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R[~'iI'"W' in Anthropology, Vol. 30, pp.


{j"j 2001 Taylor & Francis

Origins and Evolution of Chiefdoms

Dmitri D. Beliaev, Dmitri M. Bondarenko and Andrey V. Korotayev

Redmond, Elsa M., ed. Chiefdoms and Chieftaincy in the Americas. Gainesville etc.: University Press of Florida, 1998. 416 pp. $55.00 cloth.

Earle, Timothy K. How Chiefs Come to Power. The Political Economy in Prehistory. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997. 234 pp. $51.00 cloth, $19.95 paper.

Muller, Jon. Mississippian Political Economy. New York and London: Plenum Press, 1997. 455 pp. $110.00 cloth.

There are two models of the study of chiefdoms. The first model, defined in Carneiro's works, is based on his definition of the chiefdom as an autonomous political unit comprising a number of villages under the permanent control of a paramount chief (Carneiro 1981:45). In contrast, Earle defines chiefdom either as 'fa polity that organizes centrally a regional population in the thousands" (Earle 1991:1), or as "a regional polity with institutional governance and some social stratification organizing a population of a few thousand to tens of thousands of people. Chiefdoms are intermediate-level polities, bridging the evolutionary gap between small, village-based polities and large, bureaucratic states" (Earle 1997:14; see also Earle 1987, 1991; Johnson and Earle 1987). Earle understands the chiefdom as any middle range polity with some institutional government

DMITRI D. BEUAEV IS a research fellow of the Sector oj Cioilizational and Artthropological Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. He is the author of over 10 publications.

DMITRI M. BONDARENKO is a seHior researdl fellow and head of the Sector of Cioilizational and Anthropological Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences and a Professor of Cultural Anthropology at the Russian State Unj,wsity for the Humanities in Moscow. He is the author oj over 90 publications and 9 edited uolumcs.

ANDREY V. KOROTAYEV IS a full time professor at the Center of Social Anthropology at the Rlissian State University for the Humanities, Moscow, Russia. He is senior research feHow of the Oriental Institute and the Center of Regional Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences. He is the author of over 100 publications.


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and some social stratification. One might think that the word "centrally" might imply that chiefdoms are only politically centralized medium-range polities, excluding heterarchical ("democratic") political systems (e.g. the Greek poleis, Roman civitas, or Icelandic polity of the Age of Democracy [prior to 1267]). However, Earle still considers the latter as chiefdoms. In his usage, the term chiefdom tends to become desemanticized. One wonders if it makes any sense to continue using this term within such a framework if the respective sense is perfectly rendered by the notion of "mediumrange polity." Note that the scholar who introduced the very notion of chiefdom into the academic thesaurus, Elman Service, understood the chiefdom as a medium-range polity of a particular type, characterized by the following features:

The great change at the chiefdom level is that specialization and redistribution are no longer merely adjunctive to a few particular endeavors, but continuously characterize a large part of the activity of the society. Chiefdoms are redistributional societies with a permanent central agency of coordination (Service 1971 [19621:134, our emphasis). When chieftainship becomes a permanent office in the structure of society social inequality becomes characteristic of the society, followed finally by inequality in consumption ... The creation of the hereditary office of chief, with its high status for the person who occupies it, naturally carries the possibility of other statuses of high degree ... A chief's high status raises the status of every member of his family above ordinary families, and ultimately that of the families in his local kin group to some extent ... A chief necessarily has a 'nobility', even though they are only his own family ... A further important feature lies in the chief's ability to plan, organize, and deploy public labor (Ibidem: 139-140). A chiefdom is in a sense pyramidal or cone-shaped in structure ... A chiefdom differs radically from a tribe or band not only in economic and political organization but in the matter of social rank ... tribes are egalitarian, chiefdoms are profoundly inegalitarian (lhidem:142). The most distinctive characteristic of chiefdoms as compared to tribes ... is ... the pervasive inequality of persons and groups in the society. It begins with the status of chief as he functions in the system of redistribution. Persons are then ranked above others according to their genealogical nearness to him. Concepts involving prescriptions, proscriptions, sumptuary laws, marriage rules and customs, genealogical conceptions, and etiquette in general combine to create and perpetuate this sociopolitical ordering, and in turn have an effect on social structure and status terminology and etiquette behavior. A charismatic ephemeral leader of the type found in tribes ... has the functions and attributes that result from his own capabilities. An 'office', on the other hand, is 3 position in a sociopolitical structure that has ascribed functions and conventional attributes no matter who occupies it (lbidem:145-146).

Neither the Greek polis, nor the Roman civitas, or the Icelandic polity of the" Age of Democracy" conforms to such an understanding of the chiefdom. Also note that Earle's usage misleadingly implies the logical possibility of chiefdoms without chiefs. Therefore, we find the "traditional" concept of chiefdom more reasonable and we will use it throughout this review.

