Mississippian Production II

  • Jon Muller
Part of the Interdisciplinary Contributions to Archaeology book series (IDCA)


Specialist production has played an important part in theories of the development of social stratification in an extensive literature on that topic in economics and political economy. For the most part, specialization has been proposed as developing in one or another contexts—in production of staple commodities (e.g., Engels 1891, Service 1962, 1975) or in production of finely made goods (as per Earle 1987). This chapter will discuss some of the theories about specialization and its roles in terms of the case for developing hierarchy in Mississippian societies. I want to stress that the concept of specialization is most useful when it is returned to its meaning in economic theory and not redefined in some form that is unique to archaeology. It is also important that any proposal for specialist production be defined in a logical, testable way that addresses the core issues. Some degree of specialization has been widely proposed in association with developing hierarchies in the East (e.g., Pauketat 1987b, 1994; Prentice 1983, cf. Prentice 1985; Yerkes 1983, 1986). As I noted in the last chapter, time and more evidence have brought greater caution, and most recent claims for labor differentiation in Mississippian are qualified or phrased in terms such as “part-time” or “household” specialization (e.g., see Pauketat 1987b, 1994; Prentice 1985). The term craft production has been introduced recently in order to avoid dealing with the issue of specialization, but there is still a problem.


Small Site Salt Production External Good Nonspecialist Production Prestige Good 
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  1. 1.
    Although Pauketat (1994:172–173) does propose that Early Cahokia houses were built by nondomestic “work crews,” to explain the rapid transition to wall-trench construction. It is hard to see why this is necessary, since there was an equally rapid adoption of this technique, even in isolated farmsteads, all over the Mississippian world.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    These percentages for Kincaid are those given in the report (Cole et al. 1951:145ff.), but close examination reveals inconsistencies in the samples used as the total count for a given comparison, no doubt reflecting the diversity of the people working on various sections at different times.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    This section is a summary of discussion presented in Muller et al. (1992) and other reports on the Great Salt Spring.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Of course, the apportionment to classes and numbers is based on the numbers of discards and broken specimens, but this seems to be how Gramly made his larger estimates as well.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jon Muller
    • 1
  1. 1.Southern Illinois UniversityCarbondaleUSA

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