Iroquoian Archaeology and Analytic Scale

By Perttula, Timothy K. | Southeastern Archaeology, Winter 2011 | Go to article overview
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Iroquoian Archaeology and Analytic Scale

Perttula, Timothy K., Southeastern Archaeology

Iroquoian Archaeology and Analytic Scale. LAURIE E. MIROFF and TIMOTHY D. BCNAPP (eds.). University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, 2009. xxxi + 295 pp., 64 figs., 27 tables, reference, index. $48.00 (hard cover), ISBN 978-1-57233-573-8.

Reviewed by Timothy K. Perttula

This very useful and thought-provoking edited volume has as its main objective to make clear that multiscalar analytic approaches to the study of the archaeological record hold considerable promise as a means to gain more dynamic and robust understandings of the particular part of the archaeological record under study. The book's contributors do this very effectively by providing a series of substantive contributions on various aspects of Iroquoian archaeology from sites dating between ca. A.D. 900 and 1800 in New York state and Ontario in the context of illustrating the worth of different analytical scales, while the editors provide an introduction on "Scale and Iroquoian Archaeology."

As laid out in the introduction by Knapp and Miroff, adapting the concepts of "extent" and "grain" from geographic, geophysical, and biological disciplines, the editors propose that analytic scale in archaeology "consists of three primary components: spatial, temporal, and methodological" (p. xxvi). Spatial and temporal scales are components of the "extent" concept, and both are viewed as independent measurements of scale, from micro- to macro-scale. Methodological aspects of scale, analogous to "grain," are those analytical decisions made that that attempt to achieve a fine resolution of a data set in time or space where homogeneity in that data can be assumed. How those decisions on methodological scales are made can effect or mask variability in specific sets of archaeological data, such as, for example, typological or attribute-based approaches to the study of ceramic artifacts as different methodological scales. The editors recommend that multiple methodological scales be employed at every analytical opportunity. Lastly, the editors rightly note the dialectic or interactive nature of scales in archaeological studies, and that connections between archaeological phenomena cannot be understood in isolation, and that we are better served by taking a multiscalar approach to understanding changes in the past.

The contributors to the volume tackle issues of analytic scale in a number of different respects, varying the analytic scale in accordance with the issues at hand. These include issues that range from land-use changes over time and regional diversity in settlement character to gender relationships at the macro-scale, village size versus population size, the organization of village space, cultural interaction and transmission of ideas, and how Iroquoian groups were differentially effected by, and responded to, European contact in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. They look at the archaeological data of interest using multiple scales of analysis.

Christiana B. Reith's chapter tackled land-use studies through the interpretation of site and nonsite data at different temporal and spatial scales of analysis, while Douglas J. Perrelli examined the life history of two sites at a local micro-scale. He took this micro-scale approach while viewing that information in conjunction with patterned variations within and between sites to better understand the social organization and gender relationships expressed in features and site function. In Peter A. Timmin's chapter, he tackles village organization at a large village to conclude that issues of scale and community need to be addressed "in constructing regional population models" (p. 55).

The Thomas/Luckey site in upstate New York is the subject of chapters by Laurie E. Miroff and Timothy D. Knapp. Miroff's take on scale is to focus on what she calls local-level analysis, namely, a fine-grained examination of households within the site (through spatial patterning of artifacts and features and identification of activity areas) and extensive radiocarbon dating to establish the chronological context and "address intrasite social dynamics.

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