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Society for American Archaeology

Design Structure and Social Interaction: Archaeological Implications of an Ethnographic

Author(s): Margaret Hardin Friedrich
Source: American Antiquity, Vol. 35, No. 3 (Jul., 1970), pp. 332-343
Published by: Society for American Archaeology
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/278343 .
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Ethnographic study of painting patterns in a small Tarascan village showed that some variables reflected
variation in the intensity of communication between painters while others did not. An analysis of the pottery
painting style as a complex, multi-dimensional, hierarchically organized structure facilitated the selection of
variables that were good indicators of communication patterns. Patterns of stylistic variation included 1) a
distinct variant of the village style that was used only by members of one family painting group and 2) individual
style in painting, which characterized the work of every painter. The concepts used in this analysis could be
adapted to the study of similar archaeologically known styles so that the patterning of interaction between
artisans might be established.
November, 1969

Problems of design and color arrangementare similarly familiar and the skill shown in
solving them becomes in itself an intellectualpleasure. The primitiveartist really worksfor
an audience of other artists, thus simplifying his problems of communication. Ralph

In a theoretical sense this paper implies both a critique and a program.On the one hand, the
past decade has witnessed attempts on the part of archaeologiststo infer the natureand intensity
of social relations from patterns of stylistic variationobservedin the remainsof materialculture
(Deetz 1965; Hill 1966; Longacre 1968; Whallon 1968). These attempts have stimulated new
questions of field methodology and prehistoric cultural inference, but I feel that the actual
operations have often rested on a naive view of culture as consistingof sets of objectiveelements
correlated with one another in a limited and mechanicalfashion. I am criticizinga methodology
which ignores the structuralinterrelationof variablesin the materialculture. On the other hand,
there have also been a certainnumberof attempts to analyzepatterningin materialculture(Deetz
1967; Holm 1965) in terms of elementary invarientunits and explicit statements about their
structuralrelations. This work has been closely relatedto that of structuralethnographerssuch as
Conklin (1962) and Berlin (1968). I wish to advocatesuch a structuralistanalysis.In more general
terms, the time would appearto have come for a synthesis. It has become possible to relate the
courageousefforts of the "new" archaeologiststo discoverdeterminaterelationsbetween material
and social culture, and the equally pioneering attempts of ethnographersto treat social and
materialculture in terms of the rules and congruitiesthat interrelateinvarientunits and sets and
levels of invarientunits. A synthesisthat examinesthe patterningof variationin the context of the
design structure being studied should lead to progressin the fundamental problem of archaeol-
ogy: systematicinference.
This paper suminarizesa study of how variationin pottery paintingcan serveas an indicatorof
intensity of social interaction between painters. It is based on observations made and data
collected duringa 14-month study of contemporarypaintingstyles used by artisansin San Jose, a
small Tarascanspeakingvillage in the state of Michoacainin Mexico. The kind of pottery studied
was a thin-walled,mold-made,green glazed ware used in the village and throughout the area for
eating and drinking,short-termstorage,and kitchen decorations.Unfiredvesselsare paintedwith a
thick white slip, which when coveredwith the lustrousgreenglaze, producesgreendecorationson
a greenish-blackbackground.
The San Jose paintingstyle exhibits a complex structureincluding: 1) a hierarchicallyorganized
system for subdividingthe surface to be painted;and 2) a numberof distinct designelements that
can be combined into a much greaternumber of more complex arrangements.Thus, the painted

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decorations offer a number of interrealteddimensions along which variation can be observed.

