Intrasite Spatial Patterning and Thule Eskimo Social Organization

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<ul><li><p>Intrasite Spatial Patterning and Thule Eskimo Social OrganizationAuthor(s): Colin Grier and James M. SavelleSource: Arctic Anthropology, Vol. 31, No. 2 (1994), pp. 95-107Published by: University of Wisconsin PressStable URL: .Accessed: 18/06/2014 21:48</p><p>Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms &amp; Conditions of Use, available at .</p><p> .JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact</p><p> .</p><p>University of Wisconsin Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to ArcticAnthropology.</p><p> </p><p>This content downloaded from on Wed, 18 Jun 2014 21:48:07 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p></p></li><li><p>INTRASITE SPATIAL PATTERNING AND </p><p>THULE ESKIMO SOCIAL ORGANIZATION </p><p>COLIN GRIER AND JAMES M. SAVELLE </p><p>Abstract. This study examines social organization among central Canadian Arctic pre- historic Thule whaling societies from the perspective of intrasite spatial patterning. It historic Thule whaling societies from the perspective of intrasite spatial patterning. It is based on the premises that (a) the greater the intensity of whaling, the greater the labor cooperation that will occur for the procurement and distribution of whales and whale products, (b) the greater the labor cooperation, the greater the degree of struc- tured social interaction that will follow, and (c) the greater degree of structured social interaction will result in a more highly structured internal patterning of permanently occupied village sites. </p><p>Accordingly, intrasite patterning was examined for 18 Thule Eskimo winter resi- dential sites located within one of three Thule whaling zones (core, intermediate, pe- ripheral), differentiated on the basis of whale abundance, and therefore inferred whaling intensity. The spatial dimensions examined were habitation density, degree of site structure, site integration, and nearest neighbor distances. It was hypothesized that sites in the core area should exhibit the highest levels of site structure, habitation </p><p>density, and site integration, and that these attributes should decrease through the in- termediate to the peripheral zone. Similarly, the nearest neighbor distances should in- crease from the core to the periphery. </p><p>The results of the analysis corroborated these expectations, and suggest that the </p><p>analysis of internal site patterning should prove a worthwhile tool in the investigation of Thule social structure. </p><p>Introduction The investigation of prehistoric Thule Eskimo so- cial organization in the Canadian Arctic repre- sents what McCartney (1980) has termed a "second phase" objective in Canadian arctic ar- chaeology. That is, it is dependent upon, and thus necessarily follows, the prior development of lo- cal and regional chronological frameworks. With </p><p>few exceptions (e.g., Greenland communal house studies by Steensby [1910] and Holtved [1994]), earlier "first phase" interpretations of Thule so- cial organization tended to be generic character- izations based on ethnographic analogy. </p><p>In contrast, the investigation of Thule social organization as a specific goal has been a relatively recent phenomenon, and as a consequence tends to be intuitive, and its attendant methodologies ex- </p><p>Colin Grier, Department of Anthropology, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-2402 James M. Savelle, Department of Anthropology, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3A 2T7 </p><p>ARCTIC ANTHROPOLOGY Vol. 31, No. 2, pp. 95-107, 1994 </p><p>This content downloaded from on Wed, 18 Jun 2014 21:48:07 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p></p></li><li><p>Background to the Study </p><p>96 Arctic Anthropology 31:2 </p><p>ploratory. Recent approaches to the interpretation of social organization have included inferring (a) the degree of communalism through the anal- ysis of dwelling characteristics (e.g., Schledermann 1976a, 1976b), (b) status relationships between in- dividual households within a village through the analysis of artifact distributions (McCartney and Scholtz 1977; McGhee 1984) or architectural differ- ences (McGhee 1984), (c) logistical organization through the analysis of internal site structure (Savelle 1987), and (d) exchange systems and inter- regional social connectivity through the analysis of exotic materials (McCartney 1991). </p><p>In this paper, derived from Grier (1993), we build upon the analysis of internal site structure as developed by Savelle, examining variability in intrasite structure within the central Canadian Arctic Thule "whaling region" (sensu McCartney and Savelle 1985; Savelle and McCartney 1988, n.d.). While this study remains exploratory in na- ture, we nevertheless