ANTH 342 FALL 2009
Exercise #2: Patterns of Village Organization
Due: October 21
The Data on which this exercise is based come from Fábrica San José, a small village site in the Valley of
Oaxaca excavated by Robert Drennan in 1972. The site was occupied during three chronological phases:
Early Guadalupe (850-700 BC), Late Guadalupe (700-550 BC), and Rosario (550-450 BC). It is, thus, a
Middle Formative site, and we will examine it as an indication of general patterns of social organization.
As the maps of the site on the following pages show, relatively small-scale excavations were scattered
widely across Fábrica San Jose. They yielded no remains of the kind of elaborate public buildings or
sculptures which were present at some sites, but there was copious evidence of simple wattle and daub
houses in all three phases that concern us here. The one artificial mound at the site is what is left of a
modest public building that dates to a later period and thus is irrelevant to our purposes. On the basis of
preserved house floors and other remains of houses (such as fragments of burned daub), Drennan
identified the location of 3 households occupied during the Early Guadalupe phase, 11 households of the
Late Guadalupe phase, and 10 households of the Rosario phase. Of the 10 Rosario phase households, one
(R-9) proved not to be a household at all but a cemetery area used only for burials. All the rest, however,
contained ample evidence of residential activity, including, in addition to the remains of the houses
themselves, bell-shaped storage pits excavated into the ground, hearths or fireplaces, exterior activity
areas, burials of the people who lived in the households, and much accumulated midden deposit (the
remains of garbage and other discarded materials).
In this exercise you are given information about some of the artifacts, ecofacts, and burials recovered
from the households at Fábrica San Jose. In your analysis you are to answer the following questions:
1. Were all the households at Fábrica San Jose "normal" domestic units? That is, were they all involved
in the basic activities of food production and preparation and ordinary household maintenance?
2. Were there any specialized activities at Fábrica San Jose? By specialized activities, we mean ones that
were conducted by some individuals or households but not by others. The possibilities for specialized
activities that have been suggested for this period include manufacture of ornaments (from such materials
as shell, mica, bone, ect.), production of salt by evaporating water from salty springs at the site,
manufacture of cloth. Which of these activities were concentrated in only a few households?
3. Were there differences in status among the residents at Fábrica San Jose? if so, was it achieved or
ascribed (inherited) status?
4. How did these patterns change through time at Fábrica San Jose?
Think about how you will try to answer these questions. What artifacts, ecofacts, and other evidence are
relevant to each of them? How can you clearly marshal the evidence to support your answers? There are
very different amounts of material from different household clusters because the excavations in different
clusters were of very different sizes. Thus the total amount of material from different household clusters
tells you little except how big the excavations were in that cluster. Because of this you will need to
calculate some kind of percentage or ration among artifacts of interest to you. You may find it useful to
calculate some kind of percentage or ratio among artifacts of interest to you. You may find it useful to
include a table, chart, or graph to back up your conclusions. You will have the opportunity to discuss
these issues in class so make sure to start the exercise early.
The central information that will be useful is contained in the tables of quantities of different things found
in different household clusters. You also have maps locating each household cluster and descriptions of
the burials associated with the household clusters. You may observe things in these maps and burial
descriptions that relate to the patterns that emerge from your analysis of the artifactual and ecofactual
ANTH 342 FALL 2009
remains. Note that the burials are not numerous enough to do much with statistically. You are not
expected to spend a great deal of time looking around for patterns in the details of the burial descriptions.
Some of the most obvious characteristics, however, relate to the patterns you can observe in the data in
The following tables, then give you the numbers of artifacts and ecofacts of several kinds found in the
deposits associated with various households. These tables contain most of what you can find out about the
village organization. Households LG-10 and R-10 have been omitted because it was a cemetery rather
than a household. Most of the artifacts come from deposits of garbage associated with the households. Be
careful when analyzing this data as some of the categories have already been totalled so do not count
those artifacts twice. The materials included are as follows:
Total Sherds is the number of broken pieces of pottery recovered (not all are listed in detail so the sub-
categories do not always add up as unidentified ceramic fragments are also included in the total, this goes
also for Bowl Sherds)
Bowl Sherds are broken pieces of bowls, almost all of which were fine serving vessels
Jar Sherds are broken pieces of jars, almost all of which were large utilitarian storage or cooking vessels.
Decorated Bowls or Plain Bowls are broken pieces of one particular type of bowl which was sometimes
decorated with incised designs and sometimes just left plain. Decorated Bowls and Plain Bowls are all
included in the Bowl Sherd category as well. Likewise, Bowl Sherds and jar Sherds are included in the
Total Sherds category.
Lined Sherds are broken pieces of large jars with thick mineral crusts on their interior surfaces,
apparently because they were used for collecting water from the salty springs at Fábrica San Jose and
possibly evaporating it to produce salt.
Figurines are small pottery figures of humans and occasionally animals, probably of ritual use.
Grinding Stones are manos and metates used for grinding corn; when these were worn out or discarded
they are often used as building stones in walls.
Animals Bones are unworked fragments which can be taken to be food refuse, as its the case with Deer
Bone and Dog Bone (Animal Bone includes Deer, Dog and other species)
All Chipped Stone gives the total number of pieces of chipped (or flaked) stone recovered.
Chert, Quartz and Obsidian gives the total number of pieces of chipped stone in the three major raw
material categories of which such tools were made. Chert and Quartz are both available locally and of fair
to poor quality for making cutting tools. Obsidian must be brought from several hundred kilometres away
but is of excellent quality for making cutting tools
Debitage consists of pieces of chipped stone that are the waste material created in the process of making
or sharpening chipped stone cutting tools. (Debitage is also included in the counts given for All Chipped
Stone, Chert, quartz and Obsidian)
Ornaments are decorative items made of stone, shell, mica, or bone.
Raw Shell is ocean shell with no evidence of human modification.
Polishing Pebbles are small quartz pebbles used for polishing pottery, bone, and other materials.
Ochre is an iron ore used for making red pigment to paint pottery, shell or bone ornaments, and other
Needles & Awls are made of deer bone and used for assorted piercing and sewing tasks.
Sherd Disks are relatively flat sherds with carefully rounded and smoothed edges, usually with a hole in
the center, probably used as "spindle whorls" in the process of spinning thread from fibre.
ANTH 342 FALL 2009
ANTH 342 FALL 2009
ANTH 342 FALL 2009