Christian E. Peterson

Christian E. Peterson
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa | UH Manoa · Department of Anthropology

PhD

About

40
Publications
20,191
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1,144
Citations
Introduction
I'm an archaeological anthropologist specializing in ancient inequality; the comparative study of variation in early complex societies; in regional settlement, community patterning, and demography; surface archaeology; household archaeology; quantitative analysis, and spatial analysis/GIS. I've also recently become interested in agent-based modeling. I conduct archaeological field research in NE China. See my personal web page for more information: http://www2.hawaii.edu/~cepeter/index.html.

Publications

Publications (40)
Article
Full-text available
Archaeological research has by now revealed a great deal of variation in the way early complex societies, or chiefdoms, developed. This variation is widely recognized, but our understanding of the forces that produced it remains relatively undeveloped. This paper takes aim at such understanding by exploring variation in the local economies of six e...
Article
Full-text available
Environmentally transformative human use of land accelerated with the emergence of agriculture, but the extent, trajectory, and implications of these early changes are not well understood. An empirical global assessment of land use from 10,000 years before the present (yr B.P.) to 1850 CE reveals a planet largely transformed by hunter-gatherers, fa...
Article
Full-text available
Much of the literature on the role played by environment in complex society development focuses on temporal correspondence between climate change and human social change. Many such studies fall into a series of traps: the unwarranted assumption that correlation equals causation; failure to evaluate the statistical significance of the association; s...
Article
This corrects the article DOI: 10.1038/nature24646. See: https://www.nature.com/articles/nature25992.pdf.
Article
Full-text available
How wealth is distributed among households provides insight into the fundamental characters of societies and the opportunities they afford for social mobility. However, economic inequality has been hard to study in ancient societies for which we do not have written records, which adds to the challenge of placing current wealth disparities into a lo...
Article
Full-text available
Analysis of a large sample of household artifact assemblages from residential zones dating to the Hongshan period (4500–3000 BCE) in northeastern China complements regional-scale settlement study and excavation of house structures, platforms, and tombs. Prestige differentiation between household units is recognizable but modest. Productive differen...
Article
The complex of Niuheliang, in north-eastern China, with its concentration of ceremonial architecture and unusual art, has been considered the most highly developed polity of the Hongshan period, representing the integration of a large territory. In contrast, the supposed absence of residential remains has been advanced to suggest that it was a vaca...
Data
Detailed dataset to accompany Drennan, Peterson, Lu, and Li 2017. Available online at .
Article
Household refuse is ideally suited for the comparative study of social and economic inequality. Compositional variation revealed by nonmetric multidimensional scaling of artifact assemblage data from multiple households is readily interpreted as evidence for qualitative differences in social prestige, wealth, and productive activities. Different co...
Data
Open access dataset available in the Comparative Archaeology Database, Center for Comparative Archaeology, University of Pittsburgh: www.cadb.pitt.edu.
Article
Full-text available
The Neolithic and Bronze Age remains of northeastern China have traditionally been organized into a sequence of spatially extensive archaeological cultures. Scholars typically describe a particular homogeneous "lifeway" thought to characterize each culture. Because this approach provides little room for discussion of internal social dynamics, most...
Book
Full-text available
A reconstruction of regional settlement and demographic patterns. Book can be downloaded at <http://www.pitt.edu/~ccapubs/books/ca004.html>.
Data
Open access dataset available in the Comparative Archaeology Database, Center for Comparative Archaeology, University of Pittsburgh: www.cadb.pitt.edu.
Chapter
A longstanding theme in Chinese archaeology is the emergence of “Chinese civilization”. Hongshan societies represent the first clear steps toward complex social, political, and economic organization in this part of the world. And yet, it is Hongshan symbolism and ideology that has most captivated archaeologists, with many pinpointing Hongshan socie...
Article
The Early Yangshao period (5000–4000 BC) village of Jiangzhai is the most completely excavated and reported of any early agricultural community in the middle reaches of northern China’s Yellow River Valley. This comprehensive dataset can better our understanding of early agricultural village societies and complex society development, especially the...
Article
Full-text available
The chiefdom has been taken by many scholars to be a highly specific and unvarying societal type, but the emergence of the large human communities that have often been labeled chiefdoms took a number of different paths in different regions. Comparative analysis of the kinds of archaeological evidence most directly relevant to the social organizatio...
Article
Full-text available
