An Explosion of Complexity: Ranked Societies in the Old and New Worlds The Past in Perspective 14
Ranked Societies in the Old and New Worlds • Complexity in Prehistoric America North of Mexico • Northwest Coast of North America • Great Zimbabwe • Issues and Debates • Case Study Close-up • Summary
Complexity in Prehistoric America North of Mexico • The Mound Builders of North America: Earliest Manifestations • To date, the oldest example of mound building can be seen at the Watson Brake site in Louisiana (Saunders et al. 1997). • Moving the amount of earth necessary to produce the monuments at Watson Brake require the kind of large, coordinated labor force that is a hallmark of cultural complexity. • The mounds were developed in the absence of an agricultural food base because of the rich local food base.
Complexity in Prehistoric America North of Mexico • Intensification of Complexity: Adena and Hopewell • Beginning about 2,800 years ago and centered in the Ohio River valley, the Adena began constructing conical mounds of earth in which a religious and perhaps economic and social elite were buried. • About 2200 A.D., a different burial-mound-building group, the Hopewell, appeared with its own unique set of artifacts (Lepper 1995a). • The major river valleys in which the Hopewell lived are enormously rich habitats and the Hopewell were expert at exploiting the wild food produce of their region.
Complexity in Prehistoric America North of Mexico • The Mississippian Temple Mound Builders • With the decline in Hopewell, a cultural pattern evolved in the American Midwest and Southeast that included the construction of large ceremonial and population centers. • The pooled labor of a sizable surrounding population was called upon by the religious elite to construct large truncated pyramids of earth. • It now appears that the Mississippi Valley and Southeast were the centers of an emerging Native American civilization.
Complexity in Prehistoric America North of Mexico • Cahokia • Cahokia was a central place in a three-tiered hierarchy of communities. • Cahokia was at the apex of the sociopolitical pyramid. • The second level of communities had a few small mounds and may have been the villages of secondary chiefs. • The bottom tier of sites includes numerous farmsteads. • Craft production was centralized at Cahokia.
Complexity in Prehistoric America North of Mexico • The American Southwest • At approximately 2000 B.P. a maize-based agriculture replaces the traditional foraging subsistence systems. • The best known of these cultures were the Ancestral Puebloan, or Anaszi, the Mogollon, the Hohokam, and the Sinaqua.
Complexity in Prehistoric America North of Mexico • Hohokam • From A.D. 700 to close to A.D. 1000, the Hohokam settlement focused on the major river systems of southern Arizona. • The Hohokam irrigation network north of the Salt River consists of 50 large, primary artificial water channels, hundreds of secondary arteries, and a greater number of smaller irrigation ditches feeding individual fields (Reid and Whittlesey 1997:76).
Complexity in Prehistoric America North of Mexico • Hohokam • Hohokam material culture provides evidence of its complexity. • The Hohokam maintained a trading system. • Most individual Hohokam villages consisted of multiple sets of separate structure clusters called courtyard groups. • They constructed residential compounds called “Great Houses.”
Complexity in Prehistoric America North of Mexico • Mogollon • The Mogollon lived in the highlands of eastern Arizona and New Mexico. • They appear in the archeological record by about A.D. 200. • They lived in impermanent villages characterized by small pit-houses. • Sometime after A.D. 650, they began to supplement their diet by faming. • After A.D. 1300, they settled at those places that offered good agricultural land. • By A.D. 1400 they lost their separate identity and merged with other farmers in the Southwest.
Complexity in Prehistoric America North of Mexico Map of room distribution at Grasshopper Pueblo, a Mogollon culture site in Arizona. Insert Figure 14.16 (old figure 14.15)
Complexity in Prehistoric America North of Mexico Locations of the Great Houses of Chaco Canyon, in New Mexico. Insert Figure 14.17 (old figure 14.16)
Complexity in Prehistoric America North of Mexico • Ancestral Puebloan • The largest prehistoric pueblos and incredible settings characterize the Ancestral Puebloans (Anasazi). • About 2,000 years ago the Ancestral Puebloans developed a subsistence system. • Florescence of Ancestral culture occurred after A.D. 1000. • A burst of social and political complexity is demonstrated by the construction of monumental residential structures, remarkable cliff dwellings, and enormous ceremonial buildings.
Complexity in Prehistoric America North of Mexico • Northwest Coast of North America • Early European observers noted that the inhabitants of the Northwest Coast developed a complex political system headed by powerful, hereditary chiefs and they lived in a stratified society. • Increased prestige and status was achieved by redistributing excess wealth and not by hoarding it. • Gave it away in enormous celebrations called potlatches. • Northwest Coast economies were not based on agriculture. • The natural environment of the coast was so productive, it enabled food surplus without agriculture.
Great Zimbabwe • The Glory of Zimbabwe • Great Zimbabwe itself consists of an impressive set of stone-brick structures that likely also served as a ceremonial center. • Great Zimbabwe is the largest of close to 200 settlements built in the same style. • Early archaeology at Great Zimbabwe centered on the great enclosures. • By one interpretation, Great Zimbabwe was the capital of a far-reaching chiefdom. • The walls tell us that enormous power was invested in the elite.
Great Zimbabwe Site map of Great Zimbabwe. Insert Figure 14.24 (old figure 14.20)
Great Zimbabwe Archaeological sites in southern Africa associated with Great Zimbabwe. Insert Figure 14.25 (old figure 14.21)
Issues and Debates • Is the State Inevitable? • Just as social and political complexity itself was not an inevitable development in the historical trajectories of all people, rank societies or chiefdoms did not lead inevitably to state societies.
Issues and Debates • The Myth of the Mound Builders • As a general pattern, Europeans denied civilized status to many of the non-European people they encountered in their exploration of the world. • When they discovered the mounds left by Native Americans, they concocted a myth that a vanished race had built the mounds and manufactured the beautiful artifacts found in association with them.
Issues and Debates • What Happened to the Ancestral Puebloans? • Mesa Verde was abandoned in the beginning of the 14th century. • A computer simulation shows that changes in yearly rainfall (which lowered the yield of maize) caused the population to decline. • The researchers suggest that the final abandonment of the valley was a conscious choice on the part of residents.
Case Study Close-up • Chaco Anasazi • Archaeologist Lynne Sebastian (1992) suggests an explanation for the development of complexity as it relates to the Chaco Anasazi). • For a long time, farming supplement the subsistence system in this region. • The Southwest is prone to prolonged periods of drought. • To overcome such a problem, the people overproduced food. • The surplus could then be stored for distribution in bad crop years.
Case Study Close-up • Chaco Anasazi (continued) • The distribution of surplus food in bad years resulted in a large population being obligated to the people at Chaco who produced, stored, maintained, and distributed the food. • Roads were built connecting the main settlements in Chaco • An extensive trading network is evidence by the use of exotic raw materials. • Some of the material culture, especially the pottery, was quite elaborate and sophisticated.
Summary • Complex societies developed in places where a food surplus could be produced allowing for the development of wealth which could then be concentrated in the hands of an elite rank or class. • In some world areas, the development of social complexity, political inequality, and the concentration of wealth culminated in the evolution of state societies.
Summary • The burial and temple mound builders of the Midwest and Southeast, the pueblo builders of the American Southwest, the native People of the northwest coast of North America, and the builders of Great Zimbabwe are just a few examples of the various expressions of cultural complexity that developed in the ancient world.