Modeling ancient plant use on the Northwest Coast: towards an understanding of mobility and sedentism

Historia Contemporánea

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Modeling ancient plant use on the Northwest Coast: towards an understanding of mobility and sedentism
  This article was srcinally published in a journal published byElsevier, and the attached copy is provided by Elsevier for theauthor’s benefit and for the benefit of the author’s institution, fornon-commercial research and educational use including withoutlimitation use in instruction at your institution, sending it to specificcolleagues that you know, and providing a copy to your institution’sadministrator.All other uses, reproduction and distribution, including withoutlimitation commercial reprints, selling or licensing copies or access,or posting on open internet sites, your personal or institution’swebsite or repository, are prohibited. For exceptions, permissionmay be sought for such use through Elsevier’s permissions site at:     A   u    t    h   o   r    '   s    p   e   r   s   o   n  a    l    c   o   p   y The emergence of status inequality in intermediatescale societies: A demographic and socio-economic historyof the Keatley Creek site, British Columbia Anna Marie Prentiss  a,* , Natasha Lyons  d , Lucille E. Harris  b , Melisse R.P. Burns  a ,Terrence M. Godin  c a Department of Anthropology, The University of Montana, Missoula, MT 59812, USA b Department of Anthropology, 100 St. George Street, Rm. 1037, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ont., Canada M5S 3G3 c US Forest Service, Lake Tahoe, CA, USA d Department of Archaeology, 2500 University Drive NW, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alta., Canada T2N 1N4 Received 25 May 2006; revision received 26 October 2006Available online 9 February 2007 Abstract Explaining the emergence of status inequality in human societies is an important priority for many anthropologicalarchaeologists, particularly those whose research includes intermediate scale societies (complex hunter–gatherers and earlyagriculturalists). Yet, fine grained records of emergent inequality are still exceedingly rare. This paper outlines a fine-grained record of cultural change from the Keatley Creek site, a complex hunter–gatherer village in British Columbia,in which it is possible to recognize the emergence of inequality and its demographic and economic correlates. Resultsof the study suggest that status inequality emerged abruptly after an extended period of socio-economic stability in thevillage under conditions of adversely altered resource conditions, demographic packing, and subsistence resource diversi-fication and extensification.   2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. Keywords:  Plateau; Archaeology; Complex hunter–gatherers; Keatley Creek site; Status inequality ‘‘Perhaps the dimmest areas that remain instudies of political ‘‘evolution’’ are the initial stages in which inequalities beyond those of age, ability ,  and gender ,  emerged  ,  grew ,  and became institutionalized. Engendered in aclimate in which social and material discretionwas the rule, the onset and dynamics of insti-tutionalized inequality remain concealed bysparse archaeological evidence’’ ( Wiessner,2002, 233 ). The evolution and organization of intermedi-ate scale societies is an important archaeologicaltopic in many regions of North America, 0278-4165/$ - see front matter    2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.doi:10.1016/j.jaa.2006.11.006 * Corresponding author. Fax: +1 406 243 4918. E-mail address: (A.M. Prentiss).Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 26 (2007) 299–327     A   u    t    h   o   r    '   s    p   e   r   s   o   n  a    l    c   o   p   y particularly the Pacific Rim (Arnold, 2001; Fitz-hugh, 2003; Matson et al., 2003; Prentiss andKuijt, 2004a). This research, especially in itscomplex hunter–gatherer manifestation (Arnold,1996a; Sassaman, 2004), is of critical importance,since in many areas of the world these were thefirst groups to transition from mobile egalitarianbands to more densely aggregated and sedentarycommunities often featuring social inequality. Itis not surprising that Pacific Rim researchershave posited a variety of models seeking toexplain processes behind the emergence of inequality (e.g., Matson and Coupland, 1995).Yet, as so eloquently pointed out by Wiessner,fine grained records that reveal actually howinequality emerged are rare. Consequently, weare often left looking for ethnohistoricalaccounts to test the models and to ultimatelyunderstand the details of this process (e.g.,Wiessner, 2002).As suggested by various researchers, details of the major organizational changes inherent inemergent complex societies are often