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Beyond Subsistence

Plains Archaeology and the Postprocessual Critique

Edited by Philip Duke and Michael C. Wilson, with contributions from Richard A.

Publication Year: 1995

This volume presents a series of essays, written by Plains scholars of diverse research interests and backgrounds, that apply postprocessual approaches to the solution of current problems in Plains archaeology. Postprocessual archaeology is seen as a potential vehicle for integrating culture-historical, processual, and postmodernist approaches to solve specific archaeological problems.

The contributors address specific interpretive problems in all the major regions of the North American Plains, investigate different Plains societies (including hunter-gatherers and farmers and their associated archaeological records), and examine the political content of archaeology in such fields as gender studies and cultural resource management. They avoid a programmatic adherence to a single paradigm, arguing instead that a mature archaeology will use different theories, methods, and techniques to solve specific empirical problems. By avoiding excessive infatuation with the correct scientific method, this volume addresses questions that have often been categorized as beyond archaeological investigations.

Contributors inlcude: Philip Duke, Michael C. Wilson, Alice B. Kehoe, Larry J. Zimmerman, Mary K. Whelan, Patricia J. O'Brien, Monica Bargielski Weimer, David W. Benn, Richard A. Krause, James F. Brooks, Neil A. Mirau, Miranda Warburton, Melissa A. Connor, and Ian Hodder

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

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pp. ix-xi

In October 1989, the editors of this volume chaired a symposium titled "The Post-Processual Paradigm in Plains Archaeology" at the 47th Annual Plains Conference in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. This symposium was the first formal attempt to debate the relevance of the postprocessual approach...

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Introduction: Postprocessualism and Plains Archaeology

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pp. 1-16

During the last thirty years, archaeology has undergone a theoretical and methodological revolution as it has assimilated various philosophical concepts into its basic panoply of analytical tools; indeed some philosophers have even entered directly into the archaeological arena (e.g., ...

Part I: Conceptual and Theoretical Perspectives

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1. Processual and Postprocessual Archaeology: A Brief Critical Review

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pp. 19-27

There was a time when words such as "metaphysics" and "premises" drew hostile stares from Plains archaeologists, a pipe-smoking crowd in khaki pants. Laying out points and sherds from their latest River Basin Surveys digs, they thrashed over whether this handful was Talking Crow or...

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2. We Do Not Need Your Past! Politics, Indian Time, and Plains Archaeology

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pp. 28-45

In his recent lecture at the University of South Dakota, William Means, Oglala activist and coordinator of the International Indian Treaty Council, chastised archaeologists for what he called "a ridiculous construction of the past." In his view the Sioux, as well as other American Indian nations, ...

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3. Beyond Hearth and Home on the Range: Feminist Approaches to Plains Archaeology

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pp. 46-65

If papers presented at national and regional conferences are any measure, archaeologists have recently discovered gender, both as a topic of research and as a characteristic of researchers.1 Because the explicit archaeological consideration of gender is relatively new, only limited

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4. Taxonomic Determinism in Evolutionary Theory: Another Model of Multilinear Cultural Evolution with an Example from the Plains

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pp. 66-89

In the 1960s Demitri B. Shimkin said "anthropology is pre-Linnean." Two theoretical observations are embedded in such a statement. First, anthropology lacks a broad theoretical model, such as biological evolution or atomic theory, to explain cultural dynamics and change. Second, it lacks...

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5. Predictive Modeling and Cultural Resource Management: An Alternative View from the Plains Periphery

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pp. 90-109

A common criticism of nonprocessual approaches to archaeological interpretation regards the inadequacy of methodological applications (Binford and Stone 1988; Watson 1989). This failure to provide"cookbook" methods of analysis is at least partially defensible because one of the...

Part II: Building Alternative Archaeologies

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6. Social and Political Causes for the Emergence of Intensive Agriculture in Eastern North America

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pp. 113-128

It seems a long time ago that I was a graduate student at Madison, Wisconsin, and we were encouraged to take courses in environmental studies with the goal of learning about the ecological context of prehistoric human societies. My peers and I were under the tutelage of David Baerreis, ...

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7. Great Plains Mound Building: A Postprocessual View

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pp. 129-142

For more than one hundred years, American laymen and scholars pondered the authorship and use of North America's aboriginal mounds (Silverberg 1968). The builders they identified and the uses they imputed frequently reflected the spirit of the times (Vaughan 1982: 927-929). In the...

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8. Sing Away the Buffalo: Faction and Fission on the Northern Plains

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pp. 143-168

This narrative was just one of many told by Ben during my visits with his family at their small trailer in Mandan, North Dakota, during the summer of 1989. I had no research design in mind when we talked; our conversations were no more than the exchange of memory and meaning...

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9. The Household as a Portable Mnemonic Landscape: Archaeological Implications for Plains Stone Circle Sites

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pp. 169-192

The cultural landscape is a medium for communication, filled with mnemonic symbols that organize cultural activities. The household is an archaeologically visible minimal cultural landscape, so household refuse is more than simply a passive residue of behavior. Ethnoarchaeological...

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10. Medicine Wheels on the Northern Plains: Contexts, Codes, and Symbols

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pp. 193-210

The most enigmatic element of the material culture of Northwestern Plains groups is contained in the archaeological category known broadly, if perhaps inappropriately, as medicine wheels. Many theories of the roles, functions, and meanings of medicine wheels have been proposed, but few...

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11. Projectile Points as Cultural Symbols: Ethnography and Archaeology

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pp. 211-228

Analogy was their explanation of relations, and the dramatic interpretation of these relations and the phenomena thereof their only logic, and so, behold, the arrow was for ages looked on as a wand of enchantment to those who made and used and lived by and loved it; was to them a symbol-a...

Part III: Commentary

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12. Paradigm in the Rough

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pp. 231-234

Like a diamond cut to dazzle, culture is multifaceted. Like a well-cut diamond, culture is reflected differently in different lights. To appreciate fully all the facets of culture, it must be examined in a variety of settings, yes, through the light of different paradigms. This is the point that Duke...

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13. Fighting Back on the Plains

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pp. 235-239

Despite its universalist claims, processual archaeology seems to have been, at least in its early development, especially associated with the American Southwest. Whether it was Longacre and Hill testing out the matrilocal residence hypothesis or Binford developing sampling strategies


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pp. 241-283

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pp. 285-286

David W. Benn is Research Coordinator for Bear Creek Archeology, a firm conducting cultural resource management studies in the Upper Mississippi River Basin. He has published two books and several articles about the Woodland cultural period in Iowa and currently is bending his interests toward the political...


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pp. 287-304

E-ISBN-13: 9780817383640
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817307998

Publication Year: 1995