Login *:
Password *:


14-03-2015, 10:27

Behavioral Archaeology Today

Surprisingly, one unanticipated effect of the program’s success has been the overshadowing of other behavioral research agendas. Perhaps many archaeologists believe, erroneously, that the practice of behavioral archaeology is confined to conducting experiments, doing ethnoarchaeology, and studying formation processes. From the very beginnings of the behavioral program in the 1970s, however, practitioners began to refine, and develop further implications of Reid’s new definition of the discipline and to extend the applicability of the life-history framework to topics beyond inference and formation processes. Moreover, behavioralists delineated new research areas in the course of responding to the advent, in the 1980s, of evolutionary and postprocessual archaeologies. These latter programs called attention to a host of research questions that processualists had underemphasized, including social power and inequality, ideology, religion and ritual, meaning and symbols, and evolution defined as the differential persistence of discrete variants. Beginning in the 1980s a ‘new’ behavioral archaeology arose, also among students and faculty at the University of Arizona, which sought to show that the program could address contemporary issues including those prioritized by postprocessualists and evolutionists.

Back to Basics

Before engaging these issues, behavioralists had to revisit some fundamentals. The first move was to modify slightly the behavioral definition of archaeology. William H. Walker and others pointed out, in the introduction to Expanding Archaeology, that early behavioral formulations had included the common-sense idea that behavior is an organism’s muscular movements. Thus, defining archaeology as the study of relationships between human behavior and material culture placed artifacts outside human behavior, as mere constituents of the environment beyond the body. The revised definition rests on the tenet that behavior, as ‘activities’, involves both people and artifacts interacting; artifacts and behavior are inseparable. Moreover, artifacts consequentially take part in every activity, such as harvesting grain, a Passover seder, and playing poker. Archaeology is redefined as the study of people-artifact interactions in all times and places. As Rathje and Schiffer pointed out in Archaeology (1982), specific interactions can be aggregated into ever-larger units of analysis, ranging from the nearly instantaneous act of striking a flake from a chert core to the centuries-long life history of a complex society.

Interactions and Performance Characteristics

In The Material Life of Human Beings (1999), Schiffer and Miller specified varieties of interactions. The principal ‘interaction modes’ are mechanical, chemical, thermal, electrical, and electromagnetic. One can also define interactions in relation to human senses. For example, olfactory interactions are essentially chemical, whereas taste involves both chemical and mechanical interactions. Similarly, tactile and acoustic interactions are mechanical, and visual ones are electromagnetic. Even the simplest activity can involve interactions in many modes. Thus, ‘writing a letter with a pen and paper’ includes mechanical interactions between person and pen, between pen and paper, between paper and a support such as a table; and visual interactions between person and paper. Similarly, a soldier saluting an officer involves, minimally, the mechanical interactions between an officer and his or her uniform, and the mutual visual interactions between soldier and officer.

In order for an interaction to take place, thereby enabling an activity to proceed, each participating interactor - whether person, artifact, or extern (any phenomenon of the noncultural environment) - must carry out one or more performances. Each interactor’s performance is made possible by a ‘performance characteristic’, which is the capability, competence, or skill that comes into play during a specific interaction. In the letter-writing example, a pen is capable of delivering ink when pressed against the paper; the paper is able to receive and absorb the ink; the ink dries quickly and remains visible; the paper’s support is firm; and the writer possesses the competence to compose text in a particular language and the ability to manipulate a pen. In saluting an officer, the soldier is able to recognize an officer’s uniform and can raise his or her arm appropriately. Human behavior at all scales consists of aggregates of specific interactions enabled by relevant performance characteristics.

Artifact functions The concepts of performance characteristic and interaction mode help one to place traditional discussions of artifact function - the role(s) an artifact plays in an activity - on a firm behavioral foundation. Drawing inspiration from an earlier effort by Lewis R. Binford, Rathje and Schiffer, in Archaeology, designated three basic functions: ‘technofunction’, ‘socio-function’, and ‘ideo-function’. A techno-function is a utilitarian function, which can involve the transport, storage, or alteration of materials. Most activities involve artifacts that perform techno-functions: ceramic crucibles for pouring molten steel, chairs to support people while taking notes, and a cabinet to hold sacred scrolls. Artifacts performing socio-functions communicate information about social phenomena among an activity’s participants and/or between that social unit and others. Artifacts with socio-functions, silently communicating social facts, are ubiquitous and affect interpersonal interaction in many activities. Ideo-functions are served by artifacts that encode or symbolize ideas, values, knowledge, and information. Clearly, artifacts can perform more than one kind of function, even in the same activity. Thus, in cruising around town, a Hummer 2 automobile moves people and cargo from place to place (techno-function), denotes membership in the group of wealthy drivers favoring a military-derived vehicle (socio-function), and (in the view of some observers) proclaims contempt for environmental values (ideo-function).

