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Introduction

Two social transformations that archeologists have linked to the origins of agriculture are
(1) socio-economic inequality and (2) monumental architecture.Both of these social changes can
be seen in the archeological record and began with the onset of agriculture.
Monumental Architecture
Examples of monumental architecture can be seen across the world and usually manifest
as exceptionally large houses, public buildings, and special purpose structures (ritual structures)
(Trigger 1990:2). Bruce Trigger believes that monumental architecture’s defining feature is that
the scale and elaboration of the architecture exceed any practical functions that the building was
intended to perform (Trigger 1990:2). Monumental architecture is easier to find in the
archeological record because its size and building material make it more likely to survive over
time (Trigger 1990:3). While Trigger acknowledges that egalitarian, non-agricultural societies do
engage in monumental architecture, it is nowhere near the scale and quality of the monumental
architecture found in highly stratified, agricultural societies (Trigger 1990:3).
Monumental architecture occurs as a result of agriculture and is therefore uniquely
associated with agriculture. In areas that have undergone independent agricultural revolutions,
many of which were isolated (in both time and space) areas with little to no contact with other
independent agricultural areas, monumental architecture is found (Trigger 1990:3). In all of the
earliest known places in which plant and animal domestication occurred, such as South Asia,
Mesopotamia, Peru, West Africa, China, Egypt, and Mexico, evidence of monumental
architecture has been found (Trigger 1990:3). In Ancient Egypt, which contains some of the most
striking examples of monumental architecture (i.e. the Giza Pyramids), pharaohs of the Old

Kingdom built massive tombs made of stone. In the Yucatan, the Maya of the classic period built
both stone temples and tombs to honor their gods and to honor the cult of their dead king
(Trigger 1990:4).As societies become larger, more complex, and increasingly sedentary and
dependent on agriculture the size and complexity of monumental architecture also increases
(Trigger 1990). For example, this can be seen in the difference between cult temples dedicated to
deities in pre-dynastic Egypt and the temples of the Middle/New Kingdom period. The predynastic era temples were small and made of mud-brick while the New Kingdom era temples
were massive buildings made of stone.
Socio-Economic Inequality
Humans living in the earliest agricultural societies would attempt to compete and “outclass” each other by using competitive feasting as a tool in order to develop, extend, and
consolidate socio-economic power (Hayden 1990:31). Brian Hayden believes that this type of
socio-economic competition can be seen in the archeological record because of the “mystifying”
nature of some of the earliest known domesticates, including: dogs, gourds, chili peppers, and
avocados (Hayden 1990:31). Hayden believes that the previously listed animals and plants were
originally domesticated by complex, economically specialized hunter-gathers in order to out
compete group members for prestige and higher social power (Hayden 1990:32). Hayden
believes these early domesticates were prestige goods that were used as a form of social currency
and capital. For example, dogs are one of the earliest known domesticated animals and would
have been an inefficient source of food as they require substantial human investments of time,
space, and food (Hayden 1990:41). Because humans strive to be as efficient as possible when it
comes to producing food, Hayden argues that dogs were symbols of high statues that would have

been given away as gifts or served as a delicacy during a feast with the goal of increasing one’s
socio-economic status (Hayden 1990:41).
Hayden uses archeological and ethnographic examples of complex hunter-gathers living
on the Pacific Northwest coast of North America. Although people who were living in this area
are usually portrayed as being hunter-gatherers that relied heavily on fishing there werea number
of plants that were managed and domesticated (Hayden 1990:40). Springbank clovers and
Pacific Silverweedsare carbohydrate rich roots that were of most importance to the people of the
Pacific Northwest coast because the environment in which they lived was essentially
carbohydrate poor (Hayden 1990:40). Not everyone had access to these plants and the elites of
this society would grow these roots in privately owned and inherited pieces of land (Hayden
1990:40). Not only were these roots prized because of their carbohydrate rich complexion but it
was far more labor intensive and harder to grow than the other foods in which made up their
diets (Hayden 1990:40. This isbecause land had to be cleared of rocks and the roots had to be
transplanted (Hayden 1990:40). The Pacific Silverweedswere directly tied into prestige within
this society because the more silverweeds one could give away during a feast the more social
prestige that person would acquire (Hayden 1990:41).
Access to these roots stratified the society and created an economy is which domesticates
could be used as a form of social currency. According to Hayden, socio-economic inequality is
definitely associated with the origins of agriculture and there is a fluid relationship between the
two. On one hand, the desire to compete against group members is driving plant and animal
domestication because people want to acquire these prestige goods so they can use them to
increase their social status. On the other hand, the fact that domestication is taking place is

driving the competition between group members because there is limited access to valued
resources which thusly creates socio-economic inequality.
Conclusion
Both monumental architecture and socio-economic inequality are always linked together
as a package of social change associated with agriculture. This can be seen in almost every
agricultural society (if not all), both ancient and contemporary, to some extent. Even in ancient
civilizations that are spatially and temporally isolated, such as the Ancient Egyptians and the
Peruvian Incas, the one essence that connects the two and serves as an explanation of their
architecture and social structures is agricultural. Without agriculture, monumental architecture
would be impossible because in order to create large, symbolic, and labor intensive buildings, it
requires resources, technology, organization, occupation of a predominantly permanent area, and
time that just isn’t really available to small bands of food foragers. Socio-economic inequality is
both an implicit and latent function of agriculture because it allows for differentiation between
people: some have more, some have less, some have better, some have worse.