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CERAMIC SERIATION AND SITE REOCCUPATION IN LOWLAND SOUTH AMERICA
Warren R. DeBoer, Keith Kintigh, and Arthur G. Rostoker
A long-stonding debale in Arncrzonicrrr crrc.harolo,y?:is whether Inrge sites represml conter?zporoneouc c.or?zrnurritir.s o r
pulir?zl).~ests uc,crued through multi/)lr reoc.c~upotion.s. uuntilotive c.ercmiic sericrtion hos heerr used lo support the lotler v i m : Q This crr,yunirnt is r ~ ~ r l r r c r t irr terms r!/ its ,stcrtisticcrl basis crnd its crssun~ptions rd crhout sources ofcrrcrmic. ~~crricihilitv. the On basis oj'this e~~ol~rcrtion. (.on(.lnclr that the c.useJor reoc.c,upolion, based on sericrtion. is un(.onvinc.ing. we D m t r o de 10s rstuclios crrqrrrol(i,yic.o.s de lu Amcr:onicr, urro d r 10s r1icryore.s debates vrJr.susobre, si l o x grundes .sitio.s orqueoltigicos en el drew rcJprc,senlnn c.ornrrniclcrclc,s contrr?zpor6rrecrso pcr1irnpse.slo.s dr mrilti/)les rc.oc.upcic.ionrs.E.stcr ultimcr trsis ha sido .srrstmtcrdu por cm6li.sic c.uontituti~ao .sc,riuc.ionc,.s crr6mico.s. I</ presmte trubujo r l ~ l r i o orgun1mto.c.e.tpueslos de los p r /as srricrc.iorrrs crrcimic.crs, m r.s/)rc.icrlsus bases r.stucli.stic.crsJ /as crrtr:crs crsuniidcrs sohre la,firmte u origen de lo voriubili~lrd c.rrcittziccr. C;)rr hose err rstcl rvcrluuc.i(jn conc1uinio.s qur. m su presmtr rtopu dr dr.sorrollo, /us srriuciones cerumic.crs qur orgumrrrlon lo tr.sis de rc.oc.rrpoc.i(jnno son convincente.~.
continuing issue in archaeological interpretation is whether site size measures .the extent of contemporary settlement or of deposits accrued through multiple reoccupations. This issue has figured prominently in the humid tropics of lowland South America where claims for large multi-hectare prehistoric communities have been questioned on the basis of microseriation analyses that suggest such large sites typically represent palimpsests formed through repeated occupation of favored locales. In this article, we offer an appraisal of the seriational bases of this argument. Although our critique is methodological. it impinges on a central debate concerning prehistoric adaptations to the humid neotropical lowlands. Specifically, it brings into question one of the arguments offered to support the premise that prehistoric Amazonia was a "counterfeit paradise" (Meggers 1971), one inherently beleaguered by environmental constraints that impeded the establishment of large, sedentary, and enduring settlements. There are numerous ethnographic cases in which native South American peoples periodi-
cally reoccupy abandoned settlements. Gross (1983:439), Vickers (1983:47 I ) , and Kracke (1990), among others, have reported this pattern for various Amazonian societies. In a study of house movements among the Chachi-a group occupying the tropical forest of coastal Ecuador, one of us has noted that such reoccupations would leave an archaeological record in which a full survey of I km of riverbank would yield a smear of shallow superposed occupations assignable to one "phase." A plot of these occupations could, in fact, resemble one long linear settlement. Density estimates would be in the order of dozens of houses and hundreds of individuals per river kilometer, estimates that, of course, would be wildly inflated (DeBoer 1989:487). Clearly what appear to be large sites need not always represent populous communities. Even if common among recent lowland societies. however, it is uncertain that multiple shortterm reoccupations of sites is a pattern generally extendable to prehistory. As several revisionist scholars have pointed out, much of the ethnographic record is based on observations of soci-
Warren R. DeBoer Department of Anthropology. Q u e e n College. City University of New York, Flushing. NY 11367 Keith Kintigh Department of Anthropology, Arizona State University, Tempe, AT 85287 Arthur G . Rostoker Program in Anthropology, City University of New York Graduate Center. New York. NY 10036
I A i n America11 Antiquity. 7(3), 1996. pp. 263-278. Copyright 0 by the Society for American Archaeology
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D 2: 10-20 1 0 F 3: 20-30 EL;:^::+^.,>: -.,-. ,.... .;,:. ..'. , G 3: 30-40 ~,.?::.<::;s ..~?,i; i y-:; - r :.:~~ .;; H 3: 40-60 1 2: 20-30 V//////,,A
J 2: 30-40 ==lo% P a j u r a Phase S e r i a t i o n
> ; < r : . : r , m
A 2: 0-10 P 0 0 B 1:o-10 I C 1: 10-20 1
e : i ,i , / /; i,
Figure 1. Frequency seriation of Pajura pottery (below) and interpretation of the occupational history of AM-MA-9 (above). Levels grouped by Meggers into each of the four occupations are shown by the same shading. Labels are composed of a cut number followed by the range of depths for the level. With modifications from Meggers (1991:Figures 6.3 and 6.4).
