Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory

Published by Springer Nature

Online ISSN: 1573-7764

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Print ISSN: 1072-5369

Articles


Haciendas and economic change in Yucatán: Entrepreneurial strategies in the Parroquia de Yaxcabá, 1775–1850
  • Article

September 1997

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19 Reads

Using archaeological and historical data from eighteenth- and nineteenth-century haciendas in theParroquia de Yaxcabá, Yucatán, this paper demonstrates how documentary records can be employed to create diachronic archaeological explanations. Both the organization of production on the hacienda and the entrepreneurial strategies pursued by the estate owners. contribute to the form of the hacienda. The following analysis suggests quantitative and qualitative explanations for variation in hacienda size and architectural elaboration. The archaeological interpretations offer a reconsideration of processes of economic change in central Yucatán prior to the Caste War of 1847.
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Determining when rare (zoo-)archaeological phenomena are truly absent
  • Article
  • Full-text available

January 1995

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54 Reads

Archaeologists are regularly faced with the dilemma of determining if the absence of a class of item is the result of that class never having been present in an area or if its absence is the result of sample deficiencies. This dilemma is especially apparent when a class of item is rare and has a patchy distribution. Comparison of samples that lack specimens of the class with samples that have specimens reveals criteria of an adequate sample. These criteria must be met by a sample in order to convincingly argue that the class of item was never present in the area from which the sample derives, and to provide guidelines for developing sampling designs aimed at discovering rare phenomena.
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Accumulations research: Problems and prospects for estimating site occupation span

June 1997

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59 Reads

Accumulations research examines the dynamic relationship among artifact discard, duration of occupation, and population size. The history of accumulations research is reviewed, emphasizing studies that use accumulation rates to measure site occupation span. Ethnoarchaeological and experimental research demonstrates that cooking pots are an ideal artifact type for accumulations research. Data from the Duckfoot site in southwestern Colorado are used to develop an annual accumulation rate of cooking pot sherds for households. This rate is used, along with population estimates and estimates of the total cooking pot sherd accumulation, to determine the occupation span of five sites located in the nearby Dolores River valley.

The Materiality of Social Power: The Artifact-Acquisition Perspective

June 2006

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128 Reads

This paper explores the materiality of social power relationally through study of social interactions with artifacts. Specifically, it is argued that acquisition of an artifact instantiates social power by imposing interactions on groups taking part in that artifact's life-history activities. We introduce the “performance-preference matrix,” an analytic tool for systematically studying the effects of such acquisition events on activity groups. The use of the performance-preference matrix is illustrated through an example: the acquisition of electric-arc lights for lighthouses in the 19th century. Suggestions are offered for analyzing culture-contact situations and for handling singularized artifacts such as heirlooms and monuments.

Fig. 1. Map of the Lower Illinois River Valley with mound cemeteries mentioned in text. 
Fig. 2. Klunk Mounds 1a and 1b superimposed by Mound 1c (after Perino, 1968: 18). 
Fig. 3. Bedford Mound 12a superimposed by Mound 12b (after Perino, 1970: 157). 
Fig. 4. Bedford Mounds 10 and 11a superimposed by Mound 11b (after Perino, 1970: 145). 
Fig. 5. Bedford Mound 9 Central Tomb (after Perino, 1970: 140). 
Agents in Inter-Action: Bruno Latour and Agency

December 2005

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1,576 Reads

This paper aims to describe Bruno Latour's contributions to the theory and methodology of agency in the Philosophy of Science and to apply them to the study of agency in archaeology. These contributions include an understanding of how artifacts or representations of the world emerge, what the best conditions to study them under are and how to understand the process of change they undergo. A case study using the Hopewell burial mounds of the Lower Illinois Valley will serve to demonstrate the application of this methodology.

Kaleidoscopes, Palimpsests, and Clay: Realities and Complexities in Human Activities and Soil Chemical/Residue Analysis

September 2010

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31 Reads

The following article presents a new approach to the spatial and chemical analysis of residues left by the cycle of activities that interweave specialized clay griddle production with other domestic tasks at two house lots located in the Mexican town of Cuentepec, Morelos. Based upon multivariate spatial statistics and image analysis techniques, this analytical approach allows for a more robust definition of activity areas across multiple data domains. These patterns, and the general approach by which they were created, provide a framework for evaluating the potential of applying social theories in archaeology for the interpretation of chemical residue analysis. KeywordsMultivariate spatial analysis-Chemical residue analysis-Mesoamerican ethnoarchaeology-Social archaeology

Trees or Chains, Links or Branches: Conceptual Alternatives for Consideration of Stone Tool Production and Other Sequential Activities

January 2001

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151 Reads

Archaeologists construct sequence models to describe the operation of past activities such as production of stone tools. As developed in Japan, France, and North American, such models summarize processes, present intermediate steps, and link formally diverse materials. Some sequence models are teleological in that they present actions as predetermined patterns. Others can be considered evolutionary in that they describe results produced by selected interaction between conditions and variables. With separate strengths and different goals, both approaches to sequence modeling have archaeological utility.

