Consideration of broader cross-cultural patterns in the anthropological literature provides a context for strengthening insights into why the prehistoric communities in the southern Levant were organized in the manner proposed. There has been much discussion regarding the conditions that favor nuclear versus extended family social organizations. Wilk and Rathje (1982) noted that variation within categories of household function (production, distribution, transmission, and reproduction) produce different types of households. For example, different sizes of households are more efficient at performing certain key tasks with respect to scheduling labor for production. Large households are better suited for coping with many simultaneous tasks. Pasternak et al. argue that extended families are predicted in situations where there are incompatible activity requirements that adults cannot avoid and where hired or coerced labor is not available (Pasternak, et al. 1976). Based on ethnographic surveys, these are typically women's economic tasks and child care, along with men's subsistence tasks that require overnight stays outside the home. An extending strategy, of which extended families are included within, is a way of coping with labor shortages and abundant land (Netting et al. 1984; Reyna 1976). As such, it is a way of intensifyingresource procurement. Hayden and Cannon (1982) have observed that there must be strong factors (typically economic, environmental, or defensive) for groups of families to live closely together, and control over resources is the glue that keeps them together (although see Goring-Morris,Kuijt, Rollefson,Rosenberg, and Voigt, all in this volume, for consideration of the means by which community identities were structured within Near Eastern Neolithic contexts).

Nuclear families are more common in situations where these factors are not applicable, since extended families are harder to maintain due to conflict and jealousy. Smaller households are considered best suited for situations where mobility is important or where linear scheduling of spatially restricted resources takes place (Wilk and Rathje 1982). Small households are also considered the most effective way of passing resources for generation to generation since there is less conflict over inheritance. This point is reiterated by Hayden (1995b), who argued that ownership is correlated with high resource density and reliability. Ownership over resources is also more likely in areas where stored foodstuffs are used during lean seasons, and considerable effort is needed to prepare them for storage (Hayden 1995b:28).It is not surprising to produce surpluses in these situations.

Based on these cross-cultural generalized differences between different sizes of households, the transition from hunting and gathering to a strong reliance on domestic products in the southern Levantine is a situation best suited for the perpetuation of nuclear households. Key factors include the utilization of relatively abundant but spatiallyrestricted resources that can be effectively exploited as small plots of land, a limited need for long stays outside the community by adult members of the family, a lack of multiple simultaneous tasks, and a lean season during which stored resources could be utilized. Thus, nuclear families appear to have had an adaptive advantage over extended households in this context.

Explaining why communities and the households that constitute them followed particular trajectories is a more difficult problem to unravel. Blanton (1994, 1995) has recently presented a model that attempts to explain cross-cultural patterns in the nature and organization of households. Households perpetuate themselves by controlling economic actions, marriage, and postmarital residence. However, households can change over time if it is considered in the best interest for all the individuals in the group. Blanton (1995:112-116)argues that examination of household idealogy (rituals and habits) provides a context for understanding how households change, particularly away from an egalitarian social organization. Habits perpetuate households and are the means for a household reproduction strategy. Material media messages such as gender use of space, shrines, and layout based on cosmology are reflections of household social structure. Symbolic behavior can create and perpetuate household inequality, and more rigid use of space typically occurs in less egalitarian societies. Blanton (1995) identified a statistical correlation between household centralization, pooling of resources, and arranged marriages. Nuclear families occur most frequently in more egalitarian situations since there is less household control over members, and individuals can marry early on and establish their own residences. In contrast, a continuity strategy that keeps adults part of an extended household is more often associated with increased standardization, more ideological reiteration of household values, and control of social habits.

In a related argument, Feinman (1995) has recently discussed alternative pathways to cultural complexity (see also Blanton et al. 1996). He asserts that there are two mutually opposing courses: a corporate based and network based pathway to inequality (yet see Hayden 1990, 1995b). Acor-porate based pathway emphasizes few overt differences between houses (in terms of size and value), minimal economic differentiation and display of individual wealth, integrated social segments, kin affiliation importance, and a focus on collective ritual, group space and ritual areas, and public construction. In contrast, network-based pathways are characterized by individual wealth, craft production, long-distance exchange, and personal networks of power (see also Renfrew 1974). Societies can go from one to another over time since both aspects are always in play.

These theoretical constructions provide additional insight into understanding how changes in domestic structures and the households that inhabited them correspond to developments on the community level during the Middle PPNB. The transition to food production in the southern Levant appears to be characterized by a corporate pathway that included public construction, group rituals and areas to conduct them, and little evidence of variation in individual or household wealth. If the nuclear families that composed these early villages controlled or owned plots of land that were the focus of plant resource exploitation, then these were inherently unequal in their yield. In addition, the more restricted sharing of resources between households and the greater household control over access and information increased the probability of jealousy and conflict between households. At the same time community and/or lineage level power and authority may have grown. This may have been the impetus for the similarity in size and outward appearance of PPNB domestic structures and uniformity in mortuary practices which reiterated a community-wide egalitarian ethos (Kuijt 1995,1996).Standardization and elaboration of internal domestic structures in the PPNB aided household autonomy but also reinforced social order within and between households. Elders may have controlled prestige goods, postmarital residence choices, and other items, including marriage costs (Blanton 1995). Thus, the pathway that hunter-gatherers in the southern Levant took in becoming some of the earliest food producers was both novel and conservative. There was a tendency to try and reinforce community social order through the efforts of community leadership while the fundamental social units—households—became more autonomous and more unequal in their ability to perpetuate themselves.

0 0

Post a comment