Dr. Monica Smith

The process of complex societies: dynamic models beyond site-size hierarchies

The site-size hierarchy concept enables researchers to transform archaeological survey data into political classifications. Yet everything about the site-size rubric is worth re-thinking, from the reliability of surface-survey data to the recognition that sites of all sizes act autonomously within territorial configurations. New ways can visualize and analyze the process whereby complex societies (chiefdoms and states) emerge through the materialized energies of constituent parts (cities, towns, resource zones, fortifications, frontiers) that ebb and flow through connections of trade, warfare, alliances, and migration characterized by multiple and overlapping dynamisms among human and non-human elements, and in which historical trajectories form the basis of memory and action. Five alternative ways of mapping and analyzing relationships among sites are offered, derived from biological models of individual and collective interaction: reticulated hierarchies, logic gates, cellular automata, recurrent connectivity, and firefly synchronicity.