Mortuary Practices and the Study of Prehistoric Social Systems Author(s): Joseph A.

Tainter Reviewed work(s): Source: Advances in Archaeological Method and Theory, Vol. 1 (1978), pp. 105-141 Published by: Springer Stable URL: . Accessed: 11/12/2011 14:14
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Mortuary Practices and the Study of Prehistoric Social Systems

a variety a review might in which of ways be written. in a chronological is one possibility; of research framework Organization discussion of substantive results of research would be another. The pres ent review will follow a different course. In a field in which the literature a review or results has proliferated substantive detailing considerably, or as a listing of research results, might become ganized chronologically, There are tedious. More important, such approaches might not yield a clear picture of the strengths and weaknesses of the concepts and analytical methods research. This review is primarily oriented toward a discussion underlying are the extent to of these latter topics. Among the points to be discussed which different of the social significance of mortuary remains, concepts and the analytical methods that derive from these concepts, may be ex to augment our ability to study social variation and change. If the pected of mortuary does not ultimately contribute archaeological study practices to the general anthropological then our research study of social change, to be of limited interest. This review may ultimately is, then, not prove so much with the past accomplishments concerned of mortuary studies, as with the present and the future. With these points in mind, it is hoped that the present currently analysis, how mortuary review will show that the study of mortuary practices to increasingly and quantitative methods of aspires objective to concepts to the recognition of that are increasingly sensitive remains may reflect social phenomena, and to explicit

ADVANCES INARCHAEOLOGICALMETHOD AND THEORY, VOL. 1 Copyright ? 1978 by Academic Press, Inc. All rights of reproduction in any form reserved. ISBN 0-12-003101-9



evaluation tuary

of concepts

and methods

by reference

to ethnographic



framework that underlies the use of mortuary data for conceptual inference has been set forth by Saxe (1970) and Binford (1971). uses elements of anthropological role theory developed approach a set of terms defining has developed (1965). Goodenough by Goodenough elements of social interaction that have archaeological implications. term social to what otherwise Goodenough's identity corresponds of social identities might be chief be called a social status. Examples might The social Saxe's or commoner, professor ter, and the like. When or student, mother or mother's brothers' daugh two or more in a proper social identities engage The parties to a social this is termed an identity relationship. relationship, do not usually interact in terms of only one social identity at a relationship time. An individual might manifest the identities of faculty advisor, friend, and coauthor, all in the course of a single interaction. Not all identities are appropriate for each interaction. The that a person could manifest as appropriate of several social identities selected for a given composite

interaction for the interaction. is termed the individual's social persona The kind of social persona that a person may manifest for an interaction will be determined characteristics of the social by the organizational a set of social personae will reflect, and contain informa system. Hence, of a particular the organizating tion about, (Saxe society principles In of this fact is useful for archaeological inference. 1970:7). Knowledge on differing levels of complexity, social identities will societies organized for them that it is possible vary as to the number of identity relationships to have. In egalitarian societies infants will have few social identities, on this principle, Saxe whereas adults will have acquired many. Drawing find infants buried in a manner (1970:8) points out that, if archaeologists by some adults, a indicating a social persona larger than that possessed indicated. of social ranking by birth is probably principle to With this array of concepts derived from role theory, Saxe proceeds to the analysis of mortuary data. We formulate a comprehensive approach to discuss Saxe's work at many points in this review. shall have occasion for concepts confirmation relating to mortuary practices Ethnographic is crucial for archaeology. Saxe (1970) and other practitioners (Tainter effort to considerable 1975b; Goldstein 1976; Vehik 1975) have devoted mor the most this area. But perhaps important survey of ethnographic In this case the word "impor is that of Binford (1971). tuary procedures

out to test the following two propositions: (1) that "there should be a high degree of isomorphism between (a) the complexity of of the status structure in a socio-cultural system and (b) the complexity as regards differentiated treatment of persons ceremonialism mortuary status positions. since it was tured and suffers some operational problems. not possible to directly measure social complexity from the ethnographic Bin this was done indirectly by noting means of subsistence. confirm beyond serious contention the argument (still rated skeptically by in terms in mortuary some) that variability practices must be understood not in terms of variability in the form and organization of social systems. by different ritual 3. shifting agriculturalists. The number mortuary as measured of the social persona commonly given with the organizational vary significantly forms of subsistence practice. among more commonly of agriculturalists social position societies (varying indepen complex should more frequently be the dently of age.PREHISTORIC MORTUARY PRACTICES 107 a substantial body tant" is used not simply because Binford has consulted of ethnographic but also because the results of his survey literature. Sub production sistence mode was grouped into four categories: hunters and gatherers. with significantly [1971:23]. The differentiated the specific dimensions settled agriculturalists. by different of dimensions of the social persona commonly given ritual complexity take. this problem Despite considered the following 1. on the "generally ford bases this procedure correlation between accepted forms of subsistence and societal complexity" (1971:18). in mortuary Binford acknowledges that his ethnographic sample is not ideally struc For example. Binford to be satisfactorily demonstrated. points recognition complexity in of society 2. Binford form and concludes: structure "These which the generalization findings permit characterizes the mortuary practices that the of any . vary with the organizational rituals varies mortuary significantly as measured forms of subsistence practice." should be a and (2) that "there different occupying characteris the nature of the dimensional between strong correspondence treatment and the ex tics serving as the basis for differential mortuary ar societies criteria employed for status differentiation among pected on a scale from simple to complex" this (1971:18-19). and pastoralists. Binford argues that in an ethnographic survey we should hunters and gatherers find that among egalitarian age and sex should serve as bases for mortuary whereas distinction. literature. and subgroup affiliation) basis for distinctions treatment. The forms. Rephrasing ranged last proposition. of normative Binford modes set of behavior. which in mortuary differentiations the dimensions of the social persona symbolized in recognition of the society. the results obtained were meaningful. sex.

Ashanti cope with Some. feet. however. and its archaeological mortuary preservation. chaos. cal profession. A man's skull his first killing of a kangaroo. cases. Such a reaction is. and teeth are bestowed in a second. is an easy one to play with The game of "archaeologist's nightmare" Au from western data. not unknown in the archaeologi sible. Perhaps to such ethnographic are many possible reactions unre the easiest would be to simply shake our heads. Consider the following example ethnographic around stralia. [Davidson A woman's the is put under skull is carried stone which com where to the place some breast-bone. of the organizational PROBLEMS INTHE INTERPRETATION MORTUARY OF REMAINS In a discussion which suggested that archaeologists should be cautious in the interpretation of mortuary remains. Another was first "found" the deceased pool where third is The cord the deceased's is buried. indicate for mortuary clearly analysis developed factors conditioning ritual. TAINTER society are conditioned by the form and complexity of the society characteristics itself" (1971:23). One bundle is taken to the top of spine. to the third. bundle is interred at the place umbilical to the place where initiated or the women the man was taken by a mother's brother rubbed memorates she first with charcoal after birth. hips. of mortuary remains that the analysis claimed. But turns itself after burial the body Ashanti say that immediately to face the village. The thighs. linking apparent seeming in this chapter have ever is reviewed None of the persons whose work is simple. Ucko (1969:273) noted a case to as "an archaeologist's The Ashanti which he referred nightmare. shins. collar-bone. and jaw are assigned as a spirit child by his or her father. this circumstance should not be thought of as a detriment. to find the common factors diversity. crawled 1949]. unfortunately. this but not all. hands. There is to make sense out of The goal of any science. that it will turn dilemma by placing the body facing the village. shoulder-blades. The arms. are complex. one. spine. that we is to suggest ritual renders burial data inscrutable ignore an . If the the contrary. knowing itself around to the correct orientation. or implied. The diversity that have been of approaches straightforward. of mortuary that complexity To suggest but rather as an opportunity. or easy.108 JOSEPH A. The the bones of adults into three have a unique custom of dividing Lyne River people in and ribs are placed bundles. mutter something remains is impos and conclude of mortuary that interpretation peatable." follow a general rule that an interred body should not face the village. The knee-caps.

