INTRODUCTION TO CONCEPTUAL ANTHROPOLOGY
A NEW DISCIPLINE OF THE HUMAN SCIENCES
Conceptual anthropology is the discipline that analyzes and interprets expressions of the arts, beliefs, traditions and other intellectual and spiritual expressions to understand the roots, functions and consequences of what they express on the behaviour of the mind that conceived them: to retrace from the effect the motivations of the mind that conceived it. The aim is to understand the spirit of things, the conceptual processes that define individual and social attitudes and actions. There are various levels of understanding of human behaviour and it is the level of understanding that determines the ability to evaluate, communicate, manage and react.
Conceptual anthropology defines behavioural and conceptual syntheses of reality, deepening their psychological and social significance. For the study of the past, it processes and analyzes the data produced by history and archaeology. The discovery highlights findings that traditional archaeology describes, dates and places in the historical framework. Conceptual anthropology uses the results of archaeology and historical data to extract the social, psychological, and conceptual implications that establish the identity of people and society and reveal the matrices of their behaviour.
Archaeology has the important function of identifying vestiges, of describing and dating them. For conceptual anthropology the data produced by archaeology are the basis of research, their description is not the conclusion of the study, but the raw material for the conceptual reconstruction. Fragments of history accumulate, to which it is necessary to give a logic, in order to move from knowing to understanding. The archaeological find must reveal its social, economic and political implications.
Conceptual anthropology seeks the spirit of culture. It is expressed through EXPRESSION (quarterly magazine published in English), and the books published by ATELIER, Research Center for Conceptual Anthropology. ATELIER is an experimental laboratory dedicated to the new discipline, created and directed by Prof. Emmanuel Anati. *
HOW CONCEPTUAL ANTHROPOLOGY CAME ABOUT
The idea of creating a unique incubator for the conceptual aspects of arts, traditions, beliefs, religion, social relations and other intellectual, emotional and spiritual aspects of human culture, to make it a unitary source of research, has had a long gestation. It took a formal step during the International Congress of Prehistory in Florianopolis, Brazil, in 2011. The debate at the beginning was about the need to change the basic orientation of prehistoric studies: to found a new archaeology. A discipline based mainly on the description of material realities, had to transform itself into a discipline that used their description as a means to understand the spirit and the conceptual context that produced them. The debate took place in the session of the CISENP International Commission (International Scientific Commission on the Intellectual and Spiritual Expressions of Non-literate Populations) **
The question arose whether it would be more feasible to change the orientation of a traditionally consolidated discipline or to create a new one. In the field of prehistoric, archaeological and anthropological studies, the presence of different orientations is a healthy factor to be preserved. Within this framework, a new sector was born, a new discipline, initially called “new archeology” which subsequently acquired the name of “conceptual anthropology”. The participants in the CISENP session, chaired by Prof. Anati, decided to recognize the nascent discipline of conceptual anthropology as a commitment of the commission.
With the collaboration of CISENP, the ATELIER research center for conceptual anthropology has begun to function, founding the quarterly magazine EXPRESSION and operating intensively since 2013. To date, over 250 authors from around fifty countries have expressed themselves by publishing research and debates in EXPRESSION. In nine years, Atelier's publishing sector has published over 60 books which form the basis of the new discipline. The publications are distributed in over 85 countries. The global interest it has aroused shows that conceptual anthropology is filling a gap in the field of human sciences.
THE AIMS OF THE NEW DISCIPLINE
The purpose of this new discipline is the concrete and analytical understanding of human behavior, of processes and orientations, of recurrent and isolated phenomena: it is an awareness of behavioral trends. It summarizes the acquisitions of different disciplines, from psychology to history, from archeology to anthropology and sociology, to the history of art and the history of religions. It combines aspects of culture that are intimately linked to each other, expressions of the human spirit that reveal motivations, influences, moods and emotions, tracing the causes of what remains as an effect.
Created for the study of prehistoric and tribal societies, conceptual anthropology is opening up to new sectors such as the trends of contemporary societies and the social and political phenomena that characterize them, evident from Atelier books on the role of women, man-woman relationships, colonization, the societies of the Middle East, the conditions of minorities, the mutations of traditions and more. The editions of Atelier already include a rich repertoire. However, the primary interest has so far turned to prehistory and the tribal world, with research on Europe, the Middle East, Australia, Tanzania, Azerbaijan and more.
THE CONCEPT OF CONCEPTUAL ANTHROPOLOGY
Every human action, both individual and collective, is the effect of two conjugated main causes: physical or conceptual survival and the relationship between the self (individual or associative) and the other (individual or associative). Following the implications of this conjugation, conceptual anthropology studies the concepts and motivations of what emerges from human behavior, incorporating the experiences of various sectors of the human sciences, from archeology, anthropology, sociology, ethnography, history, customs and popular traditions, and other areas concerning behavioral phenomena. From this emporium of material, spiritual and conceptual expressions, the tendencies of man and society come to light. The goal is to understand them, through scientific research, and make them the object of conscious knowledge, favoring new perspectives of rational thought, primarily of analytical understanding of motives, effects and implications of human behavior.