Variation in some aspects of painting co-varieswith changes in factors external to the design
structure, makingit possible to define painting styles that are responsiveto particularsocial and
economic patterns, for example: 1) styles used on vessels intended for a particularmarket;or 2)
styles that markedvesselsas the work of a particularpainteror family of painters.
This study attempts to show how design structureis an important factor in determiningthe
utility of any particularstylistic variableas an indicator of pattems of social interraction.More
specifically, this is done by showing how painters' organization of information about design
influences the ways in which they learn each others' paintingpatterns. It includes a discussionof
an obvious family style, unique within the village, and how this paintingstyle differs from those
used by other artisans and the ways in which this difference is maintained. The analysis that
follows is organizedinto three sections: 1) an outline of the structureof San Jose painting;2) a
descriptionof the social context of painting and interractionpatterns between painters;and 3) a
demonstrationof how certainfeaturesof painting,defined in terms of designstructure,reflect the
amountof communicationbetween painterswhile others do not.
To outline the structureof San Jose painting, three analyticalconcepts will be used: 1) spatial
divisions, 2) design configurations,and 3) design elements. The usefulness and validity of these
concepts derives to a considerable degree from the fact that they are not merely artifacts of
analysisbut directly reflect the painters'own categoriesfor discussingstyle.
The analysis of design structure is based on two complementarysets of data, these being
verbalizationsabout painting and paintingbehavioritself. Verbalevidenceabout designfalls into a
number of overlappingbut structurallydistinct categories. For this study the most important of
these are: 1) named painting stages, 2) design classifications,and 3) terminologyused to identify
designs on completed vessels. Two kinds of behavioralevidence are the most important to the
understandingof the designsystem: 1) detailed step by step recordsof the paintingprocess,and 2)
catalogues and counts of design features present in samples selected from kiln loads. Both
categoriesof evidence are equally importantin determiningthe design structure:on the one hand,
verbal evidence makes it possible to choose between alternativestructuralinterpretationsthat are
based upon physical evidence alone; on the other hand evidence for non-verbalizedcategoriescan
be obtained from studyingpaintingin terms of both processesand results.
Let us start with the paintingprocess, which comprisestwo basic operations: 1) dividingthe
part of the vessel'ssurfacethat is to be paintedinto bounded areas,and 2) filling the areasdefined
with designs. The painting system exhibits a hierarchicorganization.The highest level of this


d.( _ _____

Fig. 1. Design structure: spatial divisions. a, vessel edges; b, central area; c, optional boundary markers; d,
optional vertical subdivisions.

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334 AMERICANANTIQUITY [Vol. 35, No. 3, 1970

hierarchyis the system of spatial divisions(Fig. 1). These fall into two basic classesdistinguished
by the ways in which they are treated: 1) those on the edges of the decoratedsurface,the mouth
and handle, are markedby coveringthem with white paint (Fig. 1,a); while 2) those constituting
the interior are markedoff with narrowlines and filled with designs(Fig. 1,b-d).Becauseseveral
interior spatial divisions are optional and not restrictedin their co-occurrence,spatial treatment
varies in a number of ways that I will now specify. Only two boundariesare requiredon the
interior surface. These separatethe neck and bottom from the interveningcentralarea(Fig. 1,b).
Optionalboundarymarkersmay define the vessel'sshoulderor a band between the vessel'sbottom
and middle (Fig. 1,c). Finally, the centralarea,however defined, may be verticallysubdividedinto
a number of rectangles(Fig. 1,d). Neck, bottom, optional shoulder,optional bottom band, and an
optionally subdividedmiddle thus constitute the sections of the pot's body within which designs
will be painted.

Design Pritmry Secondsry

Element Configuration Element Use

Fi.2aDsgnsrutr: eig ofiuato lass

C~~~~~~ \

Fig. 2. Design structure: design configuration classes.