Although there are sound reasons (to be discussed shortly) for remains to reliably reflect the social information believing archaeological the archaeological communicated ritual. To a degree. social factors. in rivers. archaeologically. is that the other factors that condition mortuary prac as have social dimensions. and the problems rather than det should be viewed as opportunities chaeological analysis. we might see it as a genuine opportunity. the complexity of mortuary ritual. at sea. but not to a sufficient degree as to warrant of our present knowledge.PREHISTORIC MORTUARY PRACTICES 109 opportunity ord. to understand a major component of the archaeological rec will clearly nightmares" "archaeologist's Any listing of ethnographic ritual is a complex that the form of a mortuary indicate interplay of ritual. and so forth. remains are not in the extent to which mortuary well be patterns may to obtain posi itmay be possible recoverable Similarly. For tices ought to be treated as systematically who are primarily concerned with the nature of past those archaeologists of the ritual and treatment of systematic the advantage societies. absence of formal cemeteries of ar In short. these varying cultural abstract nature. There a discouraging limitation. be considered There are good reasons to believe may ritual in of mortuary that common factors condition the social dimensions common factors are of a highly contexts. their archaeological application will vary with each case has been solved. nevertheless through mortuary a sampling problem. that the problem complacency of mortuary The archaeological transformation with anthropological All archaeologists nightmares. modeling trates on the social cism to be voiced of mortuary dimensions Perhaps one criti practices. of transformation factors. environmental further ritual provides training are familiar with examples of people who bury their dead in trees. those variables discriminating. as absence of burials. At remains clearly presents of mortuary recovery from mortuary remains re societies tempts to characterize prehistoric in a about all kinds of burial practiced that we obtain information quire in many cases. within the state this can be accomplished flect social factors. However. For tive information from such negative conditions the extent to which certain age or sex classes are absent from an example. for aspects of mortuary practices would be the potential re that genuinely in archaeological data. Rather than find this This is obviously impossible society. of mortuary remains riments. Such a view does not imply that analysis a simple procedure. The archaeological social. mortuary archaeological population may reflect significant as the that such a negative condition shall see later in this review We is a very informative characteristic. . and environmental at to attempts level of uncertainty remains adds yet another mortuary concen in this chapter The literature reviewed past societies.

a the archaeological record of mortuary ritual should contain Hence. of course.110 JOSEPH A. as shown in Figure 4. neously convey Indeed. . taken as a tool kit for archaeological for deriving interpretive principles should not be but rather as a base interpretation. in a past about the social identities present greater range of information of information. It can be seen then that death and mortuary ritual call forth a fuller representation of an individual's various social identities than does any occasion during life. criteria may be discussed. appropriate here to be discussed THE SIGNIFICANCE MORTUARY OF DATA To evaluate the usefulness of mortuary two data for social modeling. mortuary ritual will simulta information about the nature of a past society. being considered. In his discussion (1970:6) between noted of the archaeological of role theory. There does not appear to be any other category data for which this claim might ad be so confidently archaeological in the various be that mortuary Given ritual has such potential for extensive representa we must consider whether tion of social phenomena.1. ing diagram. continuously an answer to this ques skeptics and critics of social modeling. mor archaeological mor tuary remains will reliably reflect the information conveyed through is the question raised by the tuary ritual. Additionally. Deriving tion will involve a discussion in later of topics that will figure prominently of this review. Formal analysis is a technique used to evaluate and display the combinations of mortuary found in a mortuary attributes as a branch domain. since society than does any other category individuals acquire social identities by virtue of membership in the struc tural parts or components of a social system. and the reliability of burial data as indicators of social phenomena. of Saxe's work deals with the application to of formal analysis an approach pioneered in the middle Brown 1960s (but data. that mortuary popu components to reflect the structure of the extinct expected society of (Tainter 1977b:70). mortuary by not published until 1971). for each individual case. These are the range of social information that may be derived from mortuary remains. to the extent to which a mortuary contains individuals who held population membership lation can of a society. Much sections vanced. This. Such combinations of attributes are often displayed or key. TAINTER the concepts Thus. Saxe application the occasion of death will involve an interaction the deceased person and many of the persons with whom he or that she had engaged in identity relationships during life.

Thus. if the choices available in subsequent cally prescribes a person is to be disposed the corpse the question of whether of casually. whether contrast sets. is the redundancy prescribe zero. Simi the disposal prescribed the fact that disposal in a forest redundantly larly. is inapplicable.1 is a perfect in that the decision made at any one contrast set (for the person merits formal or casual treatment) automati example. In a perfect contrast all attributes are independent. A perfect paradigm is illustrated in Figure 4.1.2. A perfect tree is an absolutely 4. Key diagram of a perfect tree. and was carried out casually. in sea in river in forest retained dwelling tree. disposal emphasizes was on land. Hence. In polar .PREHISTORIC MORTUARY PRACTICES 111 Head public Corpse displayed Head in retained location retained in private Formal /burial dwelling Left hand retained in private dwelling not Corpse displayed Right hand in private Deceased/ person near Disposal cultivated field Disposal on land Disposal \Casual disposal Disposal Disposal on water * Disposal Figure 4. Choice of one attribute does not paradigm or limit subsequent contrast sets. a key represents a tree or a for measuring whether Techniques are available fron the field of information In a situation paradigm theory. the next choice to be is whether should be on land on on water. The key in Figure redundant structure to a perfect tree is a perfect paradigm. should be publicly displayed Instead.

C Coo each attribute may values the number of different represents 4.112 JOSEPH A. as Here E will represent the maximum .) The value 5 will indicate the maximum number of possible burial modes and might be referred to as ? The amount of information in 5max can be measured E = log2 5max entropy possible in a key. person grave associations Grave ^Cremated No Disarticulated* Grave Not associations grave associations associations cremated<Q ^No grave associations Figure 4. In information is complete randomness in organization. Key diagram of a perfect paradigm. there is high organization a tree or a a key represents low entropy. and nations of attributes are highly determined. with (In Figures the exception of the attribute Deceased person.2. of complete all attributes there combine with all others.1 and 4. theory. there are two values for each attribute. situation of maximum the combi entropy. of possible combinations (termed sig will randomness is denoted as 5. nonredundancy.2. TAINTER Grave Cremated No Articulated Grave Not cremated No associations grave associations associations < Deceased. then the situation of complete nificata) be expressed as S ? Ca x Co x where take. paradigm we measure In a situation of maximum entropy all attributes will combine randomly If the number with all others. whether So to determine its degree of entropy. this is a In a state of high redundancy.

to only a single burial type where each set of symbols pertains exclusively is high. be e = the number be referred of burial modes (or to as 5actUai. among the symbols employed redundancy ritual is high. which may induce errors or through mortuary or inject extraneous Since noise can material into a message. the opposite will be true. More high redundancy important for our present in mortuary where purposes.PREHISTORIC MORTUARY PRACTICES 113 To measure entropy actual significata) actually of 5actual will entropy we tabulate This will observed. Saxe investigated Using . in situations of loss of certain aspects of mortuary record will chaeological not result in loss of information about the social charac high redundancy. teristics of the deceased individuals. the equations the amount of detailed above. As in any communication the messages system. This is so because of mortuary in the ritual that are preserved the elements archaeological was conveyed that reaffirm the same message redundantly of the ritual. alter the meaning communication in to develop codes that allow transmission of information into the presence of noise. a some symbols are used jointly to designate As we have seen. distortion. where e is a measure as Relative (RE) is measured entropy RE And conversely. theory 1975b: 107-109). redundancy individuals will be difficult. whereas have a value of 1 (Saxe 1970:102-107). In the former situation. because of socially distinctive identification In situations of certain symbols will pertain to a variety of burial modes. to measure = elE apply the formula (R) we redundancy R = 1 RE for a perfect tree it will For a perfect paradigm R will equal zero. This is accomplished by building redundancy the code (Shannon 1949:75). are many of information There of Saxe's application implications to mortuary For the moment we shall consider only the remains. generated ritual are subject to noise. the ar elements by nonpreservable ritual will. (Tainter following a communication in which certain ritual is basically system Mortuary are employed to convey about the status of the information symbols deceased. archaeological (as in a tree). where is low. the reliability of the archaeological record will be high.The log2 S actual of actual entropy. And number of disposal the redundancy types (as in a paradigm). Hence. or significance it is necessary for reliable of a message.

