1992 Household Archaeology of a Southern Northwest Coast Plank House. Journal of Field Archaeology 19:275-290.
Coupland, Gary, Terence Clark, and Amanda Palmer.
2009 Hierarchy, Communalism, and the Spatial Order of Northwest Coast Plank Houses: A Comparative Study. American Antiquity 74: 77-106.
The authors researched communalism and hierarchy within transegalitarian societies. These societies are found in societies that are not bands but not states either. A transegalitarian society is one that is not completely egalitarian but is not totally stratified. The authors focus on four regions on the Northwest Coast: the north coast, the Wakashan of the central coast, the Coast Salish area of the central coast, and the south coast. They examine plank houses to first see how hierarchy and communalism appear in households and second, to examine how hierarchy and communalism appear in the material culture of households. Communalism is characterized by a society in which the goals of community are more important than the goals of the individual. In a hierarchical society, there are ranks in which each rank is subordinate to the one above it. Although these two approaches to living may seem at odds with another, the authors claim that they are not. They believe that communalism and hierarchy coexist for the purpose of serving the interests for different groups of people within the society. Using ethnographic and archaeological evidence, the researchers investigate the extent to which the four regions were hierarchical and communal.
Many of the Northwest Coast societies had three social strata: nobles, commoners, and slaves. Nobles inherited the titles and properties that made up the estate. They directed the labor and were considered to be born well with good blood. Next, commoners were those with no inherited status and provided services to their chief such as hunting and crafting. Lastly, the slaves’ worked to increase the prestige of their masters. In a north to south degree of hierarchy, ethnographic evidence shows that there is a decrease of hierarchy. Those of the north coast had well defined strata whereas evidence for hierarchy in societies of the southern Northwest Coast was mostly absent.
In order to judge the extent to which communalism was practiced in these four regions, the authors looked at the stability of the membership and to what extent the household made up the basic unit of production and consumption. The authors claim that the more stable the membership, the more communalism is strengthened within the household. Like the north-south cline in degree for hierarchy, communalism shows the same trend. On the north coast, societies showed very stable membership due to unilineal descent. Therefore, individuals had membership in only one house. Those of the Wakashan and Coast Salish practiced bilateral descent resulting in possible membership in several different houses. The southern Northwest Coast societies had no evidence for corporate kin groups. Groups further south practices collectivism rather than communalism where people work for themselves rather than the benefit of the community.
In the Northwest Coast, the primary social unit is the multifamily household. Because of the diversity of hierarchy within Northwest Coast societies, they are ideal for examining communalism and hierarchy. By examining the layout of the houses and daily practices of the household, the authors research to what extent that hierarchy and communalism played a part within the Northwest Coast communities. The authors look at family sleeping spaces which are arranged by rank. Using ethnohistoric evidence combined with archaeological evidence they conclude that there is a north to south gradient in which the materialization of the households displays the hierarchy within the plank houses. Because higher status materials were found in spaces in areas where nobles slept, houses such as House O McNichol Creek display hierarchy. In the far south of the Northwest Coast, archaeological evidence is in the hearths. Whereas a communal society of the north coast might have one central hearth, those further south had several that were evenly spaced. One hearth created cohesiveness within the household and in contrast, multiple hearths fostered independence of families. Thus it is assumed by the authors that these houses further south that contained many hearths were not arranged by rank.
In conclusion, hierarchy was strongly evidenced in the north. In these areas, communalism was also displayed. The authors believe that communalism strengthened hierarchy. For example, sharing domestic space and activities at the central hearth displayed nobles’ prestige and the lives of lower ranked individuals were improved. Communalism persuaded followers to support the chief of the household. Further south, hierarchy was not common and neither was communalism. Hierarchy and communalism is not apparent in the spatial layout of the houses. Overall, examining communalism and hierarchy of Northwest Coast societies is important because it contributes to the knowledge of the culture of these peoples.