This book, a comparative study of specialized production in prehistoric societies, examines both adaptionist and political approaches to specialization and exchange using a worldwide perspective. What forms of specialization and exchange promote social stratification, political integration and institutional specialization? Can increases in specialization always be linked to improved subsistence strategies or are they more closely related to the efforts of political elites to strengthen coalitions and establish institutions of control? Are valuables as important as subsistence goods in the developmental process? These and other questions are examined in the contexts of ten prehistoric societies, ranging from the incipient complexity of Mississippian chiefdoms through to the more complex systems of West Africa, Hawaii and Bronze Age Europe, to the agrarian states of Mesopotamia, Mesoamerica, Peru and Yamato Japan. Each society is the subject of a separate study by a scholar whose own research has provided new insights into the interplay of specialization, exchange and social complexity in the region studied.
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