Introduction

In studying the emergence cf social differentiation in the past, researchers have focused considerable attention on the critical role cf ritual behavior as a framework in which people and communities define and modify social relationships. From one perspective ritual can serve as a device of powerful

IANKUIJT • Department of Anthropology, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana 46556.

Life in Neolithic Farming Communities: Social Organization, Identity, and Differentiation, edited by Ian Kuijt. Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, Kew York, 2000.

social regulation, as a consolidator of economic, political, and social power among select individuals within communities, and as a potential mechanism to challenge egalitarian belief systems (e.g.,Earle 1987; Fried 1960, 1967;Johnson 1982;Hayden 1995). An alternative, but by no means mutually exclusive, perspective is offered by a number of anthropological and archaeological studies that explore how at times people can use ritual practices to maintain egalitarian social systems, as social leveling mechanisms within communities, and to maintain or increase solidarity between individuals and households by stressing shared egalitarian themes (Berreman 1981;Boehm 1993;Flanagan 1989;Flanagan and Rayner 1988;Gerlach and Gerlach 1988;McKinnon 1991;Paynter 1989; Rayner 1988). Viewed collectively, these studies have increased our awareness of the dynamic and multidimensional nature of equality and inequality inherent in most social relationships. One of the most visual, complex, and powerful examples of ritual behavior is that of mortuary rituals, for they often serve as both symbolic and physical expressions of the views and beliefs of general communities (Kan 1989;Metcalf and Huntington 1991;Weiner 1976).

The question of how social structure, ideology, and worldviews are expressed through, and mediated by, mortuary practices has been an active focus of anthropological and archaeological debate for some time (e.g., see Binford 1971;Chapman et al. 1981;O'Shea 1984,1996;Tainter 1978;Weiner 1976). As part of this dialogue, several recent studies (Carr 1995; Hodder 1982;Kan 1989;McGuire 1992;Metcalf and Huntington 1991)have directed new attention to how mortuary practices often idealize and mask daily social relations; additionally researchers have explored the importance of the living in relation to the perceived status of the deceased in structuring mortuary practices to further understand the social impact of specific mortuary ritual upon individuals and communities. (Readers are referred to Carr 1995 for expanded discussion of different approaches to mortuary analysis adopted by archaeologists, as well as for arguments for their historical developments.) Following many of these works, I view mortuary practice as a form of human behavior actively chosen by actors in relation to specific beliefs and a broader worldview and symbolic themes rather than a direct reflection of social organization. Mortuary practices are often a communal event, usually controlled and directed by a limited number of individuals, and enacted for an audience of individuals present at the event. The power of ritual as a cohesive force is based, in part, on the realization that mortuary rituals are a form of public action, a social drama designed and conducted by the living in such a way that the broader social ethos and mortuary practices are interlinked and mutually reinforcing, and is not always, therefore, a direct reflection of the status, authority, and importance of the deceased (Geertz 1973; Hertz 1960;Metcalf and Huntington 1991;van Gennep

1960). Among others, Geertz (1973:131) emphasizes the centrality of the relationship between ritual symbols and the broader social ethos, stating that "The force of a religion in supporting social values rests, then, on the ability of its symbols to formulate a world in which those values, as well as the forces opposing their realization, are fundamental ingredients." Moreover, the standardization of symbols in household ritual or mortuary practices, such as the number of objects and significance, is central to their intended meaning and can be employed to reinforce broader spiritual beliefs and community ethos within and between households (Hodder 1982; McKinnon 1991;Metcalf and Huntington 1991).

It is important to keep in mind that under different conditions specific mortuary practices can have different political and social impacts upon the individual, household, and community (Blanton 1995; Carr 1995;Hodder 1982; Metcalf and Huntington 1991). In many societies ritual action provides the framework for community cohesion, the arena in which links between households are established, supported, and extended by elaborate codes of social reciprocity that ensure participation in collective rituals by individuals from multiple households. Following other researchers (Blanton 1995;Joyce 1993;Levi-Strauss1983;McKinnon 1991),I use the term "household" to refer to the cooperative coresidential economic unit exemplified by internal ranking and some centralized decision-making authority. Membership within households would have been through kinship links, but not all members of the household were kin. A household is viewed as a corporate body that perpetuates itself through the exchange of goods, titles, and membership along real or imaginary lines. Within such small-scale social groups, individual and household level relationships are negotiated, based on real or perceived reciprocity, and are frequently reaffirmed through gift exchange and reciprocal participation in household ritual events, such as mortuary rituals.

