Message #328:
From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG
To:   "'Matthias Giessler'" 
Subject: Does Being Numerate Matter in Understanding the Spatial Patterning of the American Southwest?
Date: Thu, 10 Oct 96 15:12:00 MST
Encoding: 86 TEXT

You may remember the SASIG message of 08 May 96  
wherein SWA reported:

"....Anthropologists take note of immigration patterns, so check this
out. Forbes says that the Chinese strive to populate California's San
Gabriel Valley to become doubly lucky in the 818 area code, eight being
a very lucky number for the Chinese.  Pacific Bell plans to add a 626
area code in the area, and the Chinese community is in uproar!  People
are suing the phone company to stop the proposed change.  Forbes wryly
notes that Pac-Bell will at least avoid area codes using the number four
( in Korean, Mandarin and Cantonese, the number four [pronounced "sa"]
sounds like the word for "death" ).  "

The October 10, 1996 edition of the Wall Street Journal carries an 
interesting article titled "Moving In -- Influx of Immigrants Adds New 
Vitality to Housing Market."  This WSJ article continues a thread similar to 
the earlier Forbes reporting:

"....ROWLAND HEIGHTS, Calif. - Among the hundreds of new homes in the
hilltop subdivision of Vantage Pointe here, there isn't a single street
address ending with the numeral 4.  Nobody here wonders why. Almost all
buyers are Chinese immigrants, most from Taiwan.  As they consider
plunking down $300,000 or more for a house, they want to avoid the
unlucky number, whose sound in Chinese is a homonym for the word death. 
[Developers] have hired Chinese speakers as salesmen, brought in
Buddhist monks to bless the subdivisions, and instructed their
architects to redesign the houses for maximum buyer appeal. What is most
distinctive about the Chinese buyers, though, is their strict adherence
to the principles of 'feng shui,' an elaborate set of Chinese principles
of design.  Stairways angle away from the front door so the owner's luck
won't run away....most Chinese won't buy a house situated at a "T"
junction in a subdivision, because the location is believed to lure bad
luck or even death. In addition, there are Chinese beliefs about the
lucky number 8 or the unlucky number 4. In...(the Chinese)...
subdivisions, some buyers.....add up the digits in their prospective new
address and pronounce the results unlucky.  (The developer) gladly goes
to city hall, and for about $150 gets a new number. ...Fountains are
abundant here, since running water symbolizes prosperity in the logic of
feng shui.  The builder initially worried that a giant water tank on the
peak of the hill would be an obstacle to selling houses.  No problem, it
turns out.  Being near that much water was vastly appealing, and the
houses sold quickly."

[SASIG Ed. note -- Related links: 
and ].

Like other well-written publications, WSJ and Forbes may be good sources
for the generation of anthropological and archaeological research
questions. The anthropological observations in WSJ stimulate imagination
and raise interesting implications for general behavior, and thus, SWA
  • Are there elaborate sets of principles of design among the various prehistoric and historic cultural groups inhabiting the Southwest?
  • Do such principles obtain among extant cultural groups, and, can these principles be retrodicted using an direct-historic approach?
  • How is such information revealed by the archaeological record of the American Southwest?
  • Have Southwestern archaeologists considered such cultural phenomena in studying the design, use and spatial patterning of prehistoric communities?
  • Does being numerate in a specific cultural system's cosmography matter to an archaeologist's understanding and interpretation of spatial patterning in the American Southwest ?
  • Hoe does our system of cosmography skew our interpretations of the archaeological remains of other cultural groups?
A thoughtful contribution of text describing your SW archaeological observations and experience in these matters is most welcomed. Thank you.