Chiefdom In The Early Near East: Why It’s So Hard To Identify Them

Author: Kent V. Flannery
The Iranian World: Essays on Iranian Art and Archaeology Presented to Ezat O. Negahban, Edited by Abbas Alizadeh, Yousef Majidzadeh, Sadegh Malek Shahmirzadi, Iran University Press, Tehran, 1999

Abstract:
Rank Societies with loss of village autonomy, usually called chiefdoms, are important as precursors to “first-generation” states. Chiefdoms have proved relatively easy to identify in Mesoamerica and the Andes because of their flamboyant use of sumptuary goods, and their use of chiefly warfare to create multi village polities. They have proved harder to identify convincingly in Iran and Mesopotamia, as conflicting opinions in the recent literature show. Ethnographic data suggest that chiefly societies in the Near East may rely more heavily on face-to-face alliance building and less on warfare than their New World counterparts; their chiefly families may also be characterized more by religious knowledge and piety than by flamboyance and ostentation. Nevertheless, one can use data from 5300-3700 BC to suggest the presence of chiefly families whose authority spanned more than one community; who raided and burned their rivals’ houses; who formes alliances or confederacies with the leaders of neighboring groups; and who buried their infants and children with labor-intensive sumptuary goods. This evidence fails to convince some Near Eastern archaeologists because they are looking for greater social differentiation than most rank societies display.

Bibliography:
Flannery, Kent V., Chiefdoms In The Early Near East: Why It’s So Hard To Identify Them, The Iranian World: Essays on Iranian Art and Archaeology Presented to Ezat O. Negahban, Edited by Abbas Alizadeh, Yousef Majidzadeh, Sadegh Malek Shahmirzadi, Iran University Press, Tehran, 1999, pp 44-63.

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