eties dispossessed,decimated, displaced,or otherwise transformed by centuries o f European assault and, as such, is unlikely to preserve configurations that inform U S in any reliable Sense, , about the Precolumbian past (BalCe 1992; Ferguson and Whitehead 1992; Lathrap 1968; Roosevelt 1989; Whitehead 1994). The applicability o f ethnographic patterns o f site reoccupation to prehistory, therefore, should be evaluated on the basis o f the archaeological record. In a series o f articles that attempt to extend the interpretive potential o f seriation, Meggers (1984, 1991, 1992) has addressed directly the issue o f site reoccupation as a process leading to the formation o f extensive middens. In her words:
Wherever multiple samples are available from large sites, their seriated positions imply reoccupations,
each of which involved only part of the surface area, .. Where the spatial extent of each occupation can be
estimated, it is within the range documented for surviving slash-and-burn agriculturalists . . . . Nor is there any indication of significant increases in the size or Dermanencv of settlements since their first appearaice in theJarchaeologlcal record [Meggers 1991 2001
This is a bold claim that cames high stakes. I f it is indeed the case that large permanent settlements were unknown or rare in prehistoric Amazonia, then support is given to the more general theoretical position that Amazonia is peculiarly beset by environmental factors that limit or thwart cultural development. It is not our intent here, however, to review the lengthy debate over whether or how various environmental factors might have tended to limit settlement size or duration. Rather, we intend to evaluate critically whether or not a persuasive case for site reoccu-
pation has been made on the grounds o f seriation.
Table 1. Typed Sherd Percentages and Total Counts for Pajuri Levels at AM-MA-9. Pajuri Plain Vila Plain Madada Plain Pajura Painted
C2: 1 G 2 0
c 3 : 4 m
Note: Data provided by Betty Meggers.
To do so, we begin with the paradigmatic example offered by Meggers (1991).This case is the analysis o f AM-MA-9, a 10-ha site on the lower Rio Negro in the heart o f the Brazilian Amazon. At this site, clear stratigraphic separation was recorded between an earlier Pajura phase and a superposed Apuau phase. Here we consider only the earlier Pajura materials. Meggers's interpretation o f the Pajura sequence at AM-MA-9 is diagrammed in Figure 1, which presents both the seriation and its spatial projection onto separate occupational episodes. The counts and percentages on which the seriation is based are given in Table I.' Meggers's substantive conclusion is that apparently large sites such as AM-MA-9 represent a number o f smaller and shorter occupations. As she states, "Differences in the relative frequencies o f the samples from the successive levels within each cut are sufficiently great to imply at least four occupations by the Pajur6 phase . . ." (Meggers 1 99 1 :200). There are two steps involved in reaching this conclusion. First is a quantitative seriation o f the sort made famous by J . A. Ford (1962). Such a seriation is used to order assemblages and is based on the notion that, other things being equal, change in material culture takes place gradually such that the proportional representation o f individual material culture traits (in this case, pottery types) increases or decreases in patterned ways over time. Although not without its critics (e.g., Lathrap 1962:37-53), Fordian seriation is a widely used chronological technique. Cowgill (1972) and Marquardt (1978) provide summaries
o f assumptions and conditions attendant to this technique. In the second step as practiced by Meggers, the ordered set o f assemblages is divided into some number o f distinct occupations. This requires deciding which levels (or sets o f levels) are sufficiently different from the others to warrant the inference that they represent temporally discrete units. Each o f these analytic steps deserves scrutiny.
Frequency seriation attempts to place assemblages in an order so that the type percentages display an increasing, decreasing, or composite increasing and decreasing (battleship-shaped) profile over time. Consistency with stratigraphic superposition provides a check on the reasonableness o f the derived ordering. Unfortunately, these two criteria do not always work in complete harmony. It may be that there is no possible ordering o f assemblages in which both constraints are satisfied. Or there may be more than one ordering that fits the rules. Commonly, an approximate fit is obtained either by trial and error or through use o f some quantitative procedure. Figure 1 presents Meggers's ordering o f the Pajura levels from AM-MA-9. In this ordering, stratigraphic consistency is obtained at the expense o f desirable patterns o f change in the type frequencies. The type Pajura Plain generally shows a gradual increase from lower to upper levels, while the only directional change in the type Vila Plain is an abrupt decrease after the second
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seriated level. The remaining types, however, show little patterning in their distribution. From visual examination, it is not obvious that a good ordering has been obtained. We might ask how these data would be ordered using a formal multivariate method. An obvious and reasonable method for this purpose is nonmetric multidimensional scaling, or MDS (Cowgill 1972; Marquardt 1978). Multidimensional scaling is designed to represent, in a small number o f dimensions, the structure inherent in a table o f dissimilarities (distances)between collections. I f there is :I strong temporal component in the relative frequencies o f the ceramic types, MDS will generally produce a plot in which the collections are arranged in a chronological order along an arc. W e start with a table o f distances. While there is more than one way to assess distance (or its inverse, similarity) between assemblages, a generally satisfactory and widely used measure is the Brainerd-Robinson coefficient (Brainerd 195 1 ; Robinson 1951). By convention, it is a similarity measure calculated as the sum o f the absolute values o f the differencesin type percentages between two assemblages, subtracted from 200. For present purposes, it is necessary to transform the Brainerd-Robinson coefficient o f similarity into a distance measure by simply omitting the subtraction from 200. As a distance measure, a eoefficient value o f 0 indicates no difference between assemblages (identical percentages), while a value o f 200 indicates that they are as different as can be (assemblages with no types in common). A two-dimensional scaling o f the 10 Pajuraphase levels, based on the Brainerd-Robinson coefficients given in Table 2, produces the plot shown in Figure 2. In this plot, the symbols indicate Meggers's levels (lettered from A to J as listed in Tables 1 and 2), and sequential levels within stratigraphic cuts are connected by dotted lines. The distance between two points on the plot is related to the difference in type percentages between the indicated levels. Thus, levels C and E are quite similar, while levels B and J are very different in their type proportions. The multidimensional scaling indicates that while there is structure in the data, it does not appear that the intercalated levels from the three