All functions reduce to one or more specific interactions, each enabled by particular performance characteristics. Thus, in pounding a nail into a piece of wood (techno-function), a hammer is capable of interacting appropriately with the person wielding it and with the nail. In order for a doctor’s uniform to properly affect social interaction in a hospital (sociofunction), it has to perform in a visually distinctive manner relative to the uniforms of people playing other social roles. Similarly, a bumper sticker promoting peace (ideo-function) performs visually, either through words or a peace symbol. Although technofunctions tend to involve mechanical, chemical, and thermal interactions, and thus depend on corresponding performance characteristics, and socio - and ideo-functions require visual and acoustic interactions, these correspondences are far from perfect. Thus, partitions that delineate cubicles in an office complex affect social interaction by separating individual spaces both mechanically and visually. That functions can be defined with reference to specific interactions sharpens discussions of the roles that artifacts play in activities.

Properties, performance characteristics, and technical choices It is useful to distinguish between an interactor’s properties and performance characteristics. A property, such as the tensile strength of a steel alloy or a person’s height, is defined in terms of the interactor itself with reference to a measuring instrument and standard scale in a laboratory-type setting. In contrast, performance characteristics are defined relationally, for they refer to the capabilities of one interactor in its engagement with another in a specific real-world, not laboratory, interaction. Properties of course affect performance characteristics. Thus, whether a cloth object can perform visually as, for example, a US flag at a football game, depends upon its size, shape, and color patterns. However, lighting conditions and the sensory performance characteristics of observers also affect this visual performance. Similarly, the heating effectiveness of a low-fired ceramic cooking pot - a performance characteristic - is dependent upon properties such as thermal conductivity and the permeabilities of the interior and exterior surfaces. Yet, heating effectiveness is also influenced by (1) the heat source, (2) the pot’s contents, (3) the placement of the pot in relation to the heat source, and (4) the temperature of the ambient environment. Thus, properties can strongly affect, but do not uniquely determine, performance characteristics.

Insofar as artifacts are concerned, their properties result from the technical choices made by artisans, instantiated as specific interactions during procurement and manufacturing activities. For example, the interior permeability of a low-fired ceramic cooking pot is affected by technical choices such as smudging, polishing, and organic coatings.

Schiffer and James M. Skibo in several papers explored the reticulate relationships between technical choices and performance characteristics. They argued that a technical choice can affect many properties and more than one performance characteristic. Thus, the addition of copious quantities of sand temper raises a pot’s resistance to thermal shock and improves heating effectiveness while simultaneously lowering resistance to impacts. By the same token, a given performance characteristic can be influenced by more than one technical choice. A pot’s thermal shock resistance is affected, for example, by firing temperature, kinds and quantities of temper, as well as vessel shape, size, and wall thickness (in addition to the performance of the heat source). An appreciation for these sorts of relationships, acquired in the process of conducting a long-term program of ceramic experiments, enabled Schiffer and Skibo to construct a behavioral theory of artifact design. A reader-friendly version of the design theory appeared in Anthropological Perspectives on Technology (2001).

Studying Technological Change

Given that the archaeological record is, above all, a record of changing artifact designs, behavioralists are interested in understanding processes of technological change. Artifacts are, of course, a technology’s ‘hard’ parts, distinguishable from the interacting people and their performance characteristics (based on knowledge, skill, values, etc.), which are also essential components of a technology. Regrettably, in culture-historical and processual studies of technological change, diverse processes were conflated. Thus, diffusionists traced ‘inventions’ from place to place with little regard to the processes affecting a new technology’s adoption and nonadoption; likewise, pro-cessualists assumed that external stresses on a cultural system, such as population growth or environmental deterioration, stimulated effective problem-solving inventions, which were adopted with zeal.

