I don't really understand the first sentence in this passage. Why the word "it" refers to “society”?
What is particularly meaningful to anthropologist is the realization that although the materials available to a society may to some extent limit or influence what it can do artistically, the materials by no means determine what is done. Why does the artist in Japanese society rake sand into patterns; and the artist in Roman society melt sand to form glass? Moreover, even when the same material is used in the same way by members of different societies, the form or style of the work varies enormously from culture to culture. A society may simply choose to represent objects or phenomena that are important to its population. An examination of the art of the Middle Ages tells us something about the medieval preoccupation with theological doctrine. In addition to revealing the primary concerns of a society, the content of that society's art may also reflect the culture's social stratification.
to understand the sentence structure,
replace society with an artist.
replace it with he (or her)