Weather, resources linked to slavery

Dec 17, 2005

An Australian study says inconsistent weather and spotty resources prevented inequality from emerging in some early hunter-gatherer societies.

However, pre-colonial indigenous societies of the northwest coast of North America and the American southeast are notable for their marked social hierarchies, including chiefdoms and, in some cases, slavery.

"The conditions for the development of marked inequality -- in North America -- included reliable and prolific resources such as salmon, relatively high population densities, and the defense of territories and their resources," says Ian Keen of Australian National University.

Keen compares complex hunter-gatherer societies in North America and Australia, and despite considerable variation in environments and resources, nowhere in Australia did "enduring inequality" such as ranked lineage or chiefly office prevail.

However, Australian Aboriginal societies on the tropical northern coast of Australia were marked by "transient inequality" arising from high levels of polygyny, with some older men claiming more than 20 wives.

"The major constraint on the development of enduring inequality was the unpredictability of climates and resources," Keen writes in current Anthropology.

Copyright 2005 by United Press International

Explore further: Sex marks the spot – treasure trove of images reveal life in 1960s red light district

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

How new social movements take root

Sep 24, 2014

Contemporary movements, such as those initiated after the recent shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., can be born seemingly overnight in the digital age. UA researchers point to several factors.

Modern population boom traced to pre-industrial roots

Sep 02, 2014

The foundation of the human population explosion, commonly attributed to a sudden surge in industrialization and public health during the 18th and 19th centuries, was actually laid as far back as 2,000 years ...

Recommended for you

Strong neighborhood ties can help reduce gun violence

40 minutes ago

The bonds that tie a neighborhood together can help shield community members from gun violence, according to new findings by Yale School of Medicine researchers in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical ...

Industrial clusters fuel economies, according to study

1 hour ago

Experts have long theorized that having a cluster of firms within a given industry helps a region's economy grow. Now a study co-authored by an MIT professor shows empirically that clusters of almost all ...

Economic output less dependent on road transportation

1 hour ago

For the past 10 years, motorization in the U.S. has been on the decline, due mainly to more telecommuting, greater use of public transit, increased urbanization of the population and changes in the ages of drivers.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.