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Designs placed within these spatial divisionshave two levels of organization,these being design
elements and design configurations.Design elementsmay be defined as the smallestself-contained
unit; in addition, they are the smallestunit namedby painters.Designconfigurations,on the other
hand, may be defined as arrangementsof designelements that are of sufficientcomplexity to fill a
spatial division. All configurations, however different in appearance,have certain structural
features (Fig. 2,a-e). They are built up of design elements, which may be placed in two classes
according to their function in the configuration.Primaryelements are painted first. Secondary
elements are optional and, when they are added, theirlocation in the configurationdependsupon
the kind of primaryelement used. Configurationsare also named;usually the term used refersto
some property of the arrangementof primaryelements. Similarly,all configurationsconstructed
aroundthe same primaryconfigurationare regardedby paintersas belongingto a single class.This
is only one of the senses in which these units have meaning.Many also have a representational
aspect and symbolic ramifications,but I shallnot deal with these problemshere.
The use of designconfigurationsis in part independentof the hierarchyof spatialdivisions.The
choice of configurationin one spatial division does not determinewhat is painted in any other;
that is, there are no between-areaco-occurrencerestrictions.On the other hand, the use of each
configuration is determined by its shape and, therefore, in part by the shape of the spatial
divisions. In addition, some configurations(Fig. 3) have distribution patterns that cannot be
explained by their shape alone, and it must be concluded that their occurrenceis restrictedto
Spatial a. b c d. e f
in which
may appear e






Fig. 3. Design configuration use. Hatched squares indicate vessel spatial divisions in which a particular design
may appear.

In San Jos6,pottery makingis carriedout in work groups,composedusuallyof a man, his wife,
and their unmarriedchildren.This unit is not necessarilythe same as the household, for frequently
two nuclear families live together in one household although they produce pottery as separate

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336 AMERICANANTIQUITY [Vol. 35, No. 3, 1970

units. Both men and women paint, but more paintingis done by men simply becausewomen mold
most of the vessels. It is not unusual to find more than one painter in a household or even in a
Although severalsets of paintersresided together or even cooperated economically in pottery
making, it must be emphasizedthat stylistic variationdid not consistently mirrorthese relations.
Rather, the usual pattern of stylistic variationproduceda loose networkin which a painterwould
share some painting featureswith one painter and others with another,neithernecessarilybeing a
memberof the same work group.
Example of
Design OhrSx o~p~~r
gon4gurtion Alejos painters Other San Jose pinters

Fig. 4. Distribution of design configuration classes. Horizontal hatching indicates observed cases of design
There was only one case in which a clear-cutvariantof the villagestyle was associatedwith one
of these groups. This was the Alejos family paintinggroup,which consisted of a man, his wife and
unmarriedson. The substyle of this family is the cumulativeresultof many small departuresfrom
the paintingstyle used by most San Jose painters.These innovationswere made to a greatextent
by the mother and son and were continued throughout the period of study. Maintenanceof the
resultantstylistic differences,however, does not rest exclusively upon continuinginnovation,but
also to a great extent upon the way in which designs diffuse from painter to painter within the
village; that is, while designs are readily shared among the three painters participatingin the
substyle, certain of the features which mark their substyle are adopted by other paintersmore
slowly or not at all.
The intricate patterningof designfeaturedistributionthroughoutthe villageis best exemplified
at the level of design configurationclass. The painting style used by Alejos paintersdiffers from
those of other paintersin inventoryof designconfigurationclasses.Some configurationclassesare
used only by paintersother than the Alejoses (Fig. 4,a-d); the patterningof their use by painters
illustratesthe loose network of sharedstylistic elementsusually found in San Jose.Other kindsof
configurationsappearin every painter'swork (Fig. 4,e,f). Configurationclassesmarkingthe Alejos