best seenin household contexts (Ames, 1995; Blanton,1995; Lesure and Blake, 2002). Unfortunately, itis rare to be able to reconstruct the vital transi-tion within a single household where we canexplore changes in the demography, subsistenceeconomy, technology and social organization.Many Northwest Coast villages contain house-as-sociated middens that do span the transition.While this is an extremely valuable resource toarchaeologists, it rarely (if ever?) permits thestudy of changing dynamics within specifichouse-groups. Either, specific houses were tooephemeral in construction (and impermanent)and consequent archaeological record to haveenough of a history to document the full transi-tion (e.g., Matson, 1992), household stratigraphybecomes too mixed via successive reoccupationsto permit analyses of the details of temporalchange (e.g., Lepofsky et al., 2000), or it isimpossible to link specific middens to specifichouses. Even when the record is adequate toexplore changes in households across the transi-tion, archaeologists often face interpretive prob-lems with ambiguous material remains (Lesureand Blake, 2002).In this study we explore a fine-grained recordof occupation at one household in one village inorder to gain insight into the processes by whichinstitutionalized inequality emerged in an interme-diate scale society. 1 Our study context is the Mid-dle (or ‘‘Mid’’) Fraser Canyon of south-centralBritish Columbia where archaeologists have docu-mented evidence for large complex villages thatexisted between about 2000 and 200 years ago.We know from an excellent ethnographic record(Hayden, 1992; Teit, 1900, 1906, 1909) that atthe time of European contact, the Mid-Fraser vil-lages were occupied by Salish-speaking societiesinhabiting villages marked by hereditary inequalitymanifested in corporate groups occupying rankedhouseholds. Individuals in households also main-tained memberships in broader social constructs(Teit (1906) calls them clans) in the Mid-Fraservillages. The Mid-Fraser villages were generallylarger and more densely occupied that those of other drainages on the interior Plateau of NorthAmerica, with the possible exception of the Proto-historic Chinookans of the Lower Columbia. Theywere economically supported by intensive harvestof massive numbers of spawning salmon, geo-phytes or roots, deer, and to a lesser degree, otherfish, plant, and mammal species. Foods were har-vested most intensely in the warm season withsubstantial amounts placed in dry storage for win-ter survival (Alexander, 1992). Household corpo-rate groups presumably used the surplus of salmon in particular to acquire other goods fromadjacent regions including ornaments and somefoods from the coast and various food and non-food goods from elsewhere on the interior. Aprestige goods trade network likely connectedelites of the Mid-Fraser villages with those of  1 The term institutionalized inequality is used to describe thecultural contexts whereby inequalities that were previouslymanifested only at perhaps age and gender levels in otherwiseegalitarian contexts give way to new social forms wherebyhierarchical and ascribed ranking between individuals and/orlarger social groups (e.g., Northwest Coast house groups)emerged and is marked by measurable material manifestationsin form of variability in house architecture and size, differentialaccess to key foods, and variable rates of accumulations of prestige goods (e.g., Brumfiel, 1992; Hayden, 1995, 1998; Paynter,1989). As pointed out by Wiessner (2002, p. 233), these are typically ‘‘systems with hierarchical organization, hereditaryposition, and control by the elite over institutions that extendbeyond the boundaries of the local group.’’ By intermediate scalesociety, we refer to cultural groups organized in ways that aresocio-economically and politically more complex (e.g., moresocial units [e.g., Bamforth, 1988]) than band scale hunter– gatherers, yet not as socially complex as states. Our definition, isthus, substantially in line with Clark and Blake (1989); and alsoHayden’s (1994) concept of ‘‘transegalitarian’’ societies.300  A.M. Prentiss et al. / Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 26 (2007) 299–327      A   u    t    h   o   r    '   s    p   e   r   s   o   n  a    l    c   o   p   y the Lower Columbia at least in the final centuriesof the late prehistoric period (Hayden and Schult-ing, 1997).From an archaeological standpoint, the Mid-Fraser villages offer a particular advantage overmost other complex hunter–gatherer sites. Due toa particularly good combination of sedimentarycontexts, ancient cultural practices, and generallack of disturbance by modern activities, the sitespreserve a spectacularly detailed record of socio-economic changes across the transition from egali-tarian to