Beyond hierarchy: Archaeology, common rights and social identity
Journal article by Dr Susan Oosthuizen in World Archaeology 48.
Published online 6 July 2016
It is an archaeological commonplace that grazing across extensive pastures in many periods was shared, often over extended lengths of time, by kin-based communities who met there seasonally in large groups.
Such explanations are richly implicit with models of social relations – there were large communities, they were made up of one or more kin groups, they shared pasture, and they had regular assemblies. How did that general framework of social structure and social relations work in practice, particularly at the level of the individual landholding?
This paper explores the practical implications of a property rights approach to those questions, briefly illustrated in indicative examples drawn from the English fenlands across the longue durée. Its central contention is that the mutualities implied in the equitable, ‘horizontal’ governance of shared resources complemented and enriched ‘vertical’ hierarchies of power and status in complex societies of which they were both part.
You can download the whole journal article on the Taylor and Francis Group website.