The Emergence of Social Complexity: Changes in Animal Management Strategies between the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age in the Near East

Hill_AustinBy: Austin C. Hill, University of Connecticut, Educational and Cultural Affairs Fellow

The Chalcolithic to Early Bronze Age transition in the southern Levant has long been considered a threshold event in the development of social complexity in the Near East.  Societies are argued to have shifted from small scale, village-based chiefdoms to true “urban” or city-state level societies. Nevertheless, much recent criticism has focused on the accuracy of this long held characterization and the degree of social change that occurred between these periods. Studies of animal economies, however, can offer direct insight into political and social systems, but have rarely been used to look at social change in this key period. The types of species raised, how and when animals are slaughtered, and the parts of animals that are consumed are all directly affected by the degree of hierarchically organized production and distribution. Rigorous faunal studies, therefore, are a vital line of evidence in studying the emergence of social complexity. My research at the Albright focused on extending our understanding of faunal economies in these critical periods by analyzing new material, and synthesizing published material. Continue reading