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The evolution of complex cultural systems is marked by a number of broad, sweeping patterns that characterize many different cultures at different points in time across the globe. Over the course of the past 100,000 years, there has been a general evolutionary trend for cultural systems to get larger and more complex. A consistent element in the broad course of cultural evolu tion has been the emergence and subsequent development of centralized forms of political organization. The record of the first modern humans illuminates a global wide pat tern of relative social equality and decentralized deciSion-making processes. Prior to about 10,000 years ago, there are no indications of clear social, political, or economic hierarchies. In these early millennia archaeological markers of social ranking are lacking and there is a similar absence of evidence pointing to the presence of leaders, chiefs or rulers. The pattern of social equality began to change at different moments and at different rates in various parts of the world in the course of the last 10,000 years. In some areas, such as Mesopotamia, politically centralized hierarchies emerged very early and developed rapidly, while in others, such as the Arctic, political centralization never emerged outside the context of Western colonialism. In every culture area, the origins and development of politically cen tralized social systems and the emergence of leaders and rulers followed a unique evolutionary trajectory depending on local history and environment.
Content Level »Research
Keywords »DDR - Evolution - Maya - Mesopotamia - bronze age - cultural evolution - landscape
I: Introduction. 1. Cultural Evolution and Political Centralization; J. Haas. 2. Communication, Holism, and the Evolution of Sociopolitical Complexity; C.L. Crumley.
II: The Emergence of Leaders. 3. The Origins of Centralization: Changing Features of Local and Regional Control during the Rio Grande Classic Period, A.D. 1325-1540; W. Creamer. 4. Assessing Political Development in Copper and Bronze Age Southeast Spain; A. Gilman.
III: Leaders to Rulers. 5. Rulers and Warriors: Symbolic Transmission and Social Transformation in Bronze Age Europe; K. Kristiansen. 6. Institutionalization of Chiefdoms: Why Landscapes Are Built; T.K. Earle. 7. Cosmology and the Institutionalization of Hierarchy in the Maya Region; P.A. McAnany.
IV: Rulers in Power. 8. Mesoamerican Political Complexity: The Corporate/Network Dimension; G.M. Feinman. 9. Understanding the Timing and Tempo of the Evolution of Political Centralization on the Central Andean Coastline and Beyond; B.R. Billman. 10. `Who Was King? Who was NOT King?' Social Group Composition and Competition in Early Mesopotamian State Societies; G. Stein.
V: Conclusion. 11. Nonlinear Paths of Political Centralization; J. Haas.