Publications

In Press
Eric D. Johnson and Douglas Bolender. In Press. “Deeper Histories of Dispossession: The Genealogy of “Proletarian” Relations in Iceland.” Historical Archaeology.Abstract
“Proletarian” relations are generally understood in terms of capitalist dispossession. However, a deeper historical approach to class relations in Iceland reveals fundamental role of monopolization and labor insecurity across capitalist and precapitalist political economies. During the first settlement of Iceland in the late 9th century, land was freely available to colonists, but by the late 17th century, over 95% of all farming properties were owned by landlords. Landlords and tenants frequently negotiated new leases, effectively creating a dispossessed, insecure, and mobile class of tenant farmers. Using the millennium-long history and archaeology of farmsteads in Skagafjörður, Northern Iceland, we then outline 1) how it is that these “proletarian” relations came about in the first place, 2) how they were maintained and 3) finally how Iceland’s “transition to capitalism” in the late-19th and early-20th centuries was less the creation of a uniquely proletarian class but rather a migration of long-dispossessed labor under new capital regimes.
2019
Eric D. Johnson. 4/12/2019. “Consumer Agency beyond Identity: Indigenous Demand and Euro-American Wampum Production between New Jersey and the Plains.” In Society for American Archaeology 84th Annual Meeting. Albuquerque, NM.Abstract

The popular “object-biography” approach to commodities generally focuses on hegemonic material culture in the hands of unintended consumers, such as the analysis of “European” goods found in “Native” contexts. What this fails to capture, however, is a kind of consumer agency that extends beyond the politics of identity. In other words, what are the structural effects of colonial consumption on trajectories of capitalist production? This study compares assemblages from two Euro-American shell bead production sites in northern New Jersey: Stoltz Farm (1750-1830), a small-scale, Dutch household, and the Campbell Wampum Factory (1850-1900), famous for its mass production facilitated by "wampum drilling machines." Shell bead styles produced at these sites—including wampum, hair pipes, and gorgets—were traded with indigenous consumers from the Great Lakes to the northern and southern Plains. Both sites were excavated in the early 20th century, but have not yet been analyzed archaeologically. This project reconstructs sequences of production, estimates efficiencies, tracks the number and quality of bead styles, and measures degrees of standardization between sites. Preliminary conclusions suggest that the demands of distant indigenous actors structured the local trajectory of capitalism in northern New Jersey in ways that complicate the traditional hallmarks of an “industrial heartland.”

Eric D. Johnson. 2019. Historic Shell Bead Production in Northern New Jersey: Report on Collections from the Campbell Wampum Factory and Stoltz Farm. Contact for PDF: ericjohnson@g.harvard.edu. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.
2018
Eric D. Johnson. 3/17/2018. “From Mint to Factory: Industrializing Shell Bead Production at the Campbell Wampum Factory, 1770-1890.” In Middle Atlantic Archaeological Conference. Virginia Beach, VA.Abstract
What happens to money after the death of a currency? Is "demonetization" the same as "devaluation"? Or can changes in production rehabilitate old money-objects for new purposes? A preliminary analysis of production debris from the Campbell Wampum Factory, the largest shell bead production site in New Jersey between 1770–1890 CE, tracks changes in wampum as it went from being used as “money” by Euro-Americans to being made for export to new indigenous consumers on the Plains. The Campbells developed new manufacturing technologies, centralized production, and increased output. Fur trade merchants flooded indigenous markets with “Campbell Wampum” products from North Dakota to Oklahoma. Analysis of museum collections reconstructs sequences of production, estimates efficiency of production, tracks bead styles, and measures standardization of lengths, widths, and colors within each style in order to understand the role of industrialization in changing modes of adornment and dynamics of identity on a colonial frontier.
Douglas Bolender and Eric D. Johnson. 2018. “Reassembling the Household For Icelandic Archaeology: A Contribution to Comparative Political Economy.” Post-Medieval Archaeology, 52, 1, Pp. 65-83. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Between the 11th and 19th century, household archaeology in Iceland comprises rural, dispersed farmsteads notable for their boundedness and stability, suggesting productive and reproductive autonomy. Insights from ANT and entanglement theory help ‘disassemble’ this assumption by shifting our focus first to the agencies, flows and dependences that comprise a political economy without assuming the household’s relations of production a priori. Architecture, settlement patterns, landscape, and midden accumulations from the Langholt region in Skagafjörður, north Iceland along with historical data illustrate that households in Iceland are actually marked by social dissolution, alienation, and instability through dramatic political-economic dis-and-re-assembling which in turn produces the stability in the material manifestation of the household. These data caution against a simple relationship between the household and archaeological farmstead and suggest that measures of dependency and instability are critical to a comparative method for unraveling entanglements between capitalist and non-capitalist political economies.

