Mediterranean Archaeology Collaborative Specialization (MACS) Program Lecture Series presents…
Dr. Thomas P. Leppard
Department of Anthropology, Florida State University
"Social Complexity and Social Inequality in the Prehistoric Mediterranean"
The Mediterranean in the Mid-Late Holocene witnesses the emergence of socially complex societies, societies that differ radically from those of the 'pristine' Old World states in their environmental organization. How can we account for this? I suggest that the model developed by Thomas Piketty, in his analysis of emergent wealth inequality in late modernity, has an unappreciated applicability in explaining the development of unequal social systems at larger time scales. I argue that Mediterranean environments are equivalent to the low-growth environments that he demonstrates exaggerate the speed at which wealth inequality grows. This has explanatory potential in the context of the otherwise problematic appearance of social complexity in low-growth environments, which, on the basis of current models orbiting around surplus, we might expect to discourage such emergence. Recognizing that highly varied ecological and economic pathways can lead to ostensibly very similar outcomes poses challenges to how we model emergent complexity in comparative perspective.