. Papuans). social stratification at least as early as Chumash the Northern among the CCo-308 for Middle Horizon components the Late societies [while egalitarian sense in Fried's [Fredrickson society is consistent Horizon wit 1971:16]. the re and Kapauku Although Papuans). and . level of of an adaptive in research which [Peebles employed of hypotheses the expectations a ranked was society 1974:191]. .834 (Ashanti). [Service to employ continue it. [Tainter of mortuary patterning the patterning with predicted The nesses] the emergence [The mortuary 500 a. . Igorot. . ... TAINTER Bontoc domains in three ethnographic (Ashanti. (1967). [Hatch archaeological involving have [The Moundville as their Phase premises data fulfill] mortuary that the Moundville Phase 1974:62. Some examples will suffice to has dominated mortuary societies derived when the types of conclusions illustrate evolutionary usually are employed. (1962) and primarily has since retracted his typology Fried (1971:156-157). [King important . These values are consistently high. . as analogues for archaeological The use of evolutionary typologies studies. [Brown organization to be It is suggested that a chiefdom should continue model culture the Dallas 1974:251].114 JOSEPH A.] These scales aspire although many archaeologists is developed in that a societal typology to an ordinal level of measurement structural to increasing degrees of are ranked according of societies for organiz and increasing numbers of mechanisms complexity ing populations.D. . of . existed . . mortuary redundancy his sample was small. . and suggest ritual as a communication that mortuary system may universally ing employ a highly redundant code.the Mrn-27 was an in which rank seems most ascribed cemetery likely to reflect a society structure element of the social 1970:22]. typologies in which kinds .64]. data from the cemetery at Rinc?n suggest . communicated through disposal STUDIES THE USE OF SOCIALTYPOLOGIESINMORTUARY in the study of prehistoric societies has been One of the basic problems societies the development of scales on which may be archaeological used are The scales most frequently for comparative purposes. an egalitarian society [Stickel 1968:227]. This finding suggests a high degree of to the information in respect record for the archaeological reliability of the dead. placed from the work of Service derived from ethnology. indicating tree-like keys. values Saxe (1970:230) found redundancy sults obtained were meaningful.764 (Kapauku Igorot).88 (Bontoc . . of a rank at Spiro] fulfill some of the requirements patterns a chiefdomship called 1971:102].

are to be assigned If prehistoric of these principles. of societies Given as combinations it would follow that the means by of discrete attributes. and so has never been subjected must be viewed with caution.PREHISTORIC MORTUARY PRACTICES 115 listing could continue much further. This been have The ethnologists who have developed evolutionary typologies and have utilized social variables as dichotomous. Apart A are not. largely conceptualized as the basis for abstracting societal "types. archaeologists working procedure. This assumption to rigorous testing. are integrated [Fried 1967:129]. stratified do not have to the basic resources sustain 1967:186]. The implicit assumption in this approach must be that the dichotomous attributes societal types are so strongly defining and so highly redundant. like but chiefdoms sodalities. out of which tribes grew. applied. but the point has certainly of made that the archaeological study of the social dimensions on evolutionary has been overwhelmingly mortuary dependent practices some discus to devote This being the case. can indeed aside the question of whether social characteristics Leaving we shall consider be considered the archaeological discrete attributes." such dichotomies Typical of are statements such as the following: evolutionary typologies Band society. but is not an evolu within Instead. was for egalitarian special [Service purposes is personal?charismatic?and only 1962:114]. societal form they collectively desig nate. It is combinations that are used to define attributes of such dichotomous are conceptualized that categories societal typologies. by pan-tribal for limited purposes sodalities [Service 1962:165]. and from these inferring the appropriate typological designation the society in question. they may have a few minor division of labor [in rank societies] from age and sex. chaeologist identifying to the analysis of data with a list of criteria for should proceed to the keying each dichotomous attribute that contributes Such a process is logically intrinsic to evolutionism. tion of elements its appropriate indicates designation. sion to the logic and the limitations of this approach. consistently tionary framework regularly abridge this keying procedure by identifying a limited number of social characteristics. as well as the abstracted the others. or archaeologi which a newly discovered (whether ethnographic society can be assigned to a proper evolutionary slot is by a process of keying cal) the society. though. societies application to an evolutionary slot by means of an identifying then the ar key. on its various dichotomous until the final combina attributes. it is appropriate typologies. that identification of one implies all associated. . in tribal society Leadership [Service Tribes bands. there is little significant society equal is one access in which members of the same that sex and equivalent life [Fried age status 1962:114]. most often rank differ only for ences.

(19) (20) distinctive dress or ornament to back for those of high by status force [Renfrew no true government up decisions legalized perma 1973:543]. is his handling of the list of chiefdom Most serious Armed though many linkages can be discerned among these twenty attributes. is satisfying Renfrew's including not only its analysis that the chief stated recognition but the explicitly relative completeness is a catchall that lacks specificity. temples. reflect the existence abstracts from the formulations of Service (1968) (1962) and Sahlins He lists these as follows: of chiefdoms. individual skills (15) (16) potential (17) reduction in craft improvement for territorial of internal specialization expansion?associated strife with the 'rise and fall' of chiefdoms with or groups in the society associated of persons (18) pervasive inequality nent in fields other than the economic effective leadership. sometimes (14) organization or pyramids for building and/or (e. the existence indicates in many ways. irrigation) temple mounds. Renfrew proceeds with an analysis of the that the neolithic Wessex data.g. Renfrew suggests "will have to make way for. proposes ganization works that typify the later portions of this time period test this hypothesis. specialization. Renfrew To of chiefdoms. or be refined to that the chiefdom analogue is (1973:557). Al characteristics. not only regional in large favouring specialization diversity also through in production (and hence ecological or ecological but of the pooling endeavors. TAINTER One recent archaeological study that has avoided the pitfall of determin a typological for a prehistoric designation society on the basis of only ing one or two social variables of social or is Renfrew's (1973) evaluation Renfrew that the large earth in neolithic Wessex. . twenty defining characteristics and monuments (1) a ranked society the redistribution (2) of produce organized of the by the chief (3) greater density population in the total numbers (4) increase (5) increase in the size of individual society residence groups or borders statuses activity (6) greater productivity territorial defined (7) more clearly (8) a more integrated society with (9) centres (10) (12) (13) frequent relation which coordinate ceremonies boundaries a greater number of sociocentric as well as economic social and religious serving situation to some wide social purposes and rituals (11) rise of priesthood to a total environmental redistribution)?i. This realization yield. eventually concluding archaeological of these characteristics or inferred presence of the majority documented of chiefdoms. of Renfrew's but some disturbing analysis aspects refreshing. dom concept Indeed.116 JOSEPH A. subtler and less inclusive concepts" remain.e. cooperative for agricultural work of public and deployment labor. with these indicators.

PREHISTORIC MORTUARY PRACTICES 117 that Renfrew the reader is still left with the impression regards a chiefdom seems as a list of traits. And ultimately this or that set of archaeological with endless debates concerning whether 32b! Clearly the data reflects Chiefdom 32a or Chiefdom Type Type will lead nowhere of "subtler and less inclusive concepts" development as long as such concepts of new labels to apply focus on the proliferation over our research effort worrying to prehistoric societies. Renfrew to but not as an adaptive system. The of a Given Components Disposal the Resultant Combinations Domain Representing Cooperate Different in a Partitioning Social Personae of the of mortuary practices. Among these hypotheses are the follow Universe. chiefdom was not that his or her prehistoric each archaeologist discovers filled the literature may become quite like all the others. advocate what might be termed the checklist approach to social modeling. If one of our objectives on the is to study social variation and change. outcome of this approach might be. then we should concentrate social characteris of truly quantitative scales for measuring development and will be dis have been developed tics. Renfrew the to be an exercise Yet it is not hard to envision what in typology. ters of burials. which can be interpreted as socially distinctive. To concentrate what to call a past society is a waste of that effort. a system of interrelated the social di concerning developed hypotheses mensions ing. Renfrew con and less inclusive for the chiefdom "subtler substitute analogue into two of chiefdom the category is to subdivide cepts. (Brown 1970) Saxe has taken the techniques of formal analysis and cussed previously. [Saxe 1970:65]. but only a minimum construction) is careful to point out that this is not intended (Renfrew 1974:74). DATA OF CLASSIFICATION MORTUARY data is the problem of of mortuary basic to any analysis Certainly The purpose of classifying mortuary data is to isolate clus classification. The use of has been dis for this purpose Saxe formal analysis 1971. of communal evidence but considerable that display material (chiefdoms chiefdoms labor). Such quantitative methods cussed shortly." His solution varieties: differential little evidence of with (chiefdoms chiefdoms group-oriented access to wealth. . this to its logical conclusion. Taken will bring us an solution to deriving "subtler and less inclusive concepts" as in the evolutionary of new pigeonholes endless proliferation typologies. to has accepted his own challenge In a subsequent work. and individualizing of monumental indications of ranking.

