Essential Tensions: A Framework for Exploring Inequality Through Mortuary Archaeology and Bioarchaeology

Colin P. Quinn 1  and Jess Beck 1
  • 1 Museum of Anthropological Archaeology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 48109, MI, USA

Abstract

Research on the emergence of institutionalized inequality has traditionally maintained an analytical divide between lived institutions that affect daily life and performed institutions materialized in mortuary contexts. Here, we argue that convergence or divergence between lived and performed contexts reveals key aspects of past social organization. When combined, mortuary archaeology and bioarchaeology provide a methodological framework well suited to evaluate the coherence or dissonance of such institutions. Three case studies from prehistoric Europe highlight how new insights gained by studying tension between institutions, identities and experiences across social dimensions can transform our understanding of the development of institutionalized inequality.

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