In this book, Brian Hayden provides the first comprehensive, theoretical work on the history of feasting in pre-industrial societies. As an important barometer of cultural change, feasting is at the forefront of theoretical developments in archaeology. The Power of Feasts chronicles the evolution of the practice from its first perceptible prehistoric presence to modern industrial times. This study explores recurring patterns in the dynamics of feasts as well as linkages to other aspects of culture such as food, personhood, cognition, power, politics, and economics. Analyzing detailed ethnographic and archaeological observations from a wide variety of cultures, including Oceania and Southeast Asia, the Americas, and Eurasia, Hayden illuminates the role of feasts as an invaluable insight into the social and political structures of past societies.
Brian Hayden is Professor Emeritus in the Archaeology Department at Simon Fraser University. His research focuses on the behaviors, societies, economics, rituals, and political organizations of past people and, specifically, the dynamics of feasting from an ethnoarchaeological perspective. He has worked with traditional people in Australia, the Maya Highlands, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Polynesia, and British Columbia in order to learn about traditional technologies and how they are linked to the other aspects of cultures. He is the author of numerous articles and books including Archaeology: the Science of Once and Future Things; The Pithouses of Keatley Creek; Shamans, Sorcerers, and Saints: The Prehistory of Religion; Feasts (with Michael Dietler); Paleolithic Reflections; and Lithic Studies among the Highland Maya.
1. Before the feast: overview of the importance of feasting; 2. Food sharing and the primate foundations of feasting behavior Suzanne Villeneuve; 3. Simple hunter/gatherers; 4. Transegalitarian hunter/gatherers; 5. Domesticating plants and animals for feasts; 6. The horticultural explosion; 7. Chiefs up the ante; 8. The first states; 9. Feasting in industrial societies.