chapter
cattle complex
Pages 3

The term cattle complex derives from †Melville Herskovits’s PhD thesis, which the American Anthropologist serialized as ‘The Cattle Complex in East Africa’. Herskovits adapted a method, developed by †Clark Wissler and others, which sought to classify the different American Indian cultures according to the complex of traits which each demonstrated, to understand the diffusions and mixings of those traits and to map the areas in which they were found. The method derived from attempts to bring order into the arrangement of museum exhibits but attributed equal importance to myths, ceremonies and ‘psychological elements’. A †culture trait, it was argued, is not static and, as it moves from one region to another, may so often change both its form and its function as to become almost unrecognizable; so, in order both to isolate it and classify it, each has to be examined comparatively and contextually as part of a culturally integrated cluster or ‘complex’. Herskovits continued to extend the concept.