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1 Home Turf: Archaeology, Territoriality, and Politics

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DOI: 10.1111/apaa.12000

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Home Turf: Archaeology, Territoriality,
and Politics
Parker VanValkenburgh
University of Vermont
James F. Osborne
Johns Hopkins University

Archaeological studies of political life have often assumed that the control of territory is an inherent aspect
of social power, particularly within complex polities. Frustration with the rigid territorialism of archaeological
approaches to politics has fostered enthusiasm for alternative models of political space, including networks. While
we concur with this frustration, we argue that territorial models should still be integral to archaeological studies
of political landscapes. However, archaeologists should reframe the control of territory as one of many modalities
through which authority can be claimed and reproduced and focus attention on variability in territorial patterns
and processes. In this introduction, we review previous approaches to territoriality in anthropology and corollary
fields, outline dimensions of variability in territorial behaviors and institutions, and provide a foundation for the
series of essays in this volume, which collectively seek to invigorate the study of territoriality in anthropological
archaeology. [territoriality, archaeological theory, landscape archaeology]

I n the early 21st century, the challenges of interpreting po-

litical space center on what Steinburg (2009) has called
the “paradox of modern territoriality.” On the one hand,
of ethnic nationalist movements (Knight 2005; Shin 2006;
Toft 2010; Updegraff 2012; Wolff 2010).
While the geographic scale and speed of 21st-century
the growth of offshore labor outsourcing, terrorist networks, global connections may be unprecedented, archaeological
world internet traffic, international travel, and supranational interpretations of ancient political life also confront ten-
governing organizations suggests that territorial boundaries sions between the dynamism of social networks and the
are increasingly less relevant to social experience—that, as reification of territorial forms. However, it is only recently
one popular author puts it, “the world is flat” (Friedman that the complex relationship between these processes has
2005). On the other hand, territorial sovereignty continues come into focus in archaeological scholarship. For many
to play a leading role in structuring modern societies, not decades, anthropologists treated the political control of ter-
only by delimiting spaces for the legitimate use of violence, ritory as either a fixed characteristic of state-level societies
but also by defining citizenship and spheres of economic that arose through linear political evolution (Fried 1967;
production. Struggles over land and ocean territory con- Maine 1861; Morgan 1877; Service 1962; Spencer 1877) or
tinue to define conflicts between state and non-state actors a passive reflection of cultural identity (Benedict 1934; Boas
(Diener and Hagen 2010; Haughney 2012; Mares 2012), and 1932). In the 1980s and 1990s, popular interest in global-
sovereign territories still animate the political imaginations ization fostered anthropological studies of mobile subjects,

online ISSN 1551-8248. 
C 2013 by the American Anthropological Association. All rights reserved. DOI: 10.1111/apaa.12000.
2 Parker VanValkenburgh and James F. Osborne

transnational identities, and global flows of capital and infor- resource defensibility model does not exhaust the range of
mation (Appadurai 1988, 1990; Gupta and Ferguson 1992; questions raised by either observed variability in territorial
Hannerz 1986; Kearney 1995; Ong 1999; Roseberry 1983; phenomena or the complexities of how territorial control
Wolf 1982). In this theoretical climate, the study of ter- interfaces with other modalities of social power, including
ritory often seemed anathema, and archaeologists focused networks.
new attention on interregional interaction and world-systems To expand the scope of archaeological studies of terri-
approaches (Algaze 1993; Chase-Dunn and Hall 1993; Hall toriality, we draw on scholarship in cultural geography and
and Chase-Dunn 1993; Santley and Alexander 1992; Schort- political economy that explores how borders and boundaries
man 1989; Schortman and Urban 1987, 1992). shape social identities and political institutions (e.g., Agnew
As the pace of global interaction has increased in the 1994; Barth 1969; Benton 2010; Murphy 2012; Raffestin
21st century, archaeological scholarship is arguably still 1984; Sack 1986; Soja 1971). We also broaden our focus
undergoing a “global turn,” and one salient trend in this beyond small-scale foraging and pastoralist groups to in-
vein has been the growth of archaeological theories that re- corporate studies of large-scale polities. Rather than seeing
envision societies as networks. For some authors, network territories as either entirely material or entirely conceptual,
models solve a graphic problem: how to represent politi- we regard territoriality, the dynamic configuration of bound-
cal space on two-dimensional surfaces. Unlike simplistic aries within the landscape, as a product of the engagement
depictions of polities and other social groups as unitary of political institutions, physical environments, and human
“blobs,” networks exclude large areas of “empty” space in subjectivities. Territorial boundaries may be created and
which authority may be incomplete or unclaimed in com- defended in order to secure access to dense and predictable
plex polities (Parker, this volume; M. L. Smith 2005, 2007; resources, as suggested by the defensibility hypothesis.
Sugandhi, this volume; Wilkinson 2003). For others, net- However, their effects are not restricted to these intended
work models are sophisticated conceptual tools that allow purposes. Territorial behaviors and built environments “feed
for flexible accounts of how power accrues (and dissolves) back” on the individuals and entities that create them, shap-
in specific relationships between individuals and resources ing social identity and political institutions in the process.
(Campbell 2009; Golitko et al. 2012; Knappett 2011; Mun- This chapter begins with a discussion of key terms—
son and Macri 2009; Schortman and Urban 2011, 2012; territory and territoriality—and a review of the history
Urban and Schortman, this volume). of anthropological and archaeological scholarship on these
Conceptualizing polities as webs of social relationships subjects. In the second and third sections, we first focus on
may indeed help us more accurately chart the pathways cultural historical and evolutionary scholarship, and then
through which political institutions take shape, both in the examine cultural geography, political economy, and so-
present and in the past. However, we (the editors) believe cial landscape perspectives. We argue that dynamic models
that entirely discounting the role of territoriality in social drawn from human evolutionary ecology, social landscape
life significantly hampers archaeological understanding of archaeology, and political economy are better equipped to
spatial politics. We argue that representations, perceptions, explain the complexity and variability of human territoriality
and experiences of territory are central elements of political than linear evolutionary and cultural historical approaches.
life in many past and present contexts. However, rather than However, we also assert that even recent, dynamic models
seeing the control of territory as a fixed characteristic of po- of territoriality have yet to fully appreciate the diversity of
litical evolution, of cultural tradition, or of human nature, we territorial phenomena in the past and present. In the fourth
envision territorial control as one of many possible modali- section of the essay, we outline this diversity by highlighting
ties through which authority can be claimed and reproduced. five axes of territorial variability and framing questions that
Archaeologists have commonly used the term territori- they pose for archaeological studies of territoriality. Finally,
ality in discussions of economic and political landscapes in in the fifth section, we present a brief introduction to the ten
small-scale societies, particularly those practicing foraging additional chapters that make up this collection.
and pastoralist lifeways (e.g., Casimir and Rao 1992; Holl
1998; Rowley-Conwy 2001; Vita-Finzi and Higgs 1970;
though see Bintliff 1999). Among these studies, Dyson- Defining Terms: Territory and Territoriality
Hudson and Smith’s (1978) “defensibility” model has served
as perhaps the most popular and successful analytical vehi- What is territory, and how have archaeologists made
cle for explaining variation in territorial behaviors, linking sense of it? Etymology provides a touchstone and highlights
the defense of territory to the density and predictability of several tensions and ambiguities in the term. The English
essential economic resources. Yet while highly useful, the word territory appears to derive from two Latin sources,
Archaeology, Territoriality, and Politics 3

