Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation



First Advisor

David Willer


In social theory, ancient societies are frequently seen as `traditional' in the sense of being static. If static, there is a problem for theory for we know that, over time, societies have evolved to become more complex. This dissertation proposes a dynamic model for the social structure of the chiefdom based in a synthesis of anthropological and experimentally grounded sociological theory. Its purpose is to explain 1) why the chiefdom is an effective social structure in that it promotes collective action and 2) why the chiefdom becomes increasingly unstable over time. Because of that instability, the chiefdom may stand at the beginning point in the evolution of increasing social structural complexity. This work hypothesizes that attempts to rectify the internal instability inherent in the status lineage structure of the chiefdom lead toward larger and more complex structures including the paramount chiefdom and the state. This dissertation concludes by suggesting that circumscription alone does not produce warfare but rather, status lineages create the internal conditions spurring warfare along with internal transformations that may lead to more complex social organizations.

Included in

Sociology Commons