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The Cultural Evolution of Material Wealth-Based Inequality at Bridge River, British Columbia

  • Anna Marie Prentiss (a1), Thomas A. Foor (a2), Guy Cross (a3), Lucille E. Harris (a4) and Michael Wanzenried (a4)...

Abstract

A fundamental problem for anthropological archaeology lies in defining and explaining the evolutionary origins of social inequality. Researchers have offered a range of models emphasizing variability in the roles of managers, aggrandizers, ecological variability, and historical contexts. Recent studies suggest that the form of emergent inequality may have varied significantly between groups, implying that pathways to inequality may have varied as well. Unfortunately it has been difficult to test many of these models using archaeological data given their requirements for fine-grained assessments of spatiotemporal variability in many data classes. Recent research at the Bridge River site in British Columbia provides the opportunity to explore the utility of a range of explanatory models associated with early social inequality. Results of the study suggest that inequality, measured as significant variability in accumulation of a range of material wealth items, came late to the Bridge River site (ca. 1200–1300 cal. B.P.) and was associated with a period of demographic packing and apparent declining access to some critical subsistence resources. Assessment of interhousehold variability in demography, wealth accumulation, and occupational longevity suggests that markers of significant affluence manifested only in newly established houses. An important implication is that material wealth-based inequality may not have been hereditary in nature at Bridge River during the period prior to 1100 cal. B.P.

Resumen

La definición y explicación de los orígenes evolutivos de la desigualdad social son problemas fundamentales para la arqueología antropológica. Diferentes investigadores han proporcionado una gama de modelos que enfatizan la variabilidad en los roles de administradores y aggrandizers, versatilidad ecológica, y de los contextos históricos. Estudios recientes sugieren que la forma de desigualdad emergente pudo haber variado notablemente entre los grupos, lo cual Implica que los caminos hacia la desigualdad pudieron haber variado también. Desafortunadamente ha sido difícil probar estos modelos usando datos arqueológicos, debido a que estos requieren detalladas evaluaciones sobre variabilidad espacio-temporal en diferentes clases de datos. Investigaciones recientes en el sitio Bridge River (Columbia Británica) ofrecen la oportunidad de explorar la utilidad de un rango de modelos explicativos asociados a desigualdad social temprana. Los resultados sugieren que la desigualdad, medida como variabilidad significativa en cuanto a acumulación de artículos de lujo, se presentó deforma tardía en Bridge River (1200–1300 AP); y que ésta es asociada a un periodo de concentración demográfica y a una aparente declinación en el acceso a recursos de subsistencia. La evaluación de variabilidad demográfica entre viviendas, acumulación de riquezas y longevidad ocupacional sugieren que los marcadores de afluencia se manifestaron solamente en casas recién establecidas. Una implicación importante es que la desigualdad basada en riqueza material pudo no haber sido hereditaria en el sitio Bridge River durante el periodo anterior a 1100 AP.

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