Dissertation Research: Systematic Cultural Change in the U. S. Prehistoric Southwest
John E. Yellen Program Manager
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Under the direction of Dr. Margaret Nelson, Mr Michael Diehl will collect data for his doctoral dissertation. He will study materials at a number of U.S. museums which house archaeological collections from the Mogollon region of New Mexico. The goal of the work is to examine the emergence of inequality within social groups over time. Dr. Diehl will focus on the Early and Late Pithouse periods because over this time period clear changes in subsistence and settlement strategy are documented in the archaeological record. Pithouse peoples started as highly moble hunters and collectors and over time appear to have settled in larger groupings. Sites were occupied for longer periods of time and dependence on agriculture appears to have increased. In many parts of the world similar changes are correlated with the emergence of social inequality among domestic household units. It is unclear whether a this phenomenon occurred among Pithouse peoples and Mr. Diehl will examine this question. More importantly, he will try to discern the underlying mechanisms which underlay the changes which took place and try to determine precise cause and effect relationships. To accomplish this, he will examine excavation documents, botanical remains, ceramics and "luxury" items from a series of sites which span this time period. In this way he can reconstruct changes in subsistence, settlement and social differentiation. This research is important for several reasons. Social inequality is both a fact of life and a cause of problems which face many societies today. Anthropologists wish to understand how this phenomenon originally arose and this research will address the issue. It will also assist in the training of a promising young scientist.