feel it (a) illustrates a poten- tial research framework that may be profitably employed in the investigation of Thule social organization, and (b) suggests a scheme for quan- titatively expressing intrasite spatial dimensions that may be applied to other contexts. </p><p>The premise that internal site structure reflects social differentiation and integration among hunter-gatherer societies has been articulated in considerable detail by Chang (1962), Yellen (1977), Whitelaw (1983, 1989, 1991), and Binford (1991), among others. According to these studies, the spa- tial relations within a community are structured to emulate social relations (Whitelaw 1991:140-141). In the context of this paper, and following White- law (ibid.), the term "social relations" is taken to mean "... social patterns of communication, inter- action, and residential group integration." </p><p>Social relations, in turn, can be expected to be influenced to a considerable extent by subsis- tence pursuits. For example, where the procure- ment of extremely large animals or substantial aggregations of smaller animals requires extensive cooperation among individuals and groups of in- dividuals for hunting success, it can be postu- lated that the organizational requirements of these subsistence tasks will influence the extent of in- teraction and integration between individuals and groups of individuals. These organizational fac- tors influence, and are influenced by, the form of social structure that exists in hunter-gatherer communities (Whitelaw 1989; Binford 1991). </p><p>In the case of Thule culture, whaling in par- ticular can be seen as a pursuit that required ex- tensive interaction and cooperation. Among traditional North Alaskan Eskimo whaling soci- </p><p>eties, the closest analogue for Thule, social rela- tions were structured to a considerable extent by whaling crew membership (e.g., Spencer 1959, 1972; Burch 1980; Cassell 1988). While kinship was important in whaling crew membership (Burch 1980; Spencer 1972), the winter (perma- nent) village was not a series of autonomous kin-oriented local whaling families. Instead, it represented "a mutually dependent sphere of in- teraction" (Cassell 1988:106), in which "voluntary alliances, not kinship networks, were the princi- ple basis for social relations" (ibid.:107), with these voluntary alliances in turn being structured according to whaling crew membership. </p><p>Accordingly, it can be suggested that the greater the dependence on whaling, the stronger the "mutually dependent sphere of interaction" overriding the kin-based, local family structure. Conversely, the less dependence upon whaling, the weaker this sphere of interaction is likely to be. Put another way, as the importance of whaling de- creases, there is a tendency for corporate groups to be based less on the entire village membership and more on individual local family units. </p><p>If, as suggested above, spatial relationships are indeed influenced by social relationships, then we would anticipate differences in the spa- tial patterning of village sites to be concordant with differences in the dependence upon whal- ing. Specifically, the greater the dependence upon whaling, the greater the overall integration, or structure, of the spatial arrangement of dwellings. Conversely, the less the dependence upon whal- ing, the less the overall spatial integration, and the greater the tendency toward the establishment of individual dwelling "clusters," with each clus- ter representing a kin-based local family. We dis- cuss the concept of site structure in more detail below. </p><p>Savelle's earlier study followed the reason- ing outlined above, with the distribution of fea- tures within Thule sites being seen as a reflection of the "organizational components of [Thule] so- ciety with regards to hunting crew or group mem- bership, distribution of surplus resources, and/or formalized social control" (Savelle 1987:47). Briefly, it was hypothesized that the internal site patterning at early Classic Thule winter villages associated with logistically organized, surplus- producing, bowhead whale or caribou based economies should exhibit a relatively high degree of internal structure. Later Classic and Modified Thule winter villages associated with less logis- tically organized, surplus -poor, generalized econ- omies, on the other hand, should exhibit less internal structure. While the assessment of inter- nal patterning was subjective (being based on a continuum of six theoretical arrangements), the results, nevertheless, generally supported the hy- </p><p>This content downloaded from on Wed, 18 Jun 2014 21:48:07 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p></p></li><li><p>Whaling Zones and Intrasite Structure </p><p>Methodological Considerations </p><p>Grier &amp; Savelle: Thule Social Organization 97 </p><p>pothesis, with