Behavioralists break down technological change into major life-history processes, such as invention, design, replication (or commercialization), and adoption (also known as acquisition or consumption), each of which can in turn be subdivided. In the behavioral framework, there can be no single ‘theory of technological change’ because of the potentially diverse people and social groups (e. g., inventors, manufacturers, consumers) whose decisions create a technology’s life history. Thus, one segments a technology’s life history, and builds process - and variety-specific laws, theories, and models to explain the decisions that create specific behavioral patterns. The behavioral approach to studying technological change is illustrated by the following examples of invention and adoption.

Invention Invention can be defined as the creative act of envisioning a new technology, that is, forming a vision or idea of an artifact or technological system having certain performance characteristics that sets it apart from other technologies. Obviously, only ideas recorded in texts or materialized in prototypes come within the purview of archaeologists. There are many kinds of invention processes, but all have one material consequence of interest to archaeologists: they lead to new variants, which sometimes occur in clusters or invention spurts. Inventions that cluster in time and/ or in space should be especially amenable to archaeological study.

The model of ‘stimulated invention’, presented by Schiffer in American Antiquity in 1996, helps to account for some invention spurts and, in addition, contributes to reconciling evolutionary and processual views on invention. Evolutionists insist that invention, like genetic mutation, is a random process, whereas processualists regard invention as a problem-solving activity that sets the stage for new adaptations. The process of stimulated invention acknowledges that inventors usually work without knowledge of which experimental paths will lead to technically successful inventions (i. e., those achieving desired performance characteristics), nor can inventors foresee whether a technically successful invention will be replicated and adopted. Nonetheless, the activities of inventors are often responses to perceived performance shortcomings of extant technologies. When performance shortcomings are widely appreciated, they can stimulate a spurt of inventive activities that results in many new variants, some of which may achieve technical success. These variants, in turn, undergo selection during subsequent processes, and some may be replicated and adopted.

Because variants selected against may have but limited archaeological visibility and because of the time-telescoping effects of most chronologies, the processual tendency to view invention as an efficient mechanical response to adaptive needs is understandable, that is, it appears as though people were able to quickly foresee, and implement, an acceptable solution to the problem. In fact, however, many variants may have been tried out and found wanting before any was adopted; and sometimes none is adopted, leaving the performance problem to be solved in another way. That stimulated variation may or may not lead to a technology that reaches consumers is in accord with the evolutionary tenet that researchers must distinguish rigorously between, and model separately, variety-generation and variety-selection processes.

The cascade model of invention, published by Schiffer in American Antiquity (2005), is closely related to the stimulated-variation model, but applies only to the development of a ‘complex technological system’ (CTS). The latter is defined as any technology that consists of a set of interacting artifacts; interactions among these artifacts (and people and externs) enable that system to function. Examples include irrigation systems as well as particular hunting and cooking technologies. Because the cascade model is flexibly defined, examples of CTSs abound, even in small-scale societies.

The cascade model posits that, during a CTS’s development, emergent performance problems - recognized by people as shortcomings in that technology’s constituent interactions - stimulate sequential spurts of invention. As adopted inventions solve one performance problem, people encounter new and often unanticipated problems, which stimulate more inventive spurts, and so on. The result is a series of ‘invention cascades’. A distinctive feature of the model, which promotes its generality, is the premise that processes in a CTS’s life history are the immediate contexts in which performance problems emerge and stimulate invention cascades. Thus, life-history processes are suitable analytical units for investigating invention processes in CTSs. The minimal set of processes is: fashioning a prototype, replication (or commercialization), use, and maintenance.

In an analysis of invention cascades that occurred during the development of the nineteenth-century electromagnetic telegraph, it was necessary to elaborate the basic processes. The latter came to include creating the prototype, technological display, demonstrating ‘practicality’, replication, marketing and sales, installation, use/operation, maintenance, and functional differentiation. Performance problems encountered during each of these processes generated many invention cascades, such as insulators, receiver-printers, and submarine cables.

Other behavioral models of invention include, for example, Brian Hayden’s aggrandizer model in Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory (1998), and Schiffer’s cultural imperative model in Technology and Culture (1993).