terra (terrain or land) and territorium (an area from which ity,” OED def. 1). However, it has been employed in two
people are warned) (Agnew 2009:57; Connolly 1995:xxii; rather different ways in anthropological literature. In some
Crampton and Elden 2007:822; Delaney 2005:13–14; instances, authors have used the term to refer to the state
Neocleous 2003:103). According to the Oxford English Dic- or condition of territories existing in a given landscape or
tionary (online edition, 2000), the term territorium itself to the defense thereof, or to both. Johnson’s (1977:491)
may also derive from terrere, “to frighten,” the root of the suggestions that “agricultural settlement may favor terri-
English word terror (“territory,” OED etymology). Terri- toriality” and that “territoriality may not be required to
tory first appeared in the English language in the mid-15th produce relatively closed mating networks in some non-
century to describe “the land or district lying round a city linear settlement systems” are examples of this usage. Sim-
or town and under its jurisdiction” (“territory,” OED def. ilarly, Dyson-Hudson and Smith (1978:23) define territori-
1a) and “a tract of land, or district of undefined boundaries; ality as the “exclusive use of a spatially fixed and clearly
a region” (“territory,” OED def. 2). By the late 15th and bounded area by some means of defense or communica-
early 16th centuries, it could also refer to “the extent of the tion.” And geographer Robert Sack (1986:19) adapts the
land belonging to or under the jurisdiction of a ruler, state term to refer to a particular kind of power strategy involv-
or group of people” (“territory,” OED def. 1b), and it was ing territory: “the attempt by an individual or group to
applied metaphorically to refer to “an area of knowledge; affect, influence, or control people, phenomena, and rela-
a sphere of thought or action, a province” by the mid-17th tionships, by delimiting and asserting control over a geo-
century (“territory,” OED def. 3). Use of the term to describe graphic area.”
“an area selected by an animal or a group of animals and In other instances, archaeologists have used the term
defended against others”—one of its most common mean- territoriality to refer to a variable property of relationships
ings in anthropological literature—does not appear until the between social institutions and landforms. Holl’s (1998) sug-
end of the 18th century and did not become common un- gestion that “pastoralist territoriality [in the West African
til its use by ethologists in the mid-20th (“territory,” OED Holocene] involved changing, flexible networks of places
def. 1d). comprising grazing lands, groves of fruit trees and wild
We take several significant points from the history of the grain, water-places, settlement areas, burial places, and sym-
word territory. First is its somewhat confusing (but sugges- bolically charged localities” exemplifies this second usage.
tive) fusing of references to land, politically defined space, Here, Holl uses the word territoriality to suggest both plu-
and areas of knowledge. As we discuss below, archaeologists rality and dynamism in human–land relations—a range of
have employed the word territory in each of these different different ways in which social phenomena are and are not
senses, sometimes to confusing effect. Second, while some territorial. In this introductory essay, we use the term terri-
archaeological studies of territoriality draw on animal be- toriality in this latter, more flexible sense. Where we refer to
havior as their primary inspiration, the ethological use of a behavior consisting of the defense of bounded parcels of
the term is relatively recent. Therefore, while territorial dy- land, or the control of such areas by an individual or group,
namics among nonhuman animals may serve as productive we use the more descriptive terms territorial defense and
analogies for studies of human territoriality, they are not territorial control.
an obligatory starting point. Third, the word’s origins in the
Early Modern period coincide with a critical, though slow
and uneven, shift in the nature of sovereignty in Western Evolutionary, Ecological, and Cultural
Europe. That is, between the 14th and 17th centuries, po- Historical Approaches
litical and legal regimes gradually shifted from envisioning
sovereignty as a “vertical” phenomenon, concerned with Anthropologists have written a great deal about territo-
linkages between earthly and heavenly authority, to seeing riality, both explicitly and implicitly. We organize our review
it as a “horizontal” problem of defining the spatial limits of of this literature into two parts: the first focuses on evolu-
authority within different principalities (Larkins 2009:6–7). tionary, ecological, and cultural historical approaches, cul-
Finally, the link between territory and terrere evokes a re- minating in a discussion of human evolutionary ecology; the
lationship between territorial entities and violence, or the second, on perspectives drawn from political economy and
threat thereof. cultural geography, ending in a more detailed discussion of
Discussions of political space in the social sciences social landscape approaches and the territorial-hegemonic
have suffered from slippage between the terms territory and spectrum of strategies in ancient empires.
territoriality (Elden 2010:801). Territoriality first appeared In the drive to create unified schemes for understand-
in the English language in the 18th century (“territorial- ing humanity’s common history, evolutionists attempted to
4 Parker VanValkenburgh and James F. Osborne

explain the social and cultural diversity of the late 19th- marker of progress between evolutionary stages, Maine saw
century world, as well as antiquity, by defining universal it as a singular moment in human history. Following the col-
historical stages. Territory played different roles within the lapse of the universal dominion of Rome, local sovereigns
first wave of social evolutionism. It was of seemingly lit- exerted their power over populations (Franks, Burgundians,
tle interest to Edward Tylor, whose magnum opus Primitive Vandals) and territorial sovereignty, which Maine defined as
Culture (1871) scarcely contains the word territory, and fo- “the view which connects sovereignty with the possession of
cuses little attention on the spatial qualities of social life. a limited portion of the Earth’s surface,” was best understood
Herbert Spencer (1877) referred to territory in two senses, as “an offshoot of . . . feudalism” (Maine 1861:107–108).
the first being in a manner roughly equivalent to contem- Maine’s template—that the control of population was
porary usage of the word environment. Anticipating several antecedent to the control of territory, and that the division
key elements of Robert Carneiro’s (1970) model of circum- between these two ways of organizing political dominion
scription, he speculated that could be definitively separated from one another in histor-
ical time—was to long outlast evolutionism, holding sway
social integration is easy within a territory which, while over international relations theorists and political historians
able to support a large population, affords facilities for
throughout much of the 20th century.
coercing the units of that population: especially if it is
bounded by regions offering little sustenance, or peopled Following the heyday of evolutionism, early 20th-
by enemies, or both. [Spencer 1877:25] century American anthropology expressed little interest in
political territoriality. Instead, Franz Boas and his students
Spencer also employed the term in a second sense, to focused on recording the most expressive elements of cul-
refer more precisely to the land under the control of a so- tural practices, from religious ceremonies to language and
cial group or political confederation. Yet here, Spencer saw portable material culture. Accordingly, their preferred con-
territory as little more than an ancillary aspect of super- cept for describing the geographical extent of anthropologi-
organic (i.e., social) evolution. Like organisms, societies cal phenomena was the “culture area,” which comprised the
evolved as groups and territories were compounded and geographic distribution of a set of cultural traits (Wissler
re-compounded into larger aggregates (Spencer 1877:463– 1914, 1927). Boas himself used the word territory as a
470). As a result, the large, integrated domains of civiliza- virtual synonym for culture area, referring to the areas
tions and empires indexed higher levels of social develop- occupied by tribal and linguistic groups as, for example,
ment. Where political landscapes remained fragmented in “Athapaskan territory” and the “territory of the He’iltsuk”
the late 19th century, they could be read as relicts of bar- (Stocking 1989:95–102). From this perspective, archaeol-
barous eras and as impediments to social progress. ogists could contribute to defining territories-qua-culture
The relationship between territoriality and social de- areas by identifying the geographic and chronological dis-
velopment was also central to the political theory of Lewis tribution of stylistic elements among excavated materials
Henry Morgan. Unlike Spencer, however, Morgan saw ter- (Kidder 1924; Kroeber 1931).
ritory as one of the most basic contexts of social solidarity, Across the Atlantic Ocean, cultural historical ap-
rather than simply a pale reflection of staged evolutionary proaches held different political implications, allowing na-
transformation. Indeed, Morgan viewed the tribe’s posses- tional and regional histories to be projected into eras pre-
sion and defense of territory as actually anterior to any dating the development of writing (Childe 1925). While
of its other distinguishing characteristics, such as language European archaeologists rarely asserted that archaeological
and political organization (Morgan 1877:112). Territorial culture areas could be interpreted as political territories,
control was also a defining political characteristic of civi- some ethnic nationalists seized on distributions of stylistic
lization. As tribes underwent the transition from barbarism traits as bases for territorial claims. Most famously, Kossinna
to civilization, their governments, “founded upon persons or (1911) asserted that the archaeologically defined extent of
gentilism” (and ultimately kinship), became “governments putatively “German” artifacts in central Europe could be
founded upon territories and property” (Morgan 1877:ix, 7). used as guidelines for German national expansion (Trigger
For Morgan, it was ultimately the state’s control of landed 1989:166–167).
property, as opposed to gens or population, that was its most As structural-functionalist approaches emerged in
defining characteristic. British social anthropology during the mid-20th century,
Morgan’s and Spencer’s identification of territorial gov- the field refocused attention on the political dimensions
ernment with higher stages of social evolution followed the of territoriality. Asserting that political systems were not
work of Henry Maine (1861). But whereas Spencer and isomorphic with linguistic and cultural areas, Fortes and
Morgan saw the emergence of territorial sovereignty as a Evans-Pritchard (1940) pursued a comparative approach to
Archaeology, Territoriality, and Politics 5