published paper 1971). When types represented by only to gain it is difficult isolate individual burials. social personae. Decker (Stickel chaeological was used in one case involving the lower Snake et al. through that variables sets of interrelated suited for the task of isolating ideally kinds of mul common when different variance. Parenthetically. 1970. several of these studies display a common data. data sets in California 1969. may not be opera hypotheses should tionalized. T.118 JOSEPH A. Social positions similar identified archaeologically by isolating sets of burials manifesting not by keying out individual burials. The resultant often yield classifications peculiar one burial individual formal each. Within Fewer [Saxe a Given Positive 1970:69]. Saxe a different social persona. and Conversely Relative The of is that social personae last hypothesis in identity numbers of persons engage larger higher significance of lesser sig than will personae (usually status obligations) relationships in mortuary will be symbolized These nificance. Unfortunately. mortuary As an alternative data might be classified are Such techniques the use of multivariate statistical techniques. Domain Components Personae postulates of Lesser Significata that each burial type represents Social in Their to Manifest Tend Significance to Others. Finnerty 1968. The mortuary attributes used in a formal classification must be that such for selection be selected The criterion carefully. and reflected as positive (or in other words. TAINTER Putting it in other words. These results do not imply that formal analysis may not be negative or that Saxe's used archaeologically. attributes variance. identity relationships reasoning behind this will ritual. display common to formal analysis. formal keys tend to focus problem. These hypotheses will be useful archaeological the latter tested underscore clearly to evaluate how materials. for the former Saxe found that in his ethnographic survey support whereas hypothesis. When applied to archaeological on variables variations that reflect idiosyncratic the classification process to individual burials. Viewed (Rodeffer Washington the perspective of Saxe's work. personae attributes) itmight be added will display more positive components. components positive of higher significance in the burial domain. been applied It to the technique has actually Brown's of the use of formal analysis (original Following exposition was applied to several ar the technique 1966. King 1970) and from River region in southeastern 1973). the potential of formal analysis. classification procedures of and the organizing the structure information principles concerning can be that existed in past societies social systems. the . display are applied to the same set of mortuary tivariate procedures data. ambiguously. Hence.

to develop has been elaborated Stickel's Stickel (1968). STUDIES SELECTION DATAFORMORTUARY OF data for use in mortuary The selection of categories of archaeological studies must be based on the variety of means by which social positions are symbolized treatment. egalitarian that grave associations should reflect the following (1968:217) proposed characteristics: 1. framework has been built around the result. by goal was a set of mortuary whether criteria for determining data reflect a society or ranked. A predominance cal sphere 2. This review is perhaps not the proper so we shall restrict the nuances of multivariate statistics.T. Many archaeological studies have in mortuary in of symbolic forms which may be employed the diversity neglected infor and have assumed instead that the most significant ritual. that was For an egalitarian Stickel society. this framework study of grave associations. of several rank members of burials containing as are available. 1974. are maximally A stopping rule is applied hierarchical level. to halt the subdivisive at the proper point. analysis of a large variety of archaeological available Tainter 1975b. sub monothetic-divisive These procedures. place to discuss to citing the results of an experiment in classifying ourselves mortuary data using a variety of statistical procedures (Tainter 1975a). Status symbols of artifacts that served by primarily individual in the technologi achievement of the sort attainable . mortuary As a mation may be derived from one data class: grave associations. and it has proved useful in data sets (Peebles 1972. The results of this experiment classification seemed to indicate that polythetic proce data because dures (Clarke 1968:37) are not entirely suitable for mortuary are not satisfactorily the clusters these procedures derived through tech In a set of experimental classifications polythetic homogeneous. homogeneous.Goldstein 1976). King 1976. In a test using Middle Woodland mortuary statistic gave superior results (Tainter 1975a). Of the various al process niques clusters yielded An alternative gorithms on which the hierarchical of attributes for deriving arrangement two of the most common are various is divided. the population statistic (Pee functions of chi-square 1972) and the information (Whallon data the latter bles 1972). a rather elaborate interpretive Initiated by Binford (1962). procedures progressively at each in such a way that the resulting divide a population subgroups. set of techniques known grades.PREHISTORIC MORTUARY PRACTICES 119 results obtained may vary widely.

Noninheritance of status symbols. Increased of status symbols frequency 2. 1976. grave kel 1968:217). deceased members of a ranked society should also be in terms of the kinds of status markers the grave. ranked kinship groups (King 1969. grave associations that distribute rather than groups individuals among differentially 4. litera record. framework boils down to a distinction in Stickel's differentiation between of grave associations and differentiation in quality. Possession of specific status symbols by groups 3. Late prehistoric ture. Such complex are clearly documented in the ethnographic for hunter-gatherers. (1968:227) flected an egalitarian society. to differentiations in such of burials in terms of quality or type of quantity of items. (T. as Stickel proposes. southern California Rinc?n Applying re Stickel that the mortuary concluded remains cemetery. of a society characterized by class in a contrasting fashion (Stic pattern 1. Subsequent the evolution of complex. potentially signified by inclusion of status symbols in graves 3. unusual 1971. social Of course. 1970). Much of paper. Fredrickson 1974). Within the members among should associations ranking. mented areas of California about beginning in several systems 1970. Inheritance of status symbols these concepts to the 1700 b. TAINTER such status groups as exist. Considerable individual variation in mortuary associations 4. to be a stimulus for research Stickel's into the social paper proved of California studies docu organization hunter-gatherers. 1974. King Tainter social systems. burial differentiation But it is to be expected differ that in egalitarian mortuary populations . seem to reflect the ethnographic for example.c. material status positions. Thus.p. in quantity of items. as follows: In contrast.120 JOSEPH A. grave associations symbolized through exotic material a society will be restricted. Finnerty the florescence of productive research stimulated Despite by Stickel's some nagging questions about this approach remain. In an egalitar quantity status positions ian society there will be few structural that need to be in items. situation of differentially et al. as well as in the archaeological cemeteries. and there exists a corresponding need for more kinds of In addition to differentiation items to denote status distinctions. both egalitarian and ranked societies will be characterized by in both quantity and quality of material associations. since few status positions In a ranked society there are more structural require use of such markers. distinguished placed-in ranked 2000 b. Differentiation status markers exist that will be minimal.

items lost in this way. used in less than 5% of all cases (n= 93). the initial distinction to mere differentia of grave associations is ultimately quality collapsed tion in quantity of shell beads. On which dimensions of mortuary . enter the analysis 1975). individual attending the ceremony might remove an object from the pyre it with a quantity of shell beads. Indeed. data that create doubts about archaeological There are ethnographic use of the concepts above.). an archaeological that might characteristic type framework (as interpreted society. see Winters interpreted 1971. etc. between the form of the symbol and its referent is arbitrary. Any though. In most cases in which other variables location of grave. or perhaps render some replace For the archaeological service such as fire-tending 1963:116-117). (in addition to the studies cited above. tion with grave associations Instead. with other categories of mortuary data treated in a wholly subsidiary fashion. or used in conjunc to derive social information. these characteristics (type of interment facility. this would indicate a ranked here) seemingly not make its way of ranking would apparently into the archaeological in type and record. there is no intrinsic reason why social must be symbolized distinctions in a associations. We are left then with the question. Yet such evidence as reflecting egalitarianism! studies have paralleled Stickel's Many archaeological approach by rely as the sole or primary class of data for deriving ing on grave associations social inferences 1968.PREHISTORIC MORTUARY PRACTICES 121 in quality or type of grave association will be less pronounced entiation than in a ranked population. it mortuary systems (Tainter was found that the use of material to signify status distinctions inclusions was a decidedly minor practice. This result alone suggests that the extensive reliance archaeologists place on grave associations is likely to be inappropriate. Baker 1974. 1973. Mortuary ritual is a process The nature of a symbol is such that the of symbolizing. Hatch 1974. by mortuary recent survey of ethnographic 1974: 125). Instead. 1975. 1974. expedient. this. at most. were valuable Rarely. Peebles 1971. record the consequences the material Modoc items accompanying the deceased person are initially and differentiated and quality In Stickel's of materials.Randsborg 1974. Clark 1969. are not used as independent sources of information. The northern California Modoc presented to the corpse.Rothschild 1973. (Ray In the case of the of such actions are significant. grave are consistently associations information treated as the major source. Autry in terms of be Larson Shennan 1974. relationship Given or. In addition cremation the clothing practiced were placed on the pyre to be and personal possessions of the deceased consumed. There is no logical or empirical basis for this approach. of their dead. Rathje 1970.