cuts can be ordered very well (as would be indicated by a single line or arc o f points on the plot). In each cut, the upper levels are plotted on the left and the lower levels on the right, indicating a temporal trend within cuts. As is apparent in Figure 2, however, the multidimensional scaling does not clarify, for example, how cut 3 should fit in chronologically with cut I. These results also suggest that other orderings would be stratigraphically consistent and, from an eyeball examination, fit expected seriation patterns as well as the one favored by Meggers. For example, the ordering presented in Figure 3 is stratigraphically consistent and produces good results for Vila Plain, Pajura Red, and Pajura Painted and a rough battleship-shape for Pajura Plain. Another possibility is that temporal trends, even i f present, represent settlement growth rather than discrete occupations separated in time; this possibility, however, cannot be pursued conclusively on the basis o f only three excavation units. Interestingly, the MDS in Figure 2 shows that the cuts are somewhat distinctive and suggests that something in addition to temporal change is structuring the relative type frequencies in an important way. A seriation may fail to be consistent with stratigraphic superposition or to satisfy expectations for patterned changes o f the Fordian kind for a number o f reasons. As appears to be the case here, the relative frequencies o f types may retlect something other than, or in addition to, temporal change. For example, household size and composition, intracommunity political factions (Bowser 1995), and social affiliation affecting access to potting resources (DeBoer 1984) may all impinge on the pottery produced and discarded within different parts o f the same settlement. I~,ack o f fit may also result from sampling error. Sampling issues are a concern even i f the type frequencies reflect only time, the types behave over time according to expectations, and one has collected a ceramic sample by some reasonable systematic procedure. In this context, sampling error refers to the chance deviation o f the type proportions in a level (the sample) from the true proportions indicative o f the time period to which the level dates (the population). A blindfolded selection o f 10 marbles from the proverbial
Table 2. Brainerd-Robinson Distance Coefficients between Pajura Levels at AM-MA-9 Occupation 4 C D CI: 1&20 C2:1&20 Occupation 3 Occupation 2 Occupation I
E F G H I J
CI:2WO C3:20-30 C3:3WO C3:4&60 C2:2&30 C2:3WO
D C2: IO-20
MDS of Pajura Phase Distances
Figure 2. Nonmetric multidimensional scaling of Pajura-phase levels using Brainerd-Robinson coefficients between levels (stress = -096).
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F A G H
E J 2 20-30
I : 30-40
a > 3 20-30
P 0 : 3:30-40
1 0 3 40-60
: 0 1: 0-10 I 1 0 2 10-20 1 : 0 1 10-20 1 : 0 1 :20-40 1 0
Alternate Pajura Phase Seri.ation
Figure 3. An alternative ordering of the Pajura levels from AM-MA-9. Compare to Figure 1.
urn filled with a mixture of 70 percent white and 30 percent black marbles will not necessarily yield exactly seven white marbles. For example, five (50 percent) or fewer white marbles out of 10 would be picked about 15 percent of the time. However, as the sample size increases, sampling error tends to diminish. In a selection of 40 marbles, 20 (50 percent) or fewer white marbles would be picked less than 1 percent of the time. Thus, for sampling reasons alone, the failure of a seriation to satisfy the ideal rules may actually be pretty likely. This is especially true if the collections being seriated are fairly small, and if relatively rare types are involved.As seen in Table 1, however, the numbers of sherds obtained from the various cuts of AM-MA-9 are relatively large. Thus, sampling error alone is unlikely to account for the less-than-ideal behavior of the Pajura seriation.'
Grouping Levels into Occupations
We now turn to the second methodological issue, that of dividing a sequence of levels into temporally distinct occupations. This is a more difficult task than it appears on the surface.Although there are excellent quantitative methods for seriation (Marquardt 1978), useful measures of similarity and difference, and a variety of effective methods for grouping assemblages, there is little theoretif cal guidance in deciding what degree o similarity
in proportions among levels would indicate a single occupation or what degree o difference f between them would indicate distinct time periods. Meggers divides the 10 Pajura-phase levels into "at least" four occupations.The earliest occupation is represented by Cut 2:20-30 and Cut 2:30-40 (also identified as levels I and J in Table I), the second is composed of level H, the third is made up of levels F and G, and levels A-E form the final occupation.' However, as the criteria used to distinguish the occupations were not made explicit in Meggers's publication, we attempt to clarify the reasoning through a quantitative assessment of within-occupation similarity and between-occupation differences in type representation. There are at least two necessary (but far from sufficient) conditions that we might logically impose on a grouping of levels into an occupation, assuming that temporal change accounts for the differences in type proportions. First, levels grouped within an occupation should be more similar to other levels within that occupation than they are to levels grouped in another occupation. Further, we might require that the difference between the identified occupations to be greater than would be expected by chance. For this purpose, it is appropriate to use again the interlevel Brainerd-Robinson distance coeffi-
Table 3. Within-Occupation and Between-Occupation Distances in the Pajuri Levels, AM-MA-9.
