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Anthro 150

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Anthro 150
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Archeological and anthropological data and theories have supported the idea that all human societies have developed along a universal “evolutionary” trajectory. Human societies started as small and egalitarian, then transitioned to large and socially complex. This evolution from “foragers” to “states” has paved the way for various theories about the progression of the human race. In Yoffee’s article, “Too Many Chiefs?” he discussed the idea of neo-evolutionism. He describes neo-evolutionism as being a stepladder model of bands turning into tribes, then chiefdoms, and finally states (Yoffee 1993). This model has been used for the past three decades, and has helped archeologists research the early states. Despite its benefits when investigating the rise of early states, this model has been rejected and critiqued by many people. Some anthropologists reject this theory due to their inability to see evolution on one trajectory. Those who reject neo-evolutionism allow for more informative theories of social change and evolution. The idea that all human societies develop along a universal “evolutionary” trajectory can be proved using a new social evolutionary theory discussed in Yoffee’s article, “Too Many Cheifs?”
Yoffee breaks down the key components of the new social evolutionary theory and relates them to neoevolutionism. He shows that while taking the idea of a trajectory into account, the new social evolutionary theory does not rest solely on relation of “types” of archeological domains (Yoffee 1993). An idea that different types of societies can coexist together while all making progress towards a state formation is one that makes much more sense. All groups of people that started as bands and in kinship societies eventually evolved into the state societies we have today. The advancements societies made over time can be seen in archeological data. While all the advancements were either socially or economically created outside the kinship system, it began the early phases of the evolutionary trajectory (Yoffee 1993). Yoffee’s article shows the transition of chiefdoms into states. Yoffee 1993 discusses the heterodox claim that ethnographic chiefdoms lie in a different evolutionary line from states (Yoffee 1993). The growth of complexity is all on one large trajectory of progression and proves that this claim cannot be true. The ancient civilization of Mesopotamia has developed along a trajectory. Throughout the semester, we have focused on Mesopotamia because it is the basis of the first city. Before the state societies emerged, the use of economics and trade were still in existence. However, as these state societies began to emerge, trade was being used more frequently. Trading was becoming more complex, and needed to be contained. Trading created a rapid transition from a simplistic dynamic to a multi-tear society (Scarre and Fagan 2008). The evolution of the city-states looking at Mesopotamia shows people coming together for opportunity and using their specializations to produce for larger groups rather than their previous kinship system. As the use of specialization increased, more and more people had to give up their independence in order to work with a group (Sugerman 9/16). The households were in control of specialization in Mesopotamia and South America, while the elites controlled long distance trade. This was a very gradual process as the ancient people of this time figured out what worked best in regard to social structure, farming, trade, and power dispersion. As a result of urbanization and evolution, Egypt wanted to gain power and resources. In order to do this, they decided to establish colonies up the Euphrates River in Nubia. Being able to receive power and resources motivated Egypt to take over Nubia (Adams 1984). This relationship is an example of imperialism, or extending one’s power and enforcing one’s culture through idea or force. Imperialism began to spread during the New Kingdom, forcing religious and social ideologies. Nubia built temples and pyramids to honor the Egyptian kings and their own people and their relationship changed into an agreement of trading. Viewing this on a trajectory, by the third millennium about 80% of all settlements were cities (Adams, 1984).
The idea of power and the division of it is very important when looking at how state societies came about. Power, political power, and societal power must be present in order for states to emerge (Yoffee 1993). These three forms of power as considered integral to an evolutionary trajectory (Yoffee 1993). As the society grew in complexity the members had to respond with ways to filtrate that power and come up with community based power structures. These power structures evolved on a trajectory fulfilling the needs of the community as they advanced and became more specific and specialized. Today, we continue on this same trajectory. Societal advancements such as technology for example continue us on the path of evolving whereas power shifts into the newest technological gain and the specialization that it adds to our society. The standardization of record keeping and writing is another way one can understand evolution on a progressive path. Emergence of writing in early Mesopotamia allowed for advancements in the intellectual level of the human race. These writing first began with city-seals, tokens imprinted on tablets, which showed the beginning of economic transactions amongst city-states (Sugerman, 9/28). These city-seals being brought from state to state and used for trade and economical purposes show a relation among states which was one of the points of the new social evolutionary theory (Yoffee, 1993). The idea that societies communicated with one another shows a mutual progression. These city-seals, though at first where very simple, evolved through time into a much more complex and abstract system (Sugerman, 9/30). Recording their data allows archeologists and anthropologists to interpret written documents. Yoffee’s rule, that you need archeological analysis of archeological data (Yoffee, 1993), can be applied when it comes to writing because it is tangible archeological data showing progression of the relation between states. These states, now being able to write, could share ideas and spread these ideas across longer distances, allowing up and coming cities to grow. This shows that gradually the states progressed together. In conclusion, the archeological data and analysis of that data by archeologists and anthropologists can prove that all human societies develop along a universal “evolutionary” trajectory from small and egalitarian to large and socially complex. Applying the information that one finds in this data to the new social evolutionary theory it can be found that both probability of growth and relation between states attributed to the progression along a continuum (Yoffee, 1993). Though many archeologists critic the neo-evolutionism for having a far too holistic viewpoint, that change occurred at same time, pace and direction (Yoffee, 1993), one can break this viewpoint down into seeing certain parts of society changing simultaneous. For example ancient societies evolved with one another, through the spread of writing and the birth of trade in Mesopotamian city-states. The new social evolutionary theory can be used to take the idea of a trajectory and apply it to more than just the overall picture of the stepladder approach. Rather breaking it down and looking at each new idea and development of society as it is growing in complexity, it can be seen that a universal trajectory forms as we progress as a human race.

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