Prologue to Uses of Chemical Residues to Make Statements About Human Activities

September 2010

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28 Reads

Soil chemistry provides the potential for interpreting the archaeological record without necessarily resorting to artifacts, historical documents, ethnoarchaeological observations, or experiments. The range of studies incorporating new technological developments, such as mass spectrometry and multi-element analyses, for analyzing and interpreting the chemical residues found at archaeological sites or modern contexts are increasing in the literature. However, the dilemmas of interpretation concentrate on evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of different techniques. Analytical approaches to how scientists make use of chemical residues to make statements about the past, discussed here, expand the potential of the breadth of techniques to investigate daily life activities and further our understanding of the materiality of social life. KeywordsSoil chemistry-Chemical residues-Chemical analysis-Human activities-Social space

Archaeologist as anthropologist: Much ado about something after all?

September 1997

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38 Reads

It has been said that “archaeology is anthropology or it is nothing.” And so archaeologists have become conversant in and contributors to cultural theory. Other archaeologists have undertaken ethnoarchaeological studies on material culture when ethnographers have not supplied the data needed. Yet archaeologists might undertake more traditional participant-observation fieldwork to help nuance the cultural questions we ask and to render our tales of the past more convincing, in particular, when we purport to speak of the sensuous and meaningful experience of the “prehistoric other.” This article discusses the venturing of one archaeologist in Madagascar tracking aspects of the classic problem of state origins across archaeology, oral history, ethnoarchaeology, and ethnography.

Playing with Flint: Tracing a Child’s Imitation of Adult Work in a Lithic Assemblage

March 2008

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155 Reads

This paper examines the potential for identifying play and children’s imitation in the archaeological record and reviews cultural constructions of play and cross-cultural behaviour. A case study, using a lithic assemblage from a discrete knapping area for Scandinavian Neolithic axe production in Southern Sweden which identifies a child’s activity area, is discussed. The theoretical and methodological assumptions behind play, imitation and its identification as well as its social implications are also examined.

From A Paleolithic Art to Pleistocene Visual Cultures (Introduction to two Special Issues on ‘Advances in the Study of Pleistocene Imagery and Symbol Use’)

December 2006

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242 Reads

This paper serves as an introduction to two special issues on advances in the method and theory of Pleistocene imagery and symbol use. In order to contextualize the contributions that comprise these two issues, this paper defines the temporal and geographic scope of Pleistocene imagery, outlines the contexts in which the images are found, briefly reviews the history of interpretation of the images and discusses some of the current trends and future directions of the field. KEY WORDS:upper paleolithic-cave art-personal adornment-figurines-visual culture

Feminist Adventures in Hypertext

September 2007

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565 Reads

Through a discussion of the intentions behind two hypertext works, Ruth Tringham’s Chimera Web and Rosemary Joyce’s Sister Stories, we present an argument that the new digital media offer unique opportunities for feminist archaeology to realize some of its deepest values. Through the medium of hypermedia and hypertext (multilinear) narratives the complexities of the feminist practice of archaeology (including its multivocal interpretive process) can be grasped, enjoyed, and participated in by a non-archaeological audience more fluidly than in traditional linear texts. We draw attention to the way in which recent developments in digital technology, especially through the Internet, have transformed our ability to share freely the fruits of our creative thought with an ever-expanding audience.

Near-Infrared Aerial Crop Mark Archaeology: From its Historical Use to Current Digital Implementations

April 2012

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2,672 Reads

Even though most archaeologists are aware of the crop mark phenomenon and its possible archaeological nature, the information on its occurrence and specific character is, in most cases, obtained by imaging in the visible spectrum. After the Second World War, the occasional use of near-infrared (NIR) sensitive emulsions attributed this kind of invisible imaging with a great potential. However, archaeological NIR imaging always remained restricted due to several reasons not, at least, its complicated workflow and uncertain results. This article wants to delve deeper into the subject, looking at the conventional film-based approach of NIR aerial reconnaissance and its historical use in archaeological crop mark research, after which a current straightforward digital approach will be outlined. By explaining the spectral properties of plants and using examples of recently acquired NIR imagery in comparison with visible frames, it should become clear why the detection and interpretation of crop marks can benefit from low-cost digital NIR imaging in certain situations.

