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A Method for Conceptualizing and Classifying Feasting: Interpreting Communal Consumption in the Archaeological Record

  • Megan C. Kassabaum (a1)

Abstract

This article contributes to an ongoing critical examination of feasting by developing a classification scheme that emphasizes the variable contexts in which feasts have occurred. Many recent archaeological and ethnographic accounts have focused on the political and economic roles feasts play in creating power and status differences among participants, while others have highlighted how they build community and increase solidarity within a group. My scheme reconceptualizes the term by giving two independent variables—group size and level of sociopolitical competition—equal roles in determining whether a given eating event is a feast; in turn, my dual-dimensional model facilitates more sophisticated interpretations of archaeological remains. After outlining its utility for describing and comparing eating events, this article evaluates the evidence for feasting at a precontact Native American mound site in the Lower Mississippi Valley. Botanical, faunal, and ceramic analyses of materials from the Feltus mounds (AD 750–1100) reveal fairly typical food-related assemblages, whereas the sheer amount of material, speed with which it was deposited, and size of individual specimens are exceptional. The resulting interpretation emphasizes feasting's role in creating and maintaining group solidarity at Feltus and advances understanding of noncompetitive outcomes of feasting behavior in the precontact American Southeast.

Este artículo contribuye a un análisis crítico en curso de festines por el desarrollo de un plano de clasificación que enfatiza los contextos variables en que las festines han ocurrido. Muchos estudios arqueológicos y etnográficos recientes se han concentrado en los papeles políticos y económicos de las festines en la creación de diferencias de poder y estatus entre los participantes, mientras que otros han destacado su papel en la construcción de la comunidad y el aumento de la solidaridad de un grupo. Mi esquema reconceptualiza el término al dar dos variables independientes (tamaño del grupo y nivel de competencia sociopolítica), roles iguales en la determinación de si un evento alimentario es una fiesta; a su vez, mi plano bidimensional facilita interpretaciones más sofisticadas de restos arqueológicos. Después de describir su utilidad para describir y comparar los eventos de comidas, este documento evalúa la evidencia del festín en un sitio túmulo nativo indígenas precontactos en el valle del Bajo Mississippi. Los análisis botánicos, faunísticos y cerámicos de los materiales de los túmulos de Feltus (750–1100 dC) revelan conjuntos bastante típicos relacionados con los alimentos, mientras que la gran cantidad de material, la velocidad con la que se depositó y el tamaño de los ejemplares individuales es excepcional. La interpretación resultante enfatiza el papel del festín en la creación y el mantenimiento de la solidaridad grupal a Feltus y avanza en la comprensión de los resultados no competitivos del comportamiento del festín en el sur de Estados Unidos precontacto.

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Corresponding author

(mkass@sas.upenn.edu, corresponding author)

References

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A Method for Conceptualizing and Classifying Feasting: Interpreting Communal Consumption in the Archaeological Record

  • Megan C. Kassabaum (a1)

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