchers today take the view that many
illnesses are multifactorial, caused by factors operating at
several levels, including genetic, physiological, environmental,
psychological, and to a lesser extent sociological. Some will
perhaps object that the concept of "sociosomatic" is superfluous,
since any illness caused or aggravated by fouled up social
relationships also entails a psychological component. This is
obviously true, but it is reductionistic, and as is so often
the case, explanations in terms of a lower level of phenomena
do not fully explain phenomena at a higher level. The point is
that if an illness is fundamentally sociosomatic, then no amount
of psychological counseling is likely to help the person with
the illness. It may well be that mahy of the illnesses which
medical practitioners today diagnose as being psychosomatic are,
in fact, largely sociosomatic. The difficulty we have in
accepting the concept of sociosomatic may result from the fact
that compared to the Ndembu, we do not have therapists with the
moral force or "clout" necessary for doctoring troubled social
This sociological approach to illness is not completely
lacking in our culture. Encounter groups and sensitivity
training are obviously based on sociological theories, though
they involve contrived rather than natural groups. We hear
more and more about family therapy, social psychiatry (Arthur
1971), and social work programs in "crisis intervention." But
where these have been attempted, they have often resulted in
Even so, this trend toward social therapy is at least movement in
the right direction. Yet the pieces developed thus far have
not been put together into a comprehensive theory, and even
not yet been put together into a comprehensive theory, and even
if they were, it is difficult to imagine a means by which such
a theory could be put into practice. Indeed, citing this same
Ndembu case, James L. Peacock and A. Thomas Kirsch have
argued that modern society is composed of such specialized
social groups and of such compartmentalized social relationships
that this Ndembu type of therapy is impossible. Ihembi,
Kamahasanyi, and the onlookers from the village all share the
same cognitive world, a world whose presuppositions are more
or less absolute. In modern society, however, therapists and
patients frequently have rather different ideas about how the
world is put together (Peacock and Kirsch 1970:103-109). In
fact, psychotherapists are increasingly questioning their own
assumptions about mental illness (Szasz 1970). With such
alternatives in our world views, it is difficult to imagine how
we could develop therapeutic techniques capable of manipulating
psychological and social energy as effectively as the Ndembu.
But this does not make irrelevant the sociosomatic theories
and techniques of preliterature and folk people. Many
people now think that our mental health programs have largely
failed, and we have not been very successful in reducing or
alleviating psychosomatic and sociosomatic complaints. We
have, after all, no assurance that human nature is infinitely
malleable. Therefore, it may be that one of the unintended
consequences of our industrial social order with its accelerated
social change is that we are inflicting sociosomatic disorders
upon ourselves which we are incapable of alleviating. Hence,
we should examine both the theory and practice of therapy in
preliterate societies not to explain them away, but to learn
An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 7th
Annual meeting of the Southern Anthropological Society, February
24, 1972, Columbia, Missouri. Part of the writing was done
while I held an appointment in the Institute for Behavioral
Research at the University of Georgia. I amgrateful to Jack P.
Hailman, H. Eugene Hodges, James Peacock, and F. Lee Shearer
for critical suggestions and to Victor Turner for a word of
1971 An Introduction to Social Psychiatry. Baltimore:
1965 Politics, Law and Ritual in Tribal Society.
1964 Emotional Factors in the Etiology of Internal
Disease. In Psychosomatic Research, ed. by J.J.
Green. New York: Macmillan.
Holland, W.R., and R.G. Tharp
1964 Highland Maya Psychotherapy. American Anthropologist
Honigmann, John J.
1967 Personality in Culture. New York: Harper and Row.
1967 African Traditional Thought and Western Science.
Africa 37:50-71, 177-187.
Hudson, C., R. Butler, and D. Sikes
1975 Arthritis in the Prehistoric Southeastern United
States: Biological and Cultural Variables.
American Journal of Physical Anthropology 43:57-62.
1964 The Study of Folk Psychiatry. In Magic, Faith,
and Healing, ed. by A. Kiev, pp. 3-35. New York:
1972 Transcultural Psychiatry. New York: Free Press.
1956 Neuropsychiatric Observations in the Western Region
of Nigeria. British Medical Journal 2:1388-1394.
