John H. Rowe
(Photo by Loren McIntyre)

Eighth Emeritus Lecture Honoring
John Howland Rowe


E. A. Hamel University of California, Berkeley

The Kroeber Anthropological Society Papers

Number 40, 20th Anniversary Issue

Papers in Honor of John Howland Rowe

Berkeley California, Spring 1969. Pp 93-99.


John Rowe's contributions to scholarship have been principally in the fields of archaeology, history, ethnography, linguistics, and intellectual history. The span of his accomplishments is quite wide, so that it is instructive to inquire into its coherence. Rowe's undergraduate education was in classical archaeology, with substantial background in classical literature and languages; it is an education seldom found today, with its emphasis on humanistic research, on breadth, and on expertise in various languages. From what I have been able to glean from conversations, Rowe elected this curriculum not because he was interested in classics per se, but because, in the absence of a more specific and appropriate curriculum, he saw in the classics the best opportunity to attack his central focus of interest, the culture history of the Andean area. This, in an undergraduate, requires no little foresight; it is a foresight and devotion to purpose characteristic of Rowe's career. Everything that he has done since then, however far it might seem from his specialty of Peruvian archaeology, has a common root in the classics.

Rowe has made important contributions to descriptive linguistics and to philology; these can be traced to his early training in Greek and Latin. He has been one of the foremost historians of anthropology, an activity also traceable to his early training in classical philosophy and the history of Western thought. In his ethnographic work, one sees the application of the principles of breadth characteristic of humanistic area studies; it is the whole that occupies him, not just the part. His primary effort has been in the culture history of the Andean area, a concern in which he has applied not only the techniques of archaeological excavation and survey, but also those of palaeography and history and the history of art. It is important to note that his heavy use of ancient (93) documents, his skill in evaluating and -editing them, and his innovative and sensitive use of the seriational techniques of art history can all be traced to the analytical techniques of classical studies. It is equally important to note, however, that Rowe transferred these techniques to a virgin field, with great scholarly profit.

In linguistics, Rowe published an early paper on sound patterns in Inca dialects (1950), one of the earliest in the dialectography of the Andean area, and one which laid the groundwork for later philological efforts. For example, his 1953 paper on Inca prayers is a tour de force requiring accurate knowledge of Inca phonology and colonial orthography; in it he reconstructed the most probable original version from textual comparison of the copies. In another paper of 1959 on the age grades of the Inca census, he used his knowledge of Quechua to reconstruct the terminology and structure of the age-grade system. Here, philology and history applied by an archaeologist served the ends of social anthropology. In a subsequent piece (in press), he uses his knowledge of descriptive linguistics and expertise in documentary research to discuss the underlying principles governing the writing of grammars in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Europe.

Most of Rowe's work has an historical cast, but among the most explicitly historical papers, the following stand out. A lengthy paper in 1946 on Inca culture at the time of the Spanish conquest is the international reference source on the subject. Compiled through exhaustive comparison of documentary sources it is a type example of historical evaluation and distillation and to my mind the best single article in the entire six-volume set of the Handbook of South American Indians. Rowe is world famous for it; most descriptions of the Inca since 1946 simply paraphrase his work. Another paper, similarly held in high regard is that on the Incas under Spanish colonial institutions (1957). Rowe was awarded the Robertson Prize for his essay, by far the most authoritative description of the situation published. He detailed with (94) stark clarity the real effects of the encomienda, mita, and repartimiento systems. The paper is in strong opposition to the standard views of apologists for the Spanish Crown, from the sixteenth century onward. A similar piece in 1953, a review of Kubler's monograph on the Indian caste of Peru, re-analyzes the basic data in a detailed study showing the demographic effects of colonization. As in the other studies cited, Rowe's work corrects earlier misinterpretations and errors with scholarly authority.

Closely allied to the historical papers, although not in the Andean field, are Rowe's essays in the history of anthropological theory. There are two papers of particular importance, one on the Renaissance foundations of anthropology (1965) and another on ethnography and ethnology in the sixteenth century (1964). In the first of these, on the Renaissance, he in fact delves into the predecessors of Renaissance anthropological thought, beginning with the ancient Greeks and Persians. In discussing the role of the Renaissance, Rowe demonstrates clearly that the receptivity to the implications of cultural differences exposed by the Age of Discovery was dependent on the comparative perspective provided by the rediscovery of antiquity, that the discovery of the present depended on the rediscovery of the past. In the paper on sixteenth century anthropology, Rowe carries these ideas forward, showing the reversal in evaluation of antiquity necessary to arrive at an evolutionistic concept of human development. Unlike the frequent catalogue treatments of intellectual history in the social sciences, Rowe's papers show a real sense of process.

