Household possessions and wealth in agrarian states: Implications for archaeology

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163 Scopus citations


This paper deals with the problem of measuring household wealth from domestic artifactual remains. After an archaeologically useful definition and classification of wealth is presented, quantitative anthropological, sociological, and historical analyses demonstrating a strong association between household possessions and wealth are reviewed. Then, ethnographic and historical data on different functional categories of household goods are examined in order to assess their relative ability to predict wealth. Once the nature of the relationship between household possessions and wealth in the systemic context is specified, methodological problems influencing the detection of this relationship in the archaeological context are treated. It is concluded that household possessions are quite good wealth indicators in the systemic context, and that proper attention to a number of methodological issues allows archaeologists to take advantage of this relationship to measure household wealth in past societies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)297-335
Number of pages39
JournalJournal of Anthropological Archaeology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1987
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Archaeology
  • History
  • Archaeology


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