Occupation 3 2 23* 19 24 23*
Occupation 3 2 20*
1 33 38 25*
% .- 4
37 37 29*
4 2 I
Notes: Off-diagonal elements marked by asterisks show distances between adjacent occupations. Table 3a: Average of withinand between-occupation Brainerd-Robinson coefficients from Table 2. Distances between levels within an occupation appear underlined. Table 3b: Between-occupation Brainderd-Robinson distances computed from pooled collection percentages.
cients presented in Table 2. Within Occupation 4, distances between levels vary from 4 to 20 while distances between Occupation 3 and Occupation 4 levels range from 13 to 32. Table 3a summarizes these data as average distances within and between occupations. Thus, the average distance within occupations ranges from 14 to 19, while the average distance between levels assigned to chronologically adjacent occupations ranges from 23 to 29. Table 3b presents an alternative summary of the differences between occupations. In it, sherd counts from all levels included in each occupation are combined and the BrainerdRobinson distances between the combined collections are calculated. In this summary, distances between adjacent occupations range from 20 to 25. Considering all these comparisons, then, we might infer that Meggers's separation of levels into distinct occupations should require a Brainerd-Robinson difference on the order of 23. It turns out that these four occupations are largely consistent with the first requirement suggested above, namely that within-occupation distances are generally smaller than betweenoccupation distances. The other requirement, that difference between occupations be greater than expected by chance, is a bit more difficult to evaluate. To state the question more precisely: We need to consider the likelihood that apparent differences between occupations could be a result of sampling problems. We begin with the most convincing occupation, Occupation 4, in discussing this issue. In this context, one way to phrase the sampling question is: How likely are we to have gotten an assemblage as different from Occupation 4 as Occupation 3 through chance selection of sherds from Occupation 4? That is,
might a Brainerd-Robinson distance as large as 20 (the Occupation 3 4 distance from Table 3b) occur through a random selection of sherds from a population matching that of Occupation 4? Assume for the moment that rather than an urn filled with marbles, we have a cloth bag filled with a very large number of potsherds (thoroughly mixed) with types in exactly the proportions given in our summed Occupation 4 assemblage. If we were to choose at random, say, 100 sherds from this bag and then calculate the Brainerd-Robinson distance between our sample of 100 sherds and the ideal Occupation 4 assemblage percentages, in general we will not get a coefficient of 0, but some larger number, because of sampling error. A computer program can simulate just this process a large number of times (see, e.g., Aldenderfer 1991; Kintigh 1984). That is, we pick, say, 10,000samples of 100 sherds. For each sample we compute the Brainerd-Robinson distance between sample and population percentages. The mean and standard deviation of this set of 10,000 distances characterize the sampling error. Ten thousand random selections of 100 sherds from a population with Occupation 4 ideal proportions have a mean Brainerd-Robinson distance of 12 (with a standard deviation of 5) from the population values. Thus, for samples of 100 sherds, we would expect a distance of 12 5 from the population. We may take some comfort in the fact that for samples of 100 sherds, distances of 20 or more are obtained by chance about 11 percent of the time (first line of Table 4a). However, with the much larger collections available from the actual PajurCphase levels, only the sampling of Occupation 2 from an Occupation 3
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Table 4. Probabilities of Obtaining by Chance a Brainerd-Robinson (BR) Difference as Large or Larger than the Observed for Hypothetical Samples of 50 and 100 and for the Actual Sample Sizes.
Probability of BR Distance Sample-Population Comparison Sample Population from Occupation 3 Occupation 4 Occupation 2 Occupation 3 Occupation 1 Occupation 2 Occupation 4 Occupation 3 Occupation 3 Occupation 2 Occupation 2 Occupation 1
2 Observed Given Sample Size
Observed BR Distance
Probability of BR Distance Sample-Sample Comparison Comparison Given Population Occupation 3 4 Occupation 2-3 Occupation 1-2 Occupation 3 + 4 Occupation 2 + 3 Occupation 1 + 2
2 Observed Given Sample Size
Observed BR Distance 20 21 25
Sample Sizes 4,093,839 110,409 1,074,110
Actual <.01 .19 .04
100,100 .39 .4 1 .20
50,50 .70 .68 .44
Noles: Probabilities are based on at least 1,000 Monte Carlo trials. Table 4a examines the difference between two occupations treating the observed type proportions from one occupation as exact population proportions. Table 4b evaluates the difference between two samples drawn from a population determined from the pooled counts of all levels included in the two occupations.
population has a substantial likelihood of happening by chance (with a probability of . lo). We can also look at this question in a related, but slightly more realistic way. Let us suppose that the levels identified with Occupation 2 and Occupation 3 truly date to the same period. How likely is it that we could pick two collections (one for each supposed occupation) from a pooled population that would look as different from each other as Meggers's Occupations 2 and 3? As indicated in Table 3b, the Brainerd-Robinson difference between these two occupations is 21. We follow a procedure similar to that described above. In this case, however, we pick two independent samples from the combined population of Occupations 2 and 3. The Monte Carlo procedure repeatedly picks pairs of samples from this pooled population, calculates the BrainerdRobinson distance between them, and summarizes the distribution of distances. For paired samples of 100, a Brainerd-Robinson distance of 21 or more is obtained 41 percent of the time (Table 4b, line 2). Even if samples of 110 and 409 (the number of sherds from Occupations 2 and 3, respectively) are compared, a difference of 21 or more occurs by chance 19 percent of the time.