The major thrust of Rowe's work has been in archaeology, both in theory and in empirical investigations in the Andes. It is not always easy to separate Rowe's theoretical papers from his empirical ones. Perhaps the most clearly theoretical include a 1961 essay on the relative merits of stratigraphy and seriation. Rowe's interest in and attachment to seriation, a method seldom used in American archaeology, clearly stems (95) from his training in art history and Classical ceramic analysis, in which the principles of seriation and association are paramount. In this paper, he points out the dangers of incautious adherence to a model of stratigraphic deposition which might not in fact apply, and presents evidence for the equivalent validity of seriational analyses. A second paper (1962) on Worsaae's Law and the importance of grave lots in establishing contemporaneity also rests on his Classical training. In it, Rowe demonstrates how Worsaae's basic notions can be extended and combined with those of seriational analysis to provide a reliable stylistic sequence. It is worth noting that both of these papers are written from a historian's point of view or at least with a historian's style. Seldom does an archaeological theoretician combine his substantive remarks with an accurate statement of the history of theory on the subject at hand over the past several hundred years. Another paper, also published in 1962, deals with the theoretical implications of the concepts of stages, periods, and horizons in archaeology. The treatment is again carefully historical, going back to Petrie's work in Egypt at the beginning of the century. Rowe makes a very careful case for the superiority of arrangement of data by period rather than by stage, because unwarranted evolutionistic assumptions are made in the stage concept and because the integrity of cultural associations involved in the stage concept is usually valid only over small geographical areas. In fact, he gives convincing evidence from his own work that careful use of relative dating and a system of periods is much more productive of real historical understanding. What Rowe has done in all these papers is to act like a historian. It is not only that he is careful with and sensitive to the history of the problem; more importantly, he treats archaeological data as historians treat documents.

Rowe's major empirical work has been in the southern portion of Peru, around Cuzco and on the southern coast. Working first from the scaffold of Uhle's reports and the later work of Kroeber, Strong, and (96) others, he has revised their conclusions and constructed a detailed archaeological sequence for most of the Peruvian highlands and coast. For some parts of the sequence, and in some areas, it has been possible to specify time periods as narrow as 25-50 years, a standard achieved nowhere, in the absence of written documents, beyond Greece and a few adjacent areas. Rowe has published voluminously on these problems, as have his students; two works are of particular interest because of their intellectual breadth. (See also the accompanying paper by Dorothy Menzel in this volume on page 100) A paper on Chavin art (1967) is a historical essay on iconography. In it, Rowe makes use of novel stylistic concepts such as Dawson's idea of "modular width" and of ideas drawn from folklore and literature, such as "kenning," a forip of literary allusion common in Old Norse and Old English sagas, as in the use of the "whale road" in Beowulf to mean the sea. He is able to separate the purely aesthetic from the presumably religious aspects of the art style, an accomplishment of great merit and difficulty. Another paper (1963) on urban settlements in Peru makes a useful distinction between types of settlements, discusses the implications for political stability, relates his ideas to those of the historian Rostovtzeff, and concludes with observations of general theoretical relevance. This paper, again, shows Rowe's determination to treat archaeology as a kind of history, rather than as a kind of ad hoc philosophical exercise.

Rowe's contributions to scholarship have been recognized far beyond the confines of the University. In 1947 he was awarded the title of Honorary Professor, University of the Cauda, Colombia; in 1954 the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters at the University of Cuzco and a Diploma of Honor from the Scientific Society of Cuzco; the Robertson Prize of the American Historical Association in 1957, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1958, the Premio de Honor of the Provincial Council of Ica, Peru, in 1958. In 1968 he received the award of Officer in the Orden del Sol, the highest civilian award of the Government of Peru. That honor (97) has been given, to my knowledge, only to one other North American archaeologist, Philip Ainsworth Means, about thirty years ago. In June, 1969, he will be awarded the honorary title of Doctor of Human Letters from his alma mater, Brown University.

Within the University, his contributions have been various-here I speak as one who was a freshman in Anthropology when Rowe arrived in 1948. He has been a meticulous and helpful undergraduate adviser to many. He has chaired dissertation committees for 25 or more Berkeley Ph.D.'s who are now out in the professional world of Anthropology. He started the Department Library for the convenience of the students. He was the initial mover in the foundation of the Kroeber Society, which is the best student controlled and operated anthropological society in the country; no other such society holds annual meetings as the KAS does, no other has a solid run of 40 issues over 20 years. Rowe's style in dealing with students is admirably illustrated in the history of the KAS; he prompted, offered advice at first and then later only when asked, and when the machine got on the track he climbed out of the cab, still remaining a faithful supporter, paying his dues, going to the meetings, and generally waving his handkerchief.

When I finally got my doctorate in 1959, 1 felt that anything really valuable that I had learned at Berkeley I had taught myself. I told that to John about that time at a beer party, and it fairly blew his mind. It is not that there was absolutely no truth to what I thought, or that I was just being an enfant terrible. It was that by the time I had gotten all the way to collecting the degree I really should have tumbled to what is now clear. In good teaching, as in bad, the student has the impression that he is getting precious little help, that anything he learns he has taught himself. In bad teaching, the impression is objectively accurate. In good teaching it is a carefully planned pedagogical fraud, resting on the giving of just enough inspiration, just enough direction, just enough criticism, and seeing how the student's mental (98) specific gravity compares with that of the intellectual environment around him and of the demands of the discipline. It is not a technique unique to Rowe by any means, but he is a craftsman difficult to beat. A lot of us are grateful. (99)

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