Constraints on the Development of Enduring Inequalities in Late Holocene Australia

  • Keen I
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Abstract

Conditions in Late Holocene Australia, including variable and unpredictable environments, reliance on a wide array of food resources, relatively low population densities, some degree of mobility, and shared access to land and waters, contrast sharply with those posited as conditions for the emergence of complexity among huntergatherer societies such as those of the Northwest Coast of North America. Nevertheless, Aboriginal societies varied considerably in a number of ways, including resources of male power. In particular, the article contrasts features of reproductive power in the high and veryhighpolygyny societies of the north coast of Australia with those of other regions of the continent. High to very high polygyny developed in areas with relatively high population density and certain forms of kin classification and engendered considerable inequality among patrigroups, but various social and environmental conditions imposed constraints on the development of enduring hierarchy.

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Authors

  • Ian Keen

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