Furthermore, as pointed out earlier, Meggers's seriation of AM-MA-9 is only one of several plausible orderings, but not necessarily the best. For example, the alternative seriation illustrated in Figure 3 suggests a reasonable division into three groups consisting of the first four levels, the second four, and the last two. While levels I and J together form an occupation in both analyses, alternative Occupation 1 consists of levels from Meggers's Occupations 2, 3, and 4. This alternative ordering is genuinely different and, on the basis of stratigraphic and statistical criteria, stands as well or better than Meggers's division into occupation^.^ Our primary purpose, however; is not to criticize the seriation ofthe Pajura' levels at AM-MA-% nor to propose a better seriation, but rather to evaluate whether an effective argument for site reoccupation has been advanced. It may be useful to briefly review where we stand in this appraisal of Meggers's claim that the 10 Pajura levels comprise at least four temporally distinct occupations. Visual inspection of the grouping of seriated levels into occupations suggests at least minor inconsistencies in the intraand interoccupation similarities. Our quantitative evaluation, however, indicates that the Pajura seri-
L I I
. . '.,
Figure 4. Map of Aldeia da Queimada Nova (after Meggers and Maranca 1980:Figure 2). Stippled areas indicate house middens assigned to a west moiety; blank areas indicate house middens assigned to an east moiety.
ation is logically plausible in that intraoccupation variation is less than interoccupation variation. Furthermore, with the exception of the Occupation 2-3 difference, the distinctions between occupations are unlikely to stem from sampling errors. Too much comfort, however, should not be taken from this relatively positive result as the tests applied to validate the occupations are biased in favor of finding significant differences between them. This is so because the levels within an occupation were grouped together in the first place on the basis of their evident similarity. Finally, an alternative seriation that significantly redefines the occupational history of AM-MA-9 is equally or more feasible than the one proposed by Meggers. Something is missing or amiss.
The Issue of Contemporary Variation
A lingering problem is the absence of good information or theoretical guidance concerning the degree of typological variation that can be expected within a contemporary community. This problem is obviously a critical one in order to
identify separate site occupations on the basis of differences in ceramic collections, whether stratified or spatially disjunct. Even if separate "occupations" meet sampling standards, this result does not serve to certify the reality of reoccupation as opposed to synchronic variability within a community. Meggers herself has coauthored an article that addresses this issue as manifested at the site of Aldeia da Queimada Nova located in the state of Piaui, eastern Brazil (Meggers and Maranca 1980). As somewhat schematically rendered in Figure 4, Aldeia da Queimada Nova consists of a series of midden concentrations ("areas") arranged around a plaza largely devoid of cultural debris. This structured arrangement strongly suggests one contemporary community. We agree with Meggers and Maranca that the overall pattern indicates a circle of house middens flanking a central plaza, a community layout widely reported ethnographically in Lowland South America (e.g., Myers 1973:244245). Table 5 gives the percentages of typed sherds retrieved from each midden area, while Table 6 renders the
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Table 5. Typed Sherd Percentages and Total Counts for Areas at Aldeai da Queimada Nova. Vermelho Sobre Blanco Simples
Simples Alleged East Moiety Area 8 Area 9 Area I0 Area 14 Area 15 East Total Alleged West Moiety Area 1 Area 2 Area 3 Area 4 Area 6 Area 7 Area 5 West Total 55.2 59.8 40.9 49.0 57.6 52.6 59.7 53.2 60.7 59.1 33.3 49.6 61.2 55.4
Simples 2.3 3.1 5.0
Corrugado Complicado 37.9 29.0 48.2 41.9 33.3 38.5 13.2 40.5 33.3 33.8 33.3 44.3 38.8 37.2
Total 999 286 626 155 649 2,715 129 205 84 718 3 698 170 2,007
4.4 8.0 5.9 9.0 1.7 4.8
7.4 4.1 17.1
Table 6. Brainerd-Robinson Distance Coefficients between Areas at Aldeia da Queimada Nova. Areas 1 59
Notes: Coefficients at upper left pertain to distances within the eastern moiety, those at lower right to distances within the westem moiety, while those within the dashed lines to between-moiety distances. Area 6, with only three sherds, is excluded from the matrix.
same data in the form of Brainerd-Robinson difference coefficients. As arrayed in this latter table, the average intracommunity coefficient is 30, a figure considerably higher than either the intraoccupation or interoccupation values calculated for the previously discussed case of AM-MA-9. This disparity, wherein a coefficient of 30 can be subsumed within contemporary variation in one case and used to distinguish separate occupations in another, is bothersome but need not be fatally damaging, as there is no reason to assume
that contemporary typological variation is a constant across regions or classificatory systems. In seeking sources of variation other than change over time, Meggers and Maranca suggest that some of the variation witnessed within Aldeia da Queimada Nova might reflect the operation of a moiety division, a type of social organization common in Lowland South America, although its material correlates, at least as evinced in ceramics, remain largely undocumented. This creative attempt to use ceramic types to get at social orga-
h . S.
Figure 5. Distribution of areas within a large site in the Peruvian Amazon (top frame). The four lower frames show the sequence of occupation based on the ceramic evidence presented in Figure 6.
nization, however, is weakly supported by their own data. As parsed in Table 6, the mean Brainerd-Robinson coefficient for intermoiety comparisons (29.95) is essentially identical to the value for intramoiety comparisons (29.99). As can be gleaned from Table 5, the only real difference between these alleged moieties reduces to a relatively small number of sherds (184), distinguished by whether the red paint is applied over a white-slipped (Vermelho sobre Branco) or plain (Vermelho sobre Simples) surface. If we think of sherds as fragments of parent vessels, this whole picture of social organization could be generated by the breakage of a few pots. Although we acknowledge that rare items may cany important, even key, social information, such sparse finds, unless documented repeatedly, cany the danger of elevating what might be accidents to large and unwarranted inferential effects.