The Evolution of Theory, Method and Technique in Southern African Rock Art Research

December 2006

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7,140 Reads

Southern African rock art research has progressed from an essentially denigrating social and political milieu, through an empiricist period, to contemporary social and historical approaches. Empiricism, once thought to be the salvation of southern African rock art research, was a theoretically and methodologically flawed enterprise. Attempts to see the art through an emic perspective facilitated by copious nineteenth- and twentieth-century San ethnography is a more useful approach. It began briefly, but was then abandoned, in the nineteenth century. Today, diverse theoretical and methodological approaches are being constructed on an ethnographic foundation. The centrality of the San in South African national identity has been recognized. KEY WORDS:rock art-southern Africa-theory-methodology-technique

Fig. 2 Drawing by Theodore Bent of various objects inscribed with female scarification marks, including an iron furnace, granary, and drum. From Bent (1893: 308, 46, 70).
Fig. 4 One of two smelting furnaces documented at Ziwa Farm. The figurine giving birth is located at the top of the furnace mouth. From Bernhard (1963: pl. 2).
Fig. 7 A Fipa smelting furnace with smelters in foreground sorting magical substances. These tall (3-4 m) furnaces operate by natural draft and are buttressed by a scaffold-like arrangement upon which smelters stand to complete construction. Courtesy of Randi Barndon, University of Bergen.
Tropes, Materiality, and Ritual Embodiment of African Iron Smelting Furnaces as Human Figures

September 2009

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558 Reads

The largest baked clay figure in Africa is an iron smelting furnace. Clay breasts, vaginal openings, testicle-like bellows, and penis-like blow pipes are part of a culturally constructed reproductive system using the female body and parts of the male anatomy. Ritual embodiments using potent tropes, body gestures, and sounds transform furnaces into human bodies. Anthropological representations have long examined only female fecundity and misrepresented reproductive processes such as menses. Thick description of ritual expressions, however, sheds new light on previously dichotomous categories of male and female in iron smelting and creates a more complete understanding of the materiality of the female body in baked clay furnaces.

Social agency and the dynamics of prehistoric technology

September 1994

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188 Reads

Technology is not only the material means of making artifacts, but a dynamic cultural phenomenon embedded in social action, worldviews, and social reproduction. This paper explores the theoretical foundations for an anthropology of technology that is compatible with this definition. Because of its focus on social agency, practice theory provides an appropriate starting point for a social theory of technology. In addition, three other themes require explicit attention: scale, context, and the materiality of technology. Four case studies demonstrate how archaeologists are beginning to take technology beyond its material dimensions, and additional questions are proposed stemming from the theoretical issues raised in the paper. The purpose of this essay is to synthesize a diverse set of emerging ideas and approaches to understand better dynamic community-level social processes of prehistoric material culture production.

Linking Theory and Evidence in an Archaeology of Human Agency: Iconography, Style, and Theories of Embodiment

September 2005

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173 Reads

Many of the theories that inspire agency approaches in archaeology identify deep philosophical problems with other lines of thought. This creates challenges for identifying methods: do radical theories require radical methods? Choosing as a case study one of agency’s interpretive frameworks (embodiment) and, further, a single class of evidence (anthropomorphic imagery), I argue that the answer is “no.” In this case, familiar art historical methods, deliberately played off one against the other, provide a middle range framework for linking theory and evidence.

Agency in a Postmold? Physicality and the Archaeology of Culture-Making

September 2005

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1,666 Reads

Architecture embodies human agency in all of its dimensions and effective scales. Specifically, the wooden posts of Mississippian peoples in the American mid-continent were simultaneously spatial, material, and corporeal dimensions of the process of cultural construction and contestation. Our reconsideration of the lowly postmold is based on the principle of physicality that, in turn, alters the ways in which we pose research questions and interpret archaeological data. A historical-processual methodology involves three procedural fundamentals: identifying practical variability, comparing genealogies of practices, and tacking between lines of evidence at multiple scales of analysis.

Agency and Archaeology: Past, Present, and Future Directions

January 2002

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954 Reads

In light of the growing social scientific interest in agency theory, this paper sets out to examine and critically evaluate recent approaches to agency within archaeology. To this end, the paper briefly outlines the foundational theories of Pierre Bourdieu and Anthony Giddens before turning to discuss the central themes and issues that emerge from some of the more influential contemporary approaches to agency within archaeology. Drawing from these differing approaches, this paper seeks to establish conceptual clarity in archaeological thinking about agency through a discussion of the importance of distinguishing between intentions, consequences, meanings, and motives when seeking to understand the situated subjectivities of historical actors.

