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The Power of Feasts
From Prehistory to the Present


  • Author: Brian Hayden, Simon Fraser University, British Columbia
Suzanne Villeneuve
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  • Date Published: November 2014
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107617643

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About the Authors
  • In this book, Brian Hayden provides the first comprehensive, theoretical work on the history of feasting in pre-industrial societies. As an important barometer of cultural change, feasting is at the forefront of theoretical developments in archaeology. The Power of Feasts chronicles the evolution of the practice from its first perceptible prehistoric presence to modern industrial times. This study explores recurring patterns in the dynamics of feasts as well as linkages to other aspects of culture such as food, personhood, cognition, power, politics, and economics. Analyzing detailed ethnographic and archaeological observations from a wide variety of cultures, including Oceania and Southeast Asia, the Americas, and Eurasia, Hayden illuminates the role of feasts as an invaluable insight into the social and political structures of past societies.

    • The scope is cross-cultural and trans-temporal, and covers the full time range of feasting
    • The theoretical approach of political ecology focuses on how feasts are linked to other aspects of culture
    • Establishes a model for understanding changes in feasting behavior over time, and related technological changes that occur
    • Integrates both ethnographic and archaeological research into feasting and develops guidelines for archaeological interpretations of feasting remains
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Hayden touches on a huge variety of themes of the broadest interest and importance, from domestication to state formation, and religion to prostitution (the latter two sometimes simultaneously) … His book pulls together decades of personal research integrated into an overarching and compelling account of nothing less than feasting as human history.' Robert Witcher, Antiquity

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    Product details

    • Date Published: November 2014
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107617643
    • length: 435 pages
    • dimensions: 255 x 177 x 20 mm
    • weight: 0.93kg
    • contains: 99 b/w illus. 6 maps
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Before the feast: overview of the importance of feasting
    2. Food sharing and the primate foundations of feasting behavior Suzanne Villeneuve
    3. Simple hunter/gatherers
    4. Transegalitarian hunter/gatherers
    5. Domesticating plants and animals for feasts
    6. The horticultural explosion
    7. Chiefs up the ante
    8. The first states
    9. Feasting in industrial societies.

  • Author

    Brian Hayden, Simon Fraser University, British Columbia
    Brian Hayden is Professor Emeritus in the Archaeology Department at Simon Fraser University. His research focuses on the behaviors, societies, economics, rituals, and political organizations of past people and, specifically, the dynamics of feasting from an ethnoarchaeological perspective. He has worked with traditional people in Australia, the Maya Highlands, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Polynesia, and British Columbia in order to learn about traditional technologies and how they are linked to the other aspects of cultures. He is the author of numerous articles and books including Archaeology: the Science of Once and Future Things; The Pithouses of Keatley Creek; Shamans, Sorcerers, and Saints: The Prehistory of Religion; Feasts (with Michael Dietler); Paleolithic Reflections; and Lithic Studies among the Highland Maya.


    Suzanne Villeneuve

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