nonegalitarian society. As described byHayden (1997a,b), the Mid-Fraser villages aremade up of semi-subterranean houses or housepitsthat were occupied for long periods by multi-fam-ily households or corporate groups (e.g., Haydenand Cannon, 1982). Repeated re-roofing and re-flooring of houses led to the formation of extensivemiddens surrounding individual houses containinga year by year record of changes in the dynamicsof life within each household. Some houses retainonly their final floors (e.g., Keatley Creek), whilein other contexts (Bridge River) floors accumulatedlike layers of old rugs. The most intensive excava-tions have been conducted at the Keatley Creeksite and therefore it provides the best data for thisstudy. We benefit from the relatively fine grainedrecord of Housepit 7, in particular, as a windowinto processes that gave rise to inequality at thisvillage.In this paper we analyze variation in dates,artifacts and floral/faunal remains recovered dur-ing recent excavations of the Housepit 7 Rim(see also Burns (2003), Godin (2004), Harris(2004), and Lyons (2003)). Data from this sequence are compared to that from other datedcontexts in the village to improve our overallunderstanding of the evolution of this importantcommunity. Ultimately, this paper examines indi-cators of variation in predation behavior, demog-raphy, and status differentiation that documentsthe changes in subsistence economy and socialorganization between ca. 1600 and 750 cal. B.P.During this time, Housepit 7 inhabitants appearto have shifted from a salmon dominated econo-my with a somewhat more egalitarian socialorganization to one featuring intensification of mammals, participation in prestige exchange net-works, and socio-economic status inequality. Inpresenting this history, we seek to shed light onthe processes by which social complexity emergedin intermediate scale societies. Explaining inequality Status inequality has been subject of a growingliterature that has sought to define variation andevolutionary srcins of this phenomenon aroundthe world (Arnold, 1993, 1995, 1996a,b; Earl,1997; Feinman, 1995; Fitzhugh, 2003; Kirch, 1991;Hayden, 1995; Wiessner, 2002). As noted by Wiess-ner (2002), arguments seeking to explain emergentinequality in intermediate scale societies generallyfall into two groups: managerial and agency. Wesuggest that Darwinian evolutionary theory pro-vides an even more powerful model and substantial-ly integrates both the managerial and agent-basedapproaches.Managerial models vary widely and include pop-ulation pressure (Cohen, 1981; Croes and Hacken-berger, 1988), scalar stress (Ames, 1985; Johnson,1982), warfare (Carneiro, 1970), and ecological patchiness and population packing (Binford, 2001;Fitzhugh, 2003). As a group, they argue that cultur-al practices, sometimes described in aggregate assystems of behavior, adjust to new conditions inadaptive ways sometimes leading to the need formore complex social relations in order to efficientlyharvest, process, protect, and distribute resources.Many of these models (pressure, packing, scalarstress, resource stress) assume adverse conditionsrevolving around imbalances between availablefood resources and human populations that requirechange in order to restore balance.In contrast, agency approaches look to the pro-cesses of the social field as primary to the develop-ment of inequality. Marxian scholars describe thisprocess obliquely as generative, deriving from thedialectic of practice and structure in its particularis-tic socio-historical context. We agree that one can-not understand the emergence of new socialstructures without looking at the human socialinteractions behind its development. However, asis clear from the literature of the complex societiesof North and Central America’s western coasts, anunderstanding of ecological contexts also plays acritical role.Arnold (1993, 1996a), Clark and Blake (1994),Hayden (1994, 1995), Lepofsky et al. (2005), andMaschner and Patton (1996) offer a variety of hypotheses concerning the emergence of hereditaryinequality that recognize not only the importanceof historically situated agency and structure but alsobasic ecological principles Major differences, mea-surable in the archaeological record, within this A.M. Prentiss et al. / Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 26 (2007) 299–327   301     A   u    t    h   o   r    '   s    p   e   r   s   o   n  a    l    c   o   p   y group revolve around ecological conditions thatfavor emergent wealth building strategies withinrapidly changing social environments.Hayden (1994,1995; see also Clark and Blake1994) argues that optimal resource conditions arenecessary for people to tolerate new forms of resource ownership and control associated withproto-elite wealth building schemes that