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Animate landscapes and the transference of authority: resistance to hierarchy among hunter-gatherers of the Eastern Woodlands

Author(s): Matthew Sanger

Year: 2015

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Traditional conceptions of power, hierarchy, and inequity focus on the relations between and among human communities. To a certain extent, objects and places are considered important aspects of human relations, but they are largely framed as inanimate tools wielded by human actors. This prevalent view is threatened by a rich body of research among non-Western societies that shows non-human things, places, and animals are often considered to be powerful beings imbued with agency and efficacy. Drawing from this research, this paper investigates the societal structure of hunter-gatherer groups who inhabited the Southeastern American coastline during the Late Archaic (5000-3000 B.P.). Several of these groups had all of the components thought to lead to social inequality, including sedentism, amassed resources, and long-distance trade, yet there is no evidence of entrenched status differentiation. Considering the likelihood that non-human actors were important members of this past community, it is suggested that certain aspects of emergent elitism, including ownership over material goods, were transferred out of human hands and instead emplaced within particular places on the landscape thereby reducing the threat of intra-human dominance and inequity.

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Animate landscapes and the transference of authority: resistance to hierarchy among hunter-gatherers of the Eastern Woodlands. Matthew Sanger. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395073)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -91.274; min lat: 24.847 ; max long: -72.642; max lat: 36.386 ;

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America