AuthorNelson, Richard S.
Indians of North America -- Commerce -- Arizona.
Indian shell engraving -- Arizona.
Shells -- Arizona.
Indian shell engraving.
Indians of North America -- Commerce.
MetadataShow full item record
Other TitlesArizona State Museum Archaeological Series No. 179
CitationNelson, Richard S. 1991. Hohokam Marine Shell Exchange and Artifacts. Arizona State Museum Archaeological Series No. 179. Arizona State Museum, University of Arizona, Tucson.
AbstractThis study analyzes the shell industry of the Hohokam, the prehistoric inhabitants of southern Arizona. The primary focus is upon exchange and utilizes the concept of spheres of exchange, derived from social anthropology. After first examining the problems of sources, procurement and processing of unworked shell, the analysis then proceeds to define the patterns of context and distribution characteristic of different shell artifacts, demonstrating that different classes of shell artifacts do exhibit different and distinctive patterns of context and of both intra-site and inter-site distribution. These different distributional patterns are shown to influence the distribution of these shell artifacts beyond the boundaries of Hohokam territory. It is shown that some shell artifacts are widely distribution both within and beyond Hohokam territory, and are found within a wide variety both of sites and contexts. Such artifacts appear to be accessible to a relatively broad segment of individuals and communities. Other shell artifacts, however, are more sharply restricted in both context and distribution, and rarely occur in non-Hohokam sites. This second group is more likely to be abundant mainly at sites which may be reigonal centers, and even there are more likely to occur in certain parts of such sites, often in such specialized contexts as caches or especially rich cemetaries. ln those areas, they may also be associated with uncommon artifacts of other materials. Some associated artifacts are of Mesoamerican origin. Based upon these data, as well as information relating to settlement systems an burial practices, it is concluded that this second group of Hohokam shell artifacts represents a distinct, prestige sphere of exchange, access to which is restricted, perhaps on the basis of rank or ritual ties. This phenomenon seems to be most clearly delineated during the late Colonial and Sedentary periods, but may have existed during the Classic Period as well. This prestige sphere seems to have involved exchange ties with Mesoamerica, at least at certain times, and probably operated within the region through exchange links and mechanisms different from those by which more widely distributed shell artifact types were exchanged. Thus the Hohokam can be said to have had a multi-tiered system of exchange spheres, the existence of which can probably be linked to existence of some sort of social ranking within Hohokam society.
Series/Report no.Arizona State Museum Archaeological Series, 179
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