Yesterday’s Reading Group topic was chosen by Jill. We discussed the tricky issue of migration as visible in the archaeological record, and the idea of coalescent communities defined as “the coming together of groups from different cultural backgrounds due to various push and pull factors, and the inclusive ideologies and regional economies that develop in the aftermath.” (see reference below). Thanks to all who joined us from Belize, Canada, and the US.
Clark, J.J, J. A. Birch, M. Hegmon, B. J. Mills, D. M. Glowacki, S. G. Ortman, J. S. Dean, R. Gauthier, P. D. Lyons, M. A. Peeples, L. Borck, J. A. Ware. 2019. Resolving the migrant paradox: Two pathways to coalescence in the late precontact U.S. Southwest. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 53: 262-287.
Summary. Clark and colleagues discuss the “migrant paradox” in which migrants are viewed as both detrimental and beneficial to the host population. Using two case studies from the American Southwest, they explore how multicultural societies develop and under what conditions. Kayenta and Mesa Verde case studies are compared in terms of four fundamental dimensions: (1) demographic scale, (2) pre-migration socioeconomic context in the homeland, (3) organization of and distance travelled by migrants, and (4) pre-migration socioeconomic context in destination areas. The Kayenta migration can be characterized as small groups migrating over time into different regions with large existing populations. Social distance and maintenance of Kayenta identity led to segregation initially but this was followed by the Salado coalescence as second-generation migrants and locals formed a new, inclusive ideology. Migration out of the Mesa Verde region was rapid and involved considerably more migrants into a relatively unpopulated region. Coalescence occurred more rapidly due to minimal social distance between migrants and locals, rejection of homeland practices and identities, and non-hierarchical organization in the local northern Rio Grande population. This ultimately resulted in Tewa ethnogenesis. The authors argue that coalescence occurred in both cases but took different paths and strategies for integration. The Kayenta migration created an overarching meta-identity (Salado) while the Mesa Verde migration integrated migrant and local practices so completely it is difficult to identify them in the archaeological record.
Questions/Topics for Discussion.
- The authors discuss describe coalescent communities as “the coming together of groups from different cultural backgrounds due to various push and pull factors, and the inclusive ideologies and regional economies that develop in the aftermath.” Is coalescent community an appropriate term for the Maya region? In an earlier reading group, we discussed the importance of recognizing “the Mayas” as opposed to “the Maya.” Can different groups of Mayas be considered a coalescent community? Is there a better/different term that is more appropriate?
- Can new forms of architecture/government (e.g. council houses) be considered the result of coalescence? Are they already? Other more appropriate examples?
- If the history of collapse/migration was viewed from the perspective of the migrants from the southern to northern lowlands, would our understanding of the Mayas change?
- Are there specific time periods or regions where coalescence is more likely to have occurred?
- Can we use some of the ideas/archaeological correlates to evaluate migration in the Maya region? What would need to change?