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Anthropology, Space, and Geographic Information Systems$
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Mark Aldenderfer and Herbert D. G. Maschner

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780195085754

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195085754.001.0001

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A Time to Rend, A Time to Sew: New Perspectives on Northern Anasazi Sociopolitical Development in Later Prehistory

A Time to Rend, A Time to Sew: New Perspectives on Northern Anasazi Sociopolitical Development in Later Prehistory

(p.107) 7 A Time to Rend, A Time to Sew: New Perspectives on Northern Anasazi Sociopolitical Development in Later Prehistory
Anthropology, Space, and Geographic Information Systems

Carla Van West

Timothy A. Kohler

Oxford University Press

Slightly before A.D. 1300, the Four Corners area of the North American Southwest was abandoned by prehistoric agriculturists. By that time, populations had undergone three major cycles of aggregation into large settlements, first constructing relatively large “public” facilities and then redispersing. The reasons for the final abandonment of this area, as well as for the earlier collapse of the Chacoan-related system of the mid-1100s, are classic areas of archaeological inquiry. Recently, the earliest cycle of village formation and dispersal, in the A.D. 800s, has come under increased scrutiny as well (Orcutt et al. 1990; Wilshusen 1991). In this paper we reexamine these phenomena by posing a simple but fundamental question: Under what conditions will farmers find it in their own best interest to share the food they produce? Whatever the particular features of these cycles of aggregation and dispersion, we suggest that periods of increasing complexity in the fabric of sociopolitical organization—which involve the growth of settlements, elaboration of social roles and networks, and heightened cooperation in building, hunting, and exchange—are constructed on top of reliable systems of food sharing beyond that expected among close kin. Such resource pooling has the effect of reducing the impact of variability in agricultural production in an area where great unpredictability surrounds the growing of food. Our thinking about how to approach these systems of food sharing has been influenced by recent analyses of sharing among hunter-foragers (e.g., Kaplan and Hill 1985; Smith 1988) and by current discussions of risk and uncertainty in behavioral ecology and microeconomics (Clark 1990; Stephens 1990). This study focuses on an area in southwestern Colorado about 3 5 km north of the New Mexico border and immediately east of the Utah state line. Notable landmarks include the northward bend of the Dolores River on the northeast, the escarpment of the Mesa Verde in the southeast, and the commanding presence of a volcanic laccolith—Sleeping Ute Mountain—on the south.

Keywords:   Anasazi, Basketmakers, Chacoan, Resource pooling

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