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The peaks and valleys of ancient states: an extension of the dynamic model

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... Subsequently, Shin and colleagues [4] called attention to the ahistorical and decontextualized framing of Turchin and colleagues' study, which arrays all societies and periods in reference to the largest dimension of shared variability in the Seshat database. Shin and colleagues [4] pursue an understanding that factors in historical contingencies of how polities change-that is, how societies evolve through the feature space of the Seshat dataset. ...
... Subsequently, Shin and colleagues [4] called attention to the ahistorical and decontextualized framing of Turchin and colleagues' study, which arrays all societies and periods in reference to the largest dimension of shared variability in the Seshat database. Shin and colleagues [4] pursue an understanding that factors in historical contingencies of how polities change-that is, how societies evolve through the feature space of the Seshat dataset. Working with the same subset of 30 NGAs and 9 CCs as Turchin and colleagues, Shin and colleagues [4] brought into focus a second Principal Component (hereafter, PC2) composed of the 5 administrative and information processing CCs. ...
... Shin and colleagues [4] pursue an understanding that factors in historical contingencies of how polities change-that is, how societies evolve through the feature space of the Seshat dataset. Working with the same subset of 30 NGAs and 9 CCs as Turchin and colleagues, Shin and colleagues [4] brought into focus a second Principal Component (hereafter, PC2) composed of the 5 administrative and information processing CCs. When PC2 is plotted orthogonally to Turchin and colleagues' PC1, the resulting vectors display an intriguing nonlinear trend, whereby dynamics toward social complexity tended to be driven by scalar factors first, but then beyond certain scales, polities may only continue to expand through improvements in information processing and economic systems. ...
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Societies of the late prehispanic Andes-the Inkas principal among them-have long figured as "exceptions to the rule" in social evolutionary schemata, in large measure because they seemingly lacked key technological hallmarks of complex societies found in other world regions, despite their observed large scale and complex, hierarchical political and economic formations. Such presumed absences are encoded in the Seshat Global History Databank, a large global comparative diachronic database recording many dimensions of human societies. Analyses derived from the current version of the Seshat database necessarily reproduce these supposed absences, as they inhere in its data ontology, structure, and registry. Nonetheless, patterns observed in the dataset provide a means for identifying processes acting on and through Andean peoples and the complex political formations they elaborated. Specifically, this paper evaluates a proposed information processing threshold model of social evolution, which suggests that social dynamics are driven first by processes related to social scale, and then by a phase of dynamics in which further scalar increases are only possible through innovations in information processing. The Andean region appears to violate this model because the Seshat database records writing and other information processing technologies as absent in the case of the Inka empire. The author argues that the dynamics of the Andean region are actually consistent with the information threshold model, but the data as constituted do not capture the relevant variables. The Inkas elaborated sophisticated information processing on par with counterparts in other world regions, but through radically distinct forms and pathways, including the Andean khipu (knotted string registries), decimal administration, and a colossal logistical and administrative infrastructural apparatus. This interwoven bundle of technologies and institutions constituted an information revolution that surpassed the information threshold and enabled explosive Inka imperial expansion, even as it produced certain vulnerabilities and fragile sovereignty.
... Multiple studies have shown that patterns of political formation, consolidation, and fragmentation of Maya states were cyclical well before Mayapan became a Postclassic Period political center. From the middle of the first millennium BCE until Mayapan's emergence, kingdoms formed, consolidated, or expanded their domains of subjects, then ultimately fragmented at the same time that new centers emerged to dominate the landscape [25][26][27][28] . Large cities first appeared along the western edges of the Maya region by 1000-800 cal. ...
