Patterns of Household Refuse and Socioeconomic Differentiation: A Comparative Analysis


Household garbage constitutes the most ubiquitous, and least ambiguous class of information on Neolithic household activities, social standing, and economic well-being available to archeologists. Unlike the short-lived symbolism of funerary ritual expressed in burials, or the celebration of individuals and institutions in monumental architecture, accumulated household garbage time-averages longitudinal patterns of domestic life. Remains from midden deposits are thus ideally suited to the comparative study of Neolithic social and economic differentiation. Compositional variation revealed through non-metric multidimensional scaling of artifact assemblage data is readily interpreted as evidence for qualitative differences between households. Different configurations of the constituent variables reflect differences in the social structure and underlying bases of differentiation in Neolithic communities. Comparing the average of the Euclidean distances used to produce each scaling provides a direct and quantitative means of assessing differences in the magnitude of household differentiation between cases. For cases where differences in economic well-being can be discerned between households, a Gini-like coefficient of wealth accumulation can be calculated from artifact assemblage data to explore this aspect of differentiation further. These measures are applied to household artifact assemblage data compiled for several different communities drawn from Neolithic societies around the world.

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Patterns of Household Refuse and Socioeconomic Differentiation: A Comparative Analysis. Christian Peterson, Robert Drennan, Adam Berrey. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395493)