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Specialized production in nonstratified society: An example from the Late Archaic in the Northeast

by Cross, John R

Abstract (Summary)
One of the challenges facing anthropological archaeology is to provide insights into the social, economic, and political workings of non-stratified societies in prehistory through the study of material culture. The material culture associated with these societies is seen by many archaeologists as conservative, responding primarily to functional requirements or to environmental changes. From a social perspective, however, both innovation and the absence of change in material culture must be explicable in terms that link the social strategies of human actors to production activities. Production is a central concept for understanding the nature of surpluses, the division of labor, and the relationship between production and consumption. The dissertation has two goals: (1) to develop a model of a particular kind of production--craft specialization in stone tool manufacture--which may be applied to non-stratified societies; and (2) to evaluate such a model against data from three archaeological sites in Maine which contain Late Archaic Period components associated with the Susquehanna Tradition (ca. 4,000-2,800 B.P.). Craft specialization is often seen as a defining property of stratified societies, involving full-time artisans, regional exchange, and control by an elite class. In non-stratified societies, craft specialization is best seen as a situation in which the production of certain items is limited de facto to a segment of the population. The Susquehanna Tradition of northeast North America was selected for examination because of its distinctive lithic technology and broad, thin biface forms. In all, 517 bifaces from the Turner Farm, Hirundo, and Young sites in Maine were examined. The sample included bifaces from both mortuary and habitation contexts. Twelve axes were identified along which there should be variation with an increased commitment to specialized production. The analysis focused on the question of segmentation in production through the identification of preforms, standardization in biface proportions, and hafting techniques. The results supported the position that preform production was restricted within the population, while modification for hafting was practiced generally by the "consumers" of preforms within the society. The focus on specialized production encourages social explanations for individual archaeological sites, the Susquehanna Tradition, the Late Archaic Period, and non-stratified societies in general.
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School:University of Massachusetts Amherst

School Location:USA - Massachusetts

Source Type:Master's Thesis

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Date of Publication:01/01/1990

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