While addressing the links between mortuary practices, social distinction, and material culture, several researchers have recognized that mortuary practices not only reaffirm the kin and economic links between households, but also that the actual or perceived coparticipation in mortuary practices impacts communities by symbolically and physically linking and defining individuals. For example, in a recent examination of mortuary practices and their determinants, Carr (1995) illustrates that while funeral attendance and the overall energy expended in mortuary rites often reflects the social position of the deceased within communities, it can also be linked to communal ancestor worship, responsibility to the deceased, beliefs about the soul'snature, and the nature of the afterlife (Binford 1971;Hodder 1982; McGuire 1992;Metcalf and Huntington 1991;O'Shea 1984;Radcliffe-Brown 1964).Importantly, individuals may not recognize the sentiments or actions that reiterate group membership, but the very act of coparticipating in such actions will minimally serve to strengthen existing feelings and develop new relationships. From this perspective, then, mortuary practices fulfill an important integrative function within communities by encouraging participation in a powerful communal act that symbolically and physically links community members in a logical and articulate form, leads to the development cf new networks or the extension of existing networks, and reaffirms broader beliefs and worldviews (see Fentress and Wickham 1992;McKinnon 1991; Metcalf and Huntington 1991; Radcliffe-Brown 1964 for further discussion of these themes).

RITUAL PRACTICES IN THE MPPNB: SHARED THEMES AND NUMERIC STANDARDIZATION

In exploring changes in social organization during the Aceramic Neolithic I have previously argued that Middle Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period communities from the Mediterranean zone of the south-central Levant, including the modern states of Jordan, Israel, eastern Egypt, and southern Syria, can be envisioned as "HouseSocieties"characterized by Houses that interacted within a social framework of coexisting competition and cooperation, where different aspects of material culture were employed to express degrees of affinity. I utilize Lévi-Strauss(1983:174)definition of the house as a foundation: "a corporate body holding an estate made up of both material and immaterial wealth, which perpetuates itself through the transmission of its name, its goods and its titles down a real or imaginary line, considered legitimate as long as this continuity can express itself in the language of kinship or of affinity and, most often, of both" (Lévi-Strauss 1983:174).Al-though often viewed from a material perspective, Lévi-Strauss'definition clearly acknowledges the importance f nonmaterial expressions of social relations within House societies. Moving beyond this core framework, I share with Waterson (1995:49) a more flexible definition emphasizing elements of temporal continuity, the hereditary transfer of valued property and authority, and the strategic exploitation of the language of kinship and affinity. In this interpretive context, then, the 'House'exists simultaneously as a social, ritual, and economic unit, and can be comprised of multiple households dwelling in separate residential structures, and can serve as a physical and symbolic place of origin residence of fictive and real ancestors. From this perspective, then, I have explored Neolithic household social organization as reflecting a series of complex social rules that reaffirmed the egalitarian values and ethos of general society, and at the same time, permitted the development of social differentiation which cross-cut household and kin-group lines (Kuijt 1995, 1996, 2000, in press).