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substyle are used by each painter in the family (Fig. 4,g-1). Although specific configurations
belonging to these configuration classes may be adopted by other painters, the full range of
variationinherentin such a class is used only by Alejos painters.
The integrity of the Alejos substyle, therefore, rests in part upon the differentialdiffusion of
design features.Two factors underlie this phenomenon: 1) differencesin intensity of interaction
between painters while working; and 2) the design structure, particularlythe way it influences
painters'decodingof vesselspaintedby other painters.
The interaction between painters in the Alejos paintinggroup is unusuallyintense. Most San
Jose artisansinteract very little with each other while painting.They work alone and show little
interest in each other's products. Even when painting together, they tend to sit far apartor
even around the corner from each other, and are thus unable to observeeach other's painting.In
contrast, the Alejos painters usually work together on the porch of their house. Each painter
shows a great deal of interestin what the others are painting.Frequentcommentsinclude remarks
on the structureand content of the paintingas well as aestheticjudgments.Interestfocuses on the
latest innovations,and these are quickly adopted by the other groupmembers.
San Jose painters share a decoding strategy. By decoding I mean the way that the painter
explicitly breaks down the decorative structure painted on a vessel. This process focuses on a
particular aspect of design structure and largely ignores the rest. The basic concern in vessel
decoding is the identification of designconfigurations;thus, attention is focused on the configura-
tions and their constituent elements. Aspects of design structurewhich are importantbut largely
ignored in decoding include; 1) the boundary markersused to divide spatial divisions; 2) the
patterningof spatial divisions themselves;and 3) the relation of any specific configurationto the
generalclassificationof these units.
The existence of a standarddecoding strategy has two importanteffects on the diffusion of
painted features. First, it facilitates the learningof those design featuresthat are the focus of the
decoding process. Thus, in the usual pattern of diffusion of painted features from painter to
painter,the units borrowed are design configurations.More specifically,paintersadopt particular
examples of classes of configurationstogether with their constituent elements. Entire classes of
configurationsdo not diffuse. Painters tend to integrate the borrowed configurationinto their
personal knowledge of design, giving them somewhat different roles in the structuresto which
they are added.
Second, within the limits imposed by the strategy, paintersborrowfrom each other with great
ease. In the words of one woman, "they say that I cannot see anythingwithout copying it."Thus,
specific design configurations,and indirectly,designelementscan diffuse easily even when there is
minimalinteraction between painters. For example, three Alejos configurationswere adopted by
other paintersduringmy field stay. In each case, the paintersindicatedby the horizontalhatching,
(Fig. 4,g-i) saw the specific configurationillustratingthe configurationclass either as an Alejos
vessel was being painted or once it was finished.Withoutexaminingthe configurationat any great
length or workingin the company of the Alejos group,outsiderswere able to reproduceit on their
own vessels.
The learningof design features other than specific configurationsis, in contrast, not easy and
seems to occur only when there is more intense interaction between painters.Alejos paintersare
able to share more than those aspects of design structurethat fall within the focus of the shared
decoding procedure.For example, a specific configurationintroduced by one of these paintersis
decoded by the other two in terms of a set of assumptionsabout design structurelargely shared
with the innovator.Thus, while a specific configurationborrowedby anotherpainterfunctions to
a largeextent as an isolated design(Fig. 4,h), for Alejos paintersan innovationimpliesa numberof
other specific configurations,related to each other accordingto the rulesof substylisticstructure.
That is, Alejos paintersto a greatextent shareconfigurationclasses(Fig. 5,c).
Vessels painted by the Alejos painters may be distinguishedfrom those of other paintersby
examiningthe distributionof carefullyselected variables.Variablesthat serveas good indicatorsof
intense communication between painters are precisely those which are not defined in terms of

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338 AMERICAN ANTIQUITY [Vol. 35, No. 3, 1970

