Spatial Organisation and Social Patterning in the Kaloko Cemetery, North Kona, Hawaii

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Archaeology and Physical Anthropology in Oceania

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In any sphere of research dealing with the social organisation of prehistoric Polynesian communities the study of mortuary practices must be of central concern. Not only does mortuary ritual reflect a wide range of the social characteristics of both the deceased individual as well as the living group participating in the ceremony (Saxe, 1970; Binford, 1971), but it may even be suggested taht no single category of archaeological data will prove as useful for social inference as burial remains. Mortuary ritual involves an interaction between the social personality of the deceased individual and the social personalities of the living participants (Saxe, 1970). Since ritualised behavior reflecting the social relationships between the deceased and the living is commonly engaged in upon the death of a member of a community and since much of this ritualised behaviour finds an expression in the archaeological record, mortuary data may potentially reflect the range of social personalities occuring in past societies. There is no other single category of archaeological data for which this claim might be advanced. Given the importance of mortuary remains it is satisfying to note that the field of archaeology appears to be experiencing a florescence in the the study of burial data. The mortuary studies upon which this florescence is based display certain points of similarity in that each has tended to concentrate analysis upon features of obvious interest such as types of grave associations, the form of the interment facility, and the treatment given the corpse. These characteristics are certainly of importance, yet by themselves do not constitute the totality of features relevant to mortuary studies. There is an additional dimension of mortuary patterning which has not been consistently treated in archaeological research. This dimension is the spatial organisation of mortuary remains.

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