1958 Cultural Factors in Health and Disease. In
Patients, Physicians, and Illness, ed. by E. Jaco,
pp. 94-105. Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press.
1964 Value Conflicts and Folk Psychotherapy in South
Texas. In Magic, Faith, and Healing, ed. by A.
Kiev, pp. 420-440. New York: Free Press.
1967 The Logic of Behavior: Curing in a Maya Indian
Town. Human Organization 26:132-140.
Peacock, J.L., and A.T. Kirsch
1970 The Human Direction. New York: Appleton-Century-
1970 Ideology and Insanity. New York: Doubleday.
1972 What Western Psychotherapists Can Learn from
Witch Doctors. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry
1964 An Ndembu Doctor in Practice. In Magic, Faith, and
Healing, ed. by A. Kiev, pp. 230-263. New York:
1971 Rationality. New York: Harper Torchbook.
THE USE OF SOIL SCIENCE AT A SOUTH CAROLINA THOM'S
CREEK CULTURE SHELL RING
Michael Trinkley and H. Trawick Ward
It would seem that archeologists, by the very nature of
their study, would recognize the relationships between pedological
(soil science) and cultural phenomena. However, such seems not
to be the case, at least in North America, where New World
archeologists have lagged behind their European colleagues in
recognizing and utilizing soil information in the interpretation
of prehistoric occupations. Pioneer work was done during the
1930's by Walther Lorch (1940) in Germany, but almost 10 years
lapsed before the first serious effort to incorporate soil studies
with archeological data was attempted in this country.
In 1943 Lien-Chieh Li studied the rate of soil development
on two Indian mounds in Illinois (Li 1943), but Li was interested
only peripherally in archeology. His main research was concerned
with the mechanisms of soil development as evidenced by changes
in the subsoil strata used to construct mounds dating around
A.D. 150. The first purely archeological study utilizing soil
science in North America was by Cook and Treganza (1947). In
this study, soil from two aboriginal mounds in California was
screened through one-eighth inch hardware cloth, and the remaining
particles were mechanically separated into various categories
(rock, burned clay, bone, charcoal, shell fragments and obsidian
chips). The relative percentages of these components were com-
pared, and the significance of the differences was evaluated by
using Student's T-test (Cook and Treganza 1947:135-137). The
mound soils also were subjected to chemical analysis, and the
percent of calcium carbonate and organic carbon by weight, as
well as pH, was determined. The results were strikingly clear
and again revealed significant differences in terms of the
relative percentages of calcium carbonate and pH values (Cook and
In the early 1950s soil analysis was applied to an aboriginal
burial mound (Solecki 1951). During excavations, 51 features
were found, of which 20 were determined to be burials. Solecki,
believing that many of the 31 remaining features might also
have been burials lacking bone preservation, determined the
phosphate content of the pits both with and without burials, as
well as random portions of the mound containing no features.
Phosphate readings for pits without skeletal material were, in
most cases, comparable to levels from pits which contained known
burials, and in all instances the results were considerably higher
than in the mound in general, leading to the conclusion that
The Florida Anthropologist, vol. 31, no. 2, pt. 1, June 1978
TRINKLEY AND WARD
almost all of the original 51 features had been burials (Solecki
Dimbleby (1955) studied the occurrence of buried soil
horizons at archeological sites, while in 1957 the analysis of
phosphorus content was applied to an unexcavated site to deter-
mine if significant differences existed between the site and
the surrounding field, and within the site itself. This analysis
by Deitz (1957:405) not only revealed an overall higher level
of phosphorus on the site when compared with the surrounding area,
but also indicated patterned variation within the confines of the
In 1963 soil pH was used as a tool in the interpretation of
midden stratification. Variations in pH readings along the axis
of a vertical profile corresponded to stylistic differences among
various artifact assemblages which had previously been separated.