Presence of Class of Position of Reduplicstion o M'lodeof

Primary Secondary Secondary Secondery PRimary Conjunction of
Configurations Elements Element Element Element Primary Elerments

~~~~~~~~~~I j1


Fig. 5. Dimensionsof variationwithin design configurationclasses:sharedstructure(two columnson left)

and Alejosadditions(four columnson right).
easily diffusible units. They should, therefore, be drawn from those aspects of design structure
that fall outside the focus of the decoding strategy. The three examples to be presented draw
indicators from different structural levels: 1) organization of spatial divisions, 2) classification of
design configurations, and 3) function of design elements in the configurations in which they
The first indicator of intensity of communication is organization of spatial divisions. Although
the same basic system of spatial divisions is used throughout San Jos6, the relation between these
hierarchical divisions is different in the Alejos style. In the general painting style, the neck is
distinguished from the body of the pot, and the boundary between the neck and shoulder is of
correspondingly greater importance; in the Alejos style, however, the neck is coordinate with any
of the lower spatial divisions. Painting patterns reflecting this difference can be observed in two
ways, these beinig boundary placement and boundary-markers. In the general style the boundary-
marker is placed exactly at the poinlt of greatest constriction between the vessel's body and neck,
but in the Alejos substyle its location may vary, or it may be absent altogetlier. The general style
employs a wide banid flanked by narrow lines in addition to the pair of narrow lines used for all
boundaries. Alejos painting does not reserve a special marker for this boundary; in fact, the only
variant of the usual two lines is a set of three or more lines that can be used for all of the lower
boundaries as well-another indicator that the neck area has no special structural status in the
Alejos substyle.
The second indicator of intensity of communication is classification of designi coiifigurations.
While San Jose painters agree on the principles by which design elements are classified, the Alejos
taxonomy is more complex (Fig. 5,a-d). Within the village as a whole, all configurations con-
structed around the same basic configuration of primary elements belong in the same class. Alejos
painters, however, while using the same classes, recognize more subclass variation. Alejos design

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classes exhibit dimensions of variation not present in the general style or recognized by other
painters. Ordinarily,recognized subclass variation is limited to the presence or absence of one
variety of secondary element in one location. To this the Alejos painters add four other
dimensionsof which two involve furthervariationin secondaryelements and two are operations
on primaryelements. Severalkinds of secondaryelements are recognized;further,the existence of
hollow elements allows these to be attached to the basic configurationin severalways. Primary
elements composed of thin lines may be reduplicated;that is, smallerversions of the same form
may be placed inside them. In addition, primaryelementsmay be joined in severalmannersin the
constructionof configurations.This patterningof variationsuggestsa way of abstractingindicators
that reflect intense intragroup interaction. The indicators chosen should not be the easily
diffusible bounded units, but design features which constitute the physical evidence for these
additionaldimensionsof subclassvariation.

Fig. 6. Functions of cross-hatching in San Jose' painting.

A third good indicator of communication patterns is the function of a design element in a

configuration,as contrastedwith its mere presenceor absence.For example, simple cross-hatching
appearsthroughout San Jose'(Fig. 6,a,b) but is utilized differentlyby Alejos painters(Fig. 6,c-g).
Most paintersuse this designto fill blankrectangularareas.Paintingcross-hatchingis thought of as
a two step process: 1) first, narrow parallellines are drawn, and 2) then these are crossed with
other lines. Alejos paintersalso use cross-hatchingto fill non-rectangularareas,but they think of it
not only as a two step process but also as an operation that may be performedon any already
existing set of narrowly placed lines (including even vertical boundary-markers).Further, they
allow several non-rectangularvariants. Several indicators of this structural difference readily
suggest themselves: 1) shape of area filled by cross-hatching;and 2) the kind of unit for which
cross-hatchingmay be substituted(blank space or any patternof narrowlyplacedlines).

Let us now turn to a discussion of how differential communication between painters and
covariantstylistic variation,establishedin this study on the basis of ethnographicevidence,might
also be demonstrated by using archaeologicalmaterials. The problem may be approachedby

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340 AMERICAN ANTIQUITY [Vol. 35, No. 3,1970

considering how the pattern might have been reconstructedif the village of San Jose and its
associated painting style were known only from archaeologicalinvestigations.Two alternative
strategies for investigation suggest themselves: 1) products of the workgroup may be first
