Richman, Poorman, Beggarman, Chief: The Dynamics of Social Inequality

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Trafficking with the origins of inequality is a daunting undertaking at the beginning of the millennium for both prehistorians and ethnologists, but it also is an exhilarating foray into the origins of contemporary societies. There is a bewildering array of very different conceptual approaches to the issues, and there is no lack of published material. The goal of this chapter is to briefly outline the archaeological evidence on the origins of socioeconomic inequality, characterize the diversity of approaches to the issue, and then to explore in more detail the general approach that seems to have the most potential for future productive research. The main problem that is addressed is simply how and why socioeconomic inequality emerged in previously egalitarian communities.