As a consequence, soil pH may be viewed as a diagnostic test
when soil conditions do not reveal stratigraphic separations by
tonal or textural contrasts (Deetz and Dethlefsen 1963:243). A
similar technique was utilized successfully by Chapman (1974)
at an Archaic site in eastern Tennessee.
The first attempt to present a detailed and concise theoretical
statement concerning the relationship between soil chemistry and
archeology was not undertaken until 1965. At that time Cook
and Heizer quantitatively demonstrated that the accumulation of
excreta and debris resulting from human habitation was sufficient
to cause a measurable excess of such nutrients as phosphorus,
nitrogen, carbon and calcium.
Cook and Heizer (1965), estimating two acres as the mean
size of a community of 100 individuals, found the total added
nutrients per acre per year came to 904 pounds of nitrogen, 133
pounds of phosphorus and 59 pounds of calcium. In order to cal-
culate the amount of increase in total content per year due to
habitation, these figures were compared to the levels of nitrogen,
phosphorus, and calcium in similar soils which lacked evidence
of human occupation. The increase in nitrogen ranged from .67
to 6.72 percent; calcium .02 to .43 percent; and phosphorus .49
to 9.91 percent.
Ward (1965) presented evidence correlating Mississippian
period sites to soil types in the Southeast, finding that the
agriculturally based Mississippian sites are situated on
relatively few types of easily tilled, well-drained soils. Hurley,
Lee and Storch (1970) found soil survey data useful for projecting
the location of archeological sites in the Kickapoo Valley of
Wisconsin. Trimble (n.d.) has also analyzed location preference
of sites in the Piedmont bottomlands of Georgia, South Carolina,
and North Carolina, in terms of past soil character. He sug-
gests that changing land-use patterns have made the Piedmont
bottomlands less desirable today than they were aboriginally.
In 1972 at the Utz sites in Missouri, pH, organic matter,
phosphorus, calcium, potassium and magnesium were investigated
to determine possible variations between aboriginal post holes,
their surrounding matrices, and rodent burrows (Van Der Merwe
and Stein 1972:246-252). In addition to particularistic studies,
Cornwell (1958), Butzer (1971) and Limbrey (1975) give general
introductory statements regarding the relationship between soil
science and archeology.
The above summaries demonstrate that significant information
concerning prehistoric societies can be gleaned from formal soil
studies. Prior to the mid-1960s there seems to have been a
growing trend toward using the techniques of soil science as a
tool in interpreting the archeological site, as well as a means
of collecting potentially useful data. It is curious that greater
use has not been made of pedological studies considering the
emphasis on improved and expanded data collection techniques during
the past ten years.
Archeology and Pedology at Lighthouse Point
At about 2500 B.C. there developed along the coast of South
Carolina and Georgia an archeological complex characterized by
shellfish gathering, hunting, fine bone workmanship and the manu-
facture of punctated pottery (Thom's Creek and Stallings Wares).
Some of the associated shell middens are large, irregularly
shaped heaps, while others are ring-shaped with clear interiors.
These sites date from about 2500 B.C. to 1000 B.C. (Hemmings,
1971; Trinkley, 1976).
One site, Lighthouse Point Shell Ring (SoC 141), was excavated
by the Research Laboratories of Anthropology, University of
North Carolina at Chapel Hill, under the direction of Trinkley
(1976). The site is located a half mile south of Fort Johnson
on James Island, just a short distance from Charleston, South
Lighthouse Point was first described by John Drayton (1802:
56-57) at the beginning of the 19th century as having a circular
shape, clear interior, and a diameter of about 250 feet. In
the spring of 1976 the site was bulldozed in preparation for
building a civic center (Fig. 1). In no area has the scraping
gone into the subsoil, and about two feet of undisturbed midden
remains in some areas. The central portion of the ring now has
a shell overburden of about three feet.
TRINKLEY AND WARD
Fig. 1. Lighthouse Point shell ring looking south.
SCHOONER ROA D
S15 23 34
Fig. 2. Map of Lighthouse Point showing location of
soil samples 1-35.
13 29 J-3,,
1 18 28 Socv141
0 20 40
Fig. 2. Map of Lighthouse Point showing location of
soil samples 1-35.
