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Title: Modelling the evolution of socio-political complexity
Author: Williams, A.
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2019
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The level of organisation required to maintain cohesion in the vast societies we live in today is unprecedented in our past. In this thesis I look into why human societies began to shift from the small-scale groups which characterises the vast majority of human past, into the large-scale entities most of us currently live in. Several ideas have been proposed to explain why many different features of social complexity began to coalesce together in some areas of the world before others, each with some level of support from the archaeological record. In this thesis I have taken a different approach. I rigorously test one hypothesis for its logical consistency before applying it to archaeological data by formalising it as an agent-based model. The hypothesis described by Robert Carneiro (1970, 2012a) suggests that the more limited population movement is through environmental, resource, or social circumscription, the more likely complex societies are to form. By constructing agent-based models from this hypothesis I can show the conditions under which this statement is true, and have identified several areas where assumptions were not made explicit in the original hypothesis. By adapting the models to correspond with the conditions of the Valley of Oaxaca in highland Mexico, I show the extent to which the circumscription theory may explain the emergence of social complexity there and where the gaps in our knowledge lie. In creating and testing an agent-based model of the circumscription hypothesis I have shown how agent-based models may be used in archaeology to deepen our understanding of verbal theories and identified conditions which could have intensified the emergence of complex societies around the world.
Supervisor: Mesoudi, A. ; Young, A. Sponsor: Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: social complexity ; agent-based modelling ; Oaxaca