studying political diversity in a range of African soci- In contrast, Julian Steward’s (1955) focus on how human
eties. They posited that two types of political systems ex- groups adapted to the particularities of their environments
isted among the eight case studies they examined in detail: opened up space for the study of dynamic relationships be-
“Type A” systems, organized around centralized authori- tween territorial systems, social institutions, and ecologies.
ties, administrative apparatuses, and judicial institutions and Steward himself was relatively uninterested in the politi-
with significant economic cleavages; and “Type B” systems, cal control of property and used the term territory to refer
which lacked these traits as well as sharp divisions of sta- to discrete environmental units within which adaptive social
tus and wealth (Fortes and Evans-Pritchard 1940:5). In their evolution occurred. For example, he defined ecology itself as
investigations, Fortes and Evans-Pritchard found that terri- “the interaction of physical, biological, and cultural features
torial divisions were present in each of the societies they within a locale or unit of territory” (Steward 1955:30). As
examined, but that boundaries played different roles within bands grew, fissioned, and aggregated, the sizes and shapes
Type A and Type B systems. In societies with Type A sys- of their corresponding territories changed, but the political
tems, administration was manifestly territorial: the chief control of territory was a byproduct rather than a mechanism
operated as head of a territorial division, often with final of adaptation (Steward 1955:170–171).
economic and legal control over all land and population Steward’s vision had an immediate impact on the empir-
within its boundaries (Fortes and Evans-Pritchard 1940:10). ical study of territoriality in archaeology. His assertion that
In Type B societies, territorial units were not defined through archaeology might, in Gordon Willey’s words, “best place it-
administration but rather through lineage ties and usufruct, self in the position of contributing to the interpretation of the
and political offices did not carry rights over defined areas of nonmaterial and organizational aspects of prehistoric soci-
geographic space (Fortes and Evans-Pritchard 1940:10). Ul- eties through a study of habitation and settlement types” was
timately, they concluded that “political relations are not sim- the direct inspiration for Willey’s study of settlement pat-
ply a reflexion [sic] of territorial relations” but that “the polit- terns in Peru’s Virú valley, which modeled new methods that
ical system in its own right, incorporates territorial relations archaeologists could employ to study ancient territorial sys-
and invests them with the particular kind of political signif- tems (Steward, quoted in Willey 1953:xviii). In particular,
icance they have” (Fortes and Evans-Pritchard 1940:11). Willey’s focus on what he called the “functional” implica-
Fortes and Evans-Pritchard’s contributions to the an- tions of archaeological settlement patterns—their relevance
thropological study of territoriality were critical in two for the study not only of environmental variability but also
senses. First, theirs was among the first studies to frame of social and political organization—meant that surface sur-
the diversity of territorial systems as being not simply di- vey now made it possible for archaeologists to access a vast
achronic (whether historical, as suggested by Maine, or evo- range of new information about the relationship between po-
lutionary, as posited by Morgan), but also synchronic and litical institutions and territories (Trigger 1989:282; Willey
systemic. Second, they defined territorial relations as so- 1953:1).
cially embedded phenomena, such that understanding ter- Steward’s perspectives also helped to foster the first
ritoriality required appreciation of how territorial divisions wave of “environmental” approaches in archaeology, which
and categories articulated with other social institutions, in- created definitions of territories based on ecological factors
cluding kinship systems and exchange networks. (Chisholm 1962; Clark 1952, 1972; Fitzhugh 1975). Vita-
During the 1950s and 1960s, many American anthro- Finzi and Higgs (1970) advocated “site catchment analysis”
pologists returned to core concepts of 19th-century evolu- as a way of studying archaeologically recovered settlement
tionism. Like Morgan and Spencer, scholars such as Leslie systems in ecological context. Sites had two types of eco-
White again saw the emergence of territorial control as part nomic territory: an “exploitation territory,” consisting of
of an evolutionary transition to higher order social systems. that area around a site habitually exploited by its inhabi-
While the tendency of clans in “tribal” societies to clus- tants, and an “annual territory,” defined by the total area that
ter in villages could lead to spatial divisions between kin its residents exploited in the course of a year (Vita-Finzi and
groups, it was not until the emergence of “civil” society Higgs 1970:7). In flat or relatively uniform environments,
that these entities “became territorial units in the political they argued, “territories will tend to be circular” (Jarman
system” (White 1949:310). Here, territorial political bound- et al. 1972:63). In the eyes of site catchment analysis, then,
aries emerged as population pressure led to the dissolution territoriality was a fixed property of a lifeway carried out
of kin-based organization and the emergence of increasingly within a given physical landscape.
solidified systems of property ownership (White 1949:310). Site catchment analysis was (and remains) broadly in-
Territoriality was thus mechanically related to bureaucratic fluential in archaeological scholarship, providing a con-
development. venient way to delimit areas for studying the kinds of
6 Parker VanValkenburgh and James F. Osborne

resources that might be exploited by residents of a given is difficult if not entirely impractical (Johnson and Earle
site and a window into site spacing (Munson et al. 1971; 2000:43). At the local group level, the control of territory
Peebles 1978). However, critics suggest that the approach and warfare are common, and territories may be defended
pays too little attention to variability in ecological carrying either through latent threats or through organized battles
capacity and human behavior, as well as to the importance of (Johnson and Earle 2000:125). At the level of the regional
trade and long-distance interaction in subsistence (Flannery polity, territories are well defined and are maintained by in-
1976; Roper 1979). Moreover, it de-emphasizes the politi- creasingly professional militaries. Johnson and Earle’s cat-
cal dimensions of landscape, while failing to consider how egories are not entirely insensitive to diversity in territorial
historical patterns of occupation and exploitation, including behavior: they acknowledge, for example, that family-level
property rights and land tenure, might constrain where and Shoshone bands within the Great Basin practiced different
how a site’s residents make their living. degrees of territorial defense (Johnson and Earle 2000:64;
Alongside these contributions, Sahlins and Service see also Bettinger 1978, 1982; Thomas 1972, 1973, 1983).
(1960), Service (1962), and Fried (1967) further refined However, their interest in territoriality is not to explain such
social evolutionary approaches. However, each maintained diversity but to identify statistical regularities that allow it
essential characteristics of earlier evolutionary definitions to be connected to stages of evolutionary development.
of human territoriality. Service (1962:124–126) speculated In contrast, scholarship in human behavioral ecology
that there might be meaningful correlations between kin- and evolutionary ecology has developed more dynamic and
ship systems, residential configurations, and patterns of ter- predictive models of the relationship between political in-
ritorial control—specifically, that tribal societies made up stitutions, economies, and territoriality. Evolutionary ecol-
of cognatic residential groups might be associated with ogists share a fundamental assumption that human beings
closed territories, while tribal societies with lineal resi- are economistic agents whose behaviors are subject to se-
dential groups might be associated with open territorial lection based on their costs, typically conceived in terms
systems. However, he ultimately resorted to a strict di- of time and energy (Winterhalder and Smith 2000). Early
vision between kin-based and territorial forms of orga- studies in evolutionary ecology focused on the emergence
nization, identifying the presence of boundaries or bor- of subsistence behaviors in ecological context (MacArthur
ders in chiefdoms and “criteria of membership . . . which 1972; Winterhalder and Smith 1981), but the field’s focus
are not based merely on sentiments of kinship” as evi- has expanded to study the emergence of socioeconomic in-
dence that they were approaching “civilizational ordering” equality and systems of power and prestige (Boone 1992;
(Service 1962:159). On his part, Fried (1967) rejected the Chabot-Hanowell and Smith, this volume; Summers 2005).
strict association of non-territorial organization with small- Dyson-Hudson and Smith’s (1978) “defensibility”
scale societies and territorial control with stratified societies model remains the most influential study of human ter-
and states (Fried 1967:121). However, he also suggested ritoriality in evolutionary ecology (see also Taylor 1988).
the state’s strict ordering of territorial space was only “su- Writing at a time when a number of scholars had suggested
perficially like” the open territorial systems of egalitarian that humans might be “hardwired” to seek territorial control
societies and the slightly more well-defined, but still nonex- (Ardrey 1966; Cohen 1976), the authors instead focused on
clusive, territories of villages in ranked societies (Fried the correlation of forms of sociospatial organization and pat-
1967:94–98, 175–178). Power in stratified contexts was terns of resource distribution. In essence, they argued, where
fundamentally rooted in the control of property and terri- the economic benefits of defending territories outweigh the
tory, and the state was a specialized apparatus that emerged costs, stable territorial systems should emerge. Following
to maintain social stratification achieved through elites’ Brown’s (1964) study of territoriality among birds we should
“paramount control over . . . population[s] and . . . area[s]” expect to find territorial defense behaviors where essen-
(Fried 1967:191–196, 237). tial economic resources are both dense and predictable, and
More recent evolutionary approaches in archaeology we should find “open” territorial systems where resources
have also interpreted increasing degrees of territorial con- are dispersed and unpredictable. In intermediate situations,
trol as one of the hallmarks of social development. Johnson where resources are dense and unpredictable or disperse
and Earle (2000), for example, see “territoriality and war- and predictable, we should expect “information sharing”
fare” as one element of a “cultural core” that serves as a patterns, in which families inform each other about the lo-
means for solving adaptive problems as societies progress cations of dense resources, and “home range” systems, in
through stages of socioeconomic integration. At the family- which settlement and economic activity cluster around a
level stage, they argue, access to resources is mediated central area but territory is not strictly defended (Dyson-
by kinship, and defending large “base areas” as territories Hudson and Smith 1978:23–28).
Archaeology, Territoriality, and Politics 7

