Center for Behavior, Institutions and the Environment / CBIE Working Papers / A Comparative Ethnoarchaeological Analysis of Corporate Territorial Ownership

A Comparative Ethnoarchaeological Analysis of Corporate Territorial Ownership



Ecological models are a fundamental tool that archaeologists use to clarify our thinking about the processes that generate the archaeological record. Typically, arguments reasoned from a single model are bolstered by observing the consistency of ethnographic data with the argument. This is often referred to as model validation, and establishes that an argument is reasonable. In this paper, we move beyond validation by comparing the consistency of two arguments reasoned from different models that may explain corporate territorial ownership with data from a large sample of ethnographic cases. Our results suggest that social dilemmas are an under appreciated mechanism that can drive the evolution of corporate territorial ownership. When social dilemmas emerge, the costs associated with provisioning the public goods of information on resources or, perhaps, common defense create situations in which human foragers gain more by cooperating to recognize corporate ownership rules than they lose. Our results also indicate that societies who share a common cultural history are more likely to recognize corporate ownership, and there is a spatial dynamic in which societies who live near each other are more likely to recognize corporate ownership as the number of near-by groups who recognize ownership increases. Our results have important implications for investigating the coevolution of territorial ownership and the adoption of food production in the archaeological record.

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Published December 5, 2014

Jacob Freeman, Utah State University

John M. Anderies, Arizona State University, School of Sustainability/School of Human Evolution and Social Change