Archaeology at the Millennium

pp 439-471


  • Carla M. SinopoliAffiliated withMuseum of Anthropology, University of Michigan

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As a beginning graduate student in anthropology in the late 1970s, I took my required core course in the archaeology of complex societies from one of the leading scholars in the discipline. The semester was spent developing data-rich theoretical models for the emergence of social inequality, ranked societies, and the origins and functioning of early states. Discussion of empires, the largest premodern states, filled less than an hour on the last day of the semester (admittedly with the acknowledgment that this was a topic worthy of further study). Similarly, in the last major assessment of the status of North American archaeology published on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Society for American Archaeology (Meltzer et al., 1986), the only article on complex societies addressed primary state emergence (Wright, 1986). Larger and later states were not considered. That this volume considers an article on the archaeology of empires a worthy contribution attests to some significant changes in disciplinary focus over the last 20 years.