Adoption Evolutionists have taught archaeologists to regard many instances of technological change as competitions between variants during the adoption process. Thus, a new technology that becomes available to consumers often must compete with an established technology. For example, in its first decades as a commercial product, the automobile competed with other forms of transportation, including bicycles, horse-drawn wagons and carriages, and trains and trolleys. Also, alternate variants of a new technology, such as gasoline - and electric-powered automobiles, can compete with each other.

As members of a consumerist society, we are aware that many new technologies are adopted in limited numbers or not at all. So it was in the past. Prehistoric societies in southern California and the Great Basin were familiar with pottery making, for their neighbors practiced it; yet, this technology was adopted by only some groups. This suggests that consumer behavior, whether at the scale of the individual, household, corporate group, or even community, can be regarded as a process of ‘differential adoption’. The explanatory task is to account for the decisions of both adopters and nonadopters. To facilitate this task, one can employ both a life-history framework and the heuristic tool known as the ‘performance matrix’.

It is assumed that adoption decisions are based on peoples’ comparisons of two or more technologies’ anticipated performance characteristics in relation to relevant activities. After identifying the information about performance characteristics that likely was available to past decision makers, the archaeologist juxtaposes the competing technologies in a table known as a performance matrix. Major and minor patterns in the matrix indicate which performance characteristics were apparently weighted in adoption decisions.

Performance matrices can be structured in several ways. For example, in Schiffer’s study of the competition between American gasoline and electric automobiles in the early twentieth century - both technologies were new at the time - performance characteristics were organized by male - and female-associated activities. The resultant patterns were quite clear: gasoline automobiles excelled in the touring activities favored by men, whereas electrics were superior performers in the urban activities associated with women. America’s elite tended to adopt both gasoline and electric cars, embodying a certain gender equality, whereas middle-class families almost exclusively purchased gasoline cars, thereby privileging mens’ activities. Factors of wealth and the patriarchal structure of American families at that time were invoked to explain this pattern of differential adoption.

Performance characteristics can also be aggregated on the basis of several life-history activities, as in the competition between electric and oil illuminants for lighthouses in the nineteenth century. (Schiffer published this study in Technology and Culture, 2005). Decisions about lighthouse illuminants were made in each maritime nation by lighthouse boards, which were governmental or quasi-governmental organizations. Because these decisions affected a great many activities, it was necessary to include performance characteristics of lighthouse illuminants pertaining to acquisition and installation, utilitarian and symbolic functions during use, and regular operation and maintenance. The performance matrix (Table 1) employs plus and minus signs to indicate which technology does (+) or does not (-) perform at a minimally adequate level.

The entries in Table 1 Suggest that performance characteristics run the gamut of behavioral capabilities, including those for mechanical, chemical, and electrical interactions as well as costs (as enablers) for acquiring, using, and maintaining a technology. Moreover, the incorporation of sensory performance characteristics accommodates esthetic and symbolic capabilities, such as conveying a general or specific meaning. This expansive conception of performance characteristics allows one to build into an analysis seemingly incommensurable factors, qualitative and quantitative, from labor costs to political meanings. Thus, the researcher can explicitly deal with the multiple contextual factors that affect adoption decisions.

The performance matrix itself is a ‘causally neutral’ tool involving no a priori assumptions about weightings, so long as the investigator includes all potentially relevant performance characteristics. On the basis of any major and minor patterns, one can identify which performance characteristics were weighted by past people and postulate which contextual factors (e. g., political, religious, economic, social) might have

Table 1 A performance matrix for lighthouse illumination, c. 1860-99

Acquisition of the components, and instaiiation of the system Ability to acquire system components commercially System can be installed in lighthouses in any location System can be easily installed in existing lighthouse structures Affordability of a system’s ‘first costs’

Existing expertise adequate for designing and installing the system Functions during use

Yields the whitest, brightest, most penetrating light

Can produce sufficiently steady light

Long outages are avoidable

Does not cast confusing shadows

Can avoid blinding mariners

Ability to symbolize special concern for the safety of ships and sailors

Can symbolize a nation’s wealth and political power

Can symbolize modernity

Able to symbolize scientific/technological prowess

Operation, regular maintenance, and repairs Operable with traditional staff of keepers Operable without complete backup systems Ease of repairing breakdowns Affordability of operating expenses Ease of administration

Affected their decisions. In the lighthouse case, the performance matrix disclosed a major pattern: the electric light competed poorly in acquisition, installation, operation, and maintenance activities. However, a minor pattern indicates that the electric light was an adequate illuminant, especially in haze and light fog, and excelled in symbolic capabilities during use.

