The World of Secret Societies: Dynamics from the Northwest

Author(s): Suzanne Villeneuve; Brian Hayden

Year: 2015


Secret societies are one of the most under-theorized and ignored aspects of prehistoric societies in archaeology, yet they may be pivotal in understanding major developments in sociopolitical complexity in the past. Probable prehistoric examples of secret society remains include the elaborately painted caves of Upper Paleolithic France, the communal structures or caves of the Early Near Eastern Neolithic (Gobekli Tepe, Jerf el Ahmar, Nahal Hemar, and others), and the kivas and caves used in the American Southwest. In order to develop a sound theoretical foundation for the role of secret societies in the past, it is essential to understand how they functioned ethnographically. Some of the best ethnographically documented examples of secret societies among complex hunter/gatherers come from the Pacific Northwest and California (e.g., the hamatsa society). We will focus on the exclusive recruitment techniques and strategies that were ethnographically used to create control over politics and economics by secret society members, and the evident goal of such societies to promote the self-interests of their highest ranking members.

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The World of Secret Societies: Dynamics from the Northwest. Brian Hayden, Suzanne Villeneuve. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397566)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -169.717; min lat: 42.553 ; max long: -122.607; max lat: 71.301 ;