Specialized production and social reproduction during the Middle Rincon phase in the Tucson Basin (Arizona)

Michael W. Lindeman
School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University
July, 2006


The specialized production of crafts and other goods is one way in which people meet their daily needs and accomplish their long-term social goals. Specialists undertake their productive pursuits for a variety of reasons and with differing aspirations and goals. The choices made by specialist households do not occur in a vacuum, and this study examines how social context, social goals, ritual obligations, and environmental constraints may have influenced the productive decisions of specialist households. This work examines household-based specialized production during the Middle Rincon phase (A.D. 1000-1100) in the Tucson Basin of Southern Arizona. The study proceeds in two steps. The first step examines specialized production at a sample of 50 households. Specialized production was relatively common during Middle Rincon, with 22 households found to be engaging in specialized production. Specialized production focused on socially valuable goods, with ceramic vessels, stone and shell jewelry, cotton and agave textiles, and large game meat produced by Middle Rincon households.
Having identified the specialist producers, the analysis turns to an examination of six different models that have been forwarded as influencing household decisions to specialize: insufficient agricultural land, risk reduction, differential distribution of key resources, specialist recruitment, social power, and the ritual mode of production. The analysis found that, to differing degrees, all of the models helped explain aspects of Middle Rincon specialized production, with each suggesting environmental and social factors that contributed to household specialization. However, this study suggests that it is the interaction of household goals and ritually motivated demand for social valuables that sustained the Middle Rincon system of specialized roduction. Through the manufacture of socially valuable goods, Middle Rincon specialists were actively engaged in the construction and maintenance of the social order. Socially prescribed demand for their symbolically charged products in turn allowed the specialist households to achieve their goals through specialized production. The ability to achieve household goals motivated the production of socially valued goods, further sustaining the ritual system.