or a A structural is either a distinct status official component . tackle the more difficult system social information be derived from mor question. the development of cross-culturally these dimensions... rather than specifying in advance which social a characterization dimension is the objective of the study. . . that seem most suitable for comparative discussion of mortuary variables analysis. Hill 1970). ingless. a Such a list would not only be ponderous.. where comparable.. . deriving only those social inferences obtained from a set of data.122 JOSEPH A. distinguished in terms of any one criterion [1970:203-204. and change in these adjacent cial variation regions that we should be explicit about the dimensions of a social Given we are attempting we must to model. formally . MORTUARY STUDIES:CROSS-CULTURAL PERSPECTIVES If the study of past social systems is ever to aspire to the study of social must develop then archaeologists the ability to model prehistoric process. or into ranks. Two of the factors societies are explicit con in the development volved of comparable social models sideration of the dimensions of a social system that are being investigated. TAINTER concentrate ritual should archaeologists To answer their analysis? this entail listing all dimensions of mor directly would essentially question or either archaeologically tuary ritual that have ever been observed. Investigators wishing are left at a loss. The term differentiation in the organization.. on a the next section of this review will concentrate Instead. archaeologists working units (Longacre infer the existence of uxorilocal residence Southwest a society with discovers 1970. or into divided into positions. in one region of the Thus.. the important concept of dimensions of differentiation Failure to consider to derive an impressive has led archaeologists about array of information that is of information but has rarely led to the production past societies. valid interpretive it would be mean framework for each such dimension. this crucial dealing with past societies generally neglect Archaeologists that are most easily consideration. an archaeologist working nearby to study so hereditary ranking (Clark 1969:82-83).. without ethnographically. in in ways that yield comparable results. to the number refers of components emphasis that are formally in original]. measuring Any social system is differentiated and valid criteria for isolating and along a number of dimensions.. Blau provides of the concept A dimension are of dimensions of differentiation of differentiation: organization .. subunits subunit structural on the basis of which is any criterion the members of an . but. How may comparable .

The factors determining questions or absent whether in a particular burials are present or. if location. Gold graphic societies and found consistent on a more extensive stein (1976) has tested this hypothesis sample of thirty cases. variations to derive com offers an opportunity Saxe's hypothesis specifically. with certain types of features. More recently. valid strategy for mor cross-culturally We may tuary analysis (Stickel 1968) contained unforeseen shortcomings. This last interpretive ambiguity the absence of social groups must be kept in mind.. suggests for by social factors. Thus. and Conversely [1970:119]. if it is feasible intended to produce frameworks information. of this such distributional . The problem confronting geographical proximity has. with a proba groups. then. or are clustered. Lineal Ties the Exclusive Disposal to Use and/or Control but Re Crucial Group Rights from and/or Legitimized of Lineal Descent by Means to Ancestors). whether randomly distributed. for it helps account for a number of is provocative. Such Groups Will Maintain Formal Disposal of Their Dead. present. And yet we have seen that at least one an objective. or conceptually to search for analytical realistic ask. up prehistoric Saxe initially tested this hypothesis against his sample of three ethno confirmation. such as houses. have been singled out for the de These are (a) descent frameworks. group differentiation the following teristic. and the absence of formal cemeteries bility that is high but less than unity. de the number and nature of corporate information parable concerning cent groups making communities. are undoubtedly associated Saxe's hypothesis that much of the variation in burial multiple. for this reason. living in symbolized the ar (Kroeber 1927). formal disposal areas will the presence of formal disposal has isolated individual corporate indicate that the archaeologist strongly will suggest. they dispersed. Saxe proposed hypothesis: To stricted Areas the Degree that Corporate are Attained Resources for the Dead (i. practicing though not all. comparable two social dimensions At present. been the lack of ability to develop general chaeologist remains that could be applied cross for interpreting mortuary principles culturally. sort. hypothesis that have long puzzled archaeologists.e. of comparable velopment analytical Treating the first charac and (b) rank differentiation. The results of this test seem to indicate (a) that the presence of formal disposal areas is consistently with corporate groups associated lineal descent and (b) that most. such groups use areas. This lack nearly every set of strategy for social attempt to produce a situation where of generalizing power has produced with a unique data must be approached mortuary inference. and that we may use distribution may be accounted Saxe's More to gain certain types of social information.PREHISTORIC MORTUARY PRACTICES 123 social differentiation among the dead is tuary data? The means by which even among groups at burial varies considerably.

mortuary the following hypothesis . from the perspective of 1969. King 1971). Viewed segment and with archaeological Saxe's hypothesis. Hence. each of which maintained use. be along the southern California tween about 2000 b. At the same time though. and is physically separated by unoc cupied zones and boundary cairns (Tainter and Cordy 1977). alternatively. seem to contain evidence of at least two differentially ranked descent groups: a higher ranking one in and a lower ranking group in the eastern part of the cemetery. Goldstein of Saxe's hypothesis have shown its useful applications has found the concept in elucidating useful the (1976) of the spatial organization of two Mississippian in cemeteries significance the Illinois Valley. Chumash cemeteries coast. that are discrete Each of these to one of the residential groups of subareas in the cemetery may correspond two or more cemetery the community.124 JOSEPH A. contains formal cemetery. the use of formal analysis for classifying From the use of formal analysis Saxe has developed domains. and from objective The analysis of social ranking similarly benefits discussed valid criteria for analysis. or the components. This subdivision area seemingly for its exclusive separate agricultural of the is reflected in a into smaller corporate groups larger community area there in the cemetery. the spatial organization appears to be hierarchically as a arranged (Tainter 1976). reflected settlements from adjacent temple. Ethnographi such settlements held the land on which cally. King (1976) emphasized to demonstrate com erations the existence of politically differentiated the western munities of hunters and gatherers about 2000 b. and ethnographic knowledge about social ranking in native California.p. with some hindsight allows us to see the Saxe's hypothesis Coupling in earlier mortuary observed of distributional patterns significance studies. There appear to have been community were subdivided a total of four residential a units at Kaloko. Tainter (L. although there are only four residential units. We have previously cross-culturally or attributes. The entire Kaloko community was organized in the fact that the region contains a single single corporate unit. these patterns might have been locational consid anticipated. This second alternative is indicated by the fact that. of the cemetery lands. in the southern Sierra foothills of Califronia. and the historic period. it is not surprising that Kaloko but a single. groups may have been linked to form a single residential unit. both the cemetery and the into smaller units. corporately they were situated.p. Within similar subdivision the larger disposal are a number of subareas and bounded. In the Kaloko located in the Hawaiian Is cemetery. or. More recently. TAINTER Two recent ness. the seems to contain at least nine corporate descent groups (Tainter cemetery 1976). T.

