PhD Dissertations: Cameron M. Smith, 2004

The Social Organization of Production in Three Protohistoric Lower-Columbia River Plank Houses

This thesis investigates the relationship between the organization of labour, evidence of usewear on artifacts, and artifact distributions on the floor areas of three aboriginal plank houses in the lower Columbia River region. These houses date to the period from ca. 1400AD to 1830AD.

Analysis of the usewear present on the artifacts recovered from these houses was employed in order to identify the range and nature of extractive and maintenance activities in use during the period of their occupation. Analysis of the spatial distributions of these artifacts was carried out by first eliminating samples whose locations could have resulted from natural site formation processes, and then by analyzing the remaining artifact sample from each house in terms of frequencies of occurrence of the different artifact/usewear classes found in northern, central, and southern floor areas of each house. These floor areas reflect the locii of house inhabitants of different social rank as documented ethnographically.

Overall distributions of usewear classes indicate that inhabitants of all social ranks were engaged in each of the eight major extractive and maintenance tasks determined by usewear analysis such as butchery, wood-working, and the working of hides, whereas frequency distributions indicate that there were significant variations in the intensity of engagement in such activities. These determinations suggest that labour was organized by degree of engagement in a given activity rather than by including or excluding such activities from the domain of all social classes within a house. It was also determined that basic organization of labour differed in each plank house even though the tools used and the activities carried out were the same. While technical solutions to sedentary foraging activities were the same among the inhabitants of these houses, organizational solutions differed significantly even among contemporaneous households only several kilometers from each other. While a number of implications of these findings are proposed, caution should be used in extrapolating the results of this study deeply into prehistory or widely in space until several additional analyses (e.g. floral and faunal remains) are completed and integrated with the results of this study.