While archaeologists have most commonly employed were created through interaction and communication, rather
the resource defensibility model in studies of small-scale than sprouting from cultural continuity or “the occupation of
foraging and pastoral societies, a number have found it exclusive territories,” Fredrik Barth focused new attention
useful for understanding long-term change in agricultural on boundaries as locales where group identity is generated
societies and large-scale political systems (Bintliff 1999; (Barth 1969:15). Instead of seeing group boundaries as phys-
Field 2005; M. E. Smith 2003). As Chabot-Hanowell and ical frontiers, however, he saw them as sites of discourse,
Smith (this volume) note, the model has proven robust in and his vision of territory therefore emphasized its social as
its prediction of the relationship between resource distri- opposed to its material dimensions.
bution and the presence or absence of territorial behaviors Barth’s approach has become an essential reference
in their gross sense (Cashdan 1983; Casimir 1992). Like for studies of the social dimensions of ancient border-
all economistic approaches, the defensibility model faces lands (Lightfoot and Martinez 1995; Parker and Rodseth
operational challenges: defining both the temporal scale of 2005), for which territoriality itself is perhaps of less interest
analysis and a sensitive but standardized scale of conversion than how social distinctions are developed and maintained
that can balance the diverse “costs” of behaviors, in terms through performances and physical constructions. Sharing
of time, energy, and social or symbolic capital. For archae- a Barthian sense of the dynamism of ethnic and territorial
ological contexts in which detailed information about such distinctions, social studies of archaeological boundaries un-
variables is unavailable, it may not be possible to effectively derstand border behaviors to be intimately connected with
employ the resource defensibility model. Still, for many such phenomena as social memory, collective identity, and
contexts, it remains a valuable approach that is particularly social power (Field 2008; Golden 2010; Golden et al. 2008;
well suited for considering how changing environmental, Scherer and Golden 2009). By demonstrating how polit-
political-economic, and technological circumstances may ical and ethnic boundaries continue to define difference,
precipitate archaeologically visible shifts in territorial pat- even as they shift in physical space due to conflict, migra-
terning. tion, and demographic change, these studies have done a
great deal to uncouple ethnicity, society, and polity from
territory. Moreover, they help to demonstrate that politi-
Perspectives from Political Economy, Cultural cal institutions and identities take shape not just according
Geography, and Social Landscape Approaches to bureaucratic design but also “at the margins” of political
life. At the same time, an exclusive focus on borders may de-
A second set of dynamic approaches to territoriality in emphasize processes of territorial and ideological consolida-
archaeology has focused on the relationship between terri- tion and risk masking territorial variability subsumed within
tory, ethnic identity, and political subjectivity, particularly borders.
in states and empires. Drawing on symbolic interactionist In the 1970s, world-systems approaches gained con-
sociology, world-systems theory, Marxist cultural geogra- siderable influence among anthropologists (Frank 1969;
phy, and international relations theory, these perspectives Wallerstein 1974). But more widespread attention to ques-
encompass diverse interests and methodologies. However, tions of space and scale emerged during the explosion of
all share a central concern with refining the often problem- anthropological interest in globalization and transnational-
atic distinction between geographic scales of social analysis ism between the 1980s and 2000s. In contrast to earlier
and the geographic dimensions of lived experience. More- studies of closed corporate communities, the “global turn”
over, unlike evolutionary perspectives, which have tended to drew anthropologists’ eyes toward mobile and spatially dis-
focus on how territories take shape amid distributions of ma- tributed phenomena, including migration, tourism, diaspora,
terial resources and constraints, social approaches are more and media (Appadurai 1990, 1996; Clifford 1988; Clifford
attuned to the perceptual and representational dimensions of and Marcus 1986; Hannerz 1986; Kearney 1995; Trouil-
territory. Finally, in addition to examining variability in terri- lot 2003; Tsing 1993). In the process, scholars reworked
toriality over time, political-economic and social landscape the field’s treatment of the relationship between space, so-
perspectives have also sought to rethink territorial models ciety, power, and identity. The “assumed isomorphism of
of state power, outlining how complex political institutions space, place, and culture” that Gupta and Ferguson (1992:7)
acquire and maintain dominance through other means. identified in anthropological traditions stretching from evo-
Social approaches to territoriality emerged in the 1960s lutionism to structural-functionalism needed to be replaced
out of anthropological attempts to refine the study of so- by attention to cultural process, mobility, and discourse.1
cial space, including symbolic interactionism (Barth 1969; Moreover, it was critical that anthropologists study how our
Blumer 1969). Asserting that ethnic and cultural differences own spatial practices and ideologies (such as the distinction
8 Parker VanValkenburgh and James F. Osborne

between “home” and “field”) constructed our objects of in- a strategy that could be turned “on” and “off” at any social
quiry (Gupta and Ferguson 1997). scale. Within a household, for example, a parent seeking
Amid social-anthropological and popular discourses to keep a child away from dangerous items in the kitchen
on globalization, archaeologists also focused new atten- might chase the child around the house, or the caregiver
tion on questions of social scale in studies of interre- could opt for a territorial strategy and declare certain rooms
gional interaction and ancient world-systems (Algaze 1993; to be “off limits” (Sack 1986:19). At larger scales, territo-
Chase-Dunn and Hall 1993; Cherry and Renfrew 1986; rial strategies were embodied in municipal zoning systems,
Hall and Chase-Dunn 1993; Santley and Alexander 1992; the guarded borders of nation-states, and international trade
Schortman 1989; Schortman and Urban 1987; Schortman zones. In Sack’s view, territorial strategies possess distinct
and Urban 1992; Stein 1999). Yet, like parallel critiques advantages: they are more easily communicated than com-
in social anthropology, the positioning of these studies as plex rules about conditional access and are useful for ac-
correctives to territorial models meant that they tended to tors who cannot create (or do not wish to divulge) a full
pay little attention to the ways in which territorial practices list of things they wish to control (Sack 1986:22). How-
and rhetoric might overlap with exchange networks, trade ever, territorial boundaries may also be unenforceable in
diasporas, and other forms of long-distance interaction. certain types of landscapes, under certain political and eco-
More recently, archaeological studies of territory have nomic circumstances, or with certain historical and legal
been inspired by scholarship in cultural and social geogra- precedents.
phy. During the 1960s, geographic scholarship on territo- Even as Sack’s work has moved on to consider territori-
riality paralleled developments in behavioral ecology, em- ality as only one part of broader processes of place-making
ploying models based on territorial behavior in nonhuman and the concentration of social power (Sack 1997, per-
animals to shed light on human spatial organization (Crook sonal communication 2009), Human Territoriality remains
1968; Etkin 1967; Hediger 1961; Wagner 1960). In contrast, the single most influential treatise on the subject among
Edward Soja (1971) found animal models to be provocative Anglo-American geographers. Critics have argued that he
analogies for human territorial behavior but concluded that inadequately addresses the actual mechanics of power, un-
it would be more fruitful to examine human territoriality “at derstates the violence implicit in territorial partitioning, and
the individual or personal level rather than seeking direct re- fails to consider the ways in which the definition of territory
lationships with . . . territoriality in animals” (Soja 1971:31). may create new conditions for both internal and external so-
He posited two types of territory: “personal territory” (ego- cial conflict (Agnew and Paasi 2000; Elden 2010; Murphy
centric space) and “societal territory” established through 2012). However, Sack’s decoupling of territoriality from so-
the actions of states and other social institutions. Territo- cial power inspired a new generation of studies, including
riality was, in turn, “a behavioral phenomenon associated an expansive literature among political geographers and po-
with the organization of space into spheres of influence or litical theorists rethinking territorial definitions of statehood
clearly demarcated territories which are made distinctive and (Agnew 1994, 2009; Brenner 1998; Brenner et al. 2003;
considered at least partially exclusive by their occupants or Harding and Lim 1999; Krasner 1995; Murphy 1996; Paasi
definers” (Soja 1971:19). All societies and individuals there- 1996, 2002; Ruggie 1993).
fore had some form of territory “in that there exist certain At the same time that anthropologists were beginning
points, lines, or areas which elicit group identities” (Soja to unmoor the concept of culture from territory, geogra-
1971:13). But it was only with states that society was de- phers and international relations theorists began to rethink
fined in territorial terms. the spatiality of politics, questioning Max Weber’s classic
Soja’s multi-scalar definition of territoriality was ulti- definition of the state as “a human community that (success-
mately too general to serve as the basis of a new geographic fully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical
paradigm. Moreover, while he avoided the rigid equation force within a given territory” (Weber 1946:78, our em-
of territorial control and state authority present in unilin- phasis). In a highly influential essay, Agnew (1994) sug-
eal evolutionary frameworks, Soja maintained a restrictive gested that international relations theory was mired in what
correlation between these two phenomena. Robert Sack’s he called the “territorial trap,” a sort of “geographical un-
(1986) Human Territoriality: Its Theory and History pro- conscious” subsuming three fundamental premises: (1) that
vided a more parsimonious definition, framing territoriality state sovereignty is defined by strict borders; (2) that there
as a strategy “by an individual or group to affect, influ- is a fundamental distinction between the “domestic” and the
ence, or control people, phenomena, and relationships, by “foreign” in political systems; and (3) that the state is a “con-
delimiting and asserting control over a geographic area” tainer” enclosing both economic and political processes. To
(Sack 1986:19). Accordingly, Sack saw territorial control as account for the ways that states operate in a globalized world,
Archaeology, Territoriality, and Politics 9