Every event and every detail expresses part of a larger reality. Humanity is the aggregate of individuals who form it, culture is the aggregate of cultures. Within this great melting pot, each individual and each social reality has its own individuality. Diversity is a source of identity and comparison, it is the source that can generate encounter, confrontation or clash, it generates culture anyway and it is a great heritage, a source of conceptual growth for humanity. The logic of your neighbor is not necessarily identical to yours. Conceptual anthropology considers conceptual diversity, and also the different dynamics of change, as the effect of specific conditions and needs that indicate its roots. Such analyses can be a source of better understanding of the different, of the past and of the present, and also of possible predictions on trends developments.
The media and encyclopedias provide a vast amount of technical data which, however, are not sufficient to understand the cultural dynamics. Human behavior operates on the basis of instincts, memories, beliefs, intuitions, fears, ambitions, feelings and emotions, all in the context of circumstances and moods. Conceptual anthropology also encompasses aspects not always provided by databases.
Each discipline has its own memory which is the basis of the identity, research and progress of the discipline itself. Like any being, it focuses on some aspects of memory and neglects others. The joint memory of the various disciplines has a wider dimension than that of the single discipline. For conceptual anthropology, the union of various humanistic disciplines offers perspectives of analysis and comparison, capable of broadening horizons and of limiting myopia and sectarianism.
Faced with orientations aimed at extreme specialization that reduces researchers into technicians, conceptual anthropology goes against the tide. It encourages the acquisition of a broad humanistic culture, directed to the understanding of human behavior through its manifestations. Technicians and intellectuals have different backgrounds, roles and orientations. Society needs both of them. The technicians are trained from various levels of the school and training system: specialists are needed in specific sectors, with technical knowledge, to be employed in certain functional sectors. Intellectuals do not have an equally structured training, otherwise they would become technicians, they often have to find their own vocation by themselves.
The conceptual anthropology scholar is also a specialist but with different criteria and purposes. emotions, imagination, feelings of love and hate, friendship and animosity, relationships with others and with oneself, psychological attitudes and cultural conditioning. Training leads to the development of intuitive abilities, to acquire existential awareness and use it to define, in the realities that arise, the motivations and consequences of human behavior.
Knowledge is the antechamber of understanding. The broader the knowledge, the broader the analytical capacity and understanding should be. This also depends on the type of knowledge. The orientation of conceptual anthropology is multidisciplinary intellectual specialization: a specialization without the borders and limits of specialization.
The fledgling discipline does not yet have academic training tools. There are no university courses or teaching. The primary training source is the acquisition of methods and concepts, through the assimilation of theoretical experiences from publications or practices from the apprenticeship.
1 - Specialized publications as educational media
ATELIER's books are expressions of the new discipline that involves students, scholars and others, without geographical or typological limits.
The EXPRESSION magazine, with four issues a year, plays a continuous discourse, communicates the accumulation of data and concepts, in a global vision. It is the main educational tool available for conceptual anthropology. Over 250 authors from about fifty countries on five continents have made it an educational medium and also a spontaneous and natural encyclopedia that is enriched with each issue: it produces culture, collaboration, dialogue and intellectual progress, connecting readers from over 85 countries. It is followed by academies but also by tribal societies mainly in Africa, Australia and the Pacific.
Education and training take place in an open formula, available worldwide: reading. The traditional classroom lesson involves a maximum of a few dozen students; when possible, it is an excellent means of communication between teacher and student, and it is also an important means of socialization. Education through publications, both printed and online, does not have the privilege of direct contact but can reach multitudes and be accessible anywhere in the world. EXPRESSION magazine keeps dialogue and debate alive.
There are many thousands of potential acolytes. An important, but slow, goal is to reach them and make them discover the existence of the new discipline. The publications, mainly in English and Italian, are designed for the university student level, and are purposely easy to read and assimilate for everyone. For conceptual anthropology, all of us, members of the human species, are potential students. Publishing is the primary educational and training medium, accessible to all in all countries, free from dependence on the four walls of the classroom and academic bureaucracy. Focused on the conceptual aspects of anthropology, this publishing enterprise, in a moment of editorial crisis, proposes new horizons of teaching and the dissemination of culture.
2 - Practical work
Gaining practical experience in conceptual anthropology: in addition to the slow but expanding educational process through the dissemination of publications, training is carried out with practical work: learning by applying the discipline effectively.
