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Anthropology Ethnoarchaeology
by
Kodzo Gavua

Introduction

Ethnoarchaeology is the strategic gathering and studying of ethnographic data on human behavior and its ramifications by archaeologists, who train as ethnographers in order to address issues of concern to archaeological inquiry. It is a dynamic subfield of archaeology, whose practitioners seek, among other things, to deepen knowledge and understanding of the archaeological record, how this record can be better researched and interpreted, and how research results can be adequately explained. Archaeologists made attempts to explore prehistoric human behavior on the basis of ethnographic information during the 19th century, but ethnoarchaeology, properly so-called, developed into a subfield during the early 20th century. It gained prominence from the 1960s onward with the emergence of “new archaeology,” also referred to as “processual archaeology,” which stimulated the search by archaeologists for strategies by which they could scientifically study and explain the archaeological record objectively. Its scope broadened when “postprocessual” archaeologists, in their reaction processual archaeology, sought to explain material culture and its variability on the basis of intangible realms of behavior within changing historical and environmental contexts. A wide range of theoretical perspectives, hinging on the relationship between ethnographic data and the archaeological record, have influenced the interests, foci, goals, and methods of ethnoarchaeological research. Research activities vary, however, in relation to the local and regional cultural and environmental contexts of behavior and include actualistic studies of processes by which material culture is produced, distributed, consumed, and discarded; a combination of these studies with experimentation; reenactments of production processes; studies of site formation processes; and studies of material cultural variability. Today, the approach to research in the subfield is multifaceted, and practitioners continue to explore new ideas that may render it coherent. The subfield is, nonetheless, contributing immensely to the development and refinement of archaeological method and theory.

General Overviews and Foundational Perspectives

A major concern of ethnoarchaeology is how observations made among living societies can best be used to interrogate and explain the archaeological record. Pertinent to this concern is the relationship between behavior and the natural environment and the form, variability, and patterning of material culture. A number of perspectives shared in this regard at the early stages of the development of the subfield remain relevant to its research. The means by which ethnoarchaeologists connect the present to the past is called analogical inference. Efforts among researchers to render it reliable, or to seek alternatives to it, engendered theoretical frameworks that have influenced contemporary discourse and practice in the subfield. Binford 1978 introduces the “middle range theory” as a formal procedure of analogical inference making that would permit the establishment of an objective link between the present and the past, while Watson 1979 suggests the packaging of the results of ethnographic research into hypotheses to be tested in the archaeological record. These ideas and procedures are widely used but contested. Hodder 1982 offers an alternative to formal analogical inference making by suggesting relational analogy, which looks beyond empirical variables and recognizes subjectivity in linking the present to the past. Wylie 1985 is an insightful analysis of various standpoints on analogical inference in ethnoarchaeological research, which ends with a call for the establishment of general principles for connecting the present to the past. Gould and Yellen 1987 demonstrates the unreliability of analogical inference making by clearly showing that differential patterning of material culture occurs among similar societies that significantly vary in the way they exploit different environments. Stahl 1993 presents other reasons why researchers must be cautious in overly relying on (formal and relational) analogical inference making. In spite of the contentions, analogical inference remains ubiquitous to ethnoarchaeology, and continual efforts are made to improve and advance its application. Fewster 2006 is a good discussion of the merits of analogical inference and how it can contribute to social theory, while Normark 2009 dilates on how it can be improved through the expansion of its spatial and temporal realms.

  • Binford, Lewis R. 1978. Nunamiut ethnoarchaeology. Studies in Archeology. New York: Academic Press.

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    This highly critiqued but valuable book recommends the middle-range theory as a guide to the use of ethnographic data in archaeological explanation.

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  • Fewster, Katherine J. 2006. The potential of analogy in post-processual archaeologies: A case study from Basimane ward, Serowe, Botswana. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 12.1: 61–87.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9655.2006.00281.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The article discusses a case study that uses a structural functionalist model to show how analogical inference making can contribute to social theory. Available online by subscription.