support being strongest in the Somerset Island "whaling" region. </p><p>Although the results in the "whaling" region were the most promising, they were based on data from two relatively restricted regions (Creswell Bay and Aston Bay, both on Somerset Island), and furthermore, compared what were believed to have been two chronologically dis- tinct series of sites. In the present study, whaling villages from throughout the "whaling" region form the data base. These sites in turn are located within one of three designated whaling zones, each zone differing according to the estimated in- tensity of whaling during the Thule period. Ac- cordingly, they offer an opportunity to examine variation in internal site structure as a function of the extent of bowhead whale dependence, and thus of cooperation and interaction, within an overall whaling economy. </p><p>Variation in bowhead whale, Balaena mysticetus, abundance during the height of Thule whaling in the central Canadian Arctic (termed the Classic Thule period by McCartney 1977; see also Max- well 1985:297-304) is primarily a function of sea ice patterns and the migration patterns of this species (Reeves et al. 1983). Based on modern dis- tribution studies, historic accounts by European and American whalers and explorers, and sea- sonal patterns of sea ice break-up, Savelle and McCartney (n.d.) have divided the central Cana- dian Arctic waters into three zones according to the inferred relative abundance of bowhead whales during the Classic Thule period. These in- clude a core, an intermediate, and a peripheral zone (Fig. 1). The core zone is the region where whales were most abundant and remained pres- ent for a longer period during the summer. Whale abundance and period of time in the area de- creased from the core to the intermediate to the peripheral zone. </p><p>Studies by Savelle (1990) and Savelle and McCartney (1991, n.d.) suggest that the intensity of bowhead whaling by Thule Eskimos was pos- itively correlated with the interpreted bowhead abundance in each of these zones. Therefore, it can be hypothesized that the spatial organization of Thule sites in the three whaling areas should reflect the physical correlates of variation in the extent of socioeconomic interaction. The corre- sponding implications are that sites in the core area should exhibit the highest degree of site spa- tial organization, while in the other two areas the decreasing reliance on bowhead whales should be correlated with less structured site spatial orga- </p><p>nization. More specific test implications will be presented below. </p><p>The investigation of the spatial organization of ar- chaeological sites requires an appropriate methodol- ogy for quantifying spatial relationships. A variety of statistical and heuristic techniques have been de- veloped and applied in locational geography and archaeological contexts for this purpose, particu- larly quadrat analyses (Dacey 1973; Spurling and Hayden 1984), nearest neighbor methods (Whallon 1974; Carr 1984; Voorrips and O'Shea 1987; Boots and Getis 1988; Kintigh 1990), and cluster analyses (Kintigh and Ammerman 1982; Whallon 1984; Kintigh 1990; Blankholm 1991; Gregg et al. 1991). All of these techniques have specific criteria which the data must meet in order for the method to be applicable. However, archaeological data cannot al- ways meet these requirements. Therefore, the most important aspect of choosing quantitative methods is that they are appropriate to the data that are be- ing considered. Substantial discussion has also en- sued over the capabilities and limitations of potential methods (Hodder and Orton 1976; Carr 1984; Kintigh 1990; Blankholm 1991). It is also im- portant to consider the overall research design of the study and ultimately what information is re- quired to answer the questions posed. </p><p>The spatial dimensions that are considered to be relevant for the present study include: (1) habi- tation density, and (2) the pattern of arrangement of residential structures within the site (cf. Whitelaw 1989, 1991). These two dimensions are regarded as relevant because they should reflect the spatial de- cisions made for the purpose of regulating interac- tion in concordance with social relations. </p><p>Habitation density is useful as it provides a characterization of the overall spacing of features within sites. Whitelaw (1991) has focused on this statistic in his cross cultural examination of hunter- gatherer community organization as it provides a relative assessment of the social integrity of the group occupying the site and the average amount of space that is associated with each feature. It is also methodologically unencumbered, being obtained simply by dividing the site area by the number of residential dwelling features in each site. </p><p>Habitation density is dependent upon the numbers o...</p></li></ul>