By Timothy R. Pauketat
This e-book sweeps away the final vestiges of social-evolutionary factors of 'chiefdoms' through rethinking the background of Pre-Columbian Southeast peoples and evaluating them to historical peoples within the Southwest, Mexico, Mesoamerica, and Mesopotamia.
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Extra info for Chiefdoms and Other Archaeological Delusions (Issues in Eastern Woodlands Archaeology)
Anything that changed in an ancient chiefdom seemed explicable owing to some chiefly strategy. Perhaps this elite-centric modeling makes sense: you can’t have chiefdoms without chiefs, right? But something is still out of whack, UGS thinks. Chiefs. Mostly men. Aggrandizing or collaborating. But always instigating, acting, plotting, strategizing. Who made them lords? The other salient characteristic relates to the first, she thinks, but seems especially pronounced in Mississippian research. The very idea of chiefdoms cancels out the variability that most people say existed within chiefdom-level or middle-range societies.
Beginning in the 1980s, archaeologists should have known better. On the heels of Immanuel Wallerstein’s (1974) world systems theory, some realized that world history and cultural evolution are, for all intents and purposes, one and the same (Wolf 1982). From such a global– historical perspective, it became difficult to imagine anything “pristine” such that its dynamic of change was entirely internal. There weren’t even any untainted hunter-gatherers (Sassaman 2004). How could there have been sedentary peoples unaffected by cultural contacts with others?
UGS now wonders, Is it also the process? Let’s give UGS some time to work through her thoughts. Were I to answer as the Pragmatist, the answer would be no. The macroscale pattern of political change is not the process. The Pragmatist’s way of thinking follows the lead of Eric Wolf and the other political economists and neo-Marxists critical of the post-Enlightenment notion that societies were organic systems. If we reject that notion, then it becomes difficult to maintain the lengthy causal scenarios that we see in the Mississippian chiefdom literature and in the various modified social evolutionary explanations.