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  • Gould, Richard A., and John E. Yellen. 1987. Man the hunted: Determinants of household spacing in desert and tropical foraging societies. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 6.1: 77–103.

    DOI: 10.1016/0278-4165(87)90017-1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A comparison of two similar hunting-and-gathering cultures of different regions, to caution about anomalies that may arise in the explanation of the patterning of material culture on the basis of analogical inference. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Hodder, Ian. 1982. Symbols in action: Ethnoarchaeological studies of material culture. New Studies in Archaeology. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    Provides detailed analyses of how material culture and intangible behavior relate to present a nonmaterialistic approach to the study of material cultural variability.

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  • Normark, Johan. 2009. Ethnographic analogies in archaeology.

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    This article refers to studies conducted in Mesoamerica to show how analogical inference can be made useful to ethnoarchaeological research.

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  • Stahl, Anne B. 1993. Concepts of time and approaches to analogical reasoning in historical perspective. American Antiquity 58.2: 235–260.

    DOI: 10.2307/281967Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The article cautions against the use of direct analogy in the interpretation of the past, because historical circumstances do influence changes in social conditions of people.

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  • Watson, Patty Jo. 1979. The idea of ethnoarchaeology. In Ethnoarchaeology: Implications of ethnography for archaeology. Edited by Carol Kramer, 277–287. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

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    This widely critiqued but useful book chapter draws on early propositions of processual archaeology to recommend ways in which the results of ethnographic research can be packaged into testable hypotheses.

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  • Wylie, Alison. 1985. The reaction against analogy. In Advances in archaeological method and theory. Vol. 8. Edited by Michael B. Schiffer, 63–111. New York: Academic Press.

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    A prime source for understanding what analogy and analogical inference entail and how analogy can be refined to serve the cause of analogical inference and archaeological interpretation. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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Bibliographies

David 2004 is a comprehensive online bibliography of ethnoarchaeological literature until 2001. Access to current literature in the subfield and its affiliate disciplines may be obtained, however, through the Google Scholar online search engine. Anthrosource and Anthropology Plus are other useful online databases, although they require institutional or private subscription. The AnthroGlobe Bibliographies is another good link to relevant literary works.

Film and Video

There are a number of videos that may be used to support ethnoarchaeological research and teaching. A few of these have been produced by ethnoarchaeologists and document technological processes of artifact production in their social, economic, ecological, and ideological contexts. David and Le Bléis 1988 reenacts the indigenous iron-smelting process of the Mafa of Cameroon and touches on methods, techniques, and rituals that were associated with iron smelting among the people. Other videos on iron-working processes include Levy 2009, which showcases the social context of contemporary metal casters in India, and Huysecom and Agustoni 1997, a documentation of a reenacted iron-smelting process by Dogon smiths in Mali. David 1990 dwells on the secular and sacred functions of pottery among the peoples of the Mandara Mountains, while Belkin 2006 documents the life cycle of pottery, including production processes and various uses of vessels in Somalia. Other videos on pottery-manufacturing processes include Neupert 2000 and Gross 2007, the latter on potters in southern Japanese villages. There is also, however, a wide range of ethnographic films and videos on various aspects and patterns of tangible and intangible human behavior among different groups of people worldwide, from which researchers, instructors, and students of ethnoarchaeology may choose in relation to their research interests and philosophy. Some of these can be sourced from Heider and Hermer 1995 and from the Archaeology Channel.

Journals

There are several peer-reviewed journals in mainstream archaeology and anthropology that present field reports and discourse on epistemological issues in ethnoarchaeology, as well as a broad range of other topics in archaeology, ethnography, and anthropology at large. The Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory is popular for articles on ethnoarchaeology that interrogate theory and method and that are relevant not only to the subfield but also to archaeology. Ethnoarchaeology: Journal of Archaeological, Ethnographic, and Experimental Studies carries articles on ethnoarchaeological field research and theoretical issues and on ethnographic studies and field and laboratory experiments that complement the work of ethnoarchaeologists. Articles on methodological and theoretical issues relevant to the gathering and interpretation of archaeological and ethnographic data are published in Current Anthropology as well as the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology. The American Anthropologist publishes scholarly presentations on specific case studies in ethnography and other subfields of anthropology, which inform on strategies ethnoarchaeologists may adopt in field research. Articles culled from multidisciplinary sources in anthropology and related fields that deepen understanding of the relationship between material culture and the dynamics of social behavior and cognitive structures are published in the Journal of Material Culture. Journals that focus on regional ethnoarchaeological research include the Canadian Journal of Archaeology and the African Archaeological Review.

