The Rise, Spread, and Dominion of Human Institutions

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 81st Annual Meeting, Orlando, FL (2016)

Populations organize into complex systems to resolve the myriad of problems they come across in their daily life. These include resolving basic subsistence concerns, maintaining a stable decision-making apparatus, defending against foreign aggressors, resolving existential issues associated with their place in the cosmos, etc. New Institutional Economics (North 1991, 2009) proposes that these organizational principles result in a number of social institutions that once formed have the structural autonomy to preserve themselves, perpetuate their agendas, and in some cases expand aggressively. Under this approach, social scientists increasingly study present-day institutions to clarify the mechanisms by which they develop and evolve. To this aim, archaeology provides us with an unparalleled appreciation for institutional change because it allows us to reconstruct how and why specific institutions developed in different populations with various social conditions and through very long sequences of time. This symposium will take advantage of the comparative potential intrinsic to the study of prehistoric societies to clarify why specific institutions appeared at particular moments in the developmental history of some populations, what functional purpose they served, how they created ethos that cemented their place within the broader social zeitgeist, and why some expanded aggressively within and across populations.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-7 of 7)

  • Documents (7)

  • The Andean road a long trajectory of a social institution. (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Giancarlo Marcone.

    Infrastructures like the Qhapaq Ñan or Inka roads can be viewed as social institutions that are the result of a complex network of social interactions between populations and their environments and fulfill several local social needs. This vision opposite the ones that understand that centralized government is necessary for local level communities to maintain certain infrastructure, like irrigation canals and roads. The Inka road system is an intricate network of Tambos, administrative centers...

  • Crafting and ordering the sacred space: Landscape, religion and political organization of the Manteño Society of Costal Ecuador. (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Florencio Delgado Espinoza.

    Powerful chiefly elites seem to have been always concern with “crafting “ themes of ideological order to convince followers of their divinity character and justify being at the top of social and political hierarchy. This concern in some instances have resulted in the “institutionalization of belief systems forged by these elites. In coastal Ecuador, prior the Spanish conquest, the Manteño society developed a religion system that was based on the creation of a sacred landscape, around which, they...

  • Mortuary Theatrics and Chiefly Power in Panama and Costa Rica (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Scott Palumbo. Laura Brodie.

    This paper explores the mechanisms by which sumptuary art was deposited in mortuary contexts in parts of southern Central America. Rather than signal the existence of ”eliteness” or chiefly office, it is argued that the production and procurement of mortuary art was one feature of a factionalized political landscape. The burial of staggering quantities of this artwork may be interpreted as deflationary attempts to limit the capital available to rivals. Such practices may have promoted a...

  • The Politics of Identity and Affiliation in a Middle Jequetepeque Valley Community (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Robyn Cutright.

    This paper draws on recent research at Ventanillas, a community in the middle Jequetepeque Valley in northern Peru, to explore how local communities negotiate ethnic identity and political affiliation at the outskirts of large scale polities. On one hand, Ventanillas could be easily understood as the easternmost outpost of the coastal Lambayeque and Chimú states. On the other hand, elite households seem to have been drawing on coastal and highland practices, hosting household-based feasts and...

  • Prehispanic Settlement Patterns of the Sogamoso Valley (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Sebastian Fajardo Bernal.

    The results from a settlement pattern study covering 123 square kilometers in the Sogamoso Valley in the northern part of the Muisca area are presented. The survey revealed that sedentary occupation there began during the Herrera period (400 BC-800 AD) and consisted only of a few small hamlets and some scattered farmsteads. After 800 AD population increased dramatically, reaching a few thousand inhabitants organized in several local communities within the survey area. The largest of these local...

  • Preliminary Results from "the Role of Religious Institutions in Pre-Columbian America Data Analysis Project" (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Alexander Martin. Felipe Sol.

    The past couple of decades have seen a marked rise in behavioral and social science research from evolutionary psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists looking to clarify what motivated the development and spread of religious institution throughout the world. These approaches tend to highlight the functional “prosocial” role that religion played in social development, citing its character as an integrative social device, as mitigator of external social stress, or as an enforcer of more...

  • Regional Demographics: Growth, Mobility and Development in the ancient populations of Cundinamarca and Boyacá Regions, Colombia, South America. (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Francisco Romano. Sergio Castro. Sergio González.

    This paper deals with population dynamics and changes in ancient pre-Hispanic societies settled in the regions of Villa de Leiva, Fuquene and Funza from the Cundinamarca and Boyacá basin, Colombia, South America. Based on these three different regional datasets, this research wants to contribute to analytical modeling development in order to understand population dynamics. Since a comparative perspective among nearby regions we accounting for substantial variability in demographic past behavior...