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Lecture 26

ANT 104 Lecture Notes - Lecture 26: Conspicuous Consumption, Grave Goods


Department
Anthropology, Cultural and Archaeology
Course Code
ANT 104
Professor
Shea
Lecture
26

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- Costly Signaling Theory
o Using expensive/risky symbolic behavior to advertise status, affiliations, fitness
as a possible mate
o A.K.A cospicuous cosuptio
- In many ancient societies, members of elite groups were buried with expensive grave
goods
o Strategy for maintaining the value of expensive symbolic status markers
o Burying them removes them from circulation
o Preserves value of other similar status markers
- Modern elites adopt very expensive, complex rituals to prevent imitation
o Many elite institutions use symbolic artifacts made of exotic or costly material
and complex technological processes
This makes it difficult for non-elites to shame membership
Ex: academic regalia
- Studying symbols
o Symbols use variability/varies
o Most ancient societies probably had multiple and complex symbol usage
strategies
o Clues to strategic variability are more likely to arise from research on the context
of symbols use than they are from conjectures about the meaning of particular
symbols
o Some symbols were probably highly regulated
Example:
Modern military insignia
o Others were probably regulated only in specific contexts
Examples:
Sports uniforms
Business attire
o Others were probably not formally regulated at all
Example:
Rock singer or country singer in costume
o What is certain?
People used exosomatic symbols creatively in the past, much as we do
today
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