Social boundaries and the organization of plain ware production and exchange in 14th century central Arizona
In the proposed project I simultaneously and reflexively identify and characterize social boundaries in the archaeological record by examining material culture distributions in novel ways to re-assess the scale of the Verde Confederacy, a proposed regional-scale multi-settlement alliance in Late Prehistoric central Arizona. I focus on boundaries between entities larger than villages, but smaller than regions or culture areas. I propose three innovations to better accomplish these goals. First, unlike previous conceptualizations of social boundaries as monolithic, I argue that they are better conceived of as a heterogeneous, multi-faceted phenomenon. Second, I investigate social boundaries by examining multiple lines of evidence. Previous researchers have tended to focus on one category of data at the expense of others. Third, I associate boundaries with relational and categorical collective social identification. An alliance requires regular collective actions including communication and coordinated action between large groups. These actions are most likely to emerge among groups integrated by relational networks who share a high degree of categorical homogeneity.
I propose a plain ware ceramic provenance model. Seven reference groups represent ceramic production in specific geographic areas. The reference groups are mineralogically and geochemically distinct, and can be visually differentiated. With this provenance model, I reconstruct the organization of utilitarian ceramic production and exchange, and argue that plain ware distribution is a proxy for networks of socially proximate friends and relatives. The plain ware data are compared to boundaries derived from settlement patterns, rock art, public architecture, and painted ceramics to characterize the overall nature of social boundaries in Late Prehistoric central Arizona.
Three regions in the study area are strongly integrated by relational networks and categorical commonality. If alliances existed in Late Prehistoric central Arizona, they were most likely to emerge at this scale. A fourth region is identified as a frontier zone, where internal connections and shared identities were weaker. As seen among the League of the Iroquois, smaller integrated entities do not preclude the existence of larger social constructs, and I conclude this study with proposals to further test the Verde Confederacy model by searching for integration at a broader spatial scale.