As an alternative to treating egalitarianism as a descriptive category, a number of researchers (e.g., Boehm 1993: Feinman 1995; Hodder 1991; McKinnon 1991;Plog 1995), approach this concept as a form cf ideology, a crafted social identity or worldview that is expressed through material culture, carefully maintained by community leaders so as to deliberately affect community behavior and social relations by emphasizing the shared identity and affinity between individuals within and between Houses. In contrast to some research that views egalitarianism and social differentiation in middle-range societies as being mutually exclusive, I believe that egalitarian ideology and hierarchy are fundamentally interrelated and co-exist in many, if not most, social system (see also Berreman 1981;Feinman 1995;Flanagan 1989; Flanagan and Rayner 1988; Gerlach and Gerlach 1988; Kan 1989; McKinnon 1991; 1995;Myers 1986;Plog 1995;Price 1995;Rayner 1988). In many ways, all egalitarian systems are a reaction by community members against formalized social differentiation, establishing a system of highly complex social rules which ultimately ensures relatively equal treatment for individuals. Based on this ethos, attempts to accumulate power and authority by select individuals and Houses are sharply limited and controlled by other Houses and the collective community. Above all else, Houses are usually traditional, conservative, and focused on maintaining existing social arrangements to limit the gains of other Houses (Lévi-Strauss 1983;McKinnon 1991). One possible reason for this is that within many societies, the emergence of formalized, hereditary, social hierarchy is highly fissive to group membership, because differential access to resources and status runs counter to broader social beliefs (Berreman 1981;Myers 19861, and perhaps more importantly, counteracts the success and longevity of competing Houses. Drawing on a number of studies (Boehm 1993; Flanagan 1989; Hodder 1990;Keene 1991;McKinnon 1991,1995), I believe that competition plays a major role in the maintenance and expansion of egalitarian ideology in House Societies, and by extension, requires us to recognize that the articulation of social arrangements varies in different House Societies through time.

Based upon previous studies of mortuary practice and evidence for long-term architectural continuity I argue that MPPNB communities, such as at Jericho and 'AinGhazal, were comprised of multiple, distinct, yet interrelated 'Houses'consisting of multiple households and residing in multiple residential structures. Ritual practices, focused on the House or household as a social unit, and in particular, the mortuary practices and the daily rituals conducted in individual households and House non-residential structures, were employed as physical and symbolic vehicles for negotiating social arrangements. The physical organization of ritual and mortuary practices, their location, and the organization ofphysical space provided the symbolic and social language to form social connections and alliances that extended beyond the physical boundaries of individual structures to encompass multiple residential structures in a collective economic, social, and ritual social unit of the House. As noted elsewhere (Arensburg and Herskovitz 1988; Bienert 1991;Cauvin 1994;Cornwall 1981;Kuijt 1995;Kurth and Rohrer-Ertl 1981), MPPNB communities practiced multiple kinds of cranial deformation, painting, plastering, and caching of human skulls of highly select deceased individuals along with a range of differential mortuary practices as a material language cf affinity to symbolically and physically differentiate some individuals and Houses over others. Paradoxically, it appears that community members, likely drawn from Houses throughout the community, intentionally limited the material and symbolic ways in which social differentia-tionwas expressed within and between Houses, while actively distinguishing themselves and other individuals by their ritual service to the community and by their differential treatment of the dead.

It is not my purpose to review existing ethnographic and anthropological works documenting how ritual can be, and often is, employed as a means by which social differentiation and, by extension, inequalities of power and authority are accrued and maintained in communities. Nor do I disagree in any fundamental way with arguments that mortuary rituals and symbols embody multiple messages within and between communities, and, as such, it is impossible to develop universal explanations for the importance of ritual in different cultures. Rather, I want to outline how south-central Levantine Middle Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period people expressed and maintained their beliefs and values through a series of highly standardized household ritual practices, expressed in multiple media, and understandable by all community members. In brief, these behaviors are reflected in the archaeological record through (1) systems of ritual practices that symbolically and physically link individuals together, (2) the standardization in the location in which ritual practices occur, (3) the standardization and reiteration of certain themes common to all observers, and (4) the reiteration of these themes in multiple media. For ritual practices to effectively express household and community values and beliefs, participants and observers must be aware of the broader meanings and messages presented in the ritual activities. This point is of particular significance to researchers, since systems of significance often require highly structured patterns-patterns that are archaeologically observable and can be monitored through time. In considering the social impact of these ritual practices, I argue that the reiteration of several ritual/spiritual themes served to constantly reemphasize common rules recognizable by both participants and observers, as well as the broader belief systems that they represent. To illustrate these points, I briefly address three interrelated dimensions of MPPNB ritual practices: (1) the social impact of secondary mortuary prac tice ofcranial removal at the household and community level, (2) the physical and symbolicways in which systematicinterments of human skull caches and anthropomorphic figurines were made intelligible to community members, and (3) how people used these practices to differentially select some members of the community over others.

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