Research Interests

Chiefdoms are the earliest regional-scale, fundamentally hierarchical societies in human history. They have emerged independently in broadly similar ways in many parts of the world during the past 6,000 or 7,000 years, sometimes leading to political formations of yet larger scale and more hierarchical character, sometimes not. My research centers on the global comparative study of the origins and development of the novel community interaction structures that comprise chiefdoms, as the only convincing route to the articulation and empirical evaluation of models offering understanding of the processes that have repeatedly produced them and of the ways in which varying circumstances constrain those process and lead to remarkably varied expressions of a few central organizing principles. I have emphasized the importance of comparative study of large numbers of cases from widely separated regions and the development of quantitative analytical tools adequate to the recognition of the patterns in archeological data that make possible empirical characterization of prehistoric chiefdoms so that rival models can be evaluated against each other. I have collected archeological data in the field to document the trajectories of early chiefdom development, principally in the Valley of Oaxaca and the Tehuacan Valley of Mexico, the Alto Magdalena of Colombia, and the Chifeng region of Inner Mongolia, Peoples' Republic of China.

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Section 51: Anthropology