Domestication Alone Does Not Lead to Inequality
Current Anthropology Volume 51, Number 1, February 2010
16 Pages Posted: 27 Apr 2012
Date Written: 2010
We present empirical measures of wealth inequality and its intergenerational transmission among four horticulturalist populations. Wealth is construed broadly as embodied somatic and neural capital, including body size, fertility and cultural knowledge, material capital such as land and household wealth, and relational capital in the form of coalitional support and field labor. Wealth inequality is moderate for most forms of wealth, and intergenerational wealth transmission is low for material resources and moderate for embodied and relational wealth. Our analysis suggests that domestication alone does not transform social structure; rather, the presence of scarce, defensible resources may be required before inequality and wealth transmission patterns resemble the familiar pattern in more complex societies. Land ownership based on usufruct and low-intensity cultivation, especially in the context of other economic activities such as hunting and fishing, is associated with more egalitarian wealth distributions as found among hunter-gatherers.
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