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Keywords:

  • projectile point;
  • arrow;
  • Hopewell;
  • Late Woodland period

Bingham and Souza[1] have presented an evolutionary theory that specifies a causal relationship between the advent of powerful projectile weapons such as the bow and radical rearrangements in social relations and histories. They propose that the acquisition of weapons that permitted humans to kill at ever-increasing distances provided the coercive means to suppress conflicts of interest among nonkin, self-interested individuals in social groups, thus paving the way for greater social complexity. An unprecedented reduction in projectile point size identifies the arrival of the bow ca. A.D. 300 in the Eastern Woodlands of North America, which initiated a causal chain of cultural changes. In the Midwest, the bow, combined with food production, precipitated the decline of Hopewell by conferring household autonomy and dispersal, which at first suppressed social complexity, but later created conditions favorable to maize intensification. In the lower Southeast, where food production was unimportant, populations aggregated at concentrated wild-food sources, and the bow did not confer household autonomy. The relationship between the bow and social complexity varied under different environmental, social, and historical conditions.