Aggregation in Agriculture and the Social Hierarchy Lived Together


Researchers 155 examining the evolution of Southeast Asia and the Pacific community revealed that the intensification of agricultural activities did not lead to social stratification, and that agriculture and social hierarchies actually developed together. The study also illuminates how social and material factors direct human cultural evolution.

The question of how and when human societies become hierarchical has long been a topic of debate in the field of cultural evolution. Some believe that the material changes in a society's resources or presence strategies lead to the theory that this society has a more hierarchical scheme, while others believe that the hierarchy is far more than the consequence of these changes. Many think that the answer to the problem lies somewhere between these two opposing poles. To test all these assumptions, a group of 155 researchers from the Max Planck Institution of Human Historical Science and Auckland University reviewed 155 Austrian populations, and the results were published in PNAS .

Different societies with similar cultural roots

The societies surveyed live geographically from Taiwan to New Zealand, from Madagascar to Easter Island. The diversity of societies in terms of social stratification and agricultural activities makes them ideal for this research.

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Quentin Atkinson, author of the Max Planck Institute for Human Historical Science and Auckland University, said, "The Pacific is the most appropriate place to conduct research on this subject. The Pacific is a gigantic natural testing area, with hundreds of island-spread nets with different political institutions and forms of presence. We know that these peoples have different cultural origins, and they can understand it from the ground up. "

Societies under examination vary from egalitarian to rigid classes. The agricultural systems in the premodern world vary from the least to the most intricate. For example, the rice terraces built by the Ifugao tribe living in the Philippines are regarded as "the eighth wonder of the world."

Distribution of intensive agricultural activities and high social strata in societies examined. Each circle, shown as full, represents one of the 155 societies surveyed, and the colors indicate what features (intensive farming, social stratification, stratification, etc.) are seen in these societies.
C: Sheehan et al. Intense Farming Activities and the Socio-Political Hierarchy Co-Development PNAS (2018)

Intensive farming activities and social hierarchy

The results of the research showed that there is no simple cause-effect relationship between the social form of agriculture and the rise of the hierarchy. In most cases the concentration of agricultural activities has emerged with socio-political hierarchy, but in other cases they have developed independently of each other. Therefore, it is not always the case that the concentration in agriculture has already come to fruition as the reason behind the formation of hierarchies. Atkinson notes that social evolution is not supported by material changes, but by the idea that material changes on the periphery lead to social evolution. However, the findings are shaking up the truth of this idea, indicating that the reading of causality is actually twofold.

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Olivier Sheehan, a research writer from Max Planck Institute of Human Historical Science and Auckland University, says, "The formation of the concentration and hierarchy of bulgarian agriculture suggests that they encourage each other's development as part of a feedback cycle, perhaps including population growth. These results also demonstrate that social and political factors are the most important, primary and most important factors of cultural evolution, secondary to the process. "

Professor Russell Gray, co-author of the research and Executive Director of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Human Historical Sciences, says, "This research once again demonstrates the effectiveness of computational phylogenetic methods to prove causal assumptions about human history."

Researchers hope to conduct similar research in other regions and other cultural contexts in the future.

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Science Daily. March 19, 2018.

Article : 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, 115 (14), 3628-3633.


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