Petersen, James B., ed. | A Most Indispensable ArtA Most Indispensable Art

A Most Indispensable Art

Native Fiber Industries from Eastern North America

Petersen, James B., ed.

Cloth Edition, $45.00s
Cloth ISBN: 0-87049-915-7
Status: Out of Print
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"This volume contains an excellent series of studies that give geographic breadth of view to an important aspect of prehistoric material culture. Presenting this diversity of coverage and concepts under one cover is an important contribution. It should serve as an example of good analyses and varieties of interpretation and should stimulate future studies."
—Dwight Wallace, State University of New York at Albany (Emeritus)

This collection of essays chronicles the diversity and richness of one broad category of traditional material culture—fiber industries or textiles—among prehistoric and historic Native Americans in eastern North America. Such industries, which include basketry, fabrics, cordage, and netting, played an important role in the economic, social, and ceremonial life of indigenous cultures. However, because of the extreme age of the artifacts, their fragile nature, and unfavorable preservation conditions, knowledge of these industries has long been incomplete—resulting in a gap in scholarship that this volume does much to address.

The archaeological evidence discussed here reveals the complexity of native fiber industries over a time span of at least ten to eleven thousand years. The essays not only examine the function and meaning of particular specimens but also detail the history of the material culture research that has been done in this area. Included are comparisons with similar research in western North America, discussions of the various analytical and theoretical approaches that have been used, and reports on the relative successes of past and current studies.

Especially notable is the volume's plea for the conservation and curation of ancient fiber industry artifacts. In addition, the book lays the groundwork for using fiber industries in the definition of cultural boundaries, or ethnicity, among Native American groups. Giving attention to a long neglected area of research, A Most Indispensable Art will also serve as a valuable stimulus to further study.
The Editor: James B. Petersen is associate research professor and director of the Archaeology Research Center at the University of Maine, Farmington.

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