An Ethnoarchaeological Comparison
In all fairness, however, Meggers and Maranca presented their interpretation as a kind of experiment, one in need of further evaluation. Let us try to find a case that addresses some of the emergent
ambiguities and complexities pertaining to contemporary vs. sequential occupations at single sites. The top frame of Figure 5 plots the distribution of 13 areas along 700 m of oxbow shoreline on the central Ucayali, Peru. In Figure 6, the ceramic collections from these areas are arranged into a quantitative seriation that meets Fordian expectations somewhat better than does the exemplar of AM-MA-9 (note that adjacent areas have been grouped in this diagram). Type 1 increases monotonically, type 2 displays the excusable irregularities of small samples, type 3 reasonably approximates a lozenge-shaped profile of change, while type 4 decreases over time in an acceptable manner. If we rigorously apply Meggers's criterion of reoccupation as worked out at AM-MA-9, then most of the areas in our Ucayali example would represent separate occupations (the mean interarea Brainerd-Robinson coefficient is a substantial 58). As shown in Table 7, the exceptions would be those cell entries along the diagonal whose values are less than 23. As there is no a priori reason to believe that cultural change, as evinced in the medium of potsherds, is a constant,
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SAMPLE N U M B E R A N D SIZE 15 14 8% 1479 516
Figure 6. Frequency seriation for the areas plotted in Figure 5. Type 1 is Shipibo Black-and-Red-on-White.Type 2 is Shipibo Incised. Type 3 is Shipibo Red or White-on-Red. Type 4 is Shipibo Plain.
let us nearly double this criterion such that 40 is the cut-off value for reoccupation, a value well above that distinguishing the probably contemporaneous house middens o f Aldeia da Queimada Nova. Using this criterion, we can decompose our Ucayali site into four sequent occupational episodes. These are plotted in the lower frames o f Figure 5. We thus have successfully adapted the Brazilian-based model o f AM-MA-9, as further informed by Aldeia da Queimada Nova, to the Peruvian Amazon.
There is a problem, however. The 13 "areas" mapped in Figure 5 actually represent 1 1 contemporary households within the Shipibo settlement o f San Francisco de Yarinacocha. In other words, the ceramic assemblages associated with these contemporary households within one living community display much more variability than that attributed to temporal change involving multiple reoccupations over centuries. The evidence seriated in Figure 6 is derived from a complete ceramic census conducted at San
Table 7. Matrix of Brainerd-Robinson Difference Coefficients for the Areas Plotted in Figure 5
Areas 4-5 A B
12 10-11 13 9 3
Figure 7. Procedure for estimating exterior surface area of a Shipibo vessel. The vessel is imagined as a series of stacked cylinders, each of 1-cm height. Surface area is estimated by the equation at the bottom. See Nelson (1985) for a fuller discussion of this procedure for purposes of estimating vessel volume.
Francisco de Yarinacocha during 1970. Details o f parable to the sherd-based data sets employed in this census, largely involving whole vessels while quantitative seriation.' Finally, the "typed surthey were still in use, have been presented else- face areas o f the Shipibo vessels can be rendered where (DeBoer 1984, 1990; DeBoer and Lathrap as sherd counts in which each sherd is estimated 1979). To make these data relevant to the issue o f arbitrarily to be a plaque o f 20 cm2. site reoccupation, we have had to project whole Conclusion vessels into the archaeological idiom o f potsherds. Archaeologists, o f course, spend consider- What has been accomplished in the preceding able effort and time in attempting to reconstruct exercises and in the "thought experiment" vessels from residual sherds. For present pur- employing ethnoarchaeological data? W e have poses, however, we have proceeded in the oppo- attempted to show that the method used by site direction. Meggers and her colleagues to substantiate a patHow we have pursued this exercise requires tern o f periodic reoccupation at sites in the explanation. We began by estimating the surface Brazilian Amazon harbors several possible ambiarea o f all 200 vessels recorded in the 1970 cen- guities that render their conclusion suspect. While sus. The technique for estimating surface area is quantitative seriation may be sufficiently robust illustrated in Figure 7 . Surface area, in turn, was to sense major chronological trends, we doubt that it broken down into the simple categories favored can succeed in clearly identifying temporally disby ceramic typologists: Shipibo Plain, Shipibo junct occupations, as were proposed within the White-on-Red, Shipibo Black-and-Red-on- Pajura phase at AM-MA-9. The demonstration o f White, and the like. This purposeful fragmenta- statistical differences between sets o f levels tion o f whole pots may seem unusual, but it is one grouped into "occupations" according to some way to recast the Shipibo data into a format com- threshold o f distinction fails to prove discontinu-
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ity and need not constitute identification o f reoccupational episodes. Both the ethnographic case o f the Shipibo and the archaeological example o f Aldeia da Queimada Nova demonstrate that contemporary variability within communities, at least as sensed in ceramic typologies, can exceed the variability that is interpreted at AM-MA-9 to indicate reoccupational episodes. Furthermore, the contemporary household assemblages o f San Francisco de Yarinacocha can be seriated, with relative ease, in a manner that effectively mimics chronological change. Without better information and theory concerning the factors accounting for the amount o f variability characterizing artifact assemblages, we are accordingly left with little guidance for distinguishing contemporary from temporal variation across different parts o f the same site, or for distinguishing continuous in situ change from reoccupational episodes within cuts. This interpretive ambiguity becomes additionally complex when sites cease to be viewed in terms o f an ideal polarity in which they are either large, contemporary communities, on the one hand, or, alternatively, palimpsests accrued through discrete reoccupations separated by periods o f complete abandonment. I f sites are viewed more realistically as dynamic depositional surfaces on which the archaeological record is "smeared" and "blended (wording from Ascher 1968), and i f settlements are seen as having complex histories in which structures and features are built, and dismantled at variable rates, then the use o f seriated levels in order to detect, or argue for, either end o f this polarity becomes problematical at best. This is especially so i f stratigraphy is based on levels excavated in arbitrary slices o f 10 cm. We do not believe that seriation-based arguments for site reoccupation in lowland South America are convincing. Although they generally survive tests o f statistical plausibility, they neither withstand scrutiny from the standpoint o f empirically observed patterns o f contemporary variability, nor are buttressed by any body o f theory that points unequivocally to the recognition o f separate occupations. As such, the argument based on seriation cannot be used as an imprimatur to support the more general position that large sites did not occur in prehistoric Amazonia due to an envi-
ronment inimical to the establishment o f sizable, permanent communities. This is an important conclusion for there are indications that the case made for site reoccupation is being accepted as a fully demonstrated fact (e.g., Miller et al. 1992), one that can be applied mechanically in order to "decompose" any large-sized sherd scatter into distinct occupations. We feel compelled to express our doubts and concerns at this early stage o f investigation. As has been learned so often in science, it is better to be critically skeptical at the very onset o f a new interpretive approach than to be forced later to unlearn what has become entrenched wisdom.