Consequently, though at first glance all three monographs seem to treat the same subject, this initial impression is not entirely true. For example, Muller and Redmond's team consider chiefdoms within the tradition of

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Service and Carneiro, whereas in addition to chiefdoms, virtual heterarchical non-chiefdom polities are within Earle's eyesight (although he still treats them as chiefdoms). Furthermore, although most attention is paid to the chiefdoms in the Americas (Muller's monograph considers exclusively the chiefdoms of the South-East, while papers in Redmond's volume deal with both North and South America) Earle's book describes three regions, one of which is also American (Peru), while the others are outside America (Hawaii and Denmark). Additionally, there are differences in ideological perspective; Muller and Earle belong squarely to the political economy camp in the study of chiefdoms, yet this orientation constitutes a minority in Redmond's volume (Spencer, Keegan, Maclachlan and Byrne).

Muller analyzes historical data on the Southeastern chiefs, from the earliest Spanish accounts to the accounts left by French and English voyagers in the 18th century (Chapter 2:55-116). Focusing on the identification of the chief's power, he demonstrates convincingly that the Southeastern society consisted of two ranks: (1) chiefs and their relatives ("caciques") and "principals" (community leaders); and (2) commoners ("plebeians"). For example, among the Natchez in the early 18th century the elite consisted of village chiefs, the high chief, and their families. All of them were called "Suns" while the high chief was the "Great Sun." The number of "Suns" was about 500, or approximately 13% of the total population (pp. 64, 65, based on the description by Bossu). The clothes and jewelry WOrn by the elite revealed the status distinctions. The high chief occupied the top position; he had the largest house in the town and was carried in a litter born by "principals" (pp. 79,80). There could exist both male and female chiefs. However, the chief's authority was not absolute. He frequently had to consult his "principals"; even in the Natchez polity, which sometimes is considered as the most hierarchical society in the historical Southeast, the "Great Sun" made all the decisions together with the council.

In his extensive and detailed analysis of the Mississippian political economy, Muller shows a model of the economic subsystem of the Mississippian society based on the large corpus of the archaeological materials, mainly from his own surveys in the Lower Ohio Valley. A thorough study of biological factors and population dynamics (Chapter 4:141-181), basic settlement patterns (Chapter 5:183-223), agricultural and craft production (Chapters 6 and 7:225-353) and distribution and exchange (Chapter 8:355-384) leads him to conclude that the interpretation of the Mississippian as an urbanized state SOCiety (e.g. O'Brien 1991) is erroneous. The main unit of production was the household, and the production activities were essentially the same from the smallest households to the largest. There was no staple production specialization and professionals existed only in the sector of prestige goods. Muller supposes that such producers

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were themselves of high rank (pp. 352-353). His expert identification of the exchange patterns in Chapter 8 shows that Mississippian elite had little influence over the exchange of "commodities" and non-elite interaction seems to have been much more important in the distribution of goods.

All this data, according to Muller, confirms the "minimalist" view of Mississippian society. He sees little difference between the Mississippian polities in the 11th-15th centuries, during the first European visits (the 16th and 17th centuries) and later, in the 18th century. Muller opposes the widespread view of the catastrophic decline of pre-contact Southeastern cultures. And it is necessary to admit that from a political economy approach, as is implied by Muller, this seems to be logical. The forces and mode of production were the same throughout all the Mississippian and the early part of the Historic period. The only technological innovation occurred in the 17th-18th centuries with the appearance of iron tools. Exchange and distribution also did not change much. But this is only one dimension of the Mississippian cultural system. Muller's argument weakens when he shifts to other issues, such as social and political structure, ideology, etc.

Muller argues against the model of chiefdom dissolution after the European contact and formation of confederations. For him, the Choctaw, Chikasaw, and Creek confederations are not "degenerates," but direct descendants of the Mississippian polities of the 16th-17th centuries. He shows that Southeastern polities of the 18th century had populations of about 20,000, but does not see any considerable difference between these confederations and Early and Middle Mississippian polities, such as Cahokia, Moundville, and Etowah.

However, Muller fails to mention some extremely important factors.

Specifically, the principales described by De Soto were not a monolith category, but consisted of several levels. Spanish conquistadors Juan Pardo and Juan de la Bandera, in their accounts of the Cofitachequi chiefdom (Northeastern Georgia) during the 1560s, described two levels of the elite below the chief: the first consisted of oraias, or "less noble," who might have been in charge of separate villages or groups of several villages; the second level consisted of micos, or "great nobles." The Spaniards counted 80 oratas and only 3 micos who were overseen by the high chief (gran cacique). Besides oratas and micos, there were numerous ynihas or ynanaes (chief's assistants) and yatikas (interpreters and spokesmen) (Hudson 1997:174). A similar picture was observed in the Apalachee chiefdom (North Florida), although there was a difference in the system of titles. The high chief was called nico, and subsidiary chiefs were holatas. Chief's assistants, inija (heniha), performed different functions. For example, some supervised the posting of sentinels and the work in the communal fields, while aiequii served as translators (Hudson 1997:127).

