The New International Encyclopædia/Ethnography

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Edition of 1905. Written by Dr. Otis Tufton MasonSee also Ethnography on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

ETHNOG'RAPHY (from Gk. ἔθνος, ethnos, people + -γραφία, -graphia, description, from γράφειν, graphein, to write). That branch of anthropology which is concerned with the systematic description of races and peoples. Ethnography may be described as the anthropology of those groups of human beings that have separate names — it may be a clan, a totem, a tribe, a nation, a race, or one of the great fundamental subdivisions of genus homo. There have been ethnographers from the very earliest times. Herodotus was an ethnographer, and so were Marco Polo and Mungo Park. A long line of pilgrims to the Holy City during the first millennium returned and narrated what they had experienced among the peoples whom they encountered, to their friends at home, and thus became ethnographers. The discovery of America and the exploration of the earth gave a powerful impulse to this branch of anthropology. The result of studies concerning the divisions of mankind in the middle of the last century gave rise to a number of ethnographical societies under different names, the object of which was to introduce system into what had been only desultory study. In England. France, Germany, Italy, Russia, and other European countries these associations have published journals, transactions, monographs, and guide-books of instructions to travelers and observers, the best of them being a little volume issued by the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, called Notes and Queries for Anthropological Observers, containing many sections on ethnography.

The ethnography of peoples embraces first the biology of each group, including observations and measurements of the living and studies of the dead, concerning color of the skin, hair, and eyes, the character of the hair, the form of the head, hands, feet, and other parts, and measurements of proportion in these parts. These results are shown in collections of anatomical specimens, in the gathering of photographs and drawings, and in the amassing of literature. The physiological processes in health and disease and physiological psychology form a part of this study. The genus homo may be subdivided on the basis of biology, and many attempts have been made in this direction. The commonest division makes five varieties, or subspecies, or races of man — the white, or Caucasic; the yellow, or Mongolic; the brown, or Malayic; the black, or Negroid; and the red, or American. But it is possible to separate mankind into groups upon, the basis of those artificialities in life which together are called culture. Culture includes those activities which relate to food, drinks, narcotics, drugs, medicines, dress and adornment, habitations, furniture, mechanics, tools, primitive engineering, machinery, stone-working, ceramic art, metallurgy, wood-carving, textile industries, agriculture, milling arts, hunting, fishing, animal products, transportation by land and water, metrics, and commerce. These arts may all be classed under the general head of industrial, and men may be separated into groups industrially. Another class of activities is concerned with what all these various groups of mankind do to express their thoughts, giving rise to the whole class of languages, including vocal and written and sign language. It would embrace also every invention designed to impress ideas. In the third place, culture includes the purely social activities. In every sense it has been found that it is not good for men to be alone, so they unite their efforts first in the family, second in political organizations or government, third for protection in producing armies and navies, fourth in law-making, fifth in courts of justice, sixth in administration, including charity and pedagogics, and seventh in that unwritten law more potent than any legislation, called customs and conduct toward one another. A fourth class of artificialities is concerned with pleasure, or the æsthetic arts, including fine costume, music, graphic arts, sculpture and carving, ceramic art, textile art, art in metal, gardening and landscape, etiquette or the fine art of behavior, drama, oratory, and literature. A fifth set of artificialities is concerned with the progress of knowledge called sophiology, commencing with what is handed down by way of tradition, proverbs, or wisdom, in sayings, lore, and knowledge, the beginning of science and philosophy, or the explanation of all phenomena. The last class of artificialities to be mentioned here refers to the spirit world, what is believed, or creed, and what is done, called cult or worship. Included in this division of culture are are the study of the pantheon, the organization of priesthood, the setting aside of sacred places, public worship, private worship with spiritual being and religious literature. Each one of the differed peoples of the earth is set down in an environment which is, in a certain sense, the occasion of its culture, including the celestial environment, geologic environment, meteorologic environment, mineralogic environment, botanic environment, soociologic environment, and ethnic environment.

When a people has been studied in all of these respects the ethnographer hands his material over to the ethnologist, who classifies and arranges it in comparison with the same sort of information from other tribes, to formulate a science, just as the zoölogic philosopher works up the material of the naturalist. In each of the great nationalities special bureaus are charged with a study of the peoples within their respective territories. The Russian Government has done noble work in this direction. The English Survey of India is another triumph of coöperative ethnography. The Bureau of American Ethnology in Washington, D. C, is specially charged with accumulating ethnographic material with reference to every aboriginal tribe in the Western Hemisphere, especially those within the United States proper and Alaska.