On the basis of these patterns one can explain why the vast majority of maritime nations decided against adopting electric lights: they apparently assigned heavy weight to maintenance and financial factors (of acquisition and use). But a few nations, England and France, together acquired around 20 electric lights, and several others, including the United States, installed just one or two. These adoptions are explicable in terms of the minor pattern. Thus, France and England, long-time rivals and empire builders, were competing to have the most up-to-date illuminating technology that could advertise their political power, technological expertise, and concern for mariners of all nations. In other cases of adoption, the electric light’s ability to symbolize modernity, indicating that a nation was on the cutting edge of electrical technology, was highly valued and outweighed the technology’s performance deficiencies in the increasingly competitive international arena of the late nineteenth century.

The performance matrix reveals which performance characteristics were weighted, thereby implicating potentially relevant contextual factors. By drawing upon contextual information such as family structure or international competitions in high technology, the investigator can explain why some people or social units adopted a given technology while others did not.


In the latter decades of the twentieth century, the study of material culture was incorporated into the margins of many social and behavioral sciences. The usual move was to transform the materiality of artifacts into the immateriality of ideas, norms, rules, values, and similar constructs so that they could be accommodated by conventional social theories. This move, however, embodies a biased view of human life that decisively privileges the mental over the material. As one of many steps needed for remedying this pervasive problem, behavioralists crafted an artifact-based theory of human communication that assigns causal efficacy to both material and cognitive phenomena.

In conventional communication theories, researchers accommodate artifacts by relegating them to a ‘nonverbal mode’ or to technologies of information transfer such as clay tablets, newspapers, and telephones. Safely marginalized in this manner, artifacts merely modify and convey verbal information. On the other hand, the behavioral theory (presented in The Material Life of Human Beings) asserts that artifacts play consequential roles in ‘every’ communication mode. Three major sets of artifacts are recognized: ‘personal artifacts’, those compounded with a person such as tattoos, clothing, and ornaments; ‘situational artifacts’, which turn up at a place for the conduct of an activity; and ‘platial artifacts’, those residing in a place, including portable items and architectural features. ‘Activity artifacts’, those taking part in a specific activity, are drawn from person, situational, and platial artifacts.

Communication modes are defined with reference to human sensory modes: visual, acoustic, tactile, and chemical. Taking persons as an example, artifacts perform consequentially in every mode. Thus, clothing and makeup affect visual performance; tooth modification, foods being chewed, and musical instruments influence acoustic performance; clothing and scarification affect tactile performance; and perfume and soaps influence chemical performances.

The behavioral theory requires that the investigator privilege the vantage point of the ‘receiver’, the person who, in the course of an activity-situated communication process, obtains information from the performances of other interactors and responds. The response depends also on the receiver’s inferences, which are formed on the basis of ‘correlons’, relational knowledge acquired mainly through experience. Correlons operate not only on the performances of people, but also on those of artifacts. Indeed, the performances of activity and platial artifacts, which define the context of a communication process, key in the receiver’s activity - and interaction-specific correlons, which contribute to producing the response.

To appreciate the importance of artifacts in communication, one must abandon the ‘two-body’ model - that is, two people conversing - as the paradigm of communication. The behavioral model posits instead three interactor roles: ‘sender’, ‘emitter’, and ‘receiver’. Emitters are the interactors whose performances furnish the receiver with the information needed to construct the inferences that contribute to a response. The sender is the interactor that the receiver infers affected the performance of the most salient emitter. Thus, in observing a woman who had just exited a hair salon, her husband - playing the receiver role - might infer from her coiffure’s visual performance (the salient emitter) that the sender was a skilled stylist. The response might be a compliment.

Applying this communication theory to prehistory is obviously challenging, but it does provide a framework for asking questions. For illustrative purposes, let us place the cave paintings of the upper Palaeolithic into a communication framework. The first task is to designate the various receiver(s); in this case, the people who viewed the paintings in each activity of the paintings’ life histories. Next, we may assume that the paintings, performing visually, were platial artifacts that helped define the context of each activity. We can ask, for example, What were those activities? Did situational artifacts participate in them? If so, what were these artifacts? Were the paintings or other interactors the salient emitters in particular activities? What were the activity-specific social and demographic characteristics of the receivers? What inferences did receivers in specific activities make about the source and meanings of the paintings? What were the likely receiver responses? Can we model the correlons that contributed to specific responses?

