Chaîne Opératoire in the Study of Stratified Societies

This paper discusses some theoretical questions and present some observations on the role of ethnoarchaeological studies of craft production in contemporary stratified social contexts, in the study of protohistoric societies. Ethnoarchaeological approaches to craft production include both the observation of site formation processes and archaeological patterning, as well as the the study of technology. We discuss the descriptive tools used by archaeologists and ethnologists to represent the continuum of stratigraphy and that of technology, as well as some theoretical implications of the comparison between these two approaches. We then examine the concept of "chaîne opératoire" or operational sequence, and propose that a non-linear approach to the study of production flow might be particularly useful for understanding highly segmented, hierarchical contexts of production.