AAA Annual Meeting Program

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Paper Information:
Type: Paper
Paper Title: A SINGLE SCALE OF MATERIAL STATUS
Author: BRUCE OWEN (Sonoma State University)   
Date/Time: Sat., 11:15 AM
Co-Author(s): BRUCE OWEN (Sonoma State University) 
Abstract: Tim Earle’s research is fundamentally about social status, and his early work with James Deetz’s tombstone study is the prototypical historical study to validate an archaeological method. Combining those themes with his materialist, quantitative approach, this paper evaluates archaeological measures of social status against historical documentation. Social status is complex. Simple analytical categories such as “commoner” versus “elite” sometimes suffice. But even simplified categories may be difficult to measure or conceptualize. Controlling wealth is one aspect of social status, and its materialization as “material status” should be more directly observable. To assess what is required to measure material status, archaeological evidence from nearly one hundred nineteenth-century San Francisco and Oakland households was compared to historically documented professions and inferred relative wealth of household members. Many potential indices of material status were evaluated, ranging from frequencies of a single ceramic type to indices combining many artifact categories. Only indices that combine numerous artifact types ranging across multiple spheres of activity correlate well with historically documented control of wealth. This finding cautions against assessing status from few archaeological markers. It contrasts the simplicity of a single scale of social status with the complexity of actual behavior. Nevertheless, the whole of that behavior must fit within a household’s budget, the size of which necessarily falls on a single scale from small (low expenditure) to large (high expenditure). Households may rigorously be located on this single scale of material status, but only by considering a broad range of artifacts from multiple spheres of activity.

Program Number: 4-0445
Session Title: POLITICAL ECONOMIES: THE LEGACY OF TIMOTHY K. EARLE, PART 1
Session Sponsor: Archaeology Division
Session Date/Time: Sat., 10:15 AM-12:00 PM
Organizer(s): LISA LUCERO (University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign), CATHY COSTIN (California State University-Northridge) 
Chair(s): LISA LUCERO (University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign)  
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