might even-tually give rise to hereditary inequality. In a similarmodel, Maschner and Patton (1996) suggest thatunder good resource conditions, village growth, fis-sioning and threats of raids (to small new villages)will provide conditions in which aspiring elites inlarger core villages can gain control by extendingtheir kin group to cross-cut and thereby influenceor even control the smaller village groups. In con-trast, Arnold (1993, 1996a,b) argues that aspiringelites will not gain opportunity to exert control overnew groups until those groups become stressedenough to be willing to submit to these actions.Consequently she looks to altered resource condi-tions or population-resource imbalances as thebackground to successful machinations of elites.At the most basic level, we would expect this processto be marked archaeologically by correlationsbetween periods of subsistence stress and jumps indegrees of social complexity.We argue that it is not necessary to dichotomizethe managerial and agent based approaches when acomprehensive theory exists that is capable of incor-porating both. Darwinian evolutionism is the mostpowerful explanatory model in science and has beendemonstrated to be very effective in explaining theemergence of cultural phenomena on many scales(Chatters and Prentiss, 2005; Spencer, 1997). Inorder to address inequality it is necessary to recog-nize an appropriate scale of evolution and a targetof the evolutionary process. Obviously we are notdiscussing evolution purely at the scale of artifactas promoted by O’Brien and colleagues (e.g. O’Bri-en and Lyman, 2000, 2003). Rather, we are discuss-ing the emergence of cultural structures existingabove the level of artifact and only visible withinthe actions of groups or populations.The concept of emergence is of particular impor-tance within an evolutionary framework for under-standing the development of inequality. Someagency scholars might be troubled by this term, tak-ing it to mean the inevitable ‘‘flowering’’ of somemore ancient seed as might be implied by mostneo-evolutionary models (e.g., band-chiefdom-state). We do not define it this way, preferringinstead the more sophisticated usage of paleobiolo-gy where emergence refers to the appearance of a new  population scale character (Vrba and Eldredge,1984). Cultural structures, patterns, and organiza-tions are characters undeniably expressed not byindividual persons but by groups or populations.Consequently, when their expression becomes rec-ognizable for the first time in the historical record,we call them emergent (Prentiss, 2006; Rosenberg,2006).From an evolutionary standpoint, the triggers foremergence of new population scale characters, suchas social structures featuring hereditary inequality,are historically contingent in nature, the often unin-tended by-product of action by individuals andgroups of various sizes within their socio-naturalcontexts (Braun, 1990). The results of these actionsare constrained by preexisting social structures(e.g.,GouldandLewontin,1979)andarealsocondi-tioned over the longer term by basic evolutionaryprocesses like natural selection (Spencer, 1997).Spencer (1997, 2006) and Spencer and Redmond’s(2001)accountoftheevolutionofMonteAlbanpro-vides a particularly good example of this process.Prior to its emergence as a state, Monte Albanwas one of several competing chiefdoms within theValley of Oaxaca. In order to avoid extinction atthe hands of the neighbors, elite members of MonteAlban developed a growth strategy that had dra-matic success. They invaded a weaker and more dis-tant polity, established a puppet ruler, andrearranged the resource production and distributionsystem to benefit themselves and their polity. Theirgrowing economy was used to further expand theirmilitary might, which permitted the successful inva-sion of the more local polities resulting in completecontrol of the region. By the time the process wasthrough, Monte Alban had developed a governmentbureaucracy to maintain law, collect tribute, andother matters, a formalized writing system to keeptrack of records, to signify its presence and to exaltits history, and an enhanced research and develop-ment program for improving its economy and mili-tary power. It had evolved into a state (Spencer,2006; Spencer and Redmond, 2001).The emergence oftheMonteAlban state was, likeall cases of evolution, the result of a combination of historically unique events, structural constraints,and general evolutionary process. History deter-mineditscontextandaffectedthedecisionsofitselites(agency). Once set in motion, changes in leadershipand labor needs resulted in the rearrangement of  302  A.M. Prentiss et al. / Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 26 (2007) 299–327 
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