Field Methods and Techniques

Methods and techniques the ethnoarchaeologist applies in field research depend on the problem under investigation and the conditions and circumstances of the field. The researcher, nonetheless, needs to be well versed in ethnographic field strategies and able to gather, accurately document, and interpret quantitative as well as qualitative data and acquire skills, where necessary, to conduct field and laboratory experiments. Bernard 2006 is a comprehensive guide to anthropological research in general, while LeCompte, et al. 1993 and Angrosino 2007 are useful references on how qualitative and ethnographic research may be conducted. David and Kramer 2001 discusses various approaches to research and several case studies that may be useful references in field research. Insights into ethnographic research informed by critical theory may be gleaned from Madison 2005, while Denzin, et al. 2008 is an important reference on the application of critical ethnographic field methods among indigenous societies.

Ethical Considerations

Ethnoarchaeological research is usually conducted in foreign communities and locales, where values and expectations of the researcher may differ. Awareness of professional ethics is thus mandatory as a guarantee to the safety, dignity, and privacy of research participants, the communities in which work is undertaken, and the researcher. Discourse on archaeological ethics is engendering the rethinking of ethnoarchaeological field research, especially among indigenous societies. Schmidt and McIntosh 1996 presents vivid examples of damages that irresponsible research activities cause communities and nations. Zimmerman, et al. 2003 is a good entry reading to understanding archaeological ethics and the responsibilities a field researcher has to different publics. The various works in Vitelli and Colwell-Chanthaphonh 2006 raise ethical issues researchers can take for granted, highlighting the consequences of unprofessional research practices among less advantaged communities. Smith 2007 and Silliman and Ferguson 2010 may be referred to by ethnoarchaeologists for alternative strategies by which researchers can engage indigenous peoples to enhance work ethics and break down barriers between indigenous peoples and researchers. McGhee 2008 is a good reading for self-reflection by researchers who wish to revise the social and political philosophy that influences their work on indigenous cultures.

Study Areas and Approaches

Ethnoarchaeology is generally concerned with aspects of human endeavor in living societies that may be understood to enhance archaeological inquiry into how human beings have lived since the period of the earliest-known human-like species. Thus, practitioners seek information about the form and variability of material objects; how these objects are produced, distributed, used, and discarded; and how space is organized, used, and abandoned among hunting-and-gathering, pastoralist, agricultural, and, to some extent, industrial societies. Regardless of their interests, however, researchers continually propose, test, and adopt new ideas and actions in their bid to address issues of concern in the subfield, and this has resulted in a multiplicity of study approaches. Approaches covered under this section include Hunter-Gatherers, Technology, Ceramics, Identity and Ethnogenesis, and Spatial Behavior.

Hunter-Gatherers

The terms hunter-gatherers or foragers generally connote societies that rely mainly on a mix of collecting, hunting (sometimes scavenging), and fishing to subsist. Living foragers are studied in ethnoarchaeology with a view to generating insights that would enhance archaeological explanations of the behavior of the earliest-known human societies. Lee and Daly 1999 is a compilation of major case studies that provide the foundation for contemporary hunter-gatherer research in the subfield. Kelly 1995 clearly defines who hunter-gatherers are and provides a good background to understanding the nuances of hunter-gatherer research. Kent 1996 offers different approaches to the study of diversity and similarities among various foraging societies. Complementary to this is Binford 2001, which presents a number of models for studying variability among such societies. Bird and Bird 2000 is instructive on the impact of children’s foraging strategies on the patterning of archaeological assemblages, and Sellet, et al. 2006 has in-depth information on hunter-gatherer mobility. Marlowe 2010 is a useful reference on hunter-gatherer subsistence, ideological, and material behavior.

