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Escaping the Confines of Normative Thought: A Reevaluation of Puebloan Prehistory

  • Linda S. Cordell (a1) and Fred Plog (a2)

Our recent efforts in preparing syntheses of Puebloan prehistory suggest that most of the standard, normative generalizations are empirically false and that the conceptual framework traditionally employed to organize the archaeological data is inadequate and inappropriate. We show that the patterned variability manifest in the archaeological record is obscured by normative treatment. An approach to southwestern prehistory that is at once more faithful to the data and to processual, evolutionary anthropology is provided by describing the variable strategies that prehistoric groups used to cope with the continually changing natural and social environments in which they lived. We argue that some aspects of demographic, productive, and social organizational strategies are appropriate for treatment in syntheses of broad scope. We trace these strategies as they seem to have occurred in the northern Southwest from about A.D. 1 to the protohistoric period. In so doing, we find that successful strategies were those that facilitated the articulation of diversity. At some times productive specialization, organized redistributive exchange, and status differentiation were among the more important strategies.

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