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THE EVOLUTION OF MATERIAL WEALTH-BASED INEQUALITY: THE RECORD OF HOUSEPIT 54, BRIDGE RIVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 October 2018

Anna Marie Prentiss*
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, University of Montana, 32 Campus Drive, Missoula, MT 59812, USA
Thomas A. Foor
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, University of Montana, 32 Campus Drive, Missoula, MT 59812, USA (tafoor01@yahoo.com)
Ashley Hampton
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, University of Montana, 32 Campus Drive, Missoula, MT 59812, USA (ashley.hampton@umconnect.umt.edu)
Ethan Ryan
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, University of Montana, 32 Campus Drive, Missoula, MT 59812, USA (ethan.ryan@umconnect.umt.edu)
Matthew J. Walsh
Affiliation:
Environmental Archaeology and Materials Science, National Museum of Denmark, Prince's Mansion, Ny Vestergade 10, 1471 København K, Denmark (Matthew.Walsh@natmus.dk)
*
(anna.prentiss@umontana.edu, corresponding author)

Abstract

The evolution of material wealth-based inequality is an important topic in archaeological research. While a number of explanatory models have been proposed, rarely have they been adequately tested. A significant challenge to testing such models concerns our ability to define distinct, temporally short-term, residential occupations in the archaeological record. Sites often lack evidence for temporally persistent inequality, or, when present, the palimpsest nature of the deposits often make it difficult to define the processes of change on scales that are fine enough to evaluate nuanced model predictions. In this article, we use the detailed record of Housepit 54 from the Bridge River site, interior British Columbia, to evaluate several alternative hypotheses regarding the evolution of persistent material wealth-based inequality. Results of our analyses indicate that inequality appeared abruptly coincident with a decline in intra-house cooperation associated with population packing and the initiation of periodic subsistence stress. We conclude that persistent inequality in this context was a byproduct of altered social networks linked to a Malthusian transition and ceiling.

La evolución de la desigualdad social con base en la riqueza material es un tema importante en la investigación arqueológica. Aunque se han propuesto varios modelos explicativos, pocas veces estos han sido comprobado adecuadamente. Un desafío significativo para comprobar estos modelos concierne la resolución ocupacional en el registro arqueológico. Muchos sitios no muestran evidencia de desigualdad persistente en el tiempo o, cuando está presente, a causa de la naturaleza del palimpsesto de los depósitos es difícil definir los procesos de cambio a una escala temporal lo suficientemente detallada como para evaluar las predicciones matizadas de los modelos. En este artículo usamos el registro detallado de la vivienda semisubterránea 54 del sitio de Bridge River, en el interior de Columbia Británica, para evaluar varias hipótesis alternativas acerca de la evolución de la desigualdad persistente con base en la riqueza material. Los resultados de nuestros análisis indican que la desigualdad coincidió con una disminución en la cooperación doméstica, relacionada con el incremento poblacional y el inicio del estrés de subsistencia periódico. Llegamos a la conclusión que la desigualdad persistente en este contexto fue un subproducto de las redes sociales alteradas, vinculadas a una transición y techo maltusianos.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © 2018 by the Society for American Archaeology 

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