Compared to classroom instruction in university courses, the new trend goes against the tide. It is not a mass formation. The apprenticeship is based on the personalized, individual training of each student, to allow everyone to discover not only the practical application of the research but also its potential operational capacity. Being a new discipline, there are no teachers for now except its inventor, Prof. Emmanuel Anati.
The students of today are the teachers of tomorrow. As there are no lecturers or university courses in conceptual anthropology, the training is based on the individual practical work of each candidate. Graduates in anthropology, archeology and other humanities are the most suitable type of candidate. In addition to individual practical training, there may also be group activities: seminars, conferences and joint research projects.
Specific issues are addressed, with contributions from various participants, some of which are published and disseminated in the quarterly magazine EXPRESSION. The common language of 85 countries is English. Local issues such as traditions, artistic expressions, or local social and cultural issues are experimental topics for both research and teaching. The protagonists, students, researchers and authors, come from five continents. It is necessary to bring them together even without proper travel and hospitality resources. Despite the lack of such support, video meetings and seminars are held to stimulate debate on specific issues. But the main means of cooperation remains the search for specific topics that attract authors to contribute articles on EXPRESSION. Each issue is a kind of seminar, which opens debates and relationships between authors and readers on a global level.
To facilitate the meeting and keep the dialogue between the followers of the new discipline alive, specific sessions have been organized on the occasion of international conferences of archeology and anthropology, where topics of global interest and innovative studies can be presented and discussed. For the moment, generic conferences on archeology or anthropology are used. World conferences on conceptual anthropology have not yet taken place. They could become current in the future.
5- Research team.
Researchers who join teams have access to the laboratories, databases and other resources of the ATELIER research center. Team topics bring together researchers from various disciplines with common goals. Purely theoretical research is not excluded, but at the moment the tendency is to prefer specific practical themes. Work groups are favored where each participant has a specific role.
The organization of exhibitions aims to involve the public. The cultural-educational inclination of the exhibitions refers to the principle of knowing the past in order to discover the present. Anthropology or archeology themes unite in a common effort different humanities disciplines, as well as graphic designers, architects, artists, educators, communication experts, to obtain a deep conceptual penetration for the public.
7- Autonomy and decision-making capacity
ATELIER, the international center of conceptual anthropology, has so far been oriented towards maintaining a totally autonomous identity, open to collaborations with institutions and people but in full independence, aimed at renewing research, teaching and also proposing a new type of concrete, sustainable, active, open and aware cultural trend, without barriers or interference. The principle is to create culture by producing culture; teaching takes place by spreading knowledge and awareness. The training room is the planet Earth. What matters are the results.
RESEARCH IN PROGRESS
Research is proceeding. The results reach institutions and researchers on five continents and produce culture. They are not meant to be stored in academic cellars or the private caskets of some barony. The research carried out is published, disseminated and accessible globally.Various researches are of global significance, others are of lesser impact, all are contributions to the advancement of knowledge and understanding. Issues such as: 'Defining the identity of Homo sapiens'; 'The origins of writing'; ‘The origins of religions' were addressed and discussed, but also topics of local interest. In any case, dialogues and debates are made public, kept alive and produce participation. The results of the research, even if considered not definitive but work in progress, are published in the EXPRESSION magazine and in the Atelier monographs, trying to involve even non-experts. Research is always ongoing. Discussions and insights, further advances in research and further contributions, provoke the constant movement and confrontation of ideas. The passion for research must also spread beyond the academic fields.
THE THEMES OF THE RESEARCH
It is not always known when a search began, and often, even presenting the results obtained, it is not known when it ends. Research usually arises from previous research and leads to subsequent research. Despite having produced, in 9 years, over 60 books and some hundreds of active articles, several of the researches carried out continue. The publications listed in the Atelier catalog show some of the results achieved so far. The following brief summaries of some of the research in progress show the trends of a discipline in the formative phase, which tests its operational capabilities and is already obtaining consistent results.
Acquiring historical data on prehistoric times.
One of the research projects concerns the acquisition of historical notions on prehistory: producing the history of eras and cultures hitherto considered part of prehistory. New criteria of analysis of prehistoric art are applied to decode the contents and intent behind the graphemes. Material culture highlights not only changes in working techniques but also conceptual evolution, in the capacity for logic and functionality. Behind the object is the mind of who conceived it. The new methodology is producing results that open new analytical perspectives, reveal new aspects of cognitive processes, open debates and produce culture through their publications. It is a dynamic system that combines research and teaching and leads to concrete results, published and accessible to the public. In this line, some books are already available, including Radici della cultura (Atelier, 2017) and Décoder l’art préhistorique et l’origine de l’écriture (Atelier, 2020).
Decoding the art of the Australian Aborigines.