  • Binford, Lewis Roberts. 2001. Constructing frames of reference: An analytical method for archaeological theory building using hunter-gatherer and environmental data sets. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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    This volume analyzes ethnographic data on about 330 hunter-gatherer societies to develop models and frameworks for studying differences and similarities among foraging societies.

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  • Bird, Douglas W., and Rebecca B. Bird. 2000. Ethnoarchaeology of juvenile foragers: Shellfishing strategies among Meriam children. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 19.4: 461–476.

    DOI: 10.1006/jaar.2000.0367Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article examines the interconnection between choices children and adults make and processing strategies they adopt in shellfishing, to understand variability of faunal assemblage among foraging societies. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Kelly, Robert L. 1995. The foraging spectrum: Diversity in hunter-gatherer lifeways. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution.

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    This book defines who hunting-and-gathering peoples are and discusses the variability and complexity of their societies.

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  • Kent, Susan, ed. 1996. Cultural diversity among twentieth-century foragers: An African perspective. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    This volume comprises various discussions on 20th-century foraging societies of different geographical locations in Africa.

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  • Lee, Richard B., and Richard Daly, eds. 1999. The Cambridge encyclopedia of hunters and gatherers. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    The volume compiles major studies by several researchers on hunter-gatherer societies from six continents.

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  • Marlowe, Frank W. 2010. The Hadza: Hunter-gatherers of Tanzania. Origins of Human Behavior and Culture 3. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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    This book contains quantitative ethnographic research on subsistence, material culture, religion, and other social structures of hunter-gatherers, with particular reference to the Hadza of East Africa.

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  • Sellet, Frédéric, Russell D. Greaves, and Pei-Lin Yu, eds. 2006. Archaeology and ethnoarchaeology of mobility. Gainesville: Univ. Press of Florida.

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    This is a collection of papers that informs on the mobility of hunting-and-gathering peoples across different regions and offers different approaches for measuring mobility among prehistoric societies.

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Technology

Technology affects and is influenced by behavior. Hence, its relationship with behavior and the nature and patterning of material culture is studied by ethnoarchaeologists. Dobres 2000 suggests that artifact production technology may be studied as an approach to understanding material cultural variability, while Lupo and Schmitt 2005 shows how a study of the relationship between hunting technology and the choice of prey could be an alternative way of studying the variability and patterning of faunal assemblages at sites associated with foragers. Weedman 2006 indicates that stone tool technology may be understood in relation to social, historical, and environmental variables. Yu 2006 emphasizes that changing contexts of adaptation result in changes in tool production technology. Shott and Weedman 2007 also demonstrates that the sizes of stone tools may be actively reduced as a means of curation, and discarded stone tools can be measured to determine the original sizes of the tools. Miller 2007 raises a number of key issues that researchers of technology in archaeology (which includes ethnoarchaeology) may consider. Some studies of pottery technology are discussed in Ceramics.

  • Dobres, Marcia-Anne. 2000. Technology and social agency: Outlining a practice framework for archaeology. Oxford: Blackwell.

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    This book discusses the importance of technology in human development and recommends studies of technology as an alternative way of investigating material culture.

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  • Lupo, Karen D., and Dave N. Schmitt. 2005. Small prey hunting technology and zooarchaeological measures of taxonomic diversity and abundance: Ethnoarchaeological evidence from central African forest foragers. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 24.4: 335–353.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.jaa.2005.02.002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The article examines hunting technology, hunting behavior, and the patterning of faunal assemblages among foragers. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Miller, Heather Margaret-Louise. 2007. Archaeological approaches to technology. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

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    The volume introduces researchers to a wide range of issues relevant to studies of technology in archaeology.