method of handling and disposal of elaborateness the corpse. producing keys burials. mortuary ritual. and the nature of grave associations. observed that an initial contrast in the type and quality of items associated the energy expenditure argument of a cemetery where the primary the size and elaborateness of the interment a preferable alterna expenditure provides . involvement and this should result in the expendi ture of greater amounts of energy in the interment ritual. this occurrence in the mortuary indicate distinctive act. on this. Energy tive to interpretive that focus on only one dimension frameworks of such as grave associations. Although the the classification chapter dealing with is consistent. Expanding that both the amount of corporate and involvement suggested of activity disruption will positively to the amount correspond entitle the the act of community (1973) has the degree of energy act. we In the case of the Modoc. was first formulated for the analysis dimensions of variation were facility (Tainter 1973). among status responsibilities social aggregate to the de recognizing obligatory ceased. Tainter activities for the mortuary ritual. we have already seen (Saxe 1970:226-227). this reasoning. the hypothesis logic behind ethnographic testing proved In operational dubious terms. An alternative to isolating rank distinctions is derived from approach Binford's that the form of a mortuary ritual will (1971:17. Binford proposes that such a larger array of duty-status relation of persons of high rank) will ships (which is characteristic to a larger amount deceased in of corporate involvement and to a larger degree of disruption of normal interment. The was discussed in the section of this reasoning behind this hypothesis of mortuary data. of rank patterns in situations where grave allows the analysis expenditure are not present. Reversing when sets of mortuary data cluster into distinctive levels of energy expen will signify distinctive levels of social involvement diture. Directionally. associations Indeed. The use of energy expenditure vide a solution to some dilemmas for determining rank grading may pro encountered Energy by archaeologists. Energy expendi ture should in turn be reflected in such features of burial as size and of the interment facility. 21) observation be determined other factors. Relative and Conversely [1970:69]. use of formal analysis that the archaeological tends to focus the classifica tion on idiosyncratic that isolate individual attributes. and will reflexively grades or levels of ranking. the size and composition of the by.PREHISTORIC MORTUARY PRACTICES 125 Within Fewer a Given Positive Domain Components Personae in Their of Lesser Significata Social to Manifest Tend Significance to Others. in the mortuary (or labor) expended higher social rank of a deceased to greater amounts of corporate individual will correspond and activity disruption.

California. but only because is difficult. while persons of no particular Selecting treatment buried" (Mason 1912:167). decorated. 170). an individual is in the tambak. Ngadju-Dayak burial associated secondary more Only the economically ritual (Miles 1965). a chiefs person would be exposed only child.126 JOSEPH A. ing place for the bones of a deceased carved box used by the bilateral descendants of the person who ornately founded it. In the Morobe by the body of a deceased individual was ordinarily placed in of New Guinea. record of Modoc mortuary would practices if the still be apparent were viewed from this perspective. A Papuan group in importance were merely a In contrast. he commissions himself and by his decendants District (Hudson 1966). in mortuary The proposition ritual to the linking energy expenditure sam rank of the deceased has been tested on an extensive ethnographic In a set of 103 ethnographic cases. or a respected and placed in a specially wooden the skull removed. When economic . was once (Tainter 1975b). "the the Salinan Indians. Complexity of Body Treatment an example to illustrate variations in the complexity of body so many cases might be cited. the energy expenditure argument ple. are able to afford this successful households of the Interment Facility contrasts in illustrate energy interesting examples expenditure the Padju Epat Ma'anyan these variables. such an act symbolizes the attainment status by the founder. and the other and buried erected bones collected (Riley building. in a sewn mat. TAINTER with individuals was transformed into a situation where the archaeological contrasts would reflect only quantitative in grave associations. of Borneo practice a type of communities 1925:166. platform. Among the final rest Dayaks. to decompose After the ground and allowed for a period of five months. A selection of examples not contradicted from cases will illustrate the kinds of energy expenditure these ethnographic contrasts that are consistently found in the literature. but social and of an almost unique an individual such a achieves to disassociate social and economic himself from his level that he wishes the construction of a new tambak to be used natal group. Such a situation confounds the interpretive framework specified by Stic as the analytical kel (1968). The use of energy expenditure criterion would record solve archaeological for rank differences this dilemma. The establishment of a new tambak is an expensive affair. Construction Two and Placement with considerable economic expenditures. the Fly River region buried commoners on a chief. near San Antonio Mission. Among most distinguished dead were cremated.

. one example the community. in the most ran to and fro without barbarous The people society. Ellis death a starkly contrasting described of a local chief on the Island level of social of Hawaii. if necessary. neighborhood wickedness. most of the time. was for a drink of water! And when instance as to prevent the offense into the bushes. the hearing of his voice. The ethnographic literature seems to indicate clearly. feeling sought without practised. instead of being buried. The the cliff varied left at the foot skeletal amount remains were taken to a cliff face where they were in disposing of the remains in of energy expended with the status of the deceased. involvement on the . his body. and the remains of the highest ranking members were carried to the highest ledges of the cliff (McWil placed on higher of the community liam 1936). then. Children and women were of the cliff. still within air. These the extremes of the Hawaiian represent In the early 1820s. a scene of confusion. for community and for persons of chiefly outcasts. that have been re of energy expenditure categories are material to the ritual. and contributions ethnographically human sacrifice. Houses even murder sometimes and the gratification of every property plundered.PREHISTORIC MORTUARY PRACTICES 127 that time. Extent and Duration of Ritual Mortuary Behavior accounts of early Hawaiian mortuary practices. pleading he was dead. the interred. mortuary procedures two social classes rank. Important men were ledges. unambiguous. in vain to his family. and correspondingly in energy The two accounts relate expenditure. . since the Modoc might be cited as an example of the former and the latter is relatively category. that energy Two corded additional expenditure in mortuary ritual is directly related to rank grading. or placed on lower ledges. committed. As is . were burnt. Ethnographic of these will not be detailed at examples this point. clearly illustrate how differences in the extent and duration of ritual mortuary may be reflected behavior.the whole seldom their was witnessed clothes. left a prey to the dogs who prowl through that would the district have arisen in the night! so far drawn merely and from the corpse. Stewart of such a means of described disposal An (quoted in Bowen 1961:74). within a poor wretch came thus perished to our knowledge in which recently in the open lain uncovered for days and nights after having sight of our dwelling. Two missionaries' both in rank dating to the same time period. or. Stewart were often simply outcasts those with physical abnormalities) (including were removed from the living area of left where they fell. S. base and savage restraint [1969:177]. Charles noted that social rank system. and acting more than human beings. exhibited and cruelty. like demons every vice appearing and almost every species of crime was perpetrated.

Its usefullness is ultimately rank differentiation in which it has studies of archaeological trated by the number 1973. application is measuring without One major problem energy expenditure. T. preted as a variation a caution suggested Such an ethnographic previ example underscores concern to develop abstract generalizations it is possible ously. Ubelaker has properly noted that degree of skeletal articula (1974). Such a goal presupposes explain In archaeological social variables may be measured. but this was not done to individuals before the reburial ceremony 1920:74-75). reflects the amount of time that tion in a Maryland ossuary probably death and ossuary interment (as among the Huron). The ossuary burials of the Huron are a case in point. Most from the bones. archaeological application careful will always study of individual data sets. concerning more to arrive at. measurement often the case. At present.b. Among in energy expenditure literature provides ethnographic tinctions and placed gathered had the flesh removed who died shortly interments ossuary cemetery. and disarticulated in energy expenditure.128 JOSEPH A. scale against which of evolu studies the scales used for this purpose have largely consisted . a meaningful in types and determining what constitutes energy contrast can only be of energy expenditure of burial. ambiguity. a that we possess variation and change. individuals were periodically the bones of deceased the Huron. illus been 1976. Although of such generalizations ing mortuary practices. problem accomplished rank differences. in a communal Archaeologically. reflect The always numerous of mortuary prac examples as energy expenditure tices that might appear archaeologically variations. 1975a. With require careful con to isolate many of the archaeological it should be possible scrutiny trasts in energy expenditure that do not reflect rank differences. King 1976. for example. Tainter 1972. Tainter and Cordy 1977. With passed between offer a does the energy careful perspective application expenditure information about valid criterion for deriving comparable cross-culturally in varying contexts. Peebles 1974). TAINTER the archaeological of this idea is not however. but in fact are not. (Buikstra employed 1977a. (Bushneil a Huron then display both articulated ossuary would a contrast that might be mistakenly inter individuals. nal ranking are difficult and potentially is the extent to which archaeologically apparent dis important. Brown 1973. MODELING QUANTITATIVE and our goal in studying past societies must be to monitor Ultimately. A second.b. on an ordinal scale with burials ranked by greater or less In some cases decisions ordi (apparent) energy expenditure.