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The influence of climate change on civil conflict and societal instability in the premodern world is a subject of much debate, in part because of the limited temporal or disciplinary scope of case studies. We present a transdisciplinary case study that combines archeological, historical, and paleoclimate datasets to explore the dynamic, shifting relationships among climate change, civil conflict, and political collapse at Mayapan, the largest Postclassic Maya capital of the Yucatán Peninsula in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries CE. Multiple data sources indicate that civil conflict increased significantly and generalized linear modeling correlates strife in the city with drought conditions between 1400 and 1450 cal. CE. We argue that prolonged drought escalated rival factional tensions, but subsequent adaptations reveal regional-scale resiliency, ensuring that Maya political and economic structures endured until European contact in the early sixteenth century CE. The influence of climate on premodern civil conflict and societal instability is debated. Here, the authors combine archeological, historical, and paleoclimatic datasets to show that drought between 1400-1450 cal. CE escalated civil conflict at Mayapan, the largest Postclassic Maya capital of the Yucatán Peninsula.
... Here, cross-cultural analogies have been observed. Marcus (1989Marcus ( , 1992Marcus ( , 1993Marcus ( , 1998 and Yoffee (2006) have revealed the central role of secondary elites outside power centers in the revival of social complexity after collapse. Scholars have also noted that smaller settlements in northern Mesopotamia could be more resilient in dealing with degradation since they could obtain staples through exchange and the development of agriculture. ...
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This article builds on recent archaeological theorizing about early complex societies to analyze the political anthropology of Neolithic and Bronze Age China in a culture-specific trajectory over the longue durée. Synthesizing the latest archaeological discoveries, I show that a series of successive declines, beginning around 2000 BC, took place throughout lowland China. This put an end to the lowland states of the Longshan period (2400–1900 BC) and provided the context for the constitution of the Erlitou secondary state (1900–1500 BC). Following the shift in “archaic states” studies from identifying “what” to investigating “how,” I focus on the strategies, institutions, and relations that undergirded and sustained the Erlitou secondary state. I explore how heterogeneous lowland populations were reorganized after collapse, how a new collective identity was created through ritual and religious performance at the household level at Erlitou, and how Erlitou’s ideologies, political system, and economic network were shaped by the upland polities and societies. Through a series of innovative practices, the Erlitou secondary state did not replicate the preceding Longshan states but instead pioneered a sociopolitical order that was repeatedly reenacted and referred to as a source of legitimacy in successive Bronze Age Central Plains polities.
... Carneiro (1970) theorised that the development of complex societies, leading to early states, involved inter-group warfare for limited agricultural land, and archaeological findings support the view that coercion and warfare were involved in state formation (e.g. Clark et al. 2017;Marcus 1998;Spencer 2003;Stanish and Levine 2011). However, the archaeological identification of violence does not tell us whether these seminal conflicts were over arable land. ...
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To determine the usefulness of comparative studies to understand Mycenaean palatial society, it is first necessary to discuss early civilisations as a comparative category. In this regard it is important to note that the level of generalisation concerns a specific set of societies with similar emergent properties, which are subject to two complementary forms of evaluation. Firstly, models of early civilisations need to correspond to the archaeological and historical records of single cases, and, secondly, there needs to be a cross-cultural coherence to the models used. The interpretive strength of a comparative category depends on its success in this balancing act. Comparative studies are of limited use for evaluating the correspondence between models and data for specific societies. At most the differences in available sources between distinct cases might reveal biases, being the result of a reliance on a limited set of sources. The use of analogy to make inferences for a case based on another case is not comparative, and is not used here. The significant use of comparative categories lies in the coherence they bring to model building, as well as the stimulus provided by interpretive debates on particular aspects of early civilisations.