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  • Shott, Michael J., and Kathryn J. Weedman. 2007. Measuring reduction in stone tools: An ethnoarchaeological study of Gamo hidescrapers from Ethiopia. Journal of Archaeological Science 34.7: 1016–1035.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2006.09.009Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The article discusses the reshaping and consequent reduction of stone tools as a measure of curation and shows measurement methods of discarded stone tools that can be undertaken to estimate the original sizes of the tools. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Weedman, Kathryn J. 2006. An ethnoarchaeological study of hafting and stone tool diversity among the Gamo of Ethiopia. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 13.3: 188–237.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10816-006-9010-4Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The article discusses how the historical, environmental, and social contexts of hafting affects the technology and variability of flaked stone tools. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Yu, Pei-Lin. 2006. From atlatl to bow and arrow: Implicating projectile technology in changing systems of hunter-gatherer mobility. In Archaeology and ethnoarchaeology of mobility. Edited by Frédéric Sellet, Russell Dean Greaves, and Pei-Lin Yu, 201–221. Gainesville: Univ. Press of Florida.

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    This chapter discusses projectile point technology in relation to changing contexts of adaptation among hunter-gatherers.

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Ceramics

Ceramics, or pottery, one of the most durable and commonly found material remains archaeologists deal with, is a popular subject of ethnoarchaeological research. Rice 1996a, Rice 1996b, and Stark 2003 are reviews of earlier studies of ceramics that draw attention to issues on which many researchers currently focus. Arthur 2009 shows there is a relationship between variations in household social and economic behavior and pottery assemblages, which may be reflected in the archaeological record. Studies of ceramic production technology and its ecological and historical contexts are common. Silva 2008, for example, examines how the technological choices that potters make under variable social conditions result in distinct dimensions of pottery variability, while García Rosselló 2009 explores continuity and change in pottery-manufacturing technology in relation to pottery production sequence. Beyond technology, Kohtamaki 2010 interrogates conclusions of previous archaeological investigations on the basis of studies of pottery technological sequences associated with production. Sullivan 2008 presents a methodology for studying the relationship between vessel use and discard and the accumulation of potsherds at sites, which has implications for understanding how potsherds enter the archaeological record.

  • Arthur, John W. 2009. Understanding household population through ceramic assemblage formation: Ceramic ethnoarchaeology among the Gamo of southwestern Ethiopia. American Antiquity 74.1: 31–48.

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    Based on extensive fieldwork in Ethiopia, the article discusses the interconnection between variations in social and economic organization, pottery assemblages, and the archaeological record.

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  • García Rosselló, J. 2009. Tradición tecnológica y variaciones técnicas en la producción cerámica mapuche. Complutum 20.1: 153–171.

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    García Rosselló presents a case study that establishes variability in the technical sequence of pottery manufacture on the basis of historical and territorial dynamics among various pottery-manufacturing peoples of Chile.

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  • Kohtamaki, Marjaana. 2010. An ethnoarchaeological study of Twa potters in southern Rwanda. Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa 45.3: 298–320.

    DOI: 10.1080/0067270X.2010.521678Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article uses the results of a study of production sequences among Twa potters of Rwanda to interrogate previous conclusions of archaeological research.

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  • Rice, Prudence M. 1996a. Recent ceramic analysis 1: Function, style and origins. Journal of Archaeological Research 4.2: 133–163.

    DOI: 10.1007/BF02229184Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article is a review of almost a decade of discourse on functional, stylistic analysis of pottery and pottery origins. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Rice, Prudence M. 1996b. Recent ceramic analysis 2: Composition, production, and theory. Journal of Archaeological Research 4.3: 165–202.

    DOI: 10.1007/BF02228880Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article reviews contemporary approaches to studies of pottery production techniques, as well as some methodological, theoretical, and conceptual frameworks that underpin ceramics studies. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Silva, Fabíola Andréa. 2008. Ceramic technology of the Asurini do Xingu, Brazil: An ethnoarchaeological study of artifact variability. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 15.3: 217–256.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10816-008-9054-8Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article discusses how distinct dimensions of variability relate to potters’ technological choices, the modes of skill acquisition, and the contexts in which vessels are used. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Stark, Miriam T. 2003. Current issues in ceramic ethnoarchaeology. Journal of Archaeological Research 11.3: 193–242.