Acknowledgments. An earlier and much abridged version of this paper was presented to the symposium "Model Building and Validation in New World Archaeology: Papers in Honor of Donald W. Lathrap," organized by John Isaacson and Ronnie Cann for the 1992 Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association. During and after the symposium proceedings, Peter Stahl and James Zeidler gave helpful advice concerning further development of the paper. Betty Meggers has been gracious in providing unpublished data that we have incorporated into our analysis; we regret if our use of this information may not always be to Dr. Meggers's liking. Two anonymous reviewers furnished instructive criticisms.
Aldenderfer, M. 1991 The Analytical Engine: Computer Simulation and Archaeological Research. In Studies in Archaeological Method and Theory, vol. 3, pp. 195-247, edited by M. B. Schiffer. University of Arizona Press, Tucson. Ascher, R. 1968 Time's Arrow and the Archaeology of a Contemporary Community. In Settlement Archaeology, edited by K . C. Chang, pp. 43-52. National Press Books, Palo Alto, California. Balee, W. 1992 People of the Fallow: A Historical Ecology of Foraging in Lowland South America. In Conservation of Neotropical Forests: Working ,from Traditional Resource Use, edited by K . H. Redford and C. Padoch, pp. 35-57. Columbia University Press, New York. Bowser, 9. 1995 Style versus Substance: An Ethnoarchaeological Analysis of Achuar and Quichua Pottery from the Ecuadorian Amazon. Paper presented at the 60th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Brainerd, G. W. 1951 The Place of Chronological Ordering in Archaeological Analysis. American Antiquity 16:301-313. Cowgill, G. L. 1972 Models, Methods, and Techniques for Seriation. In Models in Archaeology, edited by D. L. Clarke, pp. 381-424. Methuen, London.
DeBoer, W. R. 1984 The Last Pottery Show: System and Sense in Ceramic Studies. In The Many Dimensions of Pottery: Cerunlics in Archaeology and Anthropology, edited by S. E. van der Leeuw and A. C. Pritchard, pp. 527-568. Institute for Pre- and Proto-history, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam. 1989 The House that Jesusito Built. In Households and Communities, edited by S. MacEachern, D. Archer, and R. Garvin, pp. 478-489. Proceedings ofthe 21st Annual Chacmool Conference, Archaeological Association of the University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta. 1990 Interaction, Imitation, and Communication as Expressed in Style: The Ucayali Experience. In The Uses of Style in Archaeology, edited by M. Conkey and C. Hastorf, pp. 82-104. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. DeBoer, W. R., and D. W. Lathrap 1979 The Making and Breaking of Shipibo-Conibo Ceramics. In Ethnoarchueology: Implications of Ethnogruphy,forArchaeology, edited by C. Kramer, pp. 102-138. Columbia University Press, New York. Doran, J. E., and F. R. Hodson 1975 Mathematics and Computers in Archaeology. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Ferguson, R. B., and N. L. Whitehead (editors) 1992 War in the Tribal Zone: Expanding States and Indigenous Warfhre. School of American Research Press, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Ford, J. A. 1962 A Quantitative Method for Deriving Cultural Chronology. Technical Manual 1. Pan American Union, Washington, D.C. Gross, D. R. 1983 Village Movement in Relation to Resources in Amazonia. In Adaptive Responses of Native Amuzonians, edited by R. B. Hames and W. T. Vickers, pp. 429450. Academic Press, New York. Kintigh, K. W. 1984 Measuring Archaeological Diversity by Comparison with Simulated Assemblages. American Antiquity 4944-54. Kracke, W. 1990 Space as Movement: The Parintintin Settling of the Maici Valley. Paper presented at the 18th Annual Midwest Conference on Andean and Amazonian Archaeology and Ethnohistory, Chicago. Lathrap, D. W. 1962 Yurinacochu: Stratigraphic Excavations in the Peruvian MontaAa. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Anthropology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 1968 The "Hunting" Economies of the Tropical Forest Zone of South America: An Attempt at Historical Perspective. In Man the Hunter, edited by R. 9. Lee and I. DeVore, pp. 23-29. Aldine Publishing Company, Chicago. Marquardt, W. H. 1978 Advances in Archaeological Seriation. In Advances in Archaeological Method and Theory, vol. 1, edited by M. B. SchiTfer, pp. 266314. Academic Press, New York. Meggers, B. J. 1971 Amazonia: Man and Nature in a Counterfeit Paradise. Aldine Publishing, Chicago. 1984 Resource Optimization and Environmental
