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Early State Dynamics as Political Experiment

Henry T. Wright
Journal of Anthropological Research
Vol. 62, No. 3 (Fall, 2006), pp. 305-319
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20371027
Page Count: 15
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Early State Dynamics as Political Experiment
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Abstract

The emergence of states is an enduring focus for anthropologists. Identifying when and under what circumstances this political transformation has occurred in independent cases is necessary if we wish to evaluate competing ideas explaining the origins of states. This has proved difficult, however, in part because the process is not easy to understand with largely archaeological evidence, but more importantly because it is not a unitary and rapid process. Study of different trajectories toward more complex political organization in Madagascar--where we have an understanding based on archaeology, ethnohistory, and ethnography--provides an illustration of the complexities of what may be termed an experimental process. In turn, viewing of earlier trajectories of state emergence in Mesopotamia and Mesoamerica as series of interrelated political experiments may also resolve long-standing problems in dealing with these developments.

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