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Social inequality before farming?

Multidisciplinary approaches to the investigation of egalitarian and non-egalitarian social relationships in prehistoric hunter-gatherer societies
When Jan 22, 2018 09:00 AM to
Jan 23, 2018 05:00 PM
Where McDonald Institute Seminar Room, Courtyard Building, Downing Street
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Attendees Registration required
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Understanding the evolutionary roots of human social institutions and more particularly, the conditions underlying the emergence of hierarchy and social inequality, is one of the big issues in prehistoric archaeology and evolutionary anthropology alike. While status hierarchies according to gender, age, skills or knowledge dictate what is permitted or obligated in social interactions, social inequality refers to a social structure in which higher-ranking individuals have priority of access to resources relative to others. Ever since the recognition that the origins of human social institutions can be traced throughout 2.6 million years of culture history ʻsocial evolutionʼ is among the most interesting topics to be addressed through prehistoric archaeology.

Studies on the emergence of non-egalitarian relationships and the various pathways that human societies have moved toward hierarchical structure and organisation have a long tradition in the social sciences. For much of the twentieth century, the emergence of human social inequality was seen as the outcome of the domestication of plants and animals by agricultural communities in relation with the ability to produce food surpluses. However, as more evidence becomes available, and advances in theory provide a better appreciation of what social inequality means, questions, methods and master-narratives underwent fundamental changes during the last decade.

The conference differs from the classic approach of telling Prehistory from the point of view of a directional increase of inequality towards agriculture. Instead, it will be non-dogmatical and multidisciplinary in scope and it will explore both social inequality and egalitarianism from different angles by bringing together specialists from different disciplines: prehistoric archaeology, cultural anthropology & computational modelling. The conference aims to revisit the pre-agricultural record of Europe and further afield in the light of recent advances brought about by cross-cultural studies of extant hunter-gatherer societies, as well as by formal theory and quantitative modelling. By bringing together both internationally recognised experts from a variety of disciplines, as well as early career researchers, the workshop will create continuity with previous studies and point out new ways for future archaeological research.

Programme for the event

Registration required by 8th January 2018

Anyone intending to attend the conference should register. Latecomers might not get access to the conference room due to space constraints (i.e. limited number of available seats) at the venue.




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