Household Ethnoarchaeology and Social Action in a Megalith-Building Society in West Sumba, Indonesia

Date
2019-10-04
Authors
Adams, Ron L.
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Abstract
An analysis of contemporary megalith building, associated social endeavors, and material culture patterning among households in West Sumba, Indonesia can advance knowledge of the inner workings of past megalith building societies and how they can be identified archaeologically. As a reflection of broader sociopolitical dynamics, the household has become an essential unit of analysis in the examination of prehistoric social organization. This study of household ethnoarchaeology in West Sumba illustrates the utility of household-level analyses in the interpretation of megalith building societies of the ancient past. The results of household interviews and material culture inventories conducted in the Kodi area of West Sumba provide a nuanced view of the social entanglements linked to megaliths and related phenomena such as ritual feasting. A wide degree of inter-household variability is associated with investments of resources into these endeavors in Kodi, reflecting not only the traditional means of achieving power and renown but also the traditional emphasis on group-oriented sociopolitical power and prestige. An examination of the household material culture linked to this behavior reveals both the potential insights as well as the limitations of inferring the intricacies of social action from material culture patterning. The results of this study can provide a useful interpretive model for megalith-building societies in appropriate contexts.
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ethnoarchaeology, megaliths, feasting, household archaeology, material culture, Indonesia
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