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The settlement patterns reflect this description. For example, the Coosa polity (Northwestern Georgia), studied by Charles Hudson, Marvin Smith, David Hally et al. consisted of at least seven and possibly nine or 10 clusters of sites that constituted chiefdoms, stretching from Chiaha, in present-day Tennessee, down to Talisi, in present-day Alabama. Each cluster included up to eight sites. The radius of these chiefdoms was about 12.5 miles. Considerable distances separated chiefdoms from each other, with wilderness between them, averaging about 20 miles wide. Inside each polity there was considerable cultural and linguistic diversity (Hudson 1985,1997:216,217). Historical documents show that Coosa was the center of a paramount (complex) chiefdom. Its capital was situated at the Little Egypt site, where mound constructions began around AD 1350-1400. The town was about twelve and a half acres in size until after AD 1475 when the site experienced a considerable growth. The population of proper Coosa polity was around 2,500-4,650 (Hudson 1997:215). Settlement hierarchy in the Apalachee "province" consisted of three levels: homesteads, Single-mound centers, and the multimound Lake Jackson site (Ibid.:125).

The very existence of hereditary chiefs is itself a good indicator of hierarchical organization. According to 18th century descriptions, there was nothing like this in the Southeastern confederacies. On the other hand, Muller himself admits that the chiefs could extract food from the communal storage, indicating that their power was actually stronger than the book suggests. Still, Muller writes that the paramount chief's control over subordinated polities was weak. This conclusion is supported by the archaeological data; wide "buffer zones" between site clusters in Northern Georgia suggest that these clusters were basic socio-political units in the Southeast. Hudson also notes that the power of paramount chiefs was "thin," "problematic," and "possibly short-lived" (Hudson 1997:216).

Muller attempts to collect all the data of the earliest European contacts with the Southeast Indians, most of which stem from the numerous accounts of the first Spanish expeditions in this region. As a result, he claims to significantly change our understanding of the history of the South-East, constituting an important contribution to the study of this area. However, it is difficult to avoid the impression that Muller would have attained his valuable contribution even if he had not belonged to the political economy camp. The problem with his interpretation of the data results from his general approach. In Muller's view, a similar political economy means a similar soda-political structure. This is simply not the case. In fact, a thorough reading of this book demonstrates the insufficiency of the purely economical approach.

Unlike Muller, Earle not only exposes the political economy approach in the introductory chapter (pp. 1-16), but consistently applies it

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throughout his monograph. The central notion in his analysis is power strategies. Thus the title of the book, "How Chiefs Come to Power," accurately reflects its content. Using this concept, Earle singles out three types of chiefdoms:

L Hill-fort chiefdoms. In the hill-fort chiefdoms "social power rested primarily on military might ... Individual communities ... hide inside the defensive walls that both defended them from attack and incarcerated them within their social group. Population was concentrated in the largest settlements. Such chiefdoms have little ideological elaboration, with little ceremonial architecture and few elaborate individual burials" (p. 209). Earle classifies the Wanka polities of the Upper Mantaro Valley (Highland Peru) as hill-fort chiefdoms.

2. Prestige-good chiefdoms. "These societies depended on prestige-goods exchange, the wealth of which materialized a ruling ideology and acted as a political currency to finance the leadership ... Such chiefdoms emphasized individuals and the networks that they developed and tried to control. The objects were the physical medium of those far-flung political networks of peer-polity interactions" (p. 209). Earle classifies the societies of Bronze Age Denmark as prestige-good chiefdoms.

3. Staple-finance chiefdoms. " ... Staple-finance chiefdoms demonstrated sustained development and the strengthening of central institutional control that took them to the very edge of state society ... The monuments stood for the collaborative effort of the group organized by its leaders, but there was less emphasis on the individual than on the institutions of power ... In these situations, individuals came to power based on established institutional settings" (p. 210). Earle classifies the pre-contact and early-contact Hawai'i polities as staple-ftnance chiefdoms.

Earle's main objective is to demonstrate the multilinearity of evolution in the archaic world. However, he reduces all the diversity of mediumrange society evolution to the diversity of chiefdom forms. He also argues that the only pathway to the state is through the chiefdom. Another argument supporting the idea of multilinear evolutionary trajectories for Earle is that not all the chiefdoms transformed into states; in fact, a vast majority of them fragmented. Still, the fundamental dynamics of chiefdoms are essentially the same as those of states.

