Abstract

Panofsky defined pseudomorphosis as: “The emergence of a form A, morphologically analogous to, or even identical with, a form B, yet entirely unrelated to it from a genetic point of view.” The phenomenon of look-alikes across geographically and historically distant cultures fascinated archeologists, art historians, anthropologists, and linguists in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The two competing explanations they proposed (the permanence of human nature/human migrations in a distant past) were far from persuasive, and the topic, deemed embarrassing, almost entirely vanished from scholarly debate. Claude Levi-Strauss's remarkable attempt, in 1944–45, to provide a structural account of the phenomenon was met with utter silence. In recent years several scholars have been less intimidated by this issue, but too often they resort to the old nativist, a-historical argument, sometimes abusively basing their claims on neuroscience. A structural, sociohistorical account of pseudomorphosis is needed today more than ever.

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