    DOI: 10.1023/A:1025079730891Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Stark examines ethnoarchaeological studies of ceramics in the light of the dynamics of modern ceramic production. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Sullivan, Alan P., III. 2008. Ethnoarchaeological and archaeological perspectives on ceramic vessels and annual accumulation rates of sherds. American Antiquity 73.1: 121–135.

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    The article offers a methodology for studying the relationship between pottery use and discard and the accumulation of sherds at sites. It also suggests some strategies for making ethnoarchaeological studies of pottery relevant to archaeological research.

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Identity and Ethnogenesis

Studies of identity and ethnogenesis (the process by which a group of people is distinguished or distinguishes itself) are used by researchers to explain formal artifact variability and the distribution and use of material culture in relation to the dynamics of behavior, including gender-related and identity-based activity. The studies are particularly useful in regions and communities that comprise peoples of different linguistic, social, and historical backgrounds. Levy and Holl 2002, and Holl 2003 show the application of such studies to generate insights into social and settlement behavior among prehistoric societies, and the patterning of material culture among migrant societies, respectively. Browser 2000 and Frink 2009 link social identity and gender, especially the agency of women, to the choice of material culture and the acquisition of technical know-how. A study of the gender roles in subsistence activity is found in Jarvenpa and Brumbach 2006. Mayor 2010 proposes a multidisciplinary approach to the study of social identity and population dynamics as a means of understanding material cultural variability, while Arthur 2010 draws on a case study of stone procurement and stone tool production by women and children to call for a reconsideration of gender roles in archaeological inquiry.

  • Arthur, Kathryn Weedman. 2010. Feminine knowledge and skill reconsidered: Women and flaked stone tools. American Anthropologist 112.2: 228–243.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1548-1433.2010.01222.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article offers a redefinition of gender roles in archaeology, based on a study of the procurement of stone and the production of high-quality tools from it by women and children. Available online by subscription.

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  • Browser, Brenda J. 2000. From pottery to politics: An ethnoarchaeological study of political factionalism, ethnicity, and domestic pottery style in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 7.3: 219–248.

    DOI: 10.1023/A:1026510620824Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Browser presents the results of a field study in the Ecuadorian Amazon to demonstrate the relationship between domestic pottery style and the political identity and behavior of women. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Frink, Lisa. 2009. The identity division of labor in native Alaska. American Anthropologist 111.1: 21–29.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1548-1433.2009.01074.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article debunks the notion of a straightforward link between production technology and gender and shows the complexities involved in the acquisition of production skills. Available online by subscription.

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  • Holl, Augustin F. C. 2003. Ethnoarchaeology of Shuwa-Arab settlements. Lanham, MD: Lexington.

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    This book discusses the ethnogenesis of Shuwa-Arab settlements and its impact on the nature and patterning of material culture in the Lake Chad Basin.

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  • Jarvenpa, Robert, and Hetty Jo Brumbach, eds. 2006. Circumpolar lives and livelihood: A comparative ethnoarchaeology of gender and subsistence. Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press.

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    This book is a cross-cultural study of gender dynamics and subsistence, based on empirical field data.

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  • Levy, Thomas E., and Augustin F. C. Holl. 2002. Migrations, ethnogenesis, and settlement dynamics: Israelites in Iron Age Canaan and Shuwa-Arabs in the Chad Basin. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 21.1: 83–118.

    DOI: 10.1006/jaar.2001.0390Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article demonstrates the importance of ethnogenesis as an explanatory tool in studies of settlement and site formation, by drawing parallels between Late Bronze Age Israelite settlements and settlements of the Shuwa Arabs in northern Cameroon. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Mayor, Anne. 2010. Ceramic traditions and ethnicity in the Niger Bend, West Africa. Ethnoarchaeology: Journal of Archaeological, Ethnographic, and Experimental Studies 2.1: 5–48.

