M.A. Theses: Ron Adams, 2001

Ethnoarchaeology of Feasting in Tana Toraja, Indonesia

Feasting is a topic that has become of interest to archaeologists particularly due to the implications it has for a variety of issues related to the development of complex societies. This thesis examines the subject of feasting in Tana Toraja, Indonesia with three primary concerns: 1) to identify what practical social, political, and economic benefits individuals and groups can accrue through investment in the feasting system; 2) to identify what practical function these feasts appear to have for the society at large and how this differs between societies with contrasting socio-political contexts; and 3) to identify the material manifestations associated with feasting behavior in order to determine whether or not this behavior can be identified archaeologically.

In 2000, household heads were interviewed regarding household economics and feasting behavior in the Simbuang and Sa'dan areas of Tana Toraja. In addition, household material culture associated with feasting in Simbuang was inventoried. Observations were also made at traditional Torajan funeral feasts, house ceremonies, and weddings held throughout Tana Toraga.

The levels of traditional socio-politcal complexity varied between Sa'dan and Simbuang and the feasts and feasting behaviour present in the two areas were compared. Comparisons were also made with feasts and feasting behavior of the Akha of northern Thailand. The main purpose of the comparisons was to determine how and why the practical function of feasting differs in societies with contrasting degrees of socio-political complexity.

As a result of the survey of households and feasts and the comparisons of feasts and feasting behavior, it has been found that there are indeed practical benefits for individuals and groups derived from participation in the feasting system. These benefits appear to be related to the larger socio-political contexts of the society and the practical function of these feasts appears to differ between societies with varying levels of socio-political complexity. The analysis of material culture related to these feasts has shown that ownerhsip of feasting material culture reflects, to some degree, the amountof feasting households are engaged in and shows the potential of identifying feasting behavior archaeologically.