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The significance of the concepts of heterarchy and hierarchy are discussed with reference to the first and second millennium AD cultures of the Nilgiri Hills of southern India. The nineteenth century ethnographic evidence of multiple, ethnically defined, isolated communities is compared with archeological evidence of earlier, morestratified and more-centralized polities. Archeological evidence includes inscriptions, megalit hie tombs, and carved pictorial representations of warfare, armed horsemen, and other figures. A linear, evolutionary model cannot account for the complexity seen in the Nilgiri Hills, while heterarchy better illuminates the socio-political developments in this region.