A Bone to Pick
A Bone to Pick
Using Height Inequality to Test Competing Hypotheses about Political Power
The frameworks of modern economics demonstrate how stature and sexual dimorphism can be used to model inequality among human populations. The authors synthesize a wide range of data from archaeological and historic contexts to characterize stature variation during the Neolithic and the Industrial revolutions. First, they find that the shift from foraging to farming widely introduced inequalities significant enough to affect the distribution of health and stature and was fundamentally linked to the invention of coercive sociopolitical mechanisms. Second, a rise in sexual dimorphism that accompanies intensive agriculture and may often reflect both a society’s more efficient allocation of nutrition and a drop in female bargaining power related to increased sexual division of labor and gendered inequalities. Third, political structures deeply shape nutritional outcomes. As economists, they engage a literature and measures of inequality that are foreign to most archaeologists. Aside from the substance of their findings, this chapter represents a valuable cross-disciplinary contribution.
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