Bingham and Souza are on the faculty of the Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology at Stony Brook University. Their research interests include a decade-long theoretical project developing social coercion theory and its account of human origins, behavior, and history (Death from a Distance and the Birth of a Humane Universe, 2009, BookSurge).
Theory Testing in Prehistoric North America: Fruits of One of the World's Great Archeological Natural Laboratories
Article first published online: 17 JUN 2013
Copyright © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews
Volume 22, Issue 3, pages 145–153, May/June 2013
How to Cite
Bingham, P. M. and Souza, J. (2013), Theory Testing in Prehistoric North America: Fruits of One of the World's Great Archeological Natural Laboratories. Evol. Anthropol., 22: 145–153. doi: 10.1002/evan.21359
- Issue published online: 17 JUN 2013
- Article first published online: 17 JUN 2013
- social complexity;
- social coercion;
- North America;
- theory of history
This paper has several interconnected goals. First and most generally, we will review the project represented by the papers in this dedicated issue and the SAA Symposium (2012) on Social Complexity and the Bow. This project centers on the ever-stronger and broader theory testing now becoming feasible in archeology and anthropology, in this case exploiting the unique natural laboratory represented by what we refer to as the North American Neolithic transitions. Second, we will strive to synopsize the papers in this issue as opportunities to falsify two general theories of the cause of increases in social complexity associated with the North American Neolithic: warfare and social coercion theories.1 We argue that, though much work remains to be done, the current evidence supports one of the central predictions of both these theories, that the local arrival of elite bow technology was a central driver of local transitions to increased social complexity. This conclusion, if ultimately verified, has profound implications for the possibility of general theories of history. Third, we will argue that several important details of this evidence falsify warfare theory and support (fail to falsify) social coercion theory (the authors' favored perspective). Moreover, several potential falsifications of social coercion theory are amenable to alternative interpretations, leading to new falsifiable predictions. Finally, we discuss how interactions with our colleagues in this project produced new insights into several details of the predictions of social coercion theory, improving our interpretative capacity.