said Agnew, geographers should pay increasing attention to defensibility model. Yet rather than focusing on pricing the
nonterritorial forms of sovereignty and sociality. costs and expected returns of investment in territorial versus
Following Agnew, historical geographers and political hegemonic defense, Alconini uses this framework to high-
historians began to critically examine the evolution of state light an aberrant example from the Inka hinterland, the site
territoriality. Beginning with Gross (1948), histories of the of Oroncota in Bolivia, where the Inka constructed an iso-
modern international system had classically identified the lated administrative center that appears to have had relatively
Peace of Westphalia—two peace treaties signed in 1648 be- minimal impact on local settlement patterns and sociopo-
tween the principal monarchs of Western Europe at the end litical organization (Alconini 2008:68–78). Based on the
of the Thirty Years’ War—as the definitive moment when evidence, Alconini concludes that the Inka extracted little
political sovereignty shifted from being exerted over pop- revenue from the Oroncota region, despite investing a great
ulations to being exerted over territories (see also Harding deal of effort into constructing a provincial center within
and Lim 1999; Krasner 1995; Ruggie 1993). In contrast, it. Rather than a territorial outpost, Oroncota was a “dis-
new histories suggest that this “Westphalia myth” has ob- embedded center” whose primary value was to materialize
scured the facts (1) that many city-states in northern Italy, Inka hegemony within the region. While such investments
England, and Germany were de facto territorial sovereigns could be assigned a “price,” their putative returns (political
from at least the early 14th century (Benton 2010; Larkins conformity and obedience) should be difficult to calculate.
2009; Strandsbjerg 2010) and (2) that nonterritorial forms of Alconini’s case study therefore highlights the complexity of
sovereignty, including the legal concept that all of the sub- assigning costs and benefits to actions whose impacts are
jects of a sovereign form part of an organic “body politic,” historically and culturally contingent and raises questions
continued to exist in Europe well after 1648 (Kantorowicz about the limitations of economistic approaches to imperial
1957; Neocleous 2003). landscapes.
Skepticism about the relationship between state author- Inspired by Marxian geographers (e.g., Cosgrove 1985;
ity and territory has gained purchase in a number of recent Harvey 1989; Soja 1989; Zukin 1991), a series of recent
archaeological studies of sovereignty in complex polities. studies in landscape archaeology have focused new atten-
Drawing on Luttwak’s (1979) distinction between “terri- tion on the spatial qualities of political life. Adam T. Smith
torial” and “hegemonic” strategies of domination in the (2003), the most prominent architect of this approach (which
Roman Empire, a number of scholars have attempted to we label “social landscape archaeology”2 ), builds an elegant
make sense of the patchiness of territorial control in ancient case for the reassertion of space in archaeological theory
empires (Alconini 2008; Browman 1997; D’Altroy 1992; through advocacy of a “relational” approach to spatial anal-
Hassig 1985, 1992; Parker 2001; Santley and Alexander ysis (see also A. Smith 2011). Following Soja (1989), Smith
1992). In Luttwak’s framework, whereas territorial strate- takes aim at the historicism of political thought since the
gies entail the establishment of imperial administrative cen- mid-19th century, particularly as expressed in archaeologi-
ters in provinces and the direct control of tribute collection, cal case studies. He then advocates attention to the political
hegemonic strategies leave provincial bureaucracies intact production of landscapes in early complex polities as one
and rely on both prestige and the threat of military force to way to overcome the attitude of inevitability that suffuses
extract tribute. These two political modalities are not meant many accounts of political evolution. Rather than being a
to be mutually exclusive; rather, they define two limits of static backdrop for social life, or an inaccessible dimension
a spectrum along which hegemonic and territorial manage- of subjective experience, space constantly emerges in rela-
ment styles “grade into each other” (D’Altroy 1992:20). tions between objects, bodies, and places, all of which are
In theory, the territorial-hegemonic model’s unidimen- configured through political discourse (A. Smith 2003:25).
sional distinction between the territorial and the nonterrito- Once we understand space from this perspective, it be-
rial should make it compatible with the resource defensibil- comes possible to see how the dominant political will con-
ity hypothesis (Dyson-Hudson and Smith 1978). However, stantly assembles spaces at a variety of scales, from in-
its users have employed it not so much to examine the re- ternational systems to polities, settlements, and buildings.
lationship between resource distribution and imperial strat- It is then the task of the archaeologist to describe “what
egy as to elucidate historic, institutional, and political fac- polities actually do” in landscapes—how they manufacture
tors that impact empires’ abilities to control people, places, sovereignty, secure power and legitimacy, and order sub-
and resources (e.g., Hassig 1992:57–59, 65–67). Alconini’s jects through spatial practices and representations (A. Smith
(2008) use of the territorial-hegemonic framework, in which 2003:25). Like evolutionary ecological approaches to terri-
strategies are categorized based on costs (“investments”) and toriality and the territorial-hegemonic model of spatial con-
benefits (“revenues”), shares terminology with the resource trol in empires, Smith’s conceptualization of geopolitical
10 Parker VanValkenburgh and James F. Osborne

landscapes is dynamic, seeking to reveal contingent rela- The study of territoriality in the archaeological record
tionships between spaces and forms of political authority. requires especially critical attention to variability in terri-
Yet unlike these approaches, Smith’s goal is neither to de- torial phenomena. Whereas scholars studying ethnograph-
velop a framework for categorizing political strategies nor to ically or historically documented material may have direct
build a predictive model of how they might either be chosen access to subjects’ reflections about their interactions with
or selected-for. Rather, it is to “revel in [variation], exposing territorial boundaries, archaeologists working in prehistoric
the multiplicity of political strategies as well as antecedents contexts are frequently left with no other option to study
of contemporary [political] ambitions” (A. Smith 2003:22). territoriality than through its most overt material manifesta-
For this task, evolutionary ecological approaches appear too tions, such as walls and boundary markers (Eling 1987:474;
reductive, and the territorial-hegemonic model is inadequate Ladefoged and Graves 2008; Quarcoopome 1993), forts and
because it tends to imagine that spaces and regions are fixed lookouts (Arkush 2011; Arkush and Stanish 2005; Scherer
objects for strategy rather than being themselves produced and Golden 2009), and “lines of cleavage” (unsettled gaps)
through spatial practice and representation. in settlement distribution (Greene and Lindsay, this volume;
Recent studies inspired by Smith’s relational approach Sanders et al. 1979; Tschauner 2001:297–305, 332–341;
(Johansen and Bauer 2011; Kosiba 2011; Kosiba and Bauer Willey 1953:375–388). In this context, if we treat territo-
2012; Lindsay 2006; Lindsay et al. 2008) have focused on rial control as a one-dimensional variable–something that is
revealing how dominant political practices assemble spaces, merely present or absent in a given social context–then we
echoing earlier literature in critical archaeology that sought risk affirming that all boundaries are equal and that territo-
to expose how manipulations of landscapes serve to “natu- ries are fixed containers for social, political, and economic
ralize” certain elements of social order (Leone 1984; Leone life.
et al. 1987). In turn, social landscape archaeologists have In contrast, by acknowledging the high degree of vari-
generally avoided defining either political territories or ar- ability present in territorial behaviors and configurations,
chaeological “regions,” due to the perception that their his- we stand to make better sense of how their material residues
torical contingency, and their implication in projects of index not only physical boundaries but also shifting relation-
nation-building and political marginalization, makes map- ships between borders, institutions, and identities. Moreover,
ping them analytically (if not also politically) problematic we believe the study of territoriality becomes considerably
(A. Smith 2003:181). more interesting when questions are broadened beyond the
Nevertheless, we believe that social landscape archae- admittedly essential issue of whether social entities, spheres
ology makes strong contributions to the study of hu- of authority, or behaviors are territorial to include inquiries
man territoriality. By acknowledging the tensions between into how and why they take on their particular spatial, tem-
the practical, experiential, and representational dimensions poral, and institutional configurations. In this spirit, we lay
of landscape—what geographer Henri Lefebvre (1991:33) out five dimensions of variability in human territoriality that
labels, respectively, “spatial practice,” “representational have been underexplored in previous archaeological studies
spaces,” and “representations of space”—social landscape of the subject. For each dimension, we provide historical
archaeology opens up a suite of new questions for archae- and ethnographic examples, as well as questions that they
ological studies of territoriality, many of which we outline pose for archaeological research. While these axes hardly
below. exhaust the diversity of human territoriality, they provide a
preliminary outline for future research.