As was already mentioned at the beginning of this review, we have strong doubts about the fruitfulness of this approach. To start with, we would avoid classifying the Wanka and Thy polities as chiefdoms. If we understand the chiefdom, a hi Carneiro, as "an autonomous political unit comprising a number of villages under the permanent control of a paramount chief" (1981:45), then we must admit that in both cases Earle failed to show the presence of the central characteristic of chiefdoms-the permanent control of paramount chiefs over numbers of communities.

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This is especially salient in respect to the Thy region in Denmark. If we utilize the aforementioned understanding of the chiefdoms, it is hardly possible to imagine the chiefdom without a centralized settlement hierarchy. This is actually the way chiefdoms are normally identified by archaeologists. The mere presence of settlement hierarchy does not prove that we are dealing with a chiefdom, but if we do not find it, it seems impossible to speak about chiefdoms. However, Earle himself admits that in Funnel Beaker culture "Settlement evidence is actually minimal ... In Thy, with the exception of one small settlement with two possible houses, no settlements have been securely identified" (p. 24). The data Earle presents portrays a relatively complex but politically decentralized network of communities which could hardly be identified as a chiefdom.

In our opinion, at the first level of analysis, all evolutionary variability can be reduced to two principally different groups: all societies are based on either hierarchical/"vertical" or heterarchical/"horizontal" principles (Bondarenko 1997:12-15, 1998, 2000; Bondarenko and Korotayev 1999a,b, 2000b). These alternatives were distinguished as "hierarchical" vs. "nonhierarchical" (e.g. Bondarenko and Korotayev 2000a), or "hierarchical" vs. "heterarchical" (e.g. Ehrenreich et a1. 1995). In particular, in the evolutionary perspective, the genesis and further transformations of complex societies took significantly different pathways leading to their formation as either hierarchical/"vertical" or heterarchical/"horizontal" polities. In a recent publication regarding the problem of heterarchy, the latter is defined as "the relation of elements to one another when they are unranked or when they possess the potential for being ranked in a number of different ways" (Ehrenreich et al. 1995:3; see also Crumley 1979:144). It is clear that the second version of the understanding of heterarchy is most relevant for the study of the complex societies.

The transformation of Simpler societies into more complex ones does not inevitably result in the appearance of the hierarchically organized chiefdoms but quite often leads to the formation of heterarchical nonchiefdom socio-political organization. In particular, the possible alternatives to the chiefdom in the prehistoric South-West Asia-heterarchical (horizontally oriented) systems of complex acephalous communities with a pronounced autonomy of single family households-have been analyzed recently by Berezkin, who suggests the Apa Tanis as their ethnographic parallel (1994, 1995a,b, 2000). Frantsouzoff finds an even more developed example of this type of polities in ancient South Arabia in Wadi Hadramawt of the 1st millennium Be (1995,1997,2000).

Another alternative to the chiefdom is constituted by the tribal organization. As is well known, the tribe has found itself on the brink of being evicted from the evolutionary models (Townsend 1985:146; Carneiro 1987:760). However, the political forms that are entirely identical with

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what was described by Service as the tribe could be actually found, for example, in medieval and modem Middle East (up to the present); these tribal systems normally comprise several communities and often have precisely the type of political leadership described by Service as typical of the tribe (Service 1971/1962:103, 104; Dresch 1984:39,41, etc.).

The point is that we are dealing here with the type of polity that cannot be identified with bands, village communities (because such tribes normally comprise more than one community), chiefdoms (because they have an entirely different type of political leadership), or, naturally, with states. They cannot be inserted easily in the scheme somewhere between the village and the chiefdom. Indeed, as Carneiro (1970, 1981, 1987, 1991, 2000b, see also his contribution to Redmond's volume reviewed below) has shown, chiefdoms normally arose as a result of the political centralization of a few communities without the stage of the tribe preceding this. On the other hand, a considerable amount of evidence could be produced which suggests that in the Middle East many tribes arose as a result of the political decentralization of the chiefdoms which preceded the tribes in time. It is also important to stress that this type of tribe formation could not in any way be identified with a regression, decline, or degeneration, because political decentralization was often accompanied by an increase (rather than decrease) in the overall social complexity (Korotayev 1995, 1996,1997, 1998,2oo0a,b). Hence, in many respects the tribal systems of the Middle Eastern type appear to be alternatives to, rather than predecessors of, chiefdoms.

