Ritual Craft Specialists in Middle Range Societies



This chapter focuses on the social identity of specialists who produced items used in ritual contexts in prehistoric middle range societies. After introducing two prehistoric case studies (Mimbres and Ohio Hopewell) that illustrate the range of productive scale for ritual crafts, ethnographic case studies (Iroquois and Northwest Coast) are discussed to provide more detail on the social identities of ritual craft specialists. It is concluded that artistic skill, regardless of social status, is the primary criterion for the production of ritual icons in many middle range societies. In contexts in which ritual knowledge is critical in status-building, however, the ritual practitioners themselves are likely to be the ritual craft specialists.