identified, and then the differences between them and those of other paintersmay be demon-
strated;or 2) the products of individualpainters may be identified and then groupedon the basis
of similaritiesin paintingstyle.
One way of implementingthe first strategy'isto choose a set of variablesthat are easily isolated
from the design structure and to demonstratethat certainof these are found associatedwith each
other within a relatively restricted area of the village, but for two reasons this would not be an
effective procedurein archaeologicalSan Jose. The most obvious and easily defined variablesthat
might be abstractedfrom the San Jose style are designelements and those arrangementsof design
elements that have been termed specific design configurations;however, it is the behavior of
precisely these units that would present difficulties in such an analysis.First, such units are easily
comprehended by painters and can be diffused relativelyrapidly throughout the village;that is,
they are not good indicatorsof a paintinggroup associatedsubstyle.
The second difficulty stems from the fact that in San Jose different portions of a broken pot
have different uses and different patternsof ultimate disposition;the methodologicalimplications
of this phenomenon have already been recognized(L. R. and S. R. Binford, personal communi-
cation; Stanislowski 1969). If, as is the case in San Jose, the use of designconfigurationsis in part
a function of the areaof the vessel being decorated,the ultimate distributionof a painted element
in the village is not merely a function of the location of the artisanswho used it in their painting.
It is also a function of the part of the vessel on which it was placed accordingto the dictates of the
painting style, thus obscuring the correlations relevant to the problem of isolating the painting
style of work groups. Further, while the first difficulty is peculiar to certain variables,design
elements, and specific design configurations, the second also involves many of the variables
suggestedas good indicators.
Fortunately, in the case of the San Jose paintingstyle, it would be possible to implementthe
second strategy and avoid relying upon the distribution of painted elements within the village as
evidence of localized paintinggroups.The existence of individualstyle providesan easierand more
direct way to identify the work of painters and reconstructgroup composition. Let us examine
briefly the nature of individual style in San Jose. I want to emphasize that the features in
individualstyle are not simply the result of subconsciouslygovernedmotor habits, but arelargely
the result of deliberate decisions made by the artisan;indeed, a skillful painter can imitate a
familiar personal style. Two kinds of features mark the work of individualpainters: 1) idiosyn-
cratic variantsat all levels of style outlined thus far; and 2) sub-designelement variation.For the
archaeologicalproblem being considered, an analysis based on the first set of features would not
be useful since it would be confounded with other patternsof variationat these levels. The second
set of features provides a procedure for
identifying the work of each painter that is
analytically independent of that used to re-
construct patterns of communication
between painters.
Many factors, such as a painter's skill,
aesthetic preferences, and brush choice are
involved in sub-design element variation,
makingit somewhat difficult to describepre-
cisely; however, the phenomenon can be
easily seen by comparing the way in which
variouspaintersrenderthe same designs.The
first example involves differences in lines
painted around the vessels' centers by five
painters (Figs. 7-11). Those on the first
vessel (Fig. 7) are distinguishedby their fine-
Fig. 7. Firstvessel illustratingindividualstyle. ness and close placement. The painter of the

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Fig. 8. Secondvessel ilustratingindividualstyle. Fig. 9. Thirdvesselillustratingindividualstyle.

Fig. 10. Fourthvesselillustratingindividualstyle. Fig. 11. Fifth vesselillustratingindividualstyle.

second vessel (Fig. 8) makes much thicker lines, and the lines that slant to the left overreachthe
boundaries of the area. Lines on the third vessel (Fig. 9) are almost 'as thin as those on the first
vessel but much more widely spaced; in addition, they do not meet the upper boundaries.On the
fourth vessel (Fig. 10), lines do not meet each other properly at either the upper or lower
boundaries. The fifth painter overreachesthe lower boundary more than the upper (Fig. 11). A
second example is based on differences in renderingflowers painted on the shouldersof four of
the vessels (Figs. 8-1 1). On the second vessel (Fig. 8) the flowers are constructed around one
central dot; the petals are of intermediatewidth. Those on the third vessel (Fig. 9) have either a
very small bare space or none at all, and narrow,closely placed petals. Flowers on the fourth vessel
(Fig. 10) have a center large enough to accommodate six or seven dots and the widest petals.
Those on the fifth vessel (Fig. 11) exhibit a four-partconstructionand slightly flattened sides;the
central space is blank. On the basis of these illustrationsit can be seen that a numberof variables
would prove diagnostic of individual styles, for example: 1) number of lines per inch in
cross-hatching; 2) the relative size of certain portions of design elements; and 3) mode of