A conceptual analysis of Australian Aboriginal art has led to the reconstruction of processes of cultural evolution over 50,000 years, events, migrations, the arrival of the first inhabitants and that of new populations, changes in the social and economic structure of various periods in that which was generically referred to as the 'age of hunter-gatherers'. The results, although so far partial, are presented in a book (Arte rupestre dell’Australia, Atelier, 2019) and in some articles that have appeared in the EXPRESSION magazine.
The prehistoric societies of Valcamonica, Italy.
Conceptual anthropology analysis on the rock art of Valcamonica have synthesized and reworked previous research, producing the history and evolution of Alpine tribes over the course of 10,000 years. Each rock engraving has behind it a raison d'etre, a motivation, a purpose and therefore also different depths of reading by the researcher. For ten millennia the Camunian peoples have recorded their history through rock art. The purpose of the new trend is to transform archaeological finds into legible documents, to reconstruct the history of what had previously been prehistoric times. The results appear in several EXPRESSION articles and in the book The Rock Art of Valcamonica (Atelier, 2015).
Deciphering European Paleolithic art.
The methods of conceptual anthropology have led to the decoding of what had been considered mute beauties, unearthed for over a century, never before deciphered. This research led to a result of exceptional historical significance, the reading of messages in a pictographic writing system, 30,000 years before the invention of the alphabet. They are documents that reveal data on epochs in which no one imagined the possibility of obtaining historical documents. They reveal systems of exchange not only of edible products but also of women! Other documents include travel and migration and even personal documents that include sexual relations. In addition to the great interest also of the general public, and the disruptive information capacity of these innovations, they contribute new chapters in the history of many millennia before what was considered the beginning of history. New chapters are added to the history of mankind and the origins of writing. The resulting publications clarify the discovery of new aspects of human conceptual evolution and elementary mental processes. The first results are published in the book Decoding Prehistoric Art and the Origins of Writing (Atelier. 2015) and in some articles that appeared in the EXPRESSION magazine.
Origins of religions.
The research carried out on the most ancient traces of religious behavior, on objects of worship, testimonies of myths, funerary areas, burial practices and their implications, leads to the conclusion that some of the main beliefs of current religions derive from a primary mother religion, whose roots are concerned with the survival of the soul over the body and life after death. The result is of great interest also for psychology, as well as for anthropology and the history of religions. The first results achieved are shown in the book The Origins of Religion (Atelier, 2020).
Middle East. Archeology and biblical narration between myth and history.
The Pentateuch narratives written about 2500 years ago refer to traditions that have been passed on for many previous generations. Archaeological findings lead to versions that are not always concordant with the interpretations of biblical texts. The historical reconstruction of biblical events is a commitment of conceptual anthropology that has allowed us to hypothesize the date of the biblical exodus, the probable location of Mount Sinai and the beliefs of the peoples of the desert at the time reflected in the biblical narrative. in several publications including Exodus between myth and history (Atelier, 2016); The Riddle of Mount Sinai (Atelier, 2017); The Bronze Age Sacred Sites of Har Karkom (Atelier, 2022).
The myths of Native Americans narrated by rock art.
The rock art of the tribes who lived in North America before Columbus immortalizes myths and beliefs, in part still transmitted orally by the natives. The research of oral traditions is allowing a vast and important reconstruction of the meaning of the immense pictographic narration of rock art. The results achieved so far are published in several articles by Carol Patterson in the magazine EXPRESSION.
The cult of stones in the British Isles.
The megalithic monuments and the structures connected to them in the British Isles are the subject of new analysis that lead to the reconstruction of beliefs, myths and cults of the Neolithic and Bronze Age. This ongoing research has already yielded significant results presented in articles by Terence Meaden in the journal EXPRESSION.
Other topics in progress:
Malta and the Mediterranean: Experimental Studies in Conceptual Anthropology
Megalithic monuments and menhir statues: encounter of the living with the imaginary of the afterlife.
Conceptual anthropology has awakened a new interest in the conceptual meanings of vestiges and is attracting students and scholars. The material finding, in addition to the historical, ethnological, folkloristic, aesthetic or museum meaning, is considered a witness to the causes that determined it. Each reality is a consequence of what preceded it and the doctrine of conceptual anthropology, which combines history, archeology, sociology and psychology, has development prospects also for daily events and trends in contemporary society. Conceptual anthropology, which consists in the search for motives, has always existed in human thought, its affirmation as a discipline formalizes a state of affairs making it consciously operational.
* The headquarters of this centre is currently located in the village of Capodiponte, in Valcamonica, Italy, an important centre of prehistoric rock art, the first Italian entry in the UNESCO list of world cultural heritage, where the scientific discipline of research on rock art was born and developed for over half a century.
** CISENP: Commission Internationale Scientifique 'Les expressions intellectuelles et spirituelles des peuples sans écriture'; International Scientific Commission on 'The Intellectual and Spiritual Expression of Non-literate Peoples'