Saxe the same measures for keys of Late Woodland King computed mortuary from the Illinois Valley systems 1975b). plexity increases. then not all attributes would as would be the case in a perfect to all burial modes be equally applicable persons of greater social (see Figures 4. typologies to evolutionary As in and sensitive alternatives typologies. If this is so. the Social and the Less Egalitarian Paradigmatic the Attributes Complex Tree-Like the Attributes. [1970:75].PREHISTORIC MORTUARY PRACTICES 129 we found reason to doubt whether such Previously. we find two basic approaches one based on formal analysis. application the keys were produced to mini statistical through techniques designed the degree of entropy in the resulting classification. indicates a quantitative Ethnologically. keys have been to data from the Buchanan Thomas King Reservoir. scales: the Depth of Persona (C) scale. The first (D) scale and the Contrast . Hence.1 and 4. The results of this (Tainter are of uncertain cases for in both archaeological significance. Number of Number Between of Components Relationship and the Social Contrast Sets Necessary To Define of the Sig Them. sophisticated to some earlier sections of this review. the Social the Conversely. the other linked to modeling: quantitative tionary the evaluation In developing Saxe practices. The resulting mea sures indicated highly structures. (1976) applied by located in the southern Sierra foothills of California. The former hypothesis is based on the application of information theory as well as to key structures. The More the Less More of energy expenditure. paradigm treatment should evidence more and more kinds of mortuary significance as social com that are not applicable to less significant persons. [1970:112]. typologies. Furthermore. mize The two latter hypothesis is complex It uses (Saxe 1970:112-118). Egalitarian the More Complex Organization The for There To Be the Greater Will Be the Tendency System Simpler a Sociocultural a Linear in Significata. measure This hypothesis for social complexity. For comparative tree-like purposes. for it. his comprehensive approach proposed and More to the analysis of mortuary the following Evidenced hypotheses: in the Key Structure of the Domain. the mortuary domain should become less paradigmatic.2). Organization. the procedure for measuring the extent to which any given key represents a tree or a paradigm. there are Fortunately. are really suitable for this purpose. It is timely at this point to recall one of Saxe's that persons of higher social significance manifest previous hypotheses: more positive in their disposal domains components (positive attributes) than do less significant persons. Significance and Conversely nificata. most could not find demonstrable (1970:230-231) support because of incomplete likely ethnographic reporting. We have already discussed this application. Ar for mortuary the information measures chaeologically.

is number required by any disposal type in the domain. social status. rather than levels of ranking. C scale. b. it. mortuary strata the relationship will not be linear. For reasons already discussed. TAINTER in a given disposal attributes type. Viewing prehistoric our goal is to model entities. A disposal is characterized type that is unique for all its components by set to differentiate It will require only one contrast maximal redundancy. Such societies will have mortuary define disposal in its domains characterized by several social strata. and so also will attributes sets necessary to define such a disposal mode. redundant attributes restricted status. higher stratum the number of contrast modes will be lower than in the previous provides to differentiate sets needed burial a measure lower stratum. each of which may. In such societies mortuary will continuous. where is based on the number of positive it is measured and nmSLX the maximum burial mode. a burial mode that requires many it will reflect a social persona differentiate sharing many in such Social distinctiveness istics with other personae. 1977a. Given sets necessary to such redundancy. A consideration of prehistoric such as residence . D= n/nmax. the lower persona of high social significance. domain. C= n/nmax. the more discrete will be the burial type. the C and D scales in the relationship between system. Most archaeological or ranking. integrated goal entails information dimensions a considerable for which shift in the types of social dimensions on familiar studies concentrate is sought. Such a such societies as complex. (Saxe of the degree of linearity a quantification of the social of the degree of complexity this hypothesis of proved promising testing Ethnographic but it has not been applied archaeologically. On the other hand. For as the ratio of the number of positive any disposal type in the disposal mode in a disposal mode attributes (n) over the number that has the highest number (nmax). of the deceased increases. Thus. Another the to quantitative utilizes analysis of past societies approach of systems theory (Tainter 1975b. the number of positive in the disposal domain. Hence. Tainter and Cordy perspective in a systems perspective societies suggests that 1977). practices to persons of distinctive exhibit multiple. The C scale is based on the number of contrast sets necessary to define a disposal type. such a disposal type would signify a In this case. In this n contrast to define a given sets are required case. In an reflecting insignificant continuously. 1970:231-233).130 JOSEPH A. the number of contrast In contrast. show a linear relationship between the C and D scales. more complex societies will display graded. the value contrast on the sets to social character a case is graded soci egalitarian between the C ety such continuous grading will cause a linear relationship so will As the social significance and/) scales. the number of contrast classes will be lower. since in each between However.

the nature of organization. Such abstract. have seen how the spatial organization of mortuary remains can reveal the existence of corporate descent groups. The analysis of vertical differentiation allows the indirect measurement of the total structural complexity In an analysis of a social system. we can isolate two dimensions that are of general significance. relationships are the structure and the organization dimensions of social composite to indicate the number. The number of such rank levels will mark dimension. To characterize Bertalanffy measure social dimensions that reflect the constituent parts of a system. The horizontal struc dimension encompasses tural components that equate on identical hierarchical levels. and the like. as well For archaeological of structural analysis. and subsystems of its articulated nature. the amount or degree of organization. As Blau (1970:203-204) has noted. task groups. pursued by This perspective for which information suggests four social dimensions are the degree of structural differentiation. units. societies as the patterned among these parts. Randsborg 1974). 218). The first refers to the structure of rank grading in a society. Yet there are many components of the horizontal for which such universal dimension criteria for analysis have not been developed. and arrangement components is most basically defined as (Miller 1965:209.PREHISTORIC MORTUARY PRACTICES 131 as systems A requires a shift to a higher level of abstraction. A system is a holistic entity the characteristics of which are not equivalent to the summed characteristics its individual parts (von of a social system we must isolate and 1968:55). of on contemporary structural differentiation Blau (1970) organizations found that the size of an organization correlated strongly with both its and its degree of horizontal differentia degree of vertical differentiation the degree of structural differentiation along the vertical . certain descent types of coresident territorial bands. The study of the vertical dimension presents fewer ambiguities. such. is to be sought. cf. such levels of ranking may be viewed as structural components of a social system. Examples of the latter might include sodalities. The degree of structural differentiation are quantitative as and must be modeled and of organization variables. whereas organization on the ranges of behavior which may possibly the constraints be imposed the elements of a system (Rothstein 1958:34-36). The structure of a system is meant systems. cannot be characterized the attributes system simply merely by describing of its parts. differentiation These might be termed the vertical and the horizontal dimensions. we In terms of structural differentiation along the horizontal dimension. These the nature and of structural differentiation. of ranking may be confidently Levels isolated as dis tinctive levels of energy expenditure (Tainter 1975b.

132 JOSEPH A. (Tainter theory may be used to measure niques of information 1977a. Tainter and Cordy 1977). The strength of the observed significant of a relations (see Blau 1970) suggests that any one of these characteristics tion. This finding is prehistoric cor for archaeological research. consider the archaeological a number of into differentiated social system structurally hypothetical In the total absence the constraints of any organizational components. cation theory this would refer to a situation where. disorganization. where N is the number would be each component To illustrate to a situa Such a proportional distribution of components. is a more complex matter. of information The central concepts theory that are of use to us are The measurement tion has been defined the measurement Thus. some use of these concepts. in the components individuals process acquire membership by which result in a would be purely random.Young 1971). equilibrium. have an equal probability to a condition of entropy. in a set of messages. but the state of the system may be used to monitor as well.Theil 1967. randomness). corresponds and so to a condition of entropy. that the mathematical tech from equilibrium such departures precisely 1975b. of organization as constraint or and its converse. Structural other two differentiation along the vertical dimension can thus serve as an index of the total structural complexity of past social social systems. techniques is information of organization for the measurement theory. high status). must be approached of organization through the measurement The field that provides of behavioral constraint. b. A situation of all messages of transmission. the occurrence equilibrium thus the maximum information may be obtained when a particular mes that covary and entropy are quantities information sage is sent. Such a random process will ultimately of the population the proportion situation where selecting affiliation with a fraction equal to UN. To the extent that either social or demographic pressures as those of to acquire membership in certain components freedom (such of In the presence and thus organization. Blau noted that not only itself. . tion of statistical equilibrium. (disorder. Organiza on behavior (Rothstein 1958:34-36). TAINTER is not limited by the function this finding of an can be considered to the observation Hence. Hence. (Weaver 1949. In statistical statistical equilibrium corresponds entropy and of any specific message is unpredictable. is statistical In communi An additional concept ganization. as well as to contemporary social systems. of one form or lacks constraints But of course no social situation limit another. there is constraint with certain of the population the proportion such constraints. affiliating It is will depart from a condition of statistical components equilibrium. applicable organization.Goldman 1953.

