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The Evolution of Social Ranking on the Northwest Coast of North America

Kenneth M. Ames
American Antiquity
Vol. 46, No. 4 (Oct., 1981), pp. 789-805
DOI: 10.2307/280106
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/280106
Page Count: 17
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The Evolution of Social Ranking on the Northwest Coast of North America
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Abstract

The small, hierarchically organized societies on the Northwest Coast provide excellent examplex of the evolution of social complexity in nonagricultural contexts and thus can serve as an important testing ground for current models. Available archaeological data indicate that ranking appeared on the coast between 3,000 and 2,000 years ago. It is argued here that ranking developed from the interaction of two systems constraints and two processes: subsistence specialization, environmental circumscription and population growth, and promotion. Ranking develops because, given certain conditions, it provides both improved monitoring of the environment and improved responses to environmental shifts through information flow.

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