32402f16 - Introduction to Archaeology: Class 16 Social...

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Introduction to Archaeology: Class 16 Social groups, status, gender, and inequality Copyright Bruce Owen 2002 Anthropologists and archaeologists often talk about "groups" of people. What do we mean by "groups"? this is a slippery concept, more than it initially appears even more slippery is how we can (or cannot) recognize them in the archaeological record Two general categories of "groups", really different concepts Residential groups live together in the same physical area and feel associated with each other almost, but not quite, the same concept as "corporate" groups, which are those that at least sometimes get together physically as one body and sometimes may act as a single entity as in defending the town against attackers submitting to the rule of a single government etc. examples of residential or corporate groups: family units villages neighborhoods cities nations (this might be pushing the margins of what is really "corporate" or "residential", but one could argue that nations do fit here) Non-residential groups These are categories of people who share common interests or conditions, but may not live in the same physical area and may not actually ever act as a coordinated group even though their individual actions may tend to be similar to other members of the same group men, women Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Hindus… Republicans, Democrats, Greens… age-sets (informal in our society, formal in some others) professions or guilds etc. some groups may fit in both categories, depending on the circumstances ethnic groups may be residential and/or corporate and/or neither kin groups (people who recognize common ancestors and intermarriages) may or may not be residential, may or may not be corporate, may or may not have a significant effect on members' behavior groups may also be nested as subdivisions of others, or may cross-cut each other several residential groups (villages) may be subdivisions of one chiefdom under some circumstances, the people act as villages, maybe even in opposition to other villages
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Introduction to Archaeology F 2002 / Owen: Social groups, status, gender, inequality p. 2 under other circumstances, the same people may act as a unified chiefdom to repel attackers, build a regional ceremonial center, etc. groups may cross-cut each other not a severe problem with residential groups, since they have physical boundaries on the ground but an ethnic group or a political faction might have members in several towns, while other people in those same towns belong to different ethnic groups or factions. how might we recognized "groups" archaeologically? residential groups should not be too hard, given enough excavation we should be able to identify a bunch of houses in a bounded area, which probably constitutes a residential group of some sort but how can you tell that people at a bunch of sites considered themselves to be members of the same chiefdom (a corporate group), or the same ethnicity? shared artifact styles may help, but there may be many different interpretations of why a
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32402f16 - Introduction to Archaeology: Class 16 Social...

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