The cultural evolution of material wealth-based inequality at Bridge river, British Columbia

Anna Marie Prentiss, Thomas A. Foor, Guy Cross, Lucille P. Harris, Michael Wanzenried

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39 Scopus citations


A fundamental problem fur anthropological archaeidogy lies in defining anil explaining the evolutionary origins of social inequality. Researchers have offered a range of models emphasizing variability in the roles of managers, aggrandiz.ers. ecological variability, and historical contexts. Recent studies suggest that the form of emergent inequality may have varied significantly between groups, implying that pathways In inequality may have varied as well. Unfortunately it has been difficult to test many of these models using archaeological data given their requirements for fine-grained assessments of spu-tiolemporal variability in many data classes. Retail research at the Bridge River site in British Columbia provides the opportunity to explore the utility of a range of explanatory miniéis associated with early .social iiieijtiality. Results of the study suggest thai inequality, measured as significant variability in accumulation of a range of material wealth items, came late to the Bridge River site (ca. 1200-1300 cal. B.P.) and was associated witli a per i oil oj demographic packing and appar-em declining access to some critical subsistence resources. Assessment ofinterhousehold variability in demography, wealth accumulation, and occupational longevity suggests thai markers of significant affluence manifested only in newly established houses. An important inijilication is that material wealth-based inetptality may not liave been hereditary in nature at Bridge River during the period prior to 1100 cal. B.P.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)542-564
Number of pages23
JournalAmerican Antiquity
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2012


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