Societies in many regions all over the world started down the path toward large-scale social formations, so the number of trajectories available for comparative study is large. Although most of these regional trajectories are not well known, the few that are well enough documented for comparative study are more than comparisons can easily handle. A...
Article
Full-text available
Early complex society studies, like anthropology in general, are strongly rooted in comparative analysis. Cultural evolutionists of the mid-nineteenth century (Tylor 1865; Morgan 1877; Spencer 1880–97) relied entirely on comparative ethnography to create speculative accounts of the antecedents of contemporary societies. A century later, Sahlins (Sa...
Chapter
Full-text available
As archaeologists, we seek to understand variation and change in past human societies. This goal necessitates a comparative approach, and comparisons justify the broad cross-cultural and diachronic scope of our work. Without comparisons we sink into the culture-bound theorizing against which anthropology and archaeology have long sought to broaden...
Book
Full-text available
Reconstruction of settlement and demographic patterns. Book is available for download at: <http://www.pitt.edu/~ccapubs/books/ca002.html>
Data
Full-text available
Open access dataset available in the Comparative Archaeology Database, Center for Comparative Archaeology, University of Pittsburgh: .
Chapter
Full-text available
Much recent archaeological literature has stressed the variety of forms that early non-egalitarian societies may take. This variety has been characterized as “horizontal” variation (Drennan 1996, Feinman 2000) in contrast to the “vertical” dimension of social ranking most emphasized in the traditional cultural evolutionary literature. Much of cultu...
Article
Full-text available
The Hongshan societies of northeastern China are among East Asia's earliest complex societies. They have been known largely from elaborate burials with carved jades in ceremonial platforms. The most monumental remains are concentrated in a "core zone" in western Liaoning province. Residential remains are less well known and most investigations of t...
Chapter
Full-text available
The emergence of centralized supra-local communities followed a number of different pathways, and varied considerably in its pacing in different regions. The establishment of settled agricultural life often set the stage for the emergence of these larger scale and more complex societies by creating the larger, denser populations without which they...
Article
Full-text available
Comparative study of early complex societies (chiefdoms) conjures visions of a cultural evolutionary emphasis on similarities and societal typology. Variation within the group has not been as systematically examined but offers an even more productive avenue of approach to fundamental principles of organization and change. Three widely separated tra...
Article
Full-text available
The study of developing complex societies can fruitfully focus on the human interactions that define communities, which have always been at the heart of settlement pattern research. Yet little attention has been paid to how communities of varying scales can actually be identified in archaeological survey data. Most often sites have simply been assu...
Chapter
Full-text available
N o early chiefdom society was exactly like that of another region, but all represented the initial development of permanent hierarchical social relations in their respective regions. In these societies, those who would be chiefs were successful enough at forging unequal social relationships with other members of their own communities that the fund...
Article
Full-text available
Rank-size analysis of settlement systems in archaeology has focused strongly on departures from log-normality, but it is not clear that a log-normal pattern should ordinarily be expected. Direct comparison of observed rank-size curves to each other is of greater utility in identifying chronological change and inter-regional variation in settlement...

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Projects

Projects (2)
Project
Compilation of primary data on settlement organization, demography, public works construction, and households for some 60 regions where archaeological information on the earliest development of complex societies is available. The aim is consistent analysis of these datasets for diachronic comparison of the varied pathways of development taken in the "chiefdomization" process. Publications to date have discussed analytical methods robust enough to yield reliable results on data collected and reported in different ways. Substantive comparisons already published focus on up to a dozen regions at a time, and current efforts concentrate both on extending those comparisons to other aspects of chiefdomization and on expanding the scope of the comparison to a much larger number of cases.
Project
This project focuses on explaining the emergence and development of Neolithic Hongshan period (4500–3000 BC) chiefly communities in NE China. It a collaboration between Renmin University (Beijing), the Liaoning Province Institute of Archaeology (Shenyang), and the universities of Pittsburgh and Hawai'i. The principal investigators are Lu Xueming, Robert D. Drennan, and Christian E. Peterson. We are working at and around the Hongshan core zone ceremonial complexes of Dongshanzui and Niuheliang in western Liaoning province. Our principle research activities include regional-scale settlement survey and analysis, intensive surface collection of household artifact assemblages, and test excavation of occupation areas.