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The Role of Productive Differentiation in the Development of Early Social Complexity in Palau, Micronesia, 200BC-1800AD.

Cai, Yan (2022) The Role of Productive Differentiation in the Development of Early Social Complexity in Palau, Micronesia, 200BC-1800AD. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation evaluates hypothetical relationships between agricultural productivity, community structure and productive differentiation amongst four Pacific Island societies for the purpose of understanding the mechanisms of development of early social complexity.
In order to test the hypotheses, I reconstruct the demographic structure in the Terrace Era and the Stonework Era on the Babeldaob Island of Palau. Population estimation is based on the area of archaeological sites and density of stone structures for the mapped sites. We estimate 17,910-20,895 in the Terrace Era and 53,712-62,664 in the Stonework Era. Although the population increased three times, local community structure was persistently dispersed through both periods, without formation of compact towns. At the regional level, there were always 8-10 supra-local communities on the island of Babeldaob and no single supra-local community successfully dominated the political landscape. The dispersed residence pattern suggested that resource control plays a more important role in the societal development.
However, systematic analysis of settlement distribution with respect to agricultural productivity for both periods suggests a relatively weak correlation between environment and population density for the Terrace Era and somewhat stronger correlation for the Stonework Era, which seems counter intuitive but suggest that other social factors played more important roles. For the Terrace Era, defensive hilltops were favored settlement choices, indicating the role of warfare in shaping human relationships. For the Stonework Era, the shift from swidden agriculture to pondfield agriculture made a significant change in human relationships, which we learn from household assemblages.
Nonmetric multidimensional scaling analysis was conducted to visualize the level of dissimilarity of domestic activities for household units in the Terrace Era and the Stonework Era. In the Terrace Era, most household units emphasized fine cutting activities associated with general household activities, suggesting a high level of household self-sufficiency. In contrast modest differences in economic activities were identified between households of the Stonework Era involving multiple subsistence pursuits and construction of irrigation systems. The results also suggest that the vertical relationships between households mainly exist in the realm of social prestige and religiosity rather than the realm of material wealth.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Cai, Yanyac31@pitt.eduyac310000-0003-1263-7212
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairDrennan, Robertdrennan@pitt.edudrennan
Committee MemberBermann, Marcbermarc+@pitt.edubermarc+
Committee MemberScaglion, Richardscaglion+@pitt.eduscaglion+
Committee MemberArkush, Elizabetharkush@pitt.eduarkush
Committee MemberFitzpatrick,
Date: 30 September 2022
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 14 January 2022
Approval Date: 30 September 2022
Submission Date: 25 July 2022
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 212
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Anthropology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: settlement pattern, household archaeology, Pacific study, social complexity, spatial analysis, demogrpahic study, social inequality, craft specialization, agricultural practice.
Date Deposited: 30 Sep 2022 15:51
Last Modified: 30 Sep 2022 15:51

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