Fig. 1. The Mimbres region in Southwest New Mexico, showing the location of the Galaz ruin.
Fig. 3. Early (Style I/Early II) representational design (after Anyon and LeBlanc, 1984, Plate 113d).
Fig. 4. Various early usages of representational designs. (a) Incorporated, Style II (after Anyon and LeBlanc, 1984, Plate 119c; (b) Portrait, Style II (after Anyon and LeBlanc, 1984, Plate 7c); (c) Opposed, Early Style II (after Anyon and LeBlanc, 1984, Plate 63e). 
Fig. 5. Early depictions of humans on Mimbres bowls: (a) Style II/III (after Anyon and LeBlanc, 1984, Plate 76f); (b) Style II/III (after Anyon and LeBlanc, 1984, Plate 93c); (c) Style II/III (after Anyon and LeBlanc, 1984, Plate 109c). 
Painting as Agency, Style as Structure: Innovations in Mimbres Pottery Designs From Southwest New Mexico

December 2005

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1,468 Reads

The act of painting a design is a form of agency, and the overall style of that design in part can be conceptualized as a kind of structure. This perspective is used as a basis for analyzing chronological changes in designs on Mimbres Black-on-white pottery (ca. AD 750–1150) from Southwest New Mexico. Specific focus is on a methodology that can be used to detect innovations, that is, the introduction of novel designs that are incorporated into the design corpus and thus transform the structure. The conceptualization of a particular tradition (in this instance, pottery painting) as a form of structure analogous to general structure in Giddens' sense thus provides important insights into the recursive relationship between agency and structure.

“Doing” Agency: Introductory Remarks on Methodology

January 2005

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99 Reads

As a theory of social reproduction, agency provides an attractive framework for understanding how material culture relates to everyday social action, to long-standing cultural institutions, and to wholesale culture change. What remains under-explored in archaeology is the question of how to proceed in linking observable material patterning to the agency of ancient social reproduction and how to understand the role of material culture in this dynamic process. This introduction (to this and the next issue of JAMT (Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory)) explores why there is a need for archaeology to develop explicitly articulated “middle range interpretive methodologies” that are appropriate for agency-oriented research in the past.

From the Ground Up: Agency, Practice, and Community in the Southwestern British Bronze Age

December 2005

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40 Reads

Embodied, sensual, engagements between people, earthly elements, and celestial bodies during focused, periodic acts of ritual construction and artifact deposition in the southwestern British Bronze Age resulted in the remaking of identities, local communities, symbolic/mythical knowledge, and the landscape itself. To appreciate how material culture, time, and space were employed to define the criteria by which people understood themselves and their world necessitates an archaeological focus upon shared practices in particular settings that served to define rules of engagement with the environment based upon shared human perceptions. Agency appears in this encounter as central in the construction and perpetuation of symbolic perception, shared social memory, and community identity.

PostScript: Doing Agency in Archaeology

December 2005

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1,459 Reads

We argue that since agency and structure are indivisible parts of a single process through which society is continuously created over time, everything that persists or changes in archaeological sites is evidence of agency. The challenge is to adopt appropriate descriptive levels and language to avoid falsely dividing agency and structure. Successful archaeological studies use networks and chains as models or metaphors for connections in sequences of action over time. We argue that models must also link micro-scale actions to outcomes on the macroscale. Because theories of agency differ in the degree of freedom of action they assume, archaeologists must also clearly identify their own position with respect to constraints on action.


Does Practice Make Perfect? Craft Expertise as a Factor in Aggrandizer Strategies

March 2008

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91 Reads

The focus of this article is on exploring craft expertise and its potential as a factor in aggrandizer strategies. It is argued that there are elements of natural aptitude which enabled certain individuals to excel at flintknapping, allowing them to create objects of exceptional size and beauty in acts of elaborate knapping. Practice alone will enable an individual to reach a certain level of proficiency, but only practice in combination with ability can result in world-class performance. If, as is argued, native ability in some domain is a rare commodity, then harnessing it and developing it through practice would provide an opportunity for a potential aggrandizer to control prestige goods and accrue social capital. In situations where raw material, knowledge, and know-how are ubiquitous, as may have been true for flint technology in southern Scandinavia during the Late Neolithic, this might be one of few means available for a would-be aggrandizer to control prestigious goods.

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