Culture of Stone
Sacred and Profane Uses of Stone among the Dani
8.5 x 11, 360 pp.
11 color photos., 201 b&w photos., 36 line drawings., Maps.
Pub Date: 08/01/1999
Texas A&M University Anthropology Series
Price:        $69.95 s


Published by Texas A&M University Press

To Receive E-News


Culture of Stone

Sacred and Profane Uses of Stone among the Dani

By O. W. Bud Hampton

When O. W. "Bud" Hampton made his first visit to the peoples in remote parts of the Highlands of Irian Jaya in 1982 and 1983, he found that their ancient stone-based technologies and culture remained virtually intact. During repeated and extended visits over twelve years, Hampton had unparalleled and irreproducible opportunity to observe the development, use, and cultural meaning of stone tool assemblages in their traditional contexts.

In this unique study, Hampton describes the complete cultural inventory of both secular and sacred stones, ranging from utilitarian stone tools and profane symbolic stones through symbolic spirit stones, power stones with multiple functions, and medicinal power stone tools, as they were being used in the culture of this long-isolated people. Hampton portrays the complete cycle of quarrying, manufacture, trade, and uses of the stones. Specific archaeological questions are addressed in the context of a culture that provides the answers: What stimulates production? How are tool and symbolic stones manufactured? What is the role of women in quarrying and production? What kinds of trade mechanisms are at work? Are the distributions of stone tool types reliable language and cultural boundary markers? How are sacred stones created and what are their uses? The answers contain rosetta stones of information for worldwide application.

Hampton examines the complexities of the Highlanders' unseen spirit world and its symbiotic relationship with the world of the seen. The dual worship of ancestor spirits and the sun within the same belief system is described, with all of the attendant material props.

This extensively illustrated, carefully documented, holistic ethnography presents a detailed study of rarely observed behavior associated with traditional stone tools and sacred objects practiced by living people within their integrated society. Archaeologists, anthropologists, other scholars, as well as inquisitive general readers will find Culture of Stone: Sacred and Profane Uses of Stone among the Dani a valuable contribution not only to the ethnography of the New Guinea highlands but to archaeology and anthropology in general.

Bud Hampton, Adjoint Curator Anthropology, University of Colorado Museum, Boulder, holds five degrees with multiple honors, including a doctorate of anthropology from Texas A&M University and a master's in geology from the University of Colorado. After some thirty years of accumulated experience with diverse indigenous people in remote areas on three continents, Bud has published five anthropological-archaeological articles.

What Readers Are Saying:

“The accounts of ritual and of the manufacture of stone artifacts make good ethnography. Especially impressive are the lengthy descriptions of the religious paraphernalia in a men’s house and of a ritual in which the sacred stones, representing or embodying ancestors, are vested with new power. His information on sacred compounds is novel.” --Anthropos

“Hampton presents a pleasing and interesting study of the lives and livelihood of the Dani of Irian Jaya. The diversity of topics covered in this book are remarkable. This book will probably become a standard reference on traditional stone quarrying and trade; it also represents a significant contribution to lithic technology and Dani anthropological literature.” --SB&F

“Intensely detailed yet well organized and quite excellently illustrated, this book is going to attract a lot of Interest.” --Antiquity

“Hampton adds a wealth of new knowledge about the Dani by taking new approaches to the ethnography of the region.” --Choice Magazine

“Lavishly illustrated, the book is an excellent example of how studies of material things offer a widely informative entre into the study of culture.” --Choice Magazine

“Intensely detailed yet well organized and quite excellently illustrated, this book is going to attract a lot of interest.” --Antiquity 74

“..rewarding for the general reader..his contextual and holistic methodology–in which all possible sociocultural details relevant to stone objects are detailed in a lucid test–brings the entire cultural system of the Highlanders to life. Hampton’s book, in fact, is valuable in a variety of ways: as an excellent ethnography in itself, the product of twelve years of fieldwork in the Highlands; as an exemplary lesson for archaeologists engaged in lithic analyses, encouraging them to open their minds to wider possibilities for interpretation of their objects and technologies as embodiments of much more than utilitarian functions and meanings. Hampton’s work also challenges stereotypical thinking about the past, making abundantly clear the importance of variability in human evolutionary processes.” --Technology and Culture

“ is a highly insightful, well illustrated ethnography, focusing in this case especially on stone artifacts, but written by someone who does not quite communicate what archaeologist would like to know.” --Lithic Technology

“Those who are interested in stone tools will find this book a treasure house . . . For both technological and behavioral aspects this is an excellent book that merits reading, rereading, and study. It is an important addition to any library.” --Prehistoric American

“This is an extraordinary [work] based on an unusually long and intimate fieldwork with traditional peoples in New Guinea. . . . there is no other presentation, in article or book form, that presents the full range of adaptive, mythological, social, political, economic, and religious phenomena of these peoples. . . . The sections on stone tool functions are unprecedented, with the range from the utilitarian through power stones, spirit stones, sacred stones, and medicinal stones.” --Payson Sheets, University of Colorado


In Search of Maya Sea Traders
How War Began
Prehistory of Texas
Proto-Neolithic Cemetery in Shanidar Cave
Review Copy Request Form Desk Copy Request Form