Bands, Tribes, Chiefdoms, States

Here are some key points for all of the different social evolution and political groupings according to Elmen Service. 

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  • Created by: Emily
  • Created on: 03-06-11 10:03


  • A small group with less than 100 people. 
  • They move seasonally to explot wild food resources.
  • Baned members are usually kinsfolk (related).
  • They have seasonal camps and small more specialised site e.g. butchery sites and site where tools are made.
  • Most Paleolithic societies were organised in bands. 
  • They were self sufficient groups.
  • It tends to be an egalitarian society. 
  • If there were leaders it would be based on those that had experience or personal qualities, but they may have been temporary. 
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  • They are larger than bands but are rarely larger than a few thousand people.
  • They tended to live on cultivated plants and domesticated animals-farmers.
  • They tended to be settled farmers but sometimes they were pastoralist herders with a mobile economy based on intensive exploiation of livestock.
  • They were multi-community societies, with individual communities ties together by kinship.
  • Some may have officials or a seat of government but may lacked the economic base to have power.
  • They lived in settled agricultural homesteads or villages.
  • There may have been a disperse settlement pattern with isolated, permanent houses or a nucleated pattern with permanent villages.
  • There may have been agglomerate structures which are clusters of buildings grouped together.
  • There may be activity leaders who are recognised as having skill and authority in particular areas.
  • e.g. Catalhoyuk.
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  • These can number from 5,000 people up to about 20,000 people.
  • They tended to be ranking due to differences in social status.
  • Different lineages are graded on a scale of prestige.
  • They are governed by a chief.
  • There tends to be local specialisation in craft products.
  • It is thought that surpluses in food are given to the chief. 
  • There tends to be a center of power with temples, residents of the chief and places for craft specialists.
  • There may be a central focus on a permanent ritual and ceremonial center e.g. Stonehenge.
  • The very rich graves goods then to be in burials of deceased cheifs.
  • E.g. Iron Age Britain
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  • The population tends to be over 20,000 people.
  • The ruler (who could be a King or Queen) has the authority to establish laws and enforce them by a standing army.
  • Society is stratified into different classes of people. 
  • The functions of the ruler are often sperated from those of the priest.
  • The society may be viewed as a territory owned by the ruling class.
  • There may be taxes.
  • There could be a beurocratic administration of officials to collect revenue and distribute it to the government, army and craft specialists.
  • Cities tend to play a prominant part with a large population center.
  • There tends to be a pronounced settlement hierarchy, usually with a capital city as well as subsidary or regional centers as well as local villages.
  • E.g. Roman Empire, Mesoamerica. 
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