1st Edition

Ancient Complex Societies

ISBN 9781611321968
Published January 9, 2017 by Routledge
440 Pages 97 B/W Illustrations

USD $49.95

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Book Description

Ancient Complex Societies examines the archaeological evidence for the rise and functioning of politically and socially “complex” cultures in antiquity. Particular focus is given to civilizations exhibiting positions of leadership, social and administrative hierarchies, emerging and already developed complex religious systems, and economic differentiation. Case studies are drawn from around the globe, including Asia, the Mediterranean region, and the American continents. Using case studies from Africa, Polynesia, and North America, discussion is dedicated to identifying what “complex” means and when it should be applied to ancient systems. Each chapter attempts to not only explore the sociopolitical and economic elements of ancient civilizations, but to also present an overview of what life was like for the later population within each system, sometimes drilling down to individual people living their daily lives. Throughout the chapters, the authors address problems with the idea of complexity, the incomparability of cultures, and the inconsistency of archaeological and historical evidence in reconstructing ancient cultures.

Table of Contents

List of Figures

List of Tables


1. Complexity and Its Discontents

2. Human Cultural Institutions: Critical Elements in Complex Society

3. Ancient Systems: From Forager to State

4. Scales of Complexity: Case Studies

5. Southwest Asia: Ancient Mesopotamia and Its Neighbors

6. The Nile Valley of Egypt

7. The Aegean Bronze Age and the Classical World

8. The Indus Valley Civilization

9. Ancient Chinese Civilizations

10. Empires in Southeast Asia

11. The Mississippian System in the American Bottom

12. Ancient Mesoamerican Cultures

13. Andean Civilizations and Empires

14. Why Complex Societies Collapse



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Jennifer C. Ross is a Professor of Art & Archaeology at Hood College in Frederick, MD. She is the Associate Director of the Çadır Höyük excavations and has published on topics ranging from the invention of cuneiform to metallurgical technologies in the ancient Near East.

Sharon R. Steadman is a Professor of Anthropology at the State University of New York College at Cortland.  She has published on the subjects of ancient religions in archaeological context and the archaeology of architecture and has edited several volumes on the archaeology of Anatolia.