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Costly signaling and the dynamics of consumption in the early-modern Atlantic world:the case of clay tobacco pipes.

Author(s): Fraser Neiman

Year: 2015

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For sixty years archaeologists studying the early-modern Atlantic world have relied on the decline in the stem-hole diameters of clay-tobacco pipes to date their sites. But they have been incurious about the causal dynamics responsible for the ocean-spanning secular trend and variation around it. In this paper I draw on costly signaling theory to a build a simple model of change in marketing strategies of producers and the signaling strategies of consumers that might account for the trend. I use data on clay pipes from seventeenth-century Jamestown and other sites in the Chesapeake region to evaluate predictions from the model. Predictions fit for well imported pipes, but less well for locally-made pipes. The lack of fit raises a question: Why might we expect signalers faced with a choice between two or more equally costly but stylistically distinctive signaling strategies, might prefer the one with which their socially salient superiors are more familiar. A tentative answer to that question promises to illuminate causal dynamics behind "identity" not only in the early Chesapeake but in colonial situations more generally.

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Costly signaling and the dynamics of consumption in the early-modern Atlantic world:the case of clay tobacco pipes.. Fraser Neiman. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396927)


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