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A Mentality for Monumentality? Monumental Architecture and Hierarchical Social Organization on Subtropical and Tropical Islands

Author(s): Thomas Leppard ; Scott Fitzpatrick

Year: 2016

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Summary

The appearance of megaliths, monumental architecture, large-scale earthworks, and sculpture in many prehistoric island societies in the Pacific and Mediterranean is conspicuously absent from the insular Caribbean. From the latte stones, columnar basalt complexes, artificial islands, Yapese stone money, Easter Island moai, marae, and earthworks found across Micronesia and Polynesia to the talayots, taulas, sesi, and Maltese ‘temples’ of the Mediterranean, small and sometimes remote islands lacking state-level social organization in both contexts seem to have been homes for traditions of megalithic building and monumental display. Why these did not manifest themselves in the Caribbean, a region similar in size to the Mediterranean and surrounded by many continental cases of highly complex and monumentalizing societies? In this paper we explore insular monumentalism as potentially indicative of patterning in the social organization which necessarily underlies it, and consider why two of the world’s major small-island environments—but not a third—might have tended to promote strategies of significant competitive emulation and conspicuous display. In doing so we tentatively focus on demographic trajectories and thresholds in the context of insular resource-poverty and environmental fragility, in conjunction with other factors such as geological composition and distribution.


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A Mentality for Monumentality? Monumental Architecture and Hierarchical Social Organization on Subtropical and Tropical Islands. Thomas Leppard, Scott Fitzpatrick. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403370)


Keywords


Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America