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    Mayor proposes a multidisciplinary approach to the study of population dynamics, including issues of identity and its influence on material culture.

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Spatial Behavior

Attempts to understand how prehistoric societies organized space for domestic, community, and productive activities spurred on ethnoarchaeological studies both of open and enclosed space, including activity areas, in different social contexts. A working definition of activity area and a guide to how such an area can be identified by archaeologists are presented in Kent 1984. Politis 2007 is a comprehensive account of the way of life of a South American hunting-and-gathering people that informs on the organization and use of space, including the built environment, as well as strategies that ethnoarchaeologists could adopt in studies of space. Ogundele 2005 explains spatial variability of compounds and settlements on the basis of ecological variables, including topography, while Bowser and Patton 2004 uses differences in political activities of men and women to explain the organization of settlement and domestic space. Another gender-related explanation of space is Brumbach and Jarvenpa 1997, which accounts for spatial organization within and outside settlements in relation to variations in gender-related subsistence activities. Lyons 2007 shows that domestic space and architecture may be used as media for expressing and transferring political status. Cameron and Tomka 1996 is a good reference on the processes of the abandonment of settlements. The analyses of nonartifactual data, such as the chemical composition of sediments, in conjunction with other data as a means of identifying prehistoric pastoralist sites, and livestock facilities in particular, are presented in Shahack-Gross, et al. 2003.

  • Bowser, Brenda J., and John Q. Patton. 2004. Domestic spaces as public places: An ethnoarchaeological case study of houses, gender, and politics in the Ecuadorian Amazon. In Special issue: Recent advances in the archaeology of place, part II. Edited by Brenda J. Bowser. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 11.2: 157–181.

    DOI: 10.1023/B:JARM.0000038065.43689.75Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The article discusses the interconnection between the organization of domestic and communal space and gender differences in political activity and its implication for cross-cultural studies of gender relations and the patterning of material culture in archaeology. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Brumbach, Hetty Jo, and Robert Jarvenpa. 1997. Ethnoarchaeology of subsistence space and gender: A subarctic Dene case. American Antiquity 62.3: 414–436.

    DOI: 10.2307/282163Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The article uses an approach involving gender resource mapping to generate information on the interplay between gender-based subsistence activities and spatial organization among hunter-gatherer societies, and its implication for studies of site formation processes.

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  • Cameron, Catherine M., and Steve A. Tomka, eds. 1996. Abandonment of settlements and regions: Ethnoarchaeological and archaeological approaches. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    This is a collection of works that focus on settlement abandonment processes across the world.

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  • Kent, Susan. 1984. Analyzing activity areas: An ethnoarchaeological study of the use of space. Albuquerque: Univ. of New Mexico Press.

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    Kent defines activity area and discusses how activity areas can be identified on the basis of the content and spatial patterning of material remains.

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  • Lyons, Diane E. 2007. Building power in rural hinterlands: An ethnoarchaeological study of vernacular architecture in Tigray, Ethiopia. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 14.2: 179–207.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10816-007-9031-7Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article discusses domestic space and vernacular architecture as vehicles for conveying and reproducing political power. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Ogundele, Samuel O. 2005. Ethnoarchaeology of domestic space and spatial behaviour among the Tiv and Ungwai of central Nigeria. African Archaeological Review 22.1: 25–54.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10437-005-3158-2Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Ogundele shows that the interconnection among variability of domestic space, settlements, and architecture is influenced by variations in ecological conditions. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Politis, Gustavo G. 2007. Nukak: Ethnoarchaeology of an Amazonian people. Translated by Benjamin Alberti. Publications of the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast.

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    This book gives detailed insights into the organization and use of space and the built environment, as part of the culture of an endangered hunting-and-gathering people.

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  • Shahack-Gross, Ruth, Fiona Marshall, and Steve Weiner. 2003. Geo-ethnoarchaeology of pastoral sites: The identification of livestock enclosures in abandoned Maasai settlements. Journal of Archaeological Science 30.4: 439–459.