Chapter
This chapter examines the state formation processes of the warrior state as part of studying the broader changes found in the civilising process of Japan. By examining the warrior state from the Kamakura period (1185–1333) to the Tokugawa period (1603–1868), it explains how sociogenetic changes occurred in warrior society that contributed towards the change in behaviours, emotions, and habitus of the Japanese found earlier in this book. Though there are various explanations to frame the warrior state, such as scholars concluding it is an extension of the imperial state or scholars concluding it is an alternative state formation, the warrior state in Japan is framed as a secondary state that shows characteristics of a ‘successor’ secondary state that has continued the legacy of an existing state. Moreover, using the state formation processes outlined in the theory of civilising processes, it traces how various monopolies of power shifted between centrifugal and centripetal forces that led to the formation of the warrior state and the creation of a ‘warrior’ habitus in Japan.KeywordsSociogenetic developmentsState formation processesSecondary state formation of a successor stateWarrior stateChains of interdependenceHabitusMonopolies of violence and taxationKamakura periodMuromachi periodTokugawa period
Chapter
This chapter examines the state formation processes of the imperial state as part of investigating the broader changes found in the civilising process of Japan. Through the examination of the imperial state from the Asuka period (538–710) to the Heian period (794–1185), it discusses how sociogenetic changes occurred in aristocratic society that contributed to the change in behaviours, emotions, and habitus of the Japanese discussed earlier in this book. Even though there are diverse models that can explain the formation of the imperial state (e.g., the anthropological evolutionary model) that suggests societies evolved in a series of stages, the imperial state in Japan is framed as a primary state formation that has produced a different trajectory from neighbouring states. Furthermore, using the state formation processes outlined in the theory of civilising processes, it explains how the formation of various underlying processes, and control over the monopolies of violence and taxation, led to the gradual centralisation and pacification of the imperial state and the formation of a Japanese ‘aristocratic’ habitus.KeywordsSociogenetic developmentState formation processesPrimary state formationMonopolies of violence and taxationImperial stateChains of interdependenceHabitusAsuka periodNara periodHeian period
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Research focusing on the emergence and collapse of ancient Maya polities is abundant, with many studies detailing these sociopolitical transformations from the perspective of apical elites at Classic period centers across the lowlands. It is, however, only relatively recently that studies have examined how the integrative strategies of commoner populations were both enabled and constrained by processes of sociopolitical integration and disintegration. This detailed settlement study reconstructs how the practices of a commoner community in the site core of Minanha, Belize, were central to the construction and reproduction of the social dynamics of this ancient Maya center, from its founding through to its abandonment. We explore how households adapted and reorganized in response to major sociopolitical transformations, emphasizing integrative and disintegrative processes associated with the rise and fall of Minanha’s Late Classic (AD 675–810) royal court. This diachronic perspective illustrates the historically contingent nature of household and community responses to the Classic Maya collapse. We utilize a conjunctive methodology that combines “bottom up” (household and community) and “top down” (royal court) data to provide a nuanced and holistic picture of processes of sociopolitical transformation in the Maya lowlands.
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Situated at the disciplinary boundary between prehistory and history, this book presents a new synthesis of Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age Greece, from the rise and fall of Mycenaean civilization, through the "Dark Age," and up to the emergence of city-states in the Archaic period. This period saw the growth and decline of varied political systems and the development of networks that would eventually expand to nearly all shores of the Middle Sea. Alex R. Knodell argues that in order to understand how ancient Greece changed over time, one must analyze how Greek societies constituted and reconstituted themselves across multiple scales, from the local to the regional to the Mediterranean. Knodell employs innovative network and spatial analyses to understand the regional diversity and connectivity that drove the growth of early Greek polities. As a groundbreaking study of landscape, interaction, and sociopolitical change, Societies in Transition in Early Greece systematically bridges the divide between the Mycenaean period and the Archaic Greek world to shed new light on an often-overlooked period of world history.
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Intensified social complexity emerged in some parts of the lowland Maya region during the Middle Preclassic period (800–300 BC). Though data for Middle Preclassic complexity remain very thin, states may have formed in the Mirador Basin and other areas that exhibit settlement hierarchy, evidence of centralized administration, and specialization. However, these developments have been obscured by a shift from a more cooperative to a more competitive system during the Late Preclassic period (300 BC–AD 200). Unilinear thought has confused this change in organization with a shift toward greater complexity. Such positions incorrectly assume that divine kingship and its accouterments are a baseline for complexity. Judging Middle Preclassic period complexity according to Classic period developments is dubious given the cooperative–competitive oscillations; the tendency in the Maya area for states to have been secondary with longstanding interactions among Chiapas, Pacific Coast, Isthmian, and the Gulf Coast areas; and internal innovations. New data are needed to characterize early complexity in the Maya lowlands on its own terms.
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