Craft specialization is often used as one indicator of social complexity and even as a prime mover in the development of hierarchical social organization. In these arguments, the important distinction between craft specialization and craft industrialization is generally ignored. Claims for craft specialization are examined in three prehistoric cultures in the American Southwest for which complex social organization has been suggested: Chaco Canyon, the Hohokam, and the Western Anasazi. The material correlates of craft industries in a number of early state-level societies are briefly described and contrasted in both scale and level of organization with the Southwestern pattern. Finally, several models for the development of craft production are used to evaluate the role of craft specialization in the social organization of groups in the puebloan Southwest. The apparent inability of Southwestern groups to produce a surplus of subsistence goods inhibited development of a social hierarchy that could support craft industries. Production and exchange of craft goods at the household level may have been primarily a form of insurance against an uncertain environment.
Keywords: Craft Specialization, Prehistory, American Southwest
How to Cite: Cameron C.M., (1992) “The Role of Craft Specialization in the Evolution of Prehistoric Societies in the American Southwest”, Arizona Anthropologist 8).