At the same time, though hierarchical and heterarchical societies represent distinct evolutionary pathways, this alternativity is not absolutely rigid. In fact, both "vertical" and "horizontal" links may be distinguished in any society (Smith 1985, 2000; Blanton 1998; Marcus and Feinman 1998:11; Levy 2000), including the most primitive, most "egalitarian" ones (Dahrendorf 1970; Rousseau 1985; Trigger 1985:49-51; Hayden and Gargett 1990:5; Gellner 1992; Pritvorov 1995; Artemova 2000a,b; Kradin 2000a; Schweitzer 2000; Wason and Baldia 2000:139, 140). On the other hand, the transition of a particular society from one basic organizational principal to another is quite possible (Crumley 1987:164, 165, 1995:4; Bondarenko and Korotayev 20ooa:5-31, 255-304). This applies not only to the transition from non-hierarchy to hierarchy but vice versa, from hierarchy to non-hierarchy (as it happened, for example, in Rome when the Republic was established and further democratized with the Plebian political victories). In such cases, although the organizational background changes, the overall level of cultural complexity may not only increase or decrease: it may well stay practically the same (for examples see van der Vliet 1987; Ferguson 1991; Korotayev 1993, 1995, 1996; Levy 1995; Lynsha 1998; Weir 1998; Beliaev 2000; Dozhdev 2000; Kowalewski 2000; Kradin 2000b).

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Thus, in the world-historical perspective, the hierarchical and heterarchical evolutionary pathways are equally important and mainstream. Though with the transition from simple to medium-complex societies hierarchical structures tend to supplant heterarchical ones (e.g. the transition from voluntary associations of democratically organized communities to much more rigid and autocratic chiefdoms [see Carneiro's contribution to Redmond's volume reviewed below]), heterarchical political systems do not simply disappear, at any level of cultural complexity. Further, an adequate understanding of human history does not appear to be possible unless one takes those heterarchical alternatives into consideration.

However, at any particular historical moment vertical and horizontal links still play different roles. So, when we have a system of elements which "possess the potential for being ranked in a number of different ways," it seems impossible to speak about the absence of hierarchy. In this case we deal instead with a system of heterarchically arranged hierarchies. Hence, it does not appear reasonable to denote the heterarchy alternative as "hierarchy." We would rather designate it as "homoarchy," which could be defined as "the relation of elements to one another when they possess the potential for being ranked in one way only." Totalitarian regimes throughout history provide many examples of sociocultural situations in which the ruled have no chance to get ranked above the rulers in any possible context. This stands in sharp contrast with, say, an archetypal example of a complex heterarchical system-the civil community (polis) of Athens (Sth-4th centuries BC) where the citizens ranked lower within one hierarchy (e.g. the military one) could well be ranked higher in many other possible respects (e.g. economically, or within the subsystem of civil magistrates). Consequently, it was impossible to say that one citizen was higher than another in any absolute sense.

The Earle's book has a subtitle: The Political Economy in Prehistory.

However, his general approach looks much more complex than that of Muller whose aim to study political economy is also reflected in the title of his book. Earle studies various factors capable of promoting the formation and evolution of chiefdoms. In particular, he emphasizes three such factors: economic, military, and ideological. He concludes that just the first of them is the most fundamental for determining the power strategies and, hence, the evolutionary trajectories of chiefdoms. In the concluding chapter he particularly stresses that "the primary determinant [of the formation and evolution of chiefdoms] appears to have been the nature of the developing political economy" (p. 194, emphasis in the original).

Of course, the political economic approach has value of its own in Cultural Anthropology. But we are sure that it is absolutely insufficient when constructing general models including those of socio-political evolution. While Muller studied particular aspects of concrete societies,

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Earle attempted to create such a model, and limitations of the political economic approach are quite evident in his monograph. Specifically, he evicts the factor of general culture type from the explanatory model, or at least reduces it to the "ideological factor." We are sure that a consideration of the general character and type of a society is essential to an understanding of its political culture. Yet, the political culture of any society determines the human conception of the ideal socio-political model which therefore varies from one culture to another. In this way, the political culture determines the background for the character, type, and forms of politogenesis, including enrolling politogenetic process along either the hierarchical or non-hierarchical evolutionary pathway.

Not only "ideal," but also real social and political institutions are largely the result of conscious and purposive activities, though most often people do not completely realize the global consequences of their personal actions (see, e.g. Emmet 1958; Lewis 1981:209-216; Claessen 1996:215-217, 2000:8; Bondarenko 1991:158-160,1993:189, 191; Ruijter 1995:78; Vasil'ev 1997; Wason and Baldia 2000:138-140; Carneiro 2000a:S6). What is important, however, is that people create new structures (in the social sphere, too) in order to correlate their deeds with their social values, which they usually perceive as the most natural and true.

It has been our intention in the recent Civilizational Models of Politogenesis volume (Bondarenko and Korotayev 2000a) to demonstrate the role of culture in defining the evolutionary pathways that societies take in the course of history. The culture is not the only important factor for this process. Furthermore, culture itself is a result of many variables (ecological, social, economic) which differ from one geographic area and historical period to another. At the same time, the culture factor should not be reduced to what is generally denoted as "ideology," because culture is a precondition for the setting of the socio-political parameters, while ideology is basically a derivative from them. Yet, ideology is one of the most vivid expressions of a given society's general culture peculiarities (the general culture type) in the political sphere.