2017
Moated Sites in the Wealden Landscape
Eric D. Johnson. 2017. “Moated Sites in the Wealden Landscape.” In Lived Experience in the Later Middle Ages: Studies of Bodiam and Other Elite Landscapes in South-Eastern England, Pp. 158-170. Oxford: Oxbow Books. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This chapter looks at the general class of moated sites, of which Bodiam, Scotney and Ightham can be considered particularly large and complex examples, in the context of the Wealden landscape of south-east England as a whole. A general discussion of the literature on moated sites is followed by a discussion of ‘what do moats do?’ in terms of lived experience.

Scotney: Archaeological Survey and Map Analysis
Eric D. Johnson, Timothy Sly, and Matthew Johnson. 2017. “Scotney: Archaeological Survey and Map Analysis.” In Lived Experience in the Later Middle Ages: Studies of Bodiam and Other Elite Landscapes in South-Eastern England, Pp. 95-105. Oxford: Oxbow Books. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This chapter focuses on the landscape of Scotney. Scotney is a late medieval castle close to Bodiam and built in the later 14th century. It also has a complex landscape, with water features, much of which survives within a 19th-century picturesque landscape park. The area of parkland south and west of the castle was surveyed by the Southampton/Northwestern team. This chapter reports on this work, and places the survey results in the context of wider evidence for the Scotney landscape in the later medieval period.
2015
Eric D. Johnson. 2015. “Moated Sites and the Production of Authority in the Eastern Weald of England.” Medieval Archaeology, 59, Pp. 233-254. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Previous interpretations of medieval moated sites, rooted in functionalist and culture-historical theoretical frameworks, describe moat owners as defending themselves from threats of physical violence or emulating a fashionable status symbol. This study takes an alternative framework by exploring moated sites' active role in producing medieval ideologies of inequality. A set of case studies from the eastern Weald in southeast England provides evidence for how moats alter patterns of movement, produce spaces of stratified accessibility, and enhance the visibility of structures and spaces bounded by moats. Spatial data from surface survey is synthesized with historical context and 'imagined' moated spaces found in pictorial and textual sources to determine how moats may have been perceived by different groups of people in medieval society. By altering the physical and symbolic landscape, moated sites constituted the authority of their owners and contributed to the maintenance, or in some cases contestation, of medieval structural inequalities.
Eric D. Johnson. 2015. “Deep Coring, Viking Age Accumulation Rates and Household Wealth in Skagafjörður, Northern Iceland.” Department of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Discerning and explaining social and economic differences is a fundamental task of archaeology, but a fine-tuned measure of household wealth is often obfuscated by the inability to account for time or demographics in the archaeological record. This project tests the ways that Iceland, settled by Norse populations between A.D. 870 and 930, provides a temporally-sensitive mode of measuring household income through average rates of deposition of architectural material and fuel refuse while also providing a context for studying the emergence of inequality in a previously uninhabited landscape. In 2014, a deep-coring survey of 11 occupational sites was conducted in the region of Langholt in Skagafjörður, Northern Iceland to supplement shallow-coring data previously collected by the Skagafjörður Archaeologcial Settlement Survey. Volumetric estimates of sites were generated in ArcGIS. Site occupation duration before A.D. 1104 was used to calculate average accumulation rates. I argue that average accumulation rates can be used as a proxy for household income and thus wealth over time. There is a strong logarithmic relationship between the average accumulation rates and occupation duration of sites, suggesting that the settlement order impacted wealth advantages. I argue that the concept of precedence, or the correlation of settlement order and wealth advantages over time, can be used to help understand the long-term dynamics of inequality in Langholt as both an economic and social process.

johnson_2015_-_deep_coring_viking_age_accumulation_rates_and_household_wealth_i.pdf