Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory

, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 269–305 | Cite as

Detecting Apprentices and Innovators in the Archaeological Record: The Shell Bead-Making Industry of the Channel Islands

Article

Abstract

Archaeologists have demonstrated that it is challenging but feasible to identify the material remains of apprenticing activities associated with stone tool and ceramic assemblages. Building on this work, I explore apprenticing behavior in North America’s most intensive ancient shellworking context, using the large bead-making assemblages from California's Channel Islands. I examine a spectrum of production errors associated with a newly identified variant of Olivella shell bead and offer generalizations about what we should find in the material record of apprentices engaged in manufacturing ornamental goods. I also explore how we may distinguish novices’ errors from the mistakes of skilled experts experimenting with new bead forms. Existing ethnoarchaeological studies of children’s roles and contemporary craft practitioners specializing in ceramics, bead making, stone work, and other materials are foundational sources of data for this project, providing insights into the transmission of technical information from experts to novices in communities of practice. Such work directly informs archaeological research and facilitates our understanding of apprenticing from periods and regions where ethnographic information is insufficient or inapplicable.

Keywords

Apprenticing Specialized craft production Communities of practice Bead-making assemblages Learning Skills 

Notes

Acknowledgments

My UCLA field teams on Santa Cruz Island were supported by NSF grants BNS 88-12184 and SBR 95-11576, UCLA Summer Sessions Field Schools, and the UCLA Cotsen Institute of Archaeology. I thank Anthony P. Graesch, who joined me in first identifying these multi-hole Olivella beads. I appreciate the carefully crafted scholarly suggestions of three anonymous reviewers of an earlier version of this paper. Any remaining errors are mine alone.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Anthropology and the Cotsen Institute of ArchaeologyUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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