Conceptual Innovation and Major Transitions in Human Societies

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organized by Scott Ortman, Eric Rupley and Jerry Sabloff (SFI)


All complex systems, including human societies, consist of dynamic networks of matter, energy and information. Archaeology has traditionally focused on matter (people) and energy, but a variety of theoretical and methodological developments are making the realm of information accessible for the first time. This working group will take advantage of these developments to document the association of conceptual innovation with major transitions in past human societies. Case studies from the Northwest Coast of North America, the U.S. Southwest, East Africa, Mesopotamia, and Hawaii will document this relationship for a variety of transitions spanning the range of human social complexity. Biologists, psychologists, and modelers will help place these case studies in a more general frame and help define a research program for future work.