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Smallholders, Social Practices, and the Advent of Inequality: A Case Study from the Society Island Chiefdoms (East Polynesia)

Author(s): Jennifer Kahn

Year: 2016

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I discuss comparative analyses of Society Island residential complexes to understand the role of smallholders in the advent of social complexity. In particular, I investigate the role of commoner production and its relationship to the elaboration of social inequality in late prehistory. Integrated spatial analysis of activity areas, artifacts, and sub-surface features provides data for understanding variation in production and consumption activities (tool production, subsistence production, surplus storage, tribute) at Ma’ohi residential complexes. Analyzed through the lens of the House Society perspective, chronometric trends in the establishment and growth of houses highlight notable differences between Principal and Affiliated houses in terms of access to raw materials, specialized labor, and surplus production. The net results of these actions translated to social and financial strength which would have served to elevate and perpetuate the status of particular houses and their social networks within neighborhoods and communities. Analysis of variation in household activities within the context of community layout allows for an understanding that production and consumption activities are not merely a reflection of household economy, but are a form of interaction and negotiation that structure social relations among smallholders and are linked to inter-community displays of wealth, status, and power.

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Smallholders, Social Practices, and the Advent of Inequality: A Case Study from the Society Island Chiefdoms (East Polynesia). Jennifer Kahn. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403676)


Spatial Coverage

min long: 111.973; min lat: -52.052 ; max long: -87.715; max lat: 53.331 ;

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