Food

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MICHAEL DIETLER & BRIAN HAYDEN (ed.). Feasts: archaeological and ethnographic perspectives on food, politics, and power. xi+432 pages, 68 figures, 18 tables. 2001. Washington (DC): Smithsonian Institution Press; 1-56098-861-4 hardback $55, 1-56098-840-1 paperback $29.95.

PRESTON MIRACLE & NICKY MILNER (ed.). Consuming passions and patterns of consumption, vi+136 pages, 48 figures, 18 tables. 2002. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research; 0-9519420-8-5 hardback 20 [pounds sterling] & US$35.

Just as SCHIFFER (above) argues that technology permeates everything, so Messrs DIETLER & HAYDEN are right to claim that feasting must very long have been a feature of social and political life. The point has been made a few times in the last years but it is especially well illustrated in their new book. Backing them up are eight `ethnographic perspectives' (including historical evidence) and six archaeological studies by an impressive array of scholars. The former include comparative essays (world-wide, Africa, Polynesia, Northwest Coast) and case studies (New Guinea, Thailand and upper Amazonia). The archaeological chapters range from N. America (including D.C. Wilson & W.L. Rathje on `garbage') and Mesoamerica to Mesopotamia (D. Schmandt-Besserat on the Standard of Ur etc.) and the Philippines. Ethnographers would be surprised by how `sociality' of eating is belaboured; but, for some of the history to explain this, see Ruins and rivals in `History', below. Cf. too Potterne in `Britain & Ireland', below.

MILNER & MIRACLE present two papers on concepts and methodology with four technical archaeological case studies from Europe (including a stout study of Durrington Walls by U. Albarella & D. Serjeantson and one on Mesolithic diet in Istria by Dr MIRACLE), an ethnoarchaeological study from upper Amazonia, and an ethnographic account from Greece which illustrate some of the same principles at issue in Feasts. Included too, in this handsome production, are a report on `an experimentally based method for investigating levels of marrow extraction' and reflections from Martin Jones on `Eating for calories or for company? …