Once status becomes a property that can accumulate it opens the way for the differentiation of communities, or of groups within communities, into social strata. Archeological evidence for stratification comes from a variety of sources. Since complex chiefdoms organize entire geographical regions the remains of settlements in a region may be ranked by size, the number of ranks counted, and the distribution of settlement sizes per rank studied. This regional hierarchy can then be used as an indication of the number of hierarchical levels of decision-making that existed in those communities. At a smaller scale burial sites offer another window into social strata. Systematic burial was already practiced by humans in the middle paleolithic and by the upper paleolithic it had become ceremonial: the dead were buried clothed and wearing personal adornments. [Nota de rodapé 13: Grahame Clark. World Prehistory. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977). p. 105.] The burial sites of chiefs contain in addition to personal information valuable indications about the steepness of status gradients: the size of a tomb, its demarcation from other graves, and more importantly, the richness of its contents. Of particular significance are the presence of adornments made from exotic materials ranging from obsidian, limestone, and basalt, to copper, lapis lazuli, turquoise, and alabaster. These rare objects are significant because they constituted a different form of wealth than agricultural products: they could be used not only to express status differences but also as a kind of political currency to confer status to others, as when the leader of a complex chiefdom distributed them to those of simple chiefdoms to cement alliances and define local rankings. [Nota de rodapé 14: Elizabeth M. Brumfiel and Timothy K. Earle. Introduction. In Specialization, Exchange, and Complex Societies. Edited by Elizabeth M. Brumfield and Timothy K. Earle. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987). p. 3–4.] This movement of objects of status from a place of high concentration to one of low concentration confirms that prestige can form a gradient. Keeping it from dissipating involved the strict control of the long-distance trade of rare raw materials and of the specialized crafts needed to produce elite adornments. Indeed, burying these rare objects together with their former owners may have been a way to prevent “inflationary pressures” from developing by permanently taking them out of circulation. (Delanda 2011:157-8)
DELANDA, Manuel. 2011. Philosophy and Simulation: The emergence of Synthetic Reason. Londres: Bloomsbury Academic.