It is evident that the general culture type is intrinsically connected with its respective modal personality type. On the other hand, the modal personality types corresponding to various civilizations determine their spatial limits and general cultural outlook, including the sphere of political culture and institutions. Thus, we argue that it is possible to distinguish civilizational models of politogenesis. There are many such models, but in the broadest sense all of them belong to the homoarchical or heterarchical sets of pathways.

The fundamental characteristics of modal personality types are transmitted by means of socialization practices which correspond to the value system generaUy accepted in a given society. From this stems the important

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role which the study of the socialization practices could play in the enhancement of our understanding of how the culture determines the politogenetic processes. One may argue, of course, that these are processes of political evolution which determine the evolution of the socialization practices. Yet, quite on a few occasions it seems possible to show that this relationship could be reversed (see Irons 1979:9, 10, 33-35; Ionov 1992:112-129; Bondarenko and Korotayev 2000a:309-312; Korotayev and Bondarenko 2000).

The contributors to Redmond's volume focus on the problem of the origins of chiefdoms. In this sense Earle's title, "How Chiefs Come to Power," could be the subtitle of this book. The authors introduce the concept of chieftaincy, which is defined as "centralized political leadership that operates from time to time among autonomous village societies but that is generally short-lived" (p. 3). Redmond notes that the term chieftain is not so culturally bound as, for example, big man and headman. Although the notion of chieftaincy implies that centralized authority is associated with permanent chiefs. The fundamental distinction is that chieftaincy is a situational leadership which normally occurs in uncentralized communities. Chieftaincy status, like that of big man, is achieved rather than ascribed. Essentially, it can be considered as a transitional (from the acephalous autonomous village) "pre-chiefdom" form of socio-political organization.

One may wonder why it is necessary to introduce this new category to political anthropology. But by accepting Carneiro's model of the chiefdom, we should recognize that the key point of the formation of chiefdoms is that leadership becomes an established institution with the permanent and hereditary chief. Thus, chieftaincy seems to be a very useful tool for the analysis of the process and mechanisms of the chiefs' institutionalization.

The articles in this volume can be divided into two groups. The first group includes papers dealing with the evolution of "tribal" or village societies and the problem of the transformation of chieftaincy into chiefdom. The main question of Redmond's chapter (3), is how Jivaro and Yanomamo leaders through war and competition increased their status and created prerequisites for the institutionalization of their power. Note that some chapters of the volume are devoted to the societies which never became chiefdoms-Pueblo of the Southwestern United States (Winifred Creamer and Jonathan Haas, Chapter 2) and Tupinamba of coastal Brazil (William Sturtevant, Chapter 5).

The second group deals with the evolution and dynamics of the chiefly systems. Spencer (Chapter 4) considers an archaeological example of a South American chiefdom in Venezuela. The rest of the presented models are mainly based on historical sources. Whitehead (Chapter 6) investigates the dynamics of the 15th, 16th and 17th century chiefdoms of the lower Orinoco River and Guayana coast. Their peculiarity is that they were

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hunter-gatherer chiefdoms. Whitehead shows how pre-Hispanic chiefdoms disappeared after around 1540 and new chieftaincies connected to European commerce began to emerge.

Kelekna (Chapter 7) shows that a widespread opinion about the essentially theocratic nature of the chiefdoms is erroneous and in fact it is impossible to distinguish between "military" and "theocratic" chiefdoms. Kurela (Chapter 8) speaks about Muisca chiefdoms of the Columbian Altiplano. Keegan's, Maclachlan's and Byrne's (Chapter 9) subject is Taino society in the Antilas. Milanich (Chapter 10) concentrates his attention on the problem of the complexity among the chiefdoms in Florida. He suggests to distinguish "real" complex chiefdoms from simple chiefdoms which are only "exercising complexity" for a short period. The last chapter, written by Rountree and Turner (Chapter 11), deals with the well-known Powhatan paramount chiefdom in North Virginia. The authors analyze the structure and mechanisms of its functioning.

Carneiro's contribution to Redmond's volume is especially interesting and provoking because it marks the author's departure from his famous circumscription model of chiefdom and state formation. It is difficult to find a paper on state (and chiefdom) formation with a higher citation index than Carneiro's original statement of this model, in "A Theory of the Origins of the State" (1970). It is equally difficult to find a student of this subject who has never experienced the charm irradiated by this simple and elegant model, which promised to explain so much.

