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Chiefdoms Examples of Regional Polities. Some comments on J&Es assessment of regional polities Underestimate the size of acephalous societies Overestimate.

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Presentation on theme: "Chiefdoms Examples of Regional Polities. Some comments on J&Es assessment of regional polities Underestimate the size of acephalous societies Overestimate."— Presentation transcript:

1 Chiefdoms Examples of Regional Polities

2 Some comments on J&Es assessment of regional polities Underestimate the size of acephalous societies Overestimate need for formal organization up to societies ~ 10,000 people

3 Population pressure cant be rate limiting step What is? –Technology? –Social organization? Many people suspect social organization –Douglas North, Bob Bettinger –The work-arounds hypothesis Hard to adapt people to live in big complex societies Social organization not observable and not trialable Macroevolution again

4 Some other important issues Functional versus conflict theories of social complexification: untangling a major social science paradox –Leaders do have prosocial functions –Formal offices invariably (?) lead to social stratification –Polities do expand by violent conquest Why not democracy? –Simpler societies egalitarian –Big Man system proto-democratic –Yet main path to complexity is via ranked lineages and hereditary elite classes Group selection favors social system with best work-arounds –By conquest and by imitation –Slow process More about this in Part II

5 Historical examples of social- organizational breakthrus Shoshone minimalism Chinese Confucian merit bureaucracy –Develops after ~ 600 BC –In West after ~ 1700 AD Settling of California –Anglos pioneered as family units, but with cooperation via democratic institutions –Hispanics pioneered as larger extended family groups –Anglo frontier moved faster because of greater social flexibility

6 Marshall Sahlins (1963) Poor Man, Rich Man, Big Man, Chief: Political Types in Melanesia and Polynesia Pacific islands as natural experiment Melanesia versus Polynesia –Similar distribution of large and small islands –Melanesians have Big Man systems even on very big islands –Polynesians have chiefs even on small islands Human social organization is conservative on millennial time scales: historical versus ecological causation? Trobriand Islanders an exception? Melanesians with a chiefdom? Big advances in Oceanian anthropology since 1963 –Melanesia turns out to be culturally and biologically heterogeneous

7 Austronesian phenomenon: Patrick Kirch (2000) On the Road of the Winds

8 Language map

9 Lapita Phenomenon

10 Lapita pottery very diagnostic (oddly, Polynesians in the E. Lapita realm later abandon pottery!)

11 Lapita expansion very rapid

12 Core technology: basic tropical horticulture plus

13 Sailing leeward vs windward. Safe to beat to windward. If you get into trouble you can sail a jury rigged canoe downwind home. Lapita navigation strategy

14 Austronesian sailors could point fairly close to the wind

15 Austronesian exploration stategy

16 Ranked lineage social organization Polynesian clans patrilineal Trobriand clans matrilineal The novel element is formal offices not dependent upon the entrepreneurship of an ambitious individual Proto-Oceanic term for ancestor: *tumpu In the Lapita case, chieftainship in an open environment a stimulus to pioneering: Every successful pioneer a chief!

17 The Functions of Chiefs Domestic tranquilitysuppression of small- scale warfare so prevalent in local-group societies Provision of food security –Store surpluses on large scale for redistribution –Investment in large scale production Supervision of intertribal trade –Investment in high tech canoes Provision of supernatural services (?)

18 Dysfunctions of Chiefdoms Hereditary principle unreliable supplier of talent (but limits destructive competition for office??) Stratification breeds intra-societal tensions Violent conflict between chiefs often destructive Ideological exploitation of human credulity

19 The Trobriand Islands Case

20 Pioneering ethnographer Bronislaw Malinowski studied Trobrianders

21 Subsistence: tropical horticulture & fishing

22 Gardening highly ritualized

23 Rather intricate gender division of labor in gardening

24 Mature garden

25 Fishing major protein source

26 Stratified social organization Chief Touluwa

27 Chief and his storehouse

28 Ceremonial display of harvest

29 Modern yam shelter

30 Kula Trade system

31 Kula Ring trade Kula Ring trade

32 Armband

33 Necklaces

34 Ceremonial trade

35 Substantial canoes carry mundane cargo: clay pots, fine stone

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37 Kula market

38 Evolution of Chiefdoms in Polynesia Rather Diverse Open systems: small, highly competitive chiefdoms Near-state systems Tonga-Samoa: Division of religious and secular authority Hawaii: Class-based distinctions

39 Marquesian Open Sytem

40 Easter Island: Collapse of open system

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42 Hawaii Large island system –Large population: 250, ,000 –Several competing chiefdoms at contact –United by Kamehameha with trade guns Notable for class system –Chiefs ranked three deep –Class of junior aristocrat managers –Commoners divorced from ranked lineage system

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45 Chiefly display: feather cloaks

46 Economic intensification under chiefly supervision Reef-flat fishponds

47 Pond-field irrigation systems

48 Population equilibrium?

49 Basseri Notable features Pastoral tribe Component of state Tribal chief part of state elite

50 Conclusions Tribes have formal leadership and usually inegalitarian, stratified social relations Kinship still the dominant social institution Chiefly economic functions various but important Inter-chiefdom trade and warfare often highly organized Easy to see how big chiefdoms become states


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