Five 10-feet squares in the midden and two 5-foot squares
in the interior were excavated. Four natural levels were es-
tablished for vertical control. Level 1 is characterized by
quantities of historic material mixed with the aboriginal
material. This level is the result of bulldozer activity, and
does not usually exceed .2 to .3 foot. The shell midden, level
2, has numerous pockets of shell and occasional sand lenses.
The shell is banded and frequently crushed. Level 3, termed the
pre-ring humus, seems to be a buried soil horizon. Potsherds
are encountered, although their size and frequency decreases
with depth. The soil is reddish-brown and somewhat loamy. Level
4 is a sandy brownish-yellow soil with cultural material rapidly
diminishing down to a depth.of three feet below ground level,
at which point the sand is culturally sterile.
The midden accumulation seems to have started on top of a
developed humus level with a large number of sherds and shells
being trampled into the soil during the first phase of occupation.
The soil type surrounding Lighthouse Point is a Seabrook loamy
fine sand (Miller 1971). These soils are characterized as being
acid, moderately well drained and sandy throughout. The organic
matter content is low, but the amount of available phosphorus
is higher than in other sandy soils. A typical profile lacks
a B horizon, having an Ap horizon to .7 foot composed of dark
grayish-brown loamy fine sand with a pH of 5.7. The C1 horizon
(.7 to 1.7 feet) is dark brown to dark yellowish-brown loamy
fine sand with a pH of 4.7. From 1.7 to 3.8 feet the C2 horizon
is brownish-yellow loamy fine sand with a pH of 5.2, and the C3
horizon is light gray loamy fine sand with a similar pH.
The extent of the ring is no longer visible on the ground,
but it was felt that a chemical analysis of the subsoil layers
might provide data that would reflect the aboriginal configura-
tion of the shell and midden deposit. Specifically, through
the eluviation and illuviation of various nutrients and organic
matter, the accumulation of shell and organic matter composing
the ring should have created distinctive accumulations when com-
pared to the surrounding areas. In order to test this hypothesis,
35 soil samples were taken at 10- and 20-foot intervals across
what were suspected to have been the edge and center of the ring,
(see Fig. 2), and, in order to establish a reference point, from
areas that were believed to be off the site (samples 36-39).
In the process of sampling, soil was obtained from the C1
horizon; in those cases where a C1 horizon sample free of shell
could not be obtained, the sample was discarded.
Samples 1-27 were taken in March and May, 1976, using a
three-quarter-inch screw auger. Due to the difficulty of ob-
taining samples from the C1 horizon using this equipment, samples
27-39 were obtained using a standard post hole digger. This
proved more satisfactory and provided larger, cleaner samples.
TRINKLEY AND WARD
Figure 2 indicates the location of the samples in the site
The pH and three macronutrients (phosphorus, potassium and
calcium) were examined. Since the shell was deposited some
4000 years ago, it was felt that the ring-shaped configuration
should be reflected by higher pH readings under the midden when
compared to the doughnut-like center and to areas off the site.
Of all the macronutrients, phosphorus has received the most
archeological attention and is reported to be most indicative
of human occupation (Cook and Heizer 1965:1). It is a component
of feces and urine, and calcium phosphate is one of the primary
minerals found in bone. Little phosphorus is lost due to leaching,
and in base-rich soils the phosphorus is fixed, resulting in
little vertical movement (Brady 1974:457, Cornwall 1958:196).
Because of the demonstrated utility of phosphorus in discerning
living areas, it was felt that higher readings would be
characteristic of the area which had been under the shell midden,
assuming the center had been kept fairly clean.
Potassium was examined in soil samples 1-17 and 28-35.
Although it is lost at an annual rate of 20 to 25 pounds per
acre, a high pH will reduce this loss (Brady 1974:474, 480).
Calcium was also examined in these soil samples because it was
felt that calcium carbonate would have leached from the shell
and been deposited in the C1 horizon. Considerable contrast
might be found between the amounts of calcium found in samples
taken from under the ring and those taken from the interior.