Dimensions of Territorial Variability

Territories Are Variably Bounded
The dynamic vision of territoriality that emerges out
of recent literature in human evolutionary ecology, political Recent archaeological literature on borders and fron-
economy, and cultural geography opens up new potential for tiers (e.g., Golden et al. 2008; Lightfoot and Martinez 1995;
archaeologists to contribute to the comparative study of this Parker 2006; Parker and Rodseth 2005; Scherer and Golden
complex phenomenon. Despite the antinomies that Norman 2009) has focused on the complex and often fluid ways
Yoffee (this volume) identifies between evolutionary eco- in which political boundaries are established, maintained,
logical and social landscape approaches, both sets of studies and redefined. In contrast, discussions of territoriality have
share an openness to social and historical variability. How- afforded less attention to spatial and temporal variability
ever, we believe that previous studies have yet to fully map in border practices. Instead, archaeologists employing ter-
the scope of territorial variation in the past and present. ritorial models have frequently assumed that borders are
Archaeology, Territoriality, and Politics 11

relatively uniform, both in space and time. Ethnographic on which definition is employed and the range of questions
and historical examples demonstrate, however, that the re- about human–land relations that one finds compelling.
lationship between boundaries and territories is highly vari- Yet even when research on territorial control is limited
able. Modes of territorial definition and defense vary in their to the defense of spatial distributions of resources against
intensity, materiality, and social coordination, and within a outsiders, we find examples of groups and institutions that
given territory, boundary behaviors and defenses may vary maintain considerably different rules about boundaries along
considerably along perimeters. different portions of their territorial perimeters. Contempo-
At the broadest level, we can distinguish between ter- rary examples, such as the distinction between the United
ritories that lack hard and fast boundaries and those that States government’s differential treatment of its borders with
possess them. For example, according to Lee (1979), social Canada and Mexico, highlight the ways in which differ-
space among the !Kung foragers of the Kalahari is divided ent borders are defined by different rules. Historical ex-
into various n!ore (localities) (Lee 1979:334). Whereas the amples further expand the scope of variability. In Qin and
!Kung designate certain resources like water holes as de- Han period China (221 B.C.E.–C.E. 220), for example, sig-
fensible territorial property that can be passed down from nificant investments were made in defending the empire’s
generation to generation, n!ore possess more ambiguous northern frontier from nomadic “barbarians,” particularly
boundaries. the Xiongnu (Lewis 2007). In contrast, the southern frontier
commanded considerably less imperial attention.
“I would often ask my companions,” recounts Lee, In addition to spatial variability, significant differences
“‘Are we still in n‘ore X or have we crossed over into may exist in territorial defense behaviors between seasons,
n!ore Y?’ [and] they usually had a good deal of difficulty particularly where fluctuations in rainfall and temperature
specifying which n!ore they were in, and two informants define major differences in resource distribution (Holl 1998,
would often disagree.” [in Johnson and Earle 2000:79] this volume). Here, the resource defensibility hypothesis,
coupled with environmental and demographic reconstruc-
Yet far from being irrelevant to social life, long-term settle- tion, should prove highly useful for predicting temporal
ment within n!ore is closely affiliated with membership in variability in territorial defense.
!Kung bands (Marshall 1960:330). In this scenario, territo- Together, these examples of spatial and temporal vari-
ries, rather than being strictly delimited by boundaries, are ability in territorial boundaries raise a series of questions and
“tethered” to central points that are defended against out- considerations for archaeological research on territoriality.
siders (cf. Taylor 1964). Similar, but more complex, radial Do we find archaeological evidence for seasonal variabil-
patterns of territoriality are present in the “capital-centric” ity in territorial behavior, and do we witness differences in
model of sovereignty in classical Chinese polities (Berman how territories are defined along different portions of their
2005:123), where sovereign power is imagined to radiate boundaries? Under what circumstances do polities make sig-
from the capital city through a series of concentric zones, nificant investments in the erection of material boundaries
diminishing along the way until it reaches the wild zone to define territories? Do they do so simply when the density
beyond the pale of the state. and predictability of resources located on one side of these
By some criteria, such as Eric Alden Smith’s (1983) boundaries reach a certain threshold, outpacing the cost of
definition of territorial control as the “exclusive use of a monumental construction? Or are such projects also pursued
spatially fixed and clearly bounded area by some means of when they do not “make economic sense”? Why is it that
defense or communication,” !Kung n!ore are not territo- boundaries are materialized in different ways and territorial
ries at all, but rather a loose series of emotive ties to the defense carried out through different means?
landscape. Indeed, outside of the watering holes that form
the core areas of each n!ore, resources in the NyaeNyae
region conform to the low-density and low-predictability Territories Vary in Their Geographic Continuity
conditions by which Dyson-Hudson and Smith (1978) pre-
dict a lack of territorial defense behaviors. However, ac- In Westphalian models of sovereignty in modern nation-
cording to more-encompassing definitions of territory, such states, territories are envisioned as contiguous areas of ab-
as those employed by social landscape archaeologists and solute space (Diener and Hagen 2010). The contiguity of
cultural geographers, !Kung n!ore form part of a broader territory is also central to schema in evolutionary anthro-
spectrum of means by which social groups become attached pology that envision territorial states at the apices of po-
to places. The relevance of such radial territorial patterns to litical development. In Carneiro’s (1970) “circumscription”
archaeological research on territoriality therefore depends model of state formation, for example, the integration of
12 Parker VanValkenburgh and James F. Osborne

territories as continuous wholes is essential to explaining populations living in noncontiguous areas. Thus, territorial
how states emerge in the first place. In regions where essen- control (and in some cases, defense) continues to exist at
tial resources are abundant and evenly distributed, emerging one social scale but fails to appear at another.
political elites struggle to gain control over subject popula- To date, archaeologists have focused little attention on
tions because households and lineages are able to defect be- this dimension of territorial variability, but the distinction
yond centers of geographic control. In contrast, regions that between continuous and noncontinuous territorial forma-
contain tightly circumscribed areas of essential resources, tions highlighted in these examples poses new questions
such as the verdant valleys crosscutting the coastal Peruvian for archaeological scholarship: Under what conditions do
desert, lend themselves to the emergence of complex politi- regimes that command allegiance and tribute from non-
cal institutions because they are naturally bounded, and few contiguous populations arise? How do these circumstances
alternatives for defection exist. differ from those fostering aggregation among territorially
Ironically, ethnohistoric scholarship on coastal Peru contiguous populations? How are not only distributions of
has provided what may be one of the clearest exam- resources but also histories of migration, genealogies, mili-
ples of noncontiguous territoriality in the anthropological tary conquest, and alliance-building implicated in these pat-
record. Rather than being “circumscribed” by the Andes, terns?
as Carneiro suggested, Peruvian coastal communities ap-
pear to have been integrally connected with their highland
neighbors through “vertical archipelago” economies (Murra Territorial Polities Are Variably Affixed to Physical
1972). Communities living in varying ecologies exchanged Landscapes
diverse products (e.g., fish from the coast, maize from coastal
and inland valleys, camelid wool and potatoes from puna In addition to assuming that territories have uniform
grasslands) through kin-based networks. Connections be- boundaries and are geographically contiguous, archaeolog-
tween distant regions were not founded on the basis of con- ical models have tended to envision territorial polities as
tiguity, but were rather established through complex histo- fixed entities tied to physical landscapes. Even as “dynamic”
ries of familial and political affiliation. As a result, different models acknowledge that territories grow and shrink with
geographic “tiers” within vertical archipelago networks (the the political fortunes of chiefs, kings, and dynasties (cf.
coast, intermontane valleys, highland grasslands, tropical Marcus 1998), they still tend see them as emanating from
lowlands, etc.) were not unified political territories. Rather, fixed geographic centers. Accordingly, when a center col-
within each zone, we find what Ramı́rez (1985) calls “pep- lapses, or the territorial structure of society is fundamen-
pered” sovereignty (dominio salpicado): leaders claimed the tally compromised, archaeological models imagine that the
allegiance (and labor) of lineages distributed in discrete, but polity ceases to exist. However, historical examples of terri-
noncontiguous territories that were scattered about the coun- torial polities uprooted from their geographic locations and
tryside. reestablished in others suggest a more complex relationship
Similarly, in late pre-Hispanic highland Mexico, the between political authority, social solidarity, and territory.
political subjectivity of individuals to altepetl (Nahuatl for Among the Tiv of Nigeria, for example, territoriality entails
“watery mountain”) appears to have been defined not strictly not so much attachment to specific landscapes but rather ro-
by residence within contiguous territories but by tribute obli- tating land ownership mediated by the “idiom of descent.”
gations to individual rulers (Schroeder 1991; M. E. Smith Each Tiv “minimal lineage” of two to three hundred house-
2003:151, 2008:90–93). While in many cases the members holds possesses a territory (tar) within which all male heads
of a given altepetl lived within a single contiguous area of households hold rights to cultivate enough land to feed
(Hodge 1994; M. E. Smith 2008:91), and the heads of dif- their families (Bohannan 1954:3–4). Each lineage territory
ferent altepetl always seem to have controlled some territory, adjoins that of its nearest “sibling,” and these two together
we find numerous examples where individuals subject to dif- define both a more inclusive lineage and an inclusive terri-
ferent altepetl lived interspersed among one another – for tory. Similarly, the territories of the next two most closely
example, among the subjects of Teotihuacan, Acolman, and related lineages are settled alongside one another, and so on.
Tepexpan (Gibson 1964:46; M. E. Smith 2008:92, figure 1). In theory, the nesting of lineages and territories carries all the
In both of these cases, the control of land remained way up the ladder of descent “to the apex of the genealogy,
central to subsistence and tribute production within local back in time to the founder who begot the entire people,
groups. However, both the late pre-Hispanic cacicazgos of and outwards in space to the edges of Tivland”—an area
Peru’s north coast and the altepetl of central Mexico were ag- containing over eight hundred thousand people in the late
gregated as polities through networked connections between 1940s, at the time they were studied by Bohannan (1954:3,
Archaeology, Territoriality, and Politics 13