RD1 measures membership straint is imposed relative to the amount that might be imposed. IfM is the number of rank levels below P. etc. while it includes elements of both structure because of ranking may be viewed as structural compo is clearly an constraint) (behavioral organization element of rank differentiation. it is useful to the maximum Dx value may increase with increases o? degree of organization. o? amount of organization. This information measure en are equally probable or components when all messages (maximum referred to as Hmax). the second is 2. the status of an individual is to subordinate based on two interacting factors: the number of persons the individual.0 (no entropy) nent). to a value that converges entropy) that the amount of in the calculation of the D1 measure It is apparent a system may potentially exhibit increases with its degree of organization a measure Since structural complexity. refers to this exhibit (1972:35-36) (H). Dx is it actually does as the Divergence entropy measure inHmax.PREHISTORIC MORTUARY PRACTICES 133 Shannon's transformed given as (1949:50-51) in a number formula of ways. In a ranked hierarchy. N for measuring For our purposes information may the formula may be be H= where H ^Pilog2 i=l l/pi of a set of probabilities. is the entropy (information) and/?* is the of the ith message of occurrence (or the ith structural compo probability to log2 N ranges from 0.0 (maximum formula for organization H) (D1 Hmax on //max (maximum organization). The ratio RD x 0. an impor is considered Rank differentiation sured is rank differentiation. approaches to be mea Within the final variable the perspective being discussed. the ratio RD1 = DJHmax as a measure calculate on a population's access to Where Dx assesses the amount of constraint con how much in structural components. and the number of rank grades that separate these subordi nates from the person of higher status.). Levels nents of a system. as the that organization be measured Rothstein (1958:36) has suggested excess of the entropy a system may potentially less the exhibit (Hmax). The symbolized = can range from 0. Gatlin from Equiprobability. the status s(P) of person P can be measured by the formula have . A measure is for rank differentiation (1959:23-25) by Harary proposed In this measure useful for mortuary studies. tropy. tant variable to measure and organization. asDj.0 (maximum will range between relative entropy) and a value that 1. any person P will downward in rank level k (rank levels are numbered nk subordinates from any given level. so that the first lower level is 1.0 (maximum relative organization).

or processed served as the central tombs. immediate subordinates. large.D. The (or fractions) can then be expressed as the in a hierarchy degree of rank differentiation difference the highest and lowest levels. and to ascertain the number of persons from a total mortuary of each rank grade. items. subordinates. 1977a. In archaeological to determine it is impossible the precise analysis to a person of paramount number of individuals subordinate rank at any to determine the number of levels point in time. persons at the top of a hierarchy will a higher status measure have if they have a greater number of subordi Expressed individual's nates and/or if their subordinates are heavily distributed in the bottom most rank levels. burials 2: Peripheral graves log-covered slab inclusions limestone 3: Burials with sociotechnic 4: Individuals buried with locally produced most often Hopewell series pottery vessels 5: 6: Interments Individuals in simple subfloor graves mound placed on aceretional surfaces. The rationale behind this measure is discussed in more detail by Harary (1959) and Tainter 1977a.0. and subordinate levels become appropriate multiples of 1. population who were members To compute it is necessary to consider the s(P) measure the population of rank levels as multiples subordinate of the number of per (or fractions) in the paramount rank grade. plus three times the number of their immediate and so forth.c. bluffs of the Illinois situated on the western 400) burials from mounds In a set of 512 interments. With this transformation the paramount rank grade is always associated with the value 1. Since the status of the between level is always can be lowest the degree of rank differentiation zero. The formula used for this purpose in in rank level k. plus twice the number of their im mediate subordinates. TAINTER M s(P)=? k(nk) k=l the status measure of a person is the number of the verbally. b). . (1975b. through. which It should be clear sons in smaller. ture and ranking were Level Level Level Level Level Level observed (Tainter 1975b. b). The use of the measures may be requires complete to a set of Middle Woodland illustrated by reference 150 b. Hence.134 JOSEPH A. as s(l). and Nx where Nk refers to the number of persons NjJNl9 indicates the number in the highest rank level.0. log-roofed feature of most mounds 1: Individuals interred in. But it should be possible of ranking in a past social system. the status measure of the highest level. (ca. the following levels of energy expendi Valley.-a. expressed that the archaeological of these measures application sets of mortuary data.

671.3841 .D.28630 2.878321 3.205 1 .1 Entropy of Middle Woodland Rank level Rank System p . 200-800 in the structural complexity of social systems between general decrease and Late Woodland the Middle (a. entropy of 1.4778 . and (b) a corresponding to the emergence of the truly complex social Late Woodland. b).50635 . also among these rank levels is shown in of the entropy mea the calculation an rank system displays The Middle Woodland for six rank levels is 2. In a study of Woodland a there appeared in west-central Illinois during the period a. Also evident are two contrasting in both organization trends: (a) a decrease quantitative in the early Late Woodland and degree) and rank differentiation (amount in these variables increase during later period.57347 p log2 1/p .544 5 .8354 bits.011 4 . The measure to (.PREHISTORIC MORTUARY PRACTICES 135 of The distribution Table 4. sures have yielded excellent social change results.d. the population illustrates measures are most meaningful when used for the Such quantitative In two such applications assessment these mea of variation and change. The pattern of social change that was observed was evident only measures. not only for is significant. measure of amount of degree of organization of rank differentiation 5(1) amounts system. both Middle no social terized as ranked societies Thus.1330 .7496.131 2 .084 6 log2 1/p 2. For this Middle Woodland is to 13. just prior The pattern of social characteristic of the Mississippian systems period.58496 bits.32193 6.58496 organization .58496) (RDj amounts shown in Table 4. assessments 1975b.29. because of the use of quantitative to two contem In a second have been applied study these measures TABLE 4.8354) .3002 1.1. It might be (Tainter by nonquantitative had been used in this added at this point that.93236 5.0716 . The (DJ is (2.2.4687 . if evolutionary typologies the information and Late Woodland systems would have been charac study.7496/2.025 3 .8354 . change evidenced by the quantitative measures but also because it parallels and is confirmed it discloses. 400-900) periods. the Middle and Late Woodland periods would have been change between evident. This table sure for this system. 1977a. (in Fried's terminology). and so the Hmax 1.

407 s(1) 13.648 .000 58 2 11 3 5 241 5 37 6 4 . plexity. Quantitative that Kaloko was characterized and indicates by greater structural com and rank differentiation (Tainter and Cordy 1977). whether applies dependent data or not. Perhaps most basic is the recommendation be about which dimensions in of a social system are to be monitored explicit a given study. analysis corroborates grades.637 . of mor These are the spatial distribution that contains information tuary remains. A comparative that applies the quantitative methods study developed by Saxe (1970) and Tainter (1975b) to the same data sets would be a useful step in furthering mortuary studies.121 .) Along with the recognition that social dimensions of interest to model should be explicitly stated goes the responsibility these dimen that will allow the study of social variation and change. organization. One of poraneous prehistoric a complex these (Kaloko) rank hierarchy evidenced displays by both data and settlement patterns.671 social systems from the Island of Hawaii.136 JOSEPH A. TAINTER TABLE 4. For mortuary two analytical criteria have been developed practices that fulfill these requirements.2 Middle Woodland Rank Rank Differentiation level NJN. group differentiation. sions in a manner The minimum entailed by this consideration is that social requirement and cross-culturally dimensions be modeled by criteria that are objective valid.055 2. ing. (It does not need to be emphasized that this suggestion on mortuary to all studies of past societies. MORTUARY PRACTICES: CONCLUDING EVALUATIONS This discussion of the social dimensions of mortuary leads to practices a set of conclusions re and recommendations for future archaeological that investigators search. A second consideration in the study of variation and change is that . The other (Anaehoomalu) mortuary displays a very truncated rank hierarchy with no persons of the highest rank these qualitative conclusions.N 1 91 1. a variable relating to corporate an indicator of rank grad and energy expenditure.

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