In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

chapter 19 Household Production and Specialization at Cerén Payson Sheets and Scott E. Simmons Introduction The theoretical framework for this chapter, and for much of the Cerén research, is household archaeology , the rapidly expanding subfield of archaeology that focuses on the domestic social and adaptive unit. More specifically, the objective of this chapter is to understand craft and agrarian production and specialization in households within the village context. Thus the activities in suprahousehold institutions such as the Structure 10 religious association or sodality, the divination in Structure 12, and the sweat bath (temascal) are not included in this chapter. However, there are indications that Cerén households provided services to these adjacent specialized facilities, and thus brief references to them are appropriate in this chapter. Household archaeology traces its origins in settlement archaeology (Willey et al. 1965, Chang 1968), ethnoarchaeology (Kramer 1982b; Wauchope 1938), ethnography (Wilk 1988, Wisdom 1940), and affiliated social sciences (Arnould 1986). It is now a field with ethnographic and ethnoarchaeological sophistication, improving field techniques (Hayden and Cannon 1984), and an emerging corpus of appropriate method and theory (Netting, Wilk and Arnould 1984; Wilk and Rathje 1982; Ringle and Andrews 1983; Wilk and Ashmore 1988). Sufficient comparative cases have been examined to allow for generalization and theory building (Blanton 1994). Households in sedentary societies are immersed in material culture (Wilk and Rathje 1982), facilitating the identification of household activities, particularly where preservation is relatively good. The household is here defined as the generally coresidential , task-oriented social and adaptive unit intermediate in level between the individual and the neighborhood. Behavior is spatially focused in and around the house structures. The Theoretical Focus: Craft Specialization in Households within the Village Defining, recognizing, and understanding craft specialization have all proven challenging for archaeologists . Early scholars assumed craft specialization was found only in states and civilizations (Childe 1951), but Costin (1991) shows it occurs in less complex societies in a variety of forms. Scholars have tried to identify it in archaeological remains by searching for standardized products (Torrence 1986) and increasing efficiency of production (Rathje 1975), yet standardization and productive efficiency do not necessarily correlate with specialization (Costin 1991). Considerable progress in understanding craft specialization has been made in recent years. Specialization is but one means of production (Costin 1991).Torrence (1986) associates craft specialization with maximization of output and labor force specialization . In the latter, she distinguishes craft production from industrial specialization on a presumed continuum. She documented nonspecialist production and exchange of Melos (Greece) obsidian implements, in contrast to the earlier literature arguing for mass production by state specialists. Hester and Shafer (1991) define a craft specialist as one who ‘‘repeatedly manufactures a craft product for Tseng 2002.3.21 12:14 6272 Sheets / BEFORE THE VOLCANO ERUPTED / sheet 190 of 238 household production and specialization 179 exchange.’’ Similarly, Clark and Parry (1990: 297) emphasize ‘‘production of alienable, durable goods for nondependent consumption.’’ Michaels (1989: 141) discusses ‘‘the relatively regular and standardized mass production of a nonfood item in quantities clearly higher than those necessary for household consumption, by persons having restrictive access to specific technology, knowledge, skills, or raw materials, and characterized by a vertical division of labor.’’ We believe Michaels is too restrictive by eliminating food items. A thorough but demanding definition by Costin (1991: 3) involves the ‘‘regular, repeated provision of some commodity or service in exchange for some other.’’ Full archaeological documentation requires that each end point of commodities and services be known, as well as the frequency of exchange. An ethnographer observing an exchange can readily document both ends and the exchange frequency, but we believe it to be difficult to do so with precision at even the best-preserved archaeological sites. However, in a slightly more generalized sense, Costin’s definition is operational at Cerén in that the items leaving the households and the items arriving after exchange can be identified, and those such as obsidian can be identified as to the source (e.g., Ixtepeque) but not the specific nodes of production and transport between that source and the obsidian’s arrival at Cerén. Thus, emphasizing a node of the production and exchange equation, following Hester and Shafer, Michaels, and Clark and Parry, is more reasonable in most archaeological research. The definition used here is that specialization is production for exchange, or provision of a service. In this chapter...


Additional Information

Print ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.