Feasts: Archaeological and Ethnographic Perspectives on Food, Politics, and Power

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Michael Dietler, Brian Hayden
Smithsonian Institution Press, 2001 - Social Science - 432 pages
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From the ancient Near East to modern-day North America, communal consumption of food and drink punctuates the life of human societies. Feasts serve many social purposes, establishing alliances for war and marriage, mobilizing labor, creating political power and economic advantages, and redistributing wealth.

This collection of fifteen essays combines ethnographic and archaeological perspectives to examine the cultural, economic, and political importance of feasts, considering traditional and modern practices from Africa, Southeast Asia, the Near East, Polynesia, New Guinea, and the Americas. Recording types and quantities of food, preparation techniques, and numbers of participants, the ethnographers provide much-needed behavioral context and theoretical framework for these intricate social interactions and attempt to link feasting practices to physical evidence. The archaeologists examine the locations of roasting pits, hearths, and refuse deposits or the presence of special decorative ceramics and infer the ways in which feasting traditions reveal social structures of lineage, clan, moiety, and polity.

As practices for organizing ancient and modern societies, feasts are intimately implicated in the processes of social and cultural change. This book makes these rituals more accessible to archaeological analysis and interpretation.

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About the author (2001)

Michael Dietler is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Chicago and the author of "Consumption and Colonial Encounters in the Rhone Basin of France".

Hayden is a professor of archaeology at Simon Fraser University.

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