Carol R. Ember
These eHRAF exercises are designed to accompany the Dwellings Module: Explaining Human Culture which gives a general picture of what we have learned from cross-cultural research about predictors of dwellings from their shape, size and building materials. Such predictors are expected to be most useful to archaeologists wishing to find cultural indicators of cultural and social life from remains of dwellings.
The first set of exercises is Level I; the second set Level II. The Level II exercises may be best done as group exercises by assigning each student a few cultures each and then tabulating the results. I always recommend that more than one person code the same culture so as to discuss reliability of coding.
Exercise 1.1. One cross-cultural finding is that rectangular houses are typical of more complex societies (e.g., those with agriculture, larger communities, and permanent settlements), whereas less complex societies are more likely to have curvilinear houses. This holds true even if we limit our comparison to hunter-gatherers—rectangular houses are associated with hunter-gatherers with more permanent settlements.
Instructions: Read the following passages in the eHRAF World Cultures database on Okinawans, Hopi, Navajo, and Mongolia and explain how they illustrate these findings. To get to a particular document, go to the tab Browse Documents, put in the surname of the first author and click on the document you want. Click on the Page List down arrow in the upper right corner and click on the page you want.
- Glacken, Clarence J., “Studies of Okinawan village life” Pg: 71 and 72
- Maretzki, Thomas W., Maretzki, Hatsumi, & Whiting, Beatrice B., “Taira: an Okinawan village” Pg: 382
- McIntire, Elliot, “The impact of cultural change on the land use patterns of the Hopi Indians” Pg: 182, 179
- Beaglehole, Ernest & Beaglehole, Pearl “Notes on Hopi economic life” Pg: 42
- Jett, Stephen C., Spence, Virginia E., “Navajo architecture: forms, history, distributions” Pg: 22
- Aberle, David Friend, “Navajo” Pg: 135
- Adair, John, “The people’s health: medicine and anthropology in a Navajo community” Pg: 180
- Bikales, Eliot Grady Pg: 81
- Montell, Gösta, “Distilling in Mongolia” Pg: 79
Excercise 1.2. Dwellings in matrilocal societies are typically much larger than dwellings in patrilocal societies. The average matrilocal living floor area is 175 m2 and the average patrilocal living floor area is 28.6 m2.
Instructions: Read the following passages on the Pawnee and the Lau Fijians in the eHRAF World Cultures database and evaluate whether they fit this finding.
- Weltfish, Gene, “The lost universe: with a closing chapter on ‘The universe regained’” Pg: 146
- Chamberlain, Von Del, “When stars came down to earth: cosmology of the Skidi Pawnee Indians of North America” Pg: 155
- Wedel, Waldo Rudolph, “An introduction to Pawnee archaeology” Pg: 47
- Densmore, Frances, “ Pawnee music” Pg: 2
- Lau Fijians
- Thompson, Laura, “Southern Lau, Fiji: an ethnography” Pg: 54, 161
- Hocart, Arthur Maurice, “Lau Islands, Fiji” Pg: 119
Exercise 2.1. See if the relationship between shape of house and complexity (that is, less complex societies tend to have curvilinear houses, more complex rectilinear) seems to hold in new comparisons. In this exercise, we will use subsistence type as a measure of complexity, and we will contrast hunter-gatherers with horticulturalists and intensive agriculturalists. Note there are other possible measures of complexity, such as:
- Nomadic, semi-nomadic, or permanent settlements
- Size of typical community
- Levels of political hierarchy
Instructions: Go to eHRAF Advanced Search. In the Culture box, select one or more cultures from the table below (A group of students can split up the entire list). In the Subject box, select the “Dwellings” OCM topic. In the Keywords box, enter some words (or beginnings of words) related to dwelling shape, separated by an asterisk and space. For example: shap* curv* rect* round* straight* corner*
On the results page, click on an area of the world to see culture names. Click on a culture name to see the paragraphs that discuss the culture’s dwellings. When reading paragraphs, keep in mind that house shape can change over time. Pick documents from the earliest possible time frame.
The following is a list of some societies in the PSF, organized by subsistence type, that have information about the shape of dwellings:
|Klamath||Eastern Toraja||Taiwan Hokkien|
Exercise 2.2. Compare five matrilocal societies with five patrilocal societies on house size to see if matrilocal societies have bigger dwellings.
Instructions: Go to eHRAF Advanced Search. In the Culture box, select one or more cultures from the table below. In the Subject box, select the “Dwellings” OCM topic. To narrow your search it may help to enter some words (or beginnings of words) in the Keywords box related to dwelling size, separated by an asterisk and space. More sure that the OR button is clicked. For example: size* length* long* width* wide* feet* ft* meters*
Note: Keep in mind that there are disadvantages of narrowing by keyword because you may miss information if other phrases are used. For example, an author might use just an “m” for meters, but a word search for m* would not be helpful.
On the results page, click on an area of the world to see culture names. Click on a culture name to see the paragraphs that discuss the size of that culture’s dwellings.
Note: When reading paragraphs, keep in mind that house shape can change over time. Pick documents from the earliest possible time frame.
The following is a list of some societies in the PSF, organized by marital residence, that have information about the size of dwellings:
*Note: in pueblo-type dwellings a separate residence is usually counted if it has double walls between units. Still, because the proximity of households in the pueblo can create some ambiguity in reported household size, the Hopi were not included in this sample of matrilocal societies.
These exercises should be cited as:
Ember, Carol. 2014. Dwellings Exercises: Explaining Human Culture. Human Relations Area Files http://hraf.yale.edu/resources/faculty/teaching-ehraf/1-23-dwellings-exercises-explaining-human-culture/, accessed [Insert date with month spelled out, e.g. November 18, 2014].