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Riggall, R.M. (1923). Applied: W. H. R. Rivers. The Aims of Ethnology. Psyche, 1922, Vol. III, p. 118.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 4:339.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Applied: W. H. R. Rivers. The Aims of Ethnology. Psyche, 1922, Vol. III, p. 118.

(1923). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 4:339

Applied: W. H. R. Rivers. The Aims of Ethnology. Psyche, 1922, Vol. III, p. 118.

Robert M. Riggall

Forty years ago it was believed that mankind developed its cultures independently and Bastian's theory, that similarities in beliefs and customs of different people were due to some innate quality of the mind, was generally accepted. In defending the opposite view, that a succession of cultures spread over the world and were widely distributed, Rivers quotes Elliot Smith's anatomical researches on Egyption mummies. In the third millennium B. C. there had been an invasion from the north of people with rounder heads of the Armenoid type, skulls of this type being found as far south as the Chatham Islands. From this Elliot Smith concluded that early man moved extensively about the earth. From his studies in Melanesia, Rivers was led to believe that the introduction of external culture among an indigenous people is greatly modified either along the lines of development or degeneration; this caused him to discard the concept of independent evolution. The introduction of new ideas among an isolated people leads to a definite process of evolution. In Melanesia, when this newly set up evolutionary process reaches a certain pitch, it comes to an end and is followed by a period of stagnation until some fresh external influence starts a new period of progress.

W. J. Perry discovered that the motive for man's early wandering was the search for objects required to satisfy human needs, material, æsthetic and religious. This wandering was found to be in relation to the distribution of megalithic monuments and Perry found evidence of these monuments in the form of dolmens in the East Indian Archipelago islands, resembling those in other parts of the world.

Elliot Smith believes that the original home of this culture was Egypt and from his anatomical researches on a mummy taken from the islands of Torres Straits, concluded that the method of mummification found in this case originally spread from Egypt. Rivers proceeds to support this view with other interesting details and concludes by considering the aims of ethnology. These are the formulation of laws governing the activities and fates of tribes and empires as well as supplying records of our own past on the psychological side. He states that the study of primitive man of to-day may help us to understand the ancient cultures which have effected our religious, ethical and social conditions. Rivers urges the needs of ethnology and points out that much valuable material is being lost by the rapid extinction of certain tribes. He advocates the need for research before it becomes too late.

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Article Citation

Riggall, R.M. (1923). Applied. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 4:339

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