Method and Theory in American Archaeology

By Gordon R. Willey; Philip Phillips | Go to book overview
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Chapter 6
Formative Stage


In discussing the Archaic, we have already indicated the kind of changes we have to make in our original concept of the Formative. The latter was defined "by the presence of maize and/or manioc agriculture and by the successful socioeconomic integration of such an agriculture into well-established sedentary village life."1 As we pointed out at the time, this definition introduced specific diffused, i.e., historically derived, agricultural traditions as criteria in a developmental classification. We were not unmindful of the ambiguity of this procedure, but were constrained to follow along the lines of conventional thinking in both New and Old World archaeology.

We were well aware of the possibility of sociocultural patterns of comparable complexity being sustained by economies other than agricultural. We thought of cultures such as those already discussed in the California and Northwest Coast areas as marking a sort of florescence within the limits imposed by their hunting-fishing-gathering economies; we were quite prepared to admit that they might have attained the essential demographic characteristics of the Formative stage, but we preferred to call them Archaic, for two reasons: (1) they might be said to represent the "older" (developmentally speaking) pattern and (2) it could be argued that they lacked the potentialities for demographic increase that agricultural food production normally provides. That is to say, they were not Formative in the sense that they might go

Willey and Phillips, 1955, p. 765.


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