conjunction of elements (variationin flowers' centers and the way lines meet).
The differential communication of information about design structureto painterswithin the
Alejos painting group and to paintersoutside of the group could, therefore,be demonstratedwith
a two stage analysis. First, the work of each artisancould be identified on the basis of patternsof
sub-designelement variation. Then those indicators of intensive communicationbetween painters
previously described could be used to demonstratethe unusual interractionpatterns of the three
Alejos painters.

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342 AMERICAN ANTIQUITY [Vol. 35, No. 3, 1970

In summary, the utility of patterns of variation, defined in terms of the structure of the
painting style involved, as indicators of intensity of interaction between painters has been shown.
A way to identify the work of individual painters was also outlined. Variables that are good
indicators of a high degree of intra-workgroup communication have been compared with those
that are not.
In addition, I have tried to examine the factors underlying this useful pattern of correlations.
Intensity of painters' communications about their work as they paint together is the immediate
behavioral variable indicated by the patterning of designs that I have described. This has several
implications for the analysis of archaeological data. First, the success of any attempt to recon-
struct interraction patterns depends upon the extent to which the artisans who produced the
archaeological style were actually interested in the designs they painted. This factor underlies the
San Jose case, in which only one of the painting groups had developed its own distinctive substyle.
Second, the procedure for design analysis outlined can be used to identify painting groups and
discover how many members constitute each. By itself it says relatively little about the larger
social context of which these are a part although presumably such information in conjunction with
other information about the archaeological culture could support much more detailed inferences.
Essential to the analyses presented is a view of the painting style as a complex, multi-
dimensional, hierarchically organized structure. Within this framework, the design structure is
viewed as an intervening variable between the patterning of artisans' interaction as it co-varies with
the patterning of decorations on their products. It is very important to analyze the function of
various aspects of design structure in order to understand which variables are good indicators of
the phenomenon to be studied and which are not. The most obvious demonstrations of the utility
of understanding how the intervening structure works involve two structural units, design elements
and design configurations. It is precisely such small bounded units that are not good indicators of
intense communication. This occurs for two reasons. First, they are easily comprehended; in fact,
they are more easily comprehended by a painter familiar with the style than by a scholar analyzing
it; and, thus, these units diffuse relatively rapidly through a community of painters. Second, when,
as in the San Jose style, the use of design configurations is confined to particular areas on the
vessel's surface and different portions of broken vessels have different uses and ultimate disposi-
tions, the ultimate distribution in space of these bounded units may be partly a function of the
various uses made of fragments of broken vessels. Thus, paradoxically, while bounded units are
easy to define for purposes of analysis, they are perhaps the least useful indicators of social
interaction that might be abstracted from a design structure.
In conclusion, on the basis of the foregoing analysis, it seems reasonable that a large amount of
information is coded in the complex patterns of variation exhibited by such painting styles.
However, it must be emphasized that in order to refine these potentially useful indicators furthur,
it will be necessary to know more about the systems themselves within carefully controlled
ethnographic situations; that is, about the structure and process of ongoing styles and how they
vary from one painter to another. The set of analytical concepts that would evolve from several
such studies would provide a framework for analyzing comparable data from archaeologically

Acknowledgments. This paper is based on ethno- Gurewitz of the Field Museum for the photographs
graphic fieldwork conducted in 1967 under a Public used to illustrate this paper. An earlier and somewhat
Health Service predoctoral fellowship shorter version of the paper was read at the 34th
(SFI-MH-32,844-02) from the National Institute of annual meetings of the Society for American Archae-
Mental Health. In addition, the rewriting of the paper ology, Milwaukee, May, 1969, in a symposium called
was supported by a Wenner-Gren museum research "The archaeological implications of ethnographic
fellowship at the Field Museum of Natural History in studies of ceramics," chaired by D. W. Lathrap and M.
Chicago. Phyllis Chock, Raymond Fogelson, Judith B. Stanislawski.
Friedlander, Charles Redman, and Stuart Struever read BERLIN, BRENT, DENNIS E. BREEDLOVE, and
the paper in manuscript and gave helpful comments. I PETER H. RAVEN
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