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Coevolution of landesque capital intensive agriculture and sociopolitical hierarchy

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Sheehan,  Oliver
Linguistic and Cultural Evolution, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Watts,  Joseph
Linguistic and Cultural Evolution, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Gray,  Russell D.
Linguistic and Cultural Evolution, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Atkinson,  Quentin Douglas
Linguistic and Cultural Evolution, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Sheehan, O., Watts, J., Gray, R. D., & Atkinson, Q. D. (2018). Coevolution of landesque capital intensive agriculture and sociopolitical hierarchy. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 115(14), 3628-3633. doi:10.1073/pnas.1714558115.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0000-E42A-0
Abstract
Over the past 10,000 years, human societies have grown vastly more complex. How and why this occurred is still debated. One major point of contention is the relationship between two characteristic features of complex societies: intensive resource use and sociopolitical hierarchy. The “}materialist{”} view is that intensification drives hierarchy, but the reverse view and intermediate views have also been proposed. Here we report the results of a phylogenetic study on the coevolution of landesque capital intensive agriculture and sociopolitical hierarchy in the Austronesian-speaking world. We find support for a reciprocal coevolutionary relationship between the two variables, challenging the materialist view and highlighting the importance of social as well as material factors as drivers of cultural evolution.One of the defining trends of the Holocene has been the emergence of complex societies. Two essential features of complex societies are intensive resource use and sociopolitical hierarchy. Although it is widely agreed that these two phenomena are associated cross-culturally and have both contributed to the rise of complex societies, the causality underlying their relationship has been the subject of longstanding debate. Materialist theories of cultural evolution tend to view resource intensification as driving the development of hierarchy, but the reverse order of causation has also been advocated, along with a range of intermediate views. Phylogenetic methods have the potential to test between these different causal models. Here we report the results of a phylogenetic study that modeled the coevolution of one type of resource intensification{—}the development of landesque capital intensive agriculture{—}with political complexity and social stratification in a sample of 155 Austronesian-speaking societies. We found support for the coevolution of landesque capital with both political complexity and social stratification, but the contingent and nondeterministic nature of both of these relationships was clear. There was no indication that intensification was the {“}prime mover{” in either relationship. Instead, the relationship between intensification and social stratification was broadly reciprocal, whereas political complexity was more of a driver than a result of intensification. These results challenge the materialist view and emphasize the importance of both material and social factors in the evolution of complex societies, as well as the complex and multifactorial nature of cultural evolution.