The Duality of Maize: Lessons in a Contextual Archaeology of Foodways

Author(s): Karen B. Metheny

Year: 2016


Historical archaeologists specialize in the evidence of daily life, including foodways, yet archaeological interpretations of food practices are often based upon the uncritical use of food histories. Archaeologists who are methodologically precise when investigating the physical evidence of foodways are often less exacting when using the secondary literature to interpret these remains. This practice poses interpretive perils for the unwary archaeologist, however. An examination of the role of maize in colonial New England shows that assumptions about grain hierarchies, poverty foods, and cultural preferences permeate food histories. It is only through a contextual archaeology of foodways and a critical reading of both primary sources and the secondary literature that archaeologists will be able to recognize the diversity of practices and the array of cultural meanings expressed through foods such as maize, whether in the context of cultural encounters, displays of status, ideologies of health or morality, or negotiations of identity.

Cite this Record

The Duality of Maize: Lessons in a Contextual Archaeology of Foodways. Karen B. Metheny. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Washington, D.C. 2016 ( tDAR id: 434745)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -129.199; min lat: 24.495 ; max long: -66.973; max lat: 49.359 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Society for Historical Archaeology

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): 576