As shown by Figure 3, the results from testing for phosphorus,
potassium, calcium and pH on samples 1-17 are random and high,
suggesting the samples came from below the midden deposit,
not from within the clear interior. Samples 28-35 conform more
to the expectations for the interior of the site, but there are
discrepancies, particularly in the phosphorus test. The
phosphorus content is low in areas that correspond to suspected
midden occupation areas. The potassium test seems to suggest a
double-bell curve, as do the calcium tests. These would indicate
that samples 28-35 bisected both the midden and the clear
interior. The soil pH test is not as explanatory as it might
be, but it does suggest at least one peak, corresponding to
the southern edge of the site.
Because of the failure of the two most promising tests,
phosphorus and pH, to give clear indications of the presence
of a ring-shaped midden, samples 18-27 were collected from the
R120 line. The phosphorus test shows a double-bell curve
corresponding to the suspected area of midden accumulation.
The minor, unexpected peak which occurs at sample 22 may be from
a feature, which would be expected to yield higher results.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39
Fig. 3. Results of soil tests from Lighthouse Point shell
ring. Sample 36 from 150' NW of site; 37 from 100' NE; 38
from 200' SW; 39 from field 0.5 mile E.
The failure to find good peaks in phosphorus and pH tests
in samples 18-27 from the north edge of the site is also ob-
served in the potassium and pH tests from samples 28-35. Today
the northern edge of the site is about 200 feet south of the
marsh, and prior to land fill in the early 1940s the northern
limit may have been about 50 feet from the mean tide mark. As
a result, there would have been considerable groundwater move-
ment due to fluctuating tides. The movement of the water table
may have speeded up the downward movement of macronutrients and
altered the pH of the soil.
Summary and Conclusions
The use of pedology at a Thom's Creek culture shell ring
in South Carolina has demonstrated that the techniques are ap-
plicable and may yield definitive results. Exclusive of
archeological methods and historical documentation, it would have
been possible to demonstrate that a ring-shaped midden existed
at the site location using pedological techniques alone; used
in conjunction with archeological techniques, soil analysis aided
in pinpointing the exact extent of the site, and verified the
historical measurements of the midden. It must be kept in
mind that many variables affect the accuracy and reliability
of these techniques.
TRINKLEY AND WARD
As a result of this investigation it was noted that three
of the comparative samples (Fig. 3: 35, 36, 37) have higher con-
tents of phosphorus and a higher pH than the fourth sample. As
these three samples are all within 200 feet of the site, it
would indicate that considerable activity was taking place out-
side the main occupation area. Although the absence of shells
and pottery in surrounding areas has suggested that only the
ring midden and interior were occupied, the chemical tests sug-
gest a diffuse site pattern.
The usefulness of pedological studies, having been demonstra-
ted, should be expanded to verify questionable site locations.
The Guerard Point Shell Ring (SoCV266), first described by
Moore (1898:151), is today so plowed down, no circular shape is
discernable. Using soil analysis it might be possible to deter-
mine the size and location of the ring. Several additional
now undiscernable shell rings are mentioned by Gregorie (1925),
and pedological techniques could reliably and easily be used
to map their size and location.
The preliminary work has demonstrated the potential of
soil science to aid coastal archeology, not only in confirming
the suspected, but also in elucidating the uncertain. There
has been a great deal of effort expanded recently to develop
various schemes of data manipulation in attempts to clarify,
understand, and/or predict the process of cultural adaptation
and change. At the same time, it seems relatively few research
designs incorporate new techniques or sophistication of old
techniques that might glean more information from the soil.
We hope this study demonstrates the potential of one technique
to aid in our understanding of coastal archeology.
We wish to acknowledge the assistance of Dr. Donald Eddy,
North Carolina Division of Agronomics, Raleigh; Dr. Peter
Robinson, Department of Geography, University of North Carolina
at Chapel Hill; Dr. William Hatfield, Department of Chemistry,
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and Dr. A. G.
Wollum, Department of Soil Science, North Carolina State University,
Raleigh. These individuals contributed both their time and
facilities to analyze the soil samples from Lighthouse Point.
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TRINKLEY AND WARD
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