Does the Site-Size Hierarchy Concept Mask the Complexity of Urban-Hinterland Relations?

Author(s): Monica Smith; Rabindra Kumar Mohanty

Year: 2017


The site-size hierarchy concept was born of a marriage between a long-standing interest in the emergence of the state and the mid-twentieth-century development of systematic regional survey projects. The assumption of equivalence between sites and territorial complexity facilitated an intellectual investment in survey data beyond a mere tally of sites towards an analysis of the way in which political administrations functioned at the landscape scale. The resultant easy equivalence of four-tiered site size hierarchies as characteristic of states, and three-tiered hierarchies as indicative of chiefdoms, has become a standard mode of comparative description, so much so that the original formulators of the concept are no longer cited. Yet everything about the site-size rubric, from the reliability of surface-survey data to the recognition that small sites are sometimes quite powerful political entities, should prompt a re-evaluation. Using evidence from eastern India where surveys and excavations have focused on social and economic relationships among different-sized sites, the paper examines the way in which visible areal dimensions are only one measure of regional political integration. Territorial interactions among population centers are likely to be more varied than simple hierarchical models allow, encompassing the potential to identify heterarchical, corporate, and situational-network configurations.

Cite this Record

Does the Site-Size Hierarchy Concept Mask the Complexity of Urban-Hinterland Relations?. Monica Smith, Rabindra Kumar Mohanty. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430554)


Geographic Keywords
South Asia

Spatial Coverage

min long: 59.678; min lat: 4.916 ; max long: 92.197; max lat: 37.3 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14472