Limitations in Lowland South America. Reviews in Anthropology 1 1 :288-293. 1991 Cultural Evolution in Amazonia. In Profiles in Cultural Evolution, edited by A. T. Rambo and K. Gillogly, pp. 191-2 16. Anthropological Papers No. 85. Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. 1992 Prehistoric Population Density in the Amazon Basin. In Disease and Demography in the Americas, edited by J. W. Verano and D. H. Ubelaker, pp. 197-205. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. Meggers, B. J., and S. Maranca 1980 Uma Reconstituiqao Experimental de Organizaqao Social, Basada na Distribuiqao de Tipos de Cersmica num Sitio Habitaqao da Tradiqao Tupiguarani. Separata de Pesquisus, Antropologia 31, pp. 226-247. Instituto Anchietano de Pesquisas, Rio Grande do Sul, Brasil. Miller, E. T., et al. [coauthors not identified] 1992 Archeology in the Hydroelectric Projects qf Eletronorte: Preliminary Results. Centrais Eletricas do Norte do Brasil, Brasilia. Myers, T. P. 1973 Toward the Reconstruction of Prehistoric Community Patterns in the Amazon Basin. In Variation in Anthropology: Essays in Honor of John C. McGregor, edited by D. W. Lathrap and J. Douglas, pp. 233-252. Illinois Archaeological Survey, Urbana. Nelson, B. A. 1985 Reconstructing Ceramic Vessels and Their Systemic Contexts. In Decoding Prehistoric Ceramics, edited by B. A. Nelson, pp. 310-330. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale. Robinson, W. S. 1951 A Method for Chronologically Ordering Archaeological Deposits. American Antiquity 16:293-301. Roosevelt, A. C. 1989 Resource Management in Amazonia before the Conquest: Beyond Ethnographic Projection. In Resource Management in Amazonia: Indigenous and Folk Strategies, edited by D. A. Posey and W. Balee, pp. 30-62. Advances in Economic Botany No. 7. New York Botanical Garden, New York. Skibo, J. M., M. B. Schiffer, and N. Kowalski 1989 Ceramic Style Analysis in Archaeology and Ethnoarchaeology: Bridging the Analytical Gap. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 8:388409. Vickers, W. T. 1983 The Territorial Dimensions of Siona-Secoya and Encabellado Adaptation. In Adaptive Responses qf Native Amazonians, edited by R. B. Hames and W. T. Vickers, pp. 451-478. Academic Press, New York. Whitehead, N. L. 1994 The Ancient Amerindian Polities of the Amazon, the Orinoco, and the Atlantic Coast: A Preliminary Analysis of their Passage from Antiquity to Extinction. In Amazonian Indians from Prehistory to the Present, edited by A. C. Roosevelt, pp. 33-53. University of Arizona Press. Tucson.
1. Figure I and Table 1 display only the six most common of 12 ceramic types recognized for the Pajuri occupations. The
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six excluded types are too rare to have a significant impact on the seriation. 2. Quantitative seriation depends on the assumption that sherds represent statistically independent observations. This assumption does not hold whenever multiple sherds from a single vessel are all counted. Although this problem is not pursued here, see Skibo, Schiffer, and Kowalski (1989) for the important implications that this issue may pose for archaeological interpretation. 3. We have taken the liberty of strengthening Meggers's argument by shunting one level from Occupation 2 to Occupation I. The reason for doing so is that Cut 2 (20-30 cm) is much less different from Cut 2 ( 3 0 4 0 ) than it is from Cut 3 (40-60). where difference is measured by respective Brainerd-Robinson coefficients of 16 and 26 (see Table 2). 4. Although not elaborated here, alternative grouping of levels into occupations is supported by a k-means cluster analysis (Doran and Hodson 1975) of type proportions. This
alternative grouping generally shows smaller within-group than between-group distances, and all probabilities of achieving the observed between-group distances with the actual sample sizes are much less than .01. Thus, this analysis favors our alternative grouping over the occupational breakdown posited by Meggers.
5. Some readers may object to the fact that a single Shipibo vessel may be decomposed into several "types." There is nothing in Meggers's typological methodology, however, that prevents this from occurring. For instance, the types Pajurri Plain and Pajuri Red share the same paste and differ in that the latter has a red slip. A vessel with a zoned slip, therefore, would necessarily incorporate more than one type. In Shipibo ceramics, types based on paste also crosscut individual vessels as clay and temper recipes vary not only Crom vessel form to vessel form but also within a single form (DeBoer and Lathrap 1979: 116).
Received March 15, 1994; uccepted October 27, 1995.
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You have printed the following article: Ceramic Seriation and Site Reoccupation in Lowland South America Warren R. DeBoer; Keith Kintigh; Arthur G. Rostoker Latin American Antiquity, Vol. 7, No. 3. (Sep., 1996), pp. 263-278.
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The Place of Chronological Ordering in Archaeological Analysis George W. Brainerd American Antiquity, Vol. 16, No. 4. (Apr., 1951), pp. 301-313.
Measuring Archaeological Diversity by Comparison with Simulated Assemblages Keith W. Kintigh American Antiquity, Vol. 49, No. 1. (Jan., 1984), pp. 44-54.
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A Method for Chronologically Ordering Archaeological Deposits W. S. Robinson American Antiquity, Vol. 16, No. 4. (Apr., 1951), pp. 293-301.
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