Ten Thousand Years of Inequality: The Archaeology of Wealth Differences (Amerind Studies in Archaeology ) (Hardcover)

Ten Thousand Years of Inequality: The Archaeology of Wealth Differences (Amerind Studies in Archaeology ) By Timothy A. Kohler (Editor), Michael E. Smith (Editor) Cover Image

Ten Thousand Years of Inequality: The Archaeology of Wealth Differences (Amerind Studies in Archaeology ) (Hardcover)

By Timothy A. Kohler (Editor), Michael E. Smith (Editor)


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Is wealth inequality a universal feature of human societies, or did early peoples live an egalitarian existence? How did inequality develop before the modern era? Did inequalities in wealth increase as people settled into a way of life dominated by farming and herding? Why in general do such disparities increase, and how recent are the high levels of wealth inequality now experienced in many developed nations? How can archaeologists tell?

Ten Thousand Years of Inequality addresses these and other questions by presenting the first set of consistent quantitative measurements of ancient wealth inequality. The authors are archaeologists who have adapted the Gini index, a statistical measure of wealth distribution often used by economists to measure contemporary inequality, and applied it to house-size distributions over time and around the world. Clear descriptions of methods and assumptions serve as a model for other archaeologists and historians who want to document past patterns of wealth disparity.

The chapters cover a variety of ancient cases, including early hunter-­gatherers, farmer villages, and agrarian states and empires. The final chapter synthesizes and compares the results. Among the new and notable outcomes, the authors report a systematic difference between higher levels of inequality in ancient Old World societies and lower levels in their New World counterparts.

For the first time, archaeology allows humanity’s deep past to provide an account of the early manifestations of wealth inequality around the world.


Nicholas Ames
Alleen Betzenhauser
Amy Bogaard
Samuel Bowles
Meredith S. Chesson
Abhijit Dandekar
Timothy J. Dennehy
Robert D. Drennan
Laura J. Ellyson
Deniz Enverova
Ronald K. Faulseit
Gary M. Feinman
Mattia Fochesato
Thomas A. Foor
Vishwas D. Gogte
Timothy A. Kohler
Ian Kuijt
Chapurukha M. Kusimba
Mary-Margaret Murphy
Linda M. Nicholas
Rahul C. Oka
Matthew Pailes
Christian E. Peterson
Anna Marie Prentiss
Michael E. Smith
Elizabeth C. Stone
Amy Styring
Jade Whitlam
Timothy A. Kohler is a regents professor of anthropology at Washington State University. His most recent book, edited with Mark D. Varien, is Emergence and Collapse of Early Villages: Models of Central Mesa Verde Archaeology. Michael E. Smith is a professor of archaeology at Arizona State University. His latest book is the prize-winning At Home with the Aztecs: An Archaeologist Uncovers Their Daily Life.
Product Details ISBN: 9780816537747
ISBN-10: 0816537747
Publisher: University of Arizona Press
Publication Date: April 17th, 2018
Pages: 352
Language: English
Series: Amerind Studies in Archaeology
“The findings add to our knowledge of history’s haves and have-nots, an urgent concern as the gulf between the one percent of ultra-rich and the rest of us continues to grow.”—Archaeology of Wealth

“In Ten Thousand Years of Inequality, the authors explore how the Gini coefficient can be applied to the sorts of datasets available to archaeologists, and draw out some of the interpretive possibilities of such an approach.”—Antiquity

“Kohler and Smith make a great effort to keep the book accessible to a general audience. You do not need to understand the details to appreciate the thoughts developed from the statistical analyses. Moreover, these thoughts are worth reading and add greatly to the discourse on how wealth inequality has shaped, and continues to shape, human history.” – Matthew J Barbour, The Albuquerque Archaeological Society Newsletter

“A rigorous and highly original contribution to the heated debates, both inside and outside the academy, on inequality, showing that archaeology can extend analysis across the entire planet and back through thousands of years.”—Ian Morris, author of Foragers, Farmers, and Fossil Fuels: How Human Values Evolve