The social context of food and drink consumption in prehistoric societies of southern Iberia

Published: 5/8/11
Ministerio de Ciencia y Tecnología. Plan Nacional I+D+i. HAR2009-07283

Summary

The study of how, when and where the consumption of food and drink took place in past societies supposes a relevant approach to explore different forms of social organization. Food consumption can be considered as main scenario in which prehistoric communities establish and display social identities both individually and collectively. In fact class, status, gender and age identities have a deep relationship with the manner in which food is produced, cooked, shared and eventually consumed. Furthermore, food consumption also supposes a significant means of creating and reproducing relations of power and prestige. Through theses commensal practices individuals and social groups compete for power, pursue economic and political goals or modify social order and authority. At the same time, food consumption plays a significant role in the internal cohesion and solidarity of a given community. Through eating and drinking, people share thoughts, beliefs and perceive the world and the human relationship in a particular way.

Given these theoretical approaches, the first step of our research project will involve the analysis of material culture, technologies and contexts related to the preparation and consumption of food and drink in Later Prehistory of southern Iberia. Next, the social implications of food consumption will be analysed taking into account the following aspects:

a) How social groups create and display their social identities.

b) How many types of food consumption can be identified in different societies and within a specific social group.

c) What kind of social relationships are established in each type of commensal practice (solidarity, authority, prestige, liabilities, obligations, influence, etc.).

d) What role plays the ritualized consumption of food in the emergence of social inequalities.

e) How through food consumption human communities share a particular perception of social reality.

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