Postprocessual archaeologists advocated the study of meaning and symbols, but supplied scant guidance on doing this in the absence of historical or ethnographic evidence. On the other hand, the behavioral model of communication furnishes a framework for asking questions that can foster well-founded inferences about meaningful phenomena.

Ritual and Religion

Few archaeologists today would subscribe to the venerable view that it is far more difficult to construct inferences about ritual and religion than about technology or economic activities. Indeed, behavioralists have assembled the rudiments of an approach for studying ritual and religion. A major premise is that religious rituals, like the performance of all other activities, require artifacts - both highly symbolic sacra as well as those having mainly utilitarian functions. William Walker, in Anthropological Perspectives on Technology, has suggested that, in many religious rituals, people employ artifacts as technologies for manipulating supernatural forces and entities.

Another important premise is that artifacts employed in religious rituals tend to be disposed of differently than artifacts taking part in more secular activities. In a paper in Expanding Archaeology (1995) Walker labeled such artifacts ‘ceremonial trash’. Although mortuary rituals give rise to the most conspicuous kind of ceremonial trash - grave goods - such activities sometimes generate other, less obvious deposits of ceremonial trash. For example, beginning in the mid-1980s, archaeologists working in the American Southwest began to re-evaluate the contents of structure floors. Detailed analyses of the artifact inventories furnished strong evidence that domestic structures, particularly pit-houses, had been ceremonially abandoned. One recurrent pattern was the deposition on floors of relatively large numbers of pots and other artifacts, followed by burning of the structure. In a study of pit-houses at Snaketown, a large pre-Classic Hohokam site in southern Arizona, Deni J. Seymour inferred that structures abandoned in this manner had taken part in a mortuary ritual, during which the belongings of the deceased were deposited and the house was destroyed. These findings accorded with the mortuary practices of ethnographic pit-house-dwellers in the American Southwest. As Vincent M. LaMotta has argued, no longer can archaeologists assume that a structure’s floor-associated artifacts merely represent de facto refuse; sometimes the floor assemblage - even the structure itself - was also ceremonial trash.

Sometimes an entire village was abandoned in a ritual flourish. In studies of Chodistaas, a thirteenth-century pueblo of 18 rooms in east-central Arizona, Barbara Montgomery faced a challenging puzzle. According to J. Jefferson Reid’s measure of relative room abandonment, based on a generalized life-history of pueblo rooms, early-abandoned rooms should contain few floor artifacts as de facto refuse, whereas their fills might be dense with secondary refuse. For late-abandoned rooms, the expectations are reversed: much de facto refuse on floors, little secondary refuse in fills. Surprisingly, Montgomery found that Chodistaas departed from this pattern, as most rooms had an abundance of restorable pots on floors - presumably de facto refuse closely approximating systemic ceramic inventories - and a high density of secondary refuse in fills; also, the rooms had burned. These facts suggested that the site had been abandoned in haste, perhaps in response to warfare or a forest fire. But these hypotheses left unexplained the anomalous secondary refuse.

Detailed analyses of the fill materials enabled Montgomery to discount these hypotheses as well as various post-occupational scenarios, such as fluvial deposition. In the end, she furnished strong evidence for a sequence of behaviors that implicated a ritual abandonment. After vacating vessel-rich rooms, the inhabitants set the pueblo on fire. On the pueblo’s smoldering ruins they deposited tons of refuse, including more than 100 000 sherds scavenged from extramural deposits. Apparently, prior to joining other immigrants at nearby Grasshopper Pueblo, the inhabitants of Chodistaas performed a ritual cremation and burial of the pueblo in acknowledgment of its ‘death’. By closely attending to the formation processes of Chodistaas deposits, Montgomery was able to infer a ritual abandonment and rule out other, seemingly more plausible, causes.

One of the most contentious debates in the prehistory of the Southwest surrounds the explanation of maltreated human remains. In case after case, archaeologists have found bodies bearing traces of violent acts leading to death as well as post-mortem dismemberment and sometimes even dispersal of the bones. Warfare is the obvious explanation for finds of burned and mutilated bodies, especially those left uninterred in structures. The warfare hypothesis has lately been augmented by claims of cannibalism, supported by taphonomic and other specialized analyses. Apparently, the Puebloan Southwest was not the Apollonian paradise that Ruth Benedict made famous in Patterns of Culture.