Let us first summarize Carneiro's "theory of the origins of the state" using Sanderson's (1990) lucid description:

Carneiro proposes that the key process leading to the state is an ecological one that he calls environmental circumscription. Environmental circumscription exists when societies inhabiting a particular region are confronted with physical barriers to their further geographical expansion. The operation of circumscription can best be understood by looking at a situation in which it does not occur. The Amazon Basin of South America is a major area of uncircumscribed land. The horticultural tribes that have occupied this region of the world have generally remained at a level of political evolution well below that of the state. When confronted by population pressure, it was easy for villages to fission and for one group to move into previously unoccupied land. Thus expansion, rather than evolution, has characterized this region of the world. But in circumscribed zones the expansion of peoples has definite limits. After a point, expansion is no longer feasible because of such physical barriers as deserts, mountain ranges, or bodies of water, and thus village movement is not a possible solution to the problem of population growth. What occurs instead is warfare over land, and this warfare leads to the formation of more powerful and militaristic political systems. Villages begin conquering other villages and subordinating the conquered. Chiefdoms eventually form, but further population growth and warfare lead to the conquest of some chiefdoms by others, thus eventually producing states. As this evolutionary process continues, large empires may be formed out of the conquest of some states by others. Carneiro has also added a few wrinkles to this basic argument to give it a broader explanatory scope. He notes that circumscription may sometimes take the form of social circumscription. This

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occurs when the barriers to movement involve the presence of other societies rather than aspects of the physical environment. He also adds the notion of resource concentration as an occasional factor in political evolution. An area that is particularly abundant in plant and animal resources tends to attract many people to it and permits substantial population growth. When this growth reaches problematic proportions, movement out of the area may be blocked or at least made difficult by the presence of other groups (i.e. social Circumscription is operating) (Sanderson 1990;143).

Although the theory sounds very convincing, we have serious doubts about its validity. Carneiro did his fieldwork in Amazonia, an area heavily depopulated by Old World infectious diseases as well as by colonial wars (e.g. Feinberg 1975). At the time of Carneiro's fieldwork, a defeated group could easily find a suitable place to move to. But was this situation typical of the pre-industrial world?

Of course, environmental circumscription was in no way omnipresent.

Note, however, that in order to explain a few cases of the chiefdom/ state formation in environmentally uncircumscribed regions, Carneiro had to introduce one more type of circumscription, the social one.

Yet, in the "non-depopulated" pre-industrial world it was difficult to find a group which was not circumscribed in at least one of these two ways. Under any economic-technological system in a given region within a finite period of time the population reaches the limits of the carrying capacity of its land. In a normal situation, there are no "free resources." Not every square mile of land is controlled, but every square mile (or even every square meter) of valuable land usually is. An attentive observer of small groups of hunter-gatherers or nomadic herders soon discovers that there is no valuable land available for potential driven off newcomers.

Hence, there is no doubt that thousands of human groups remained in the situation of circumscription for long periods of time within not less than 25,000 years of the humankind "foraging" history. Nevertheless, no states arose as a result of this. This "paradox" appears most saliently in the New Guinea Highlands, a densely populated territory with a five or six thousand year long history of agricultural occupation (e.g. Golson and Hughes 1980; Powell 1982; Shnirel'man 1989:143-145). Many groups existed there for long periods in the situation of both environmental and social circumscription, but no chiefdoms (let alone states) seem to have emerged there before 1975, when the modern state of Papua-New Guinea appeared. Carneiro (1987) went through great pains to explain this apparent paradox. We doubt, however, that there is any paradox at all.

The main flaw of Carneiro's theory of state formation is that it implicitly assumes that aU communities want to conquer their neighboring communities. Only if we accept this assumption, does Carneiro's theory make sense. All the available data, however, seems to show that conquestwarfare culture is a relatively recent phenomenon which does not appear

386 Dmitri D. Beliaev et al.

to be found in independent communities. Indeed, most simple societies participated in some sort of warfare (e.g. Otterbein 1970; Ember and Ember 1992; Pershits et aL 1994:1; van der Dennen 1995). But is every type of warfare aimed at conquest? Definitely not. Conquering and subjugation of enemies was not the goal in the overwhelming majority of wars waged by pre-chiefdom societies. For hunter-gatherers, raids-mainly for the sake of plunder and capturing women-were typical, and as some scholars point out, the conquering of territories never occurred in such cases (Pershits et al. 1994:1:72-130; van der Dennen 1995:1:78-101). In independent agricultural communities and chiefdoms raids were supplemented by wars in the course of which victors resettled to the conquered territory, killing men (often excluding boys) and capturing women. Thus, again, neighboring communities were not treated in what Carneiro would consider the "desirable" way which could lead to chiefdom formation. Both ethnography (see Pershits et al. 1994) and history (Diakonoff 1983; Pavlenko 2000:81, 82) provide numerous vivid examples of this. As a result, Otterbein, who studied military activities in 48 cultures at all the stages of Service's scale (i.e. bands, tribes, chiefdoms, and early states), argued that for only 15 of them either "subjugation and tribute" or "land-for fields, hunting, or grazing" was "the major reason the military organization goes to war." For the rest of the cultures in the sample such reasons were "plunder," "trophies and honors," "revenge," and "defense" (Otterbein 1970:146, 149, ironically, the Foreword to this book was written by Carneirol).

