Spatial analysis of the fur trade period floor and roof at housepit 54

Alexandra Williams-Larson, Kristen D. Barnett, Pei Lin Yu, Matthew Schmader, Anna Marie Prentiss

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Spatial Analysis of the Fur Trade Period Floor and Roof at Housepit 54 Alexandra WilliamsLarson, Kristen D. Barnett, PeiLin Yu, Matthew Schmader, and Anna Marie Prentiss Households offer significant analytic potential for archaeologists. They have an emergent character that makes them more than the sum of their parts; they are the primary arena for the expression of gender roles, kinship, and sociali zation, where culture is mediated and transformed into behavior. Because greater emphasis has centered on understanding villagewide evolutionary trends at Bridge River (Prentiss et al. 2008; Prentiss, Foor et al. 2012), no complete houses had been excavated at the site prior to initiation of the Housepit 54 project. The excavation of Housepit 54 during the 2012 field season enabled a closer examination of household organization. Households, however, are ethnographic phenomena, not archaeological ones. While households live in and use material culture, Wilk and Rathje (1982) remind us that archaeologists excavate structures and artifacts, not socioeconomic units; however, as Horne (1982:​677) states, “If the domestic dwelling is the physical and spatial expression of those who live and work therein, then archaeologists are in a good position to argue from the remains of house structures to aspects of the household.” This research examines how communalistic or collectivist household strategies and intrahousehold ranking are manifested in the spatial organization of Housepit 54. To approach these relationships, we provide archaeological and ethnographic frames of reference for interpreting patterns observed within Housepit 54. Defining the Household Defining the term household has proven to be challenging for archaeologists. It is a polysemic word that draws on folk and analytic vocabularies alike, and because it can mean so many things to different people, it has often defied definition and thus further research (Netting et al. 1984; Wilk and Netting 1984; Yanagisako 1979). Initial definitions of households emphasized their morphology in kinship terms (Foster and Parker 2012; Gahr et al. 2006; Gillespie 2000a). However, these attempts were too bound in marriage systems and residence rules to aid analysts in understanding behavior. Later conceptions continued to highlight household composition, though they began to look beyond strict kinship ties to examine how nuclear families, extended family members, individuals, and servants participated in simple or complex households (Blanton 1994). Other definitions emphasized a set of individuals sharing a living space, while also acknowledging that domestic groups do not always reside in a single dwelling (Coupland 1985; Kramer 1982). Wilk and Rathje (1982) conceptualize the household as consisting of three elements: (1) the social: the demographic unit, including the number and relationships of the members; (2) the material: the dwelling, activity areas, and possessions; and (3) the behavioral, the activities performed by household members. This morphological definition provides the most opportunities for analyzing and understanding households. Spatial Analysis of the Fur Trade Period Floor and Roof at Housepit 54 183 Functional definitions allow a greater focus on how households behave. Households are united through four essential activities: (1) production: the organization of labor; (2) distribution: the movement of resources from producers to consumers (such as pooling or sharing); (3) transmission: the movement of rights, roles, land, and property between generations; and (4) reproduction: the rearing and socializing of children (Wilk and Netting 1984; Wilk and Rathje 1982). While all of these behaviors occur within a household, different theoretical approaches may underscore one or more actions. Conversely, disparate theories can find common ground in their shared emphasis on these behaviors. To examine the role of coordination and cooperation within hierarchical societies, this study highlights the roles of household production and distribution as described under the concepts of “the household” and “the House.” Evolutionary and ecological research sees the household as the fundamental socioeconomic institution. Like an organism, the household is very flexible and sensitive, responding even to minor, shortterm fluctuations in the socioeconomic environment (Bawden 1982; Netting et al. 1984). Access to resources, seen in the actions of production and distribution, is associated with the size of the household and the structure (Ames 2006; Netting 1982). Differences in socioeconomic status may influence household size and the demographic performance of members (Netting 1982). In ranked traditional societies such as those documented ethnographically in the Northwest Coast (e.g., Ames 2006), less materially affluent households likely had fewer births and a higher rate of infant mortality while also being at risk of losing their dependents— and, in some contexts, their servants and/or employees— to wealthier households.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Last House at Bridge River
Subtitle of host publicationThe Archaeology of an Aboriginal Household in British Columbia during the Fur Trade
PublisherUniversity of Utah
Number of pages27
ISBN (Electronic)9781607815440
ISBN (Print)9781607815433
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


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