In considering alternatives to the warfare and cannibalism hypotheses, William Walker asked a deceptively simple question: ‘‘Where are the witches of prehistory?’’ The ethnographic and historic records from around the world make clear that witchcraft accusations, often followed by the killing of the witch and harsh treatment of its remains, are rather common. If so, why do archaeologists rarely invoke witchcraft beliefs and the highly ritualized punishment of witches to explain maltreated human remains? Walker argued that some instances of purported warfare and cannibalism make more sense if viewed as the outcome of witchcraft beliefs that led to activities of identifying and punishing witches. No doubt warfare and consumption of human flesh occurred in the prehistoric Southwest, but so too did the killing of witches. Using behavioral methods for analyzing the deposits in the structures that yielded human remains, Walker showed that sometimes one can distinguish among the competing hypotheses.

In the final analysis, inferences about ritual and religion are no more or less difficult to construct than inferences about any human activity. In all cases, one first infers the formation processes of the deposited materials. Once these are identified, the archaeologist can construct inferences about ritual activities as well as offer hypotheses - in the form of correlons - about religious beliefs. Applications of behavioral method and theory to the study of ritual and religion demonstrate that Binford’s early optimism about the vast inferential potential of the archaeological record was not unfounded.

Landscapes and Territories

Behavioral approaches to landscapes and territories draw upon empirical research and principles from diverse theoretical programs. To these eclectic formulations, M. Nieves Zedefio and Stephanie M. Whittlesey have added important frameworks and other constructs.

From an archaeological vantage point, one can study human-environment interactions over many spatial and temporal scales as well as frames of reference. Thus, one can focus on a given piece of land or terrain (or even a resource) and inquire about its history of use by different societies; one can also investigate how a given society’s activities over time created territories and a changing landscape. What is essential, Whittlesey emphasizes, is that archaeologists appreciate that the relationships between societies and environments are interactive and dynamic. People conduct activities and thereby modify their environment, and in turn the environment - modified and unmodified - influences subsequent human activities.

In landscape and territory studies, one inevitably confronts the problem of defining units. Zedefio suggests, for example, that many kinds of behaviorally significant spatial units - behavioral spaces - can be constructed in relation to a given society’s activities. These include ‘habitation space’ (the spatial extent of dwellings and supporting activities), ‘food production space’ (fields, pastures, water - and soil-control features), ‘resource procurement space’ (quarries, hunting and gathering locales, water sources), and ‘ritual space’ (shrines, ceremonial buildings, sacred mountains). To this list Whittlesey adds ‘communication space’, which includes trails, roads, and other features that link activities. Needless to say, such behavioral spaces are not isomorphic and can vary independently over time.

Zedefio has provided a life-history model for studying territories as the changing aggregate of a society’s behavioral spaces and associated ‘landmarks’ - that is, artifacts and features. A territory’s life history is divided into three major stages, each consisting of several processes: ‘establishment’ (exploration, colonization, and settlement), ‘maintenance’ (expansion, consolidation, and fission), and ‘transformation’ (use change and abandonment, which leave behind persistent places, and reclamation). For each process, she has enumerated associated activities and their material correlates and likely landmarks. For example, exploration activities such as reconnaissance, temporary uses, and limited resource exploitation can generate ephemeral shelters, caches, and markings/ cairns. Employing the case of the Hopi in northeastern Arizona, Zedefio has shown the usefulness of her model for organizing the study of territories.

As Whittlesey emphasizes, landscapes and territories also have cognitive dimensions. On the basis of the landmarks representing political, religious, subsistence, and other activities, the archaeologist can proffer inferences about corresponding cognitive structures. For example, analysis of a society’s shrines - locations, orientations, features, and associated ceremonial trash - can implicate cosmological correlons.

The rapidly growing behavioral literature on territories and landscapes, which dovetails with postpro-cessual concerns, is furnishing constructs and heuristic tools useful for studying human-environment interactions over space and time. For example, Michael Heilen has recently distinguished between systemic and archaeological landscapes and developed the implications of this distinction for empirical projects.