    DOI: 10.1006/jasc.2002.0853Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article discusses the use of micromorphological and mineralogical analyses of livestock enclosures to distinguish early pastoralist sites from hunter-gatherer sites. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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The Future

Ethnoarchaeology is enhancing the refinement and restructuring of archaeological method and theory. Its scope will continue to broaden so long as archaeologists seek new insights into human behavior and its relationship with material culture. Differences in theoretical perspectives and the development and testing of new study approaches among researchers will remain, in spite of the advocacy in Cunningham 2009, for example, for a coherent research approach. Thus, studies that reflect the scientific virtues of processual archaeology, including experimental research and studies of technology, as in Pierce 2005 and Samuel 2009, are expected to persist alongside research inspired by postmodernist/postprocessualist ways of seeing. More researchers are likely to focus on issues about which there is an active voice in anthropology and archaeology. The call on archaeologists to factor gender perspectives into research in Geller 2009, for example, should encourage additional inquiry into gender-related issues, as Lyons 2009 typifies. The relevance of the subfield would be felt among indigenous societies in particular if researchers meet their social responsibilities, for example by using research results to add value to the cultural heritage of communities in which they study, in addition to satisfying scientific and academic goals. Works such as Smith 1999, Watkins 2000, and Denzin, et al. 2008 are important references for researchers who wish to reconsider their study objectives and approaches regarding work among indigenous peoples.

  • Cunningham, Jerimy J. 2009. Ethnoarchaeology beyond correlates. Ethnoarchaeology 1.2: 115–136.

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    The article is a call to ethnoarchaeologists to rethink the core objectives of the subfield and to reconcile their study approaches to accommodate contending interests in the subfield. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Denzin, Norman K., Yvonna S. Lincoln, and Linda Tuhiwai Smith, eds. 2008. Handbook of critical and indigenous methodologies. Los Angeles: SAGE.

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    The book is a collection of articles on critical theories and indigenous methodologies that recommend critical qualitative research strategies that would accommodate the interests of indigenous peoples.

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  • Geller, Pamela L. 2009. Identity and difference: Complicating gender in archaeology. Annual Review of Anthropology 38:65–81.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev-anthro-091908-164414Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The article advocates the inclusion of feminist perspectives in archaeological research as a means of diversifying the scope of research in the discipline. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Lyons, Diane E. 2009. How I built my house: An ethnoarchaeological study of gendered technical practice in Tigray Region, Highland Ethiopia. Ethnoarchaeology: Journal of Ethnoarchaeological, Ethnographic, and Experimental Studies 1.2: 137–162.

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    The article discusses gender differences in building technical skills, and their expression in spatial realms.

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  • Pierce, Christopher. 2005. Reverse engineering the ceramic cooking pot: Cost and performance properties of plain and textured vessels. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 12.2: 117–157.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10816-005-5665-5Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article discusses experiments conducted to study potential differences in cost and performance between plain and corrugated pots. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Samuel, Delwen. 2009. Experimental grinding and ancient Egyptian flour production. In Beyond the horizon: Studies in Egyptian art, archaeology and history in honour of Barry J. Kemp. Vol. 2. Edited by Salima Ikram and Adian Dodson, 456–477. Cairo, Egypt: Supreme Council of Antiquities.

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    Reports on an experimental study of the use of saddle querns in the production of emmer flour as a means of understanding quern use in Pharaonic times.

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  • Smith, Linda Tuhiwai. 1999. Decolonizing methodologies: Research and indigenous peoples. London: Zed Books.

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    Discusses challenges facing indigenous researchers and ways in which they can make their work responsive to the interests of communities they study.

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  • Watkins, Joe. 2000. Indigenous archaeology: American Indian values and scientific practice. Indigenous Archaeology 1. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira.

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    Watkins identifies some challenges of archaeological research among indigenous societies and defines specific strategies by which mutual understanding can be established between indigenous peoples and archaeologists toward socially oriented goals and results of research.

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LAST MODIFIED: 01/11/2012

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199766567-0005

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