We used available cross-cultural databases to test the statement that the conquest warfare is not available among independent communities and found that conquest warfare is virtually absent among independent communities (see Table 1). What is more, it is entirely absent among simple societies in general. It appears at the chiefdom level, but even for chiefdoms conquest warfare is not at all typical. Although more frequent among complex chiefdoms, conquest war is still relatively infrequent. Only at the state level does it become the predominant warfare type. Thus, conquest warfare should be regarded not as a cause of chiefdom and state formation but rather as one of its outcomes. Land acquisition warfare appears to be a considerably more ancient phenomenon than conquest warfare, although it occurs in only a small minority of independent communities. This type of warfare turns out to be most typical of simple chiefdoms, where it occurs three times more frequently than conquest warfare.

Our cross-cultural tests thus confirm that the type of warfare most typical of independent communities is warfare for the sake of plunder. Note, however that warfare of this type is even more typical among both simple and complex chiefdoms, gradually declining only among states.

Chiefdoms 387
Table 1 Political Centralization" Subjugation of Territory or
People as an Aim of Warfare---Crosstabulation
Number of administrative Subjugation of territory or Tota!
levels over community people as an aim of warfare
0 1
(absent) (present)
0 71 1 72
98.6% 1.4% 100%
1 38 5 43
88.4% 11.6"/" 1000,{.
2 13 9 22
59.1% 40.9% 100%
3 7 11 18
38.9% 61.1% 100°;;,
4 2 9 11
18.2"/;, 81.8% 100'%
Total 131 35 166
78.9% 21.1% 100% Note: p = 0.58, P = 1I.00000000000IlOO009;:. ~ 0.87, P = O.(I(lOOOOOO(l(lOOOOO09. Source: Murdock 1467, 19H1; Murdock et al. 1986, 1990, 1999-2000; WheeJer [Namrnour] 1974; WheeJer [Nammour] 1987; sees 1999, file STDS40.5AV.

To sum up: conquest warfare looks like a meaningful causal explanation for the spread of statehood, and, to a much lesser extent, the proliferation of chiefdoms. However, it plays a much smaller role in the process of state formation than Carneiro suggests. Moreover, the adduced data indicate that conquest warfare played no significant part in the formation of simple chiefdoms.

With these findings in mind, we were very glad to read Carneiro's "What Happened at the Flashpoint?" in Redmond's volume (pp. 18--42), In this paper, Carneiro presents a model explaining how simple chiefdoms could appear in the absence of conquest warfare. In his most recent monograph, Carneiro (2000a) summarizes this model in the following words:

As fighting in circumscribed areas intensified, autonomous villages formed alliances with each other as they thought to protect themselves from any attacks, To lead the fighting force of allied villages, war leaders were either chosen or imposed themselves. These war leaders were often village chiefs who, elevated to carry out a more urgent functions, found their powers greatly augmented. However, once the fighting ceased and villages returned to their normal condition of autonomy, a war chief's power reverted back to what it had previously been. Nonetheless, with each successive war, military leaders tended to enlarge their powers and entrench their position. Moreover, they became increasingly reluctant to surrender these powers when the fighting had stopped, Finally, either through a chiefs

388 Dmitri D. Beliaev et al.

peremptory refusal to relinquish his once-delegated war powers, or (less likely perhaps) through the outright conquest of neighboring villages by the chief of the strongest one, the first permanent chiefdoms were established" (Carneiro 2000a:I84).

In Redmond's volume Carneiro provides a considerable amount of evidence supporting this model. Note that what remains in his description of the new model is the assumption of the warfare importance in the process of chiefdom formation and the word "circumscribed" at the very beginning. However, it seems obvious that the omission of this word would not change anything. Environmental or social circumscription would not play any important role in the operation of this model, which seems, indeed, to be one of the possible models of chiefdom formation.

Did environmental and social circumscription play any role in chiefdom and state formation? Judging by the data discussed above, Carneiro's initial model of chiefdom formation (formation of chiefdoms through the conquest of a few communities by a stronger one in a circumscribed area) is inaccurate. However, this model might explain the formation of some complex chiefdoms. Conquest warfare, though not typical of simple chiefdoms, still occurs in some cases. In such cases, a very tight environmental or social circumscription could indeed facilitate the formation of complex chiefdoms. This factor might have had even more relevance with respect to state formation.

Despite all the expressed criticisms, we believe that the three monographs under consideration constitute a significant contribution to our understanding of chiefdom origins and evolutionary pathways.


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