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

1990 1990

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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.

Indexing (details)

0324: Archaeology
Identifier / keyword
Social sciences; Maine; Susquehanna Tradition
Specialized production in nonstratified society: An example from the Late Archaic in the Northeast
Cross, John R.
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 51/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Dincauze, Dena F.
University of Massachusetts Amherst
University location
United States -- Massachusetts
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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