Capital in the First Century: The Evolution of Inequality in Ancient Maya Society
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Department of Conflict Resolution Studies
Mathematical modeling of social relationships: what mathematics can tell us about people
The distribution of wealth is one of today's most widely discussed and controversial issues. But do we really know about it evolution over the long term? (Piketty 2014:1).
These are the opening lines of Thomas Piketty's influential book Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2014). Truer words could not be written, but we have a strikingly different interpretation of the phrase "long term." Whereas Piketty looks back as much as 300 years, we strat our investigation about 2000 years ago to look for the origins for inequality in an early civilization, and we encourage others to use the techniques we deploy here to push the research yet further back in time, to 4000 or 5000 (or more) years ago in other parts of the world. For we believe that critical facts about inequality, such as its origin, its evolution, and its consequences cannot be understood without the very long-term perspective uniquely provided by archaeology. We will argue here that a special degree of inequality is characteristic of state societies. Archaeologist already know that ancient states exhibit dramatic inequality. Anyone can see that by merely looking at ancient royal palaces and tombs. We, however, develop a novel and more specific argument in which we show that one particularly extreme distribution of wealth, known as a power law, is characteristic of the fully developed state.
Springer International Publishing
New York City, NY
Strawinska-Zanko, Urszula A.; Liebovitch, Larry S.; Watson, April; and Brown, Clifford T., "Capital in the First Century: The Evolution of Inequality in Ancient Maya Society" (2018). CAHSS Faculty Books and Book Chapters. 97.