see figure 2). Within this system, no single tar is fixed in accumulation and inheritance more conducive to the emer-
space. Rather, social friction between lineages, caused by gence of what we might call “mobile territorial polities”?
each minimal segment’s constant drive to expand its terri-
tory, leads to an unending cycle of expansion and migration,
by which new tar are constantly claimed. However, the ideal The Control of Territory Is Frequently (and Variably)
model of genealogical geography constantly wills lineages Dependent on Nonterritorial Forms of Power
to reestablish their territories alongside those of their closest
relatives, even as they relocate themselves in absolute space. As we have argued here, for much of the 20th century,
Recent studies of Classic Maya political geography pro- archaeological scholarship assumed that the control of ter-
vide further examples. Following scholarship that identi- ritory was a fixed aspect of social power. Recent critiques
fied Maya “emblem glyphs” (Berlin 1958) as the names of have contrasted territorial and nonterritorial strategies and
geographic places (Marcus 1976) and as regional polities sought to identify contexts in which sovereignty and identity
(Mathews and Justeson 1984; Stuart and Houston 1994), are mediated by nonterritorial obligations (Alconini 2008;
new interpretations suggest that certain emblem glyphs may D’Altroy 1992; Luttwak 1979; Ramı́rez 2005; M. E. Smith
refer to multiple “capital” sites occupied in succession. For 2008). As Sack (1986) notes, however, even where political
example, the Kaan (snake) polity seems to have constructed territories do exist, they are constantly sustained by nonter-
a capital at the northern Maya site of Dzibanche as early as ritorial forms of power—armies to defend borders, tribute
the late fifth century C.E., before relocating and establish- collected to feed armies, and so on. An essential element
ing its capital at the site of Calakmul (Martin and Grube of the study of human territoriality is therefore clarifying
2000:103–104). Similarly, the Postclassic Kowoj migrated the ways in which territorial control is sustained by other
from the southern Maya lowlands and established a new base sources of power.
of power in the Northern Yucatán (Rice and Rice 2009). In We see a great deal of variation in relations between
light of such evidence, Martin (2005:12) suggests that Maya territorial and nonterritorial modes of authority, even within
ideas of territoriality and statehood were highly fluid, and the same milieus. Farriss’s (1984:148–151) discussion of
that emblem glyphs referred not to fixed geographic entities territoriality among Maya polities in the Yucatán Peninsula
but to “royal houses whose connections to specific territories during the C.E. 1540s offers a vivid example. Here, 16 or
are less intrinsic than habitual” (Martin 2005:12). more “provinces” coexisted within a single cultural and lin-
We believe that, rather than being unique to Maya polit- guistic unit and were ruled by individual halach uinics, or
ical geography, these observations may be more broadly ap- lords (Farriss 1984:148). Rather than each serving as the
plicable to understanding ties between polity and territory. ruler of a modular territorial polity, halach uinics appear to
While political institutions may forge allegiances, obliga- have maintained different levels of control over their territo-
tions, and identities among populations through references ries. Some relied to a greater degree on tributary extraction,
to territories that they control, such relations are not in- while others were more directly involved in the supervision
delibly bound to the geographic domains in which they are of agricultural production. However, all controlled at least
created. Situated practice within territory enacts social and some small parcels of land. To date, it is unclear why author-
political ties, through phenomena as broad as marriage, debt, ity took on different shapes within these polities, but further
and emotional connections to place. In some circumstances, exploration might draw on both evolutionary ecology and so-
such as the examples of the Classic Maya snake polity and cial landscape perspectives. Some terrestrial resources are
the Tiv, the institutions created by these interactions are ro- fairly evenly distributed across the Yucatán peninsula, but
bust enough that they can be reconstituted in new locations attention to variations in land cover and water availability
following migration or other moments of dislocation. In (following the examples of Garrison 2007; Lucero 1999,
other cases, polities completely dissolve as their territories 2006, 2008 for pre-Columbian Maya landscapes) may help
are compromised. to explain variability in territorial control among colonial
What, then, are the particular circumstances (economic, Maya polities. Alternatively, social landscape perspectives
ecological, demographic, historical) under which political might highlight such factors as variation in built environ-
institutions can be uprooted and reestablished in new land- ments constructed by colonial Maya leaders and historical
scapes? Is political capital more portable in contexts where relationships between halach uinics and their subjects.
demographic pressure and resource availability are relatively Such examples raise additional questions for archaeo-
low, reducing interpolity competition for subjects and re- logical studies of territoriality. How are territorial and non-
sources? Or does competition strengthen these ties? Are territorial forms of authority and capital accumulation re-
some culturally and historically particular modes of capital lated? Rather than rejecting the material, experiential, and
14 Parker VanValkenburgh and James F. Osborne

perceptual dimensions of territoriality as a mirage and re- (Buenos Aires). During the 18th century, when reforms in-
placing them with an analytical focus on networks, how can stituted by Spain’s Bourbon monarchs sought to enhance
we take territory seriously and make sense of how social the crown’s administrative control over the colonies and its
networks and territorial patterns configure social and polit- capacity for tax collection, additional powers and responsi-
ical life within the same milieu? What effects do territorial bilities were devolved from the viceregal capital in Lima to
claims and boundary behaviors have on the construction a series of new viceroyalties (La Plata, Nueva Granada) and
of networks, and how are social ties mobilized to establish captaincies general (Chile, Venezuela) (Lynch 1992). Within
territorial control? each of these territories, centralized administrations estab-
lished institutional control and extended their reach over
land and population. Following the wars of independence
Territorial Strategies Have Variable (and Frequently against Spain in the 1810s and 1820s, new territorial states
Unintended) Consequences for Social Life emerged largely along the boundaries of the former viceroy-
alties, though fragmentation into smaller former audiencia
If we follow Sack (1986), territorial control can be units continued for several decades and conflicts over some
treated as a power strategy, but to be enacted, territorial territorial holdings have continued in recent years (Palmer
boundaries must be represented and performed, through 1997). Over time, conflicts over territory with neighboring
what Lefebvre (1991:33) calls “representations of space.” states, the growth of festivals of independence and national
Territory is performed not only by walls and fences but traditions, and the spread of media served to congeal na-
also maps and ceremonies that seek to objectify the spaces tional identities tied to specific territories (Anderson 1983;
of claimed sovereign domains. During the Early Modern Brading 1991; Mallon 1995; Sommer 1991).
period, scientific mapmaking in Europe served as an inte- Rather than seeing such patterns as exclusive to modern
gral tool facilitating imperial claims to transatlantic space nation-states, we might search for them in a variety of locales
(Barber 1992; Mignolo 1995; Montaño 2011; Padrón 2004; where political boundaries are relatively stable over long pe-
Strandsbjerg 2010). Similarly, cartography has played a key riods of time. Social landscape approaches are particularly
role in defining spaces of authority in postcolonial nation- well suited to addressing the questions that emerge at the
states (Ramaswamy 2002; Winichakul 1994). In practice, intersections of the relationship between territory and social
however, both imperial and national representations of terri- identity: How do different patterns of territoriality emerge
tory are often contested by subaltern mapmakers with their from both daily practices and bureaucratic constructions of
own visions of the world and political ambitions (Mundy political landscapes? How do state interventions reinforce,
1996; Peluso 1995; Wainwright and Bryan 2009). If we overlap with, or contradict territorialities emerging from sit-
imagine territoriality as emerging not just through situated uated practices? Where they overlap, how are tensions be-
practice or straightforward territorial claims but through tween representations of territory and territorial practices
friction between competing representations and practices, resolved, if they are at all, in social experience? Under what
this new perspective should add a great deal of richness to circumstances do state representations of territory effec-
our understandings of its social effects. tively transform not only political allegiance but also social
In addition to being contested, the representation and identities? How might alternative “representational territo-
establishment of territories may have unanticipated conse- ries” (to again paraphrase Lefebvre 1991) contest dominant
quences for the people who live among them. Over time, the depictions of space, and what consequences do they have for
control of territory and the maintenance of territorial bound- how the less powerful interact with territorial boundaries?
aries may “feed back” on political institutions and redefine
ethnic and national affiliations. The story of South Ameri-
can nationalisms, which emerged in the 19th century out of Conclusion
broadly shared cultural and institutional backgrounds, of-
fers a particularly compelling example. Under the Hapsburg Scholarship on territoriality in anthropology and an-
monarchs, the whole of Spanish South America, as well as thropological archaeology has varied widely over the past
Panama, formed part of the Viceroyalty of Peru (Basadre century, not only in its epistemology and methodology but
1961). Within this overarching structure, the colonial gov- also in its basic definitions of what territory is. For some
ernment created a series of separate audiencias (high courts authors, territory is a material medium that both enables and
that also served as councils of state) with territorial jurisdic- restricts human subsistence, and that bears little relevance
tions centered on the cities of Panama, Bogota, Quito, Lima, to questions about political life (Flannery 1976; Vita-Finzi
Charcas (Sucre), Santiago de Chile, and eventually La Plata and Higgs 1970). For others, territories are spheres of social
Archaeology, Territoriality, and Politics 15

experience that vary based on cultural and institutional his- rial configurations in small-scale societies and nonagricul-
tory (Hall 1968; Mantha 2009; see also Mantha, this vol- tural economies. Archaeologists’ access to several millen-
ume). For a third set of perspectives, territory is not so nia’s worth of social and political diversity and our sensitiv-
much a medium or spatial frame of reference as a form of ity to the material components of territorial discourse and
strategy employed when it suits the needs of actors seeking practice place us in a unique position to contribute to this
social control (Sack 1986); communities attempting to safe- interdisciplinary project.
guard their economic viability (Dyson-Hudson and Smith
1978; see also Bintliff, this volume; Chabot-Hanowell and
Smith, this volume); or states and empires striving to achieve Presentation of the Present Volume
balance between tribute extraction, counterinsurgency, and
defense against external political threats (D’Altroy 1992; This volume originated as a symposium held at the An-
Luttwak 1976; see also Parker, this volume). Finally, some nual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in
view territories as the product of overlapping and contradic- 2009. The editors convened the session with the goals of ex-
tory experiences, perceptions, and representations of land- amining current theoretical and methodological approaches
scape (Cosgrove 1985; Harvey 1989; A. Smith 2003; Soja to territoriality in archaeology and with a particular interest
1989; see also Greene and Lindsay, this volume). Disjunc- in examining the relevance of scholarship in political geog-
tions among these varied definitions and analyses of terri- raphy to the theorization of territoriality in archaeology. A
toriality create a series of antimonies within archaeological majority of the papers that were presented in that sympo-
scholarship on the subject, both within and without this sium are now chapters in this volume, while several authors
volume (Yoffee, this volume). Yet, while broad differences who were not able to participate in the symposium were
between the goals of evolutionary ecology and those of so- invited to contribute to this collection. We have organized
cial landscape archaeology may make these two approaches their work in three sections, each containing three chapters:
incompatible on many levels, we believe that both funda- Origins and Transitions: The Emergence of Early Territorial
mentally contribute to the study of human territoriality and Polities (Section II), Contingency and Variability in Political
should continue to form part of the diverse toolkit that ar- Territoriality (Section III), and Territoriality and Politics in
chaeologists employ to make sense of social space. Ancient Empires (Section IV).
The historical examples we have presented in this The chapters in Origins and Transitions: The Emer-
chapter suggest that, far from being a mechanical feature gence of Early Territorial Polities address one of the pri-
of political evolution, territoriality emerges at the dynamic mary questions that result if territorial control is no longer
intersection of political projects, local environments, and so- regarded as a necessary dimension of social power: why is
cial experience. Rather than being modular, territories vary it that political regimes that are based on territorial control
in their boundedness, continuity, and fixity, as well as in their emerge in some contexts, but not in others? John Bintliff
relations with nonterritorial forms of power and their perfor- (Chapter 2) adopts a diachronic perspective to explain the
mative effects on political institutions and social identities. development of varying modes of political territoriality in
Such variability underscores the need for archaeologists to ancient Greece. He is quick to point out that strict control
be cautious in our interpretations of territorial phenomena in of landed property is, in fact, well evidenced in classical
the material record. Where we find the remains of fortifica- city-states. Yet he argues that territorial polities were either
tions, physical barriers, and lines of cleavage in settlement nonexistent or territorial control was manifested in differ-
patterns, we should not simply assume that they delimit ent ways both prior and subsequent to the Classical era.
hardened spaces of political domination, but attempt to seek For Bintliff, ecological factors help to explain why territo-
out further evidence that will help to clarify both the con- rial control existed in some periods and not in others, but he
ditions under which these patterns emerged and the effects ultimately points to social and economic conditions—in par-
they had on the people who lived among them. ticular, the changing scale of administrative hierarchies and
By expanding the scope of archaeological studies of the reorganization of economic networks and institutions—
territoriality, archaeologists may in turn better contribute to to explain the relationship between social power and territo-
interdisciplinary scholarship on the subject. Despite scat- rial organization.
tered references to ethnographic material in geographic lit- Augustin F. C. Holl (Chapter 3) discusses the devel-
erature on territoriality (e.g., Sack 1986; Soja 1971), schol- opment of territorial polities in pastoralist societies based
arship in geography and political economy has infrequently on observed differences in the Late Stone Age (4000–200
drawn on archaeological case studies. Moreover, the same B.C.E.) Eghazer basin (Niger) and the modern Shuwa-Arab
literature has made comparatively little reference to territo- communities of the Houlouf region (Cameroon). His study
16 Parker VanValkenburgh and James F. Osborne

synthesizes a discussion of the ecological and political- evidence and territorial interpretation. Examining settlement
economic contexts in which pastoralist dispositions toward patterns, architecture, and ceramic styles in these culturally
territory develop. By comparing pastoralist societies that oc- related regions, Urban and Schortman argue that contrasting
cupy ecologically similar regions, but hold differing notions patterns of monumentality and ceramic production between
of the values and possibilities of land, Holl’s essay under- the two valleys are evidence that the relationship between
scores the importance of demography, ethnicity, and cultural social power and land developed along different lines in
identity in the determination of political territoriality. each valley. Their study underscores the lack of correspon-
Through an examination of settlement patterns, archi- dence between cultural traditions and political territorial-
tecture, and ceramics from Late Bronze Age (LBA; ca. ities, and they suggest that variability in the distribution
1500–1150 B.C.E.) fortresses and associated settlements in of high-quality arable land within each valley may help to
Armenia, Alan Greene and Ian Lindsay (Chapter 4) examine explain the different patterns of political territoriality that
the connection between political territoriality and sedentism. emerged therein.
While archaeological models of political economy often as- Jesse Casana (Chapter 7) challenges the assumption
sume that monumental architecture, political complexity, that Near Eastern Bronze Age polities, whether modest city-
and the control of territory go hand in hand with one another, states or complex empires, had clear and discrete borders.
Greene and Lindsay demonstrate that non-elite domestic Analyzing contemporary texts with the goal of understand-
structures associated with LBA fortresses on the Tsaghka- ing the basis of Bronze Age political authority, Casana con-
hovit Plain were transient in nature and that their inhabitants cludes that legitimacy in the Bronze Age was achieved not
were likely seminomadic. Based on this interpretation, they through the control of strictly defined territories but through
argue that LBA elites necessarily developed nonterritorial extraction of agricultural produce and reference to personal
strategies of legitimation through subtle process of negotia- loyalties. On the basis of this assertion, he then explores the
tion with non-elite actors. possibilities offered by remote-sensing techniques such as
While the work presented in Section II highlights satellite imagery for conceptualizing the tell-based occupa-
questions about how territorial and nonterritorial forms of tional landscape characteristic of the Bronze Age.
sovereignty develop over time, Territoriality in Archaeol- While recent work on political geography in ancient
ogy also seeks to examine how different modalities of social empires (e.g., Alconini 2008; D’Altroy 2002; M. L. Smith
power coexist within the same milieus. The essays in the 2005, 2007) has thoroughly unsettled the assumption that
third section, Contingency and Variability in Political Ter- territorial control was an inherent component of imperial
ritoriality, highlight the ways in which territorial and non- political economies, few studies have expanded on these
territorial forms of sovereignty complement and contradict contributions to demonstrate how territorial and nonterrito-
one another in particular political and cultural contexts. rial forms of sovereignty were managed and deployed within
Benjamin Chabot-Hanowell and Eric Alden Smith the same polities. The contributors to the final substantive
(Chapter 5) open the section with a discussion of analytical section of this volume, Territoriality and Politics in Ancient
approaches that are particularly well suited for exploring the Empires, attempt such analyses.
complex interaction of territorial and nonterritorial forms of Bradley Parker’s case study (Chapter 8) demonstrates
social power: evolutionary ecological models. While previ- that political territoriality within the Neo-Assyrian Empire
ous studies of territoriality have made use of evolutionary (934–609 B.C.E.) differed across regions, with some areas
frameworks, Chabot-Hanowell and Smith expand on this lit- held under firm territorial control and others merely serv-
erature, arguing that evolutionary ecological approaches are ing as narrow transportation and communication corridors.
also well suited for addressing questions of political econ- Parker’s model shows us that, much more than simply a
omy and human agency. They advocate for the continued question of strategic decision-making, the Assyrian state’s
explanatory power of Dyson-Hudson and Smith’s (1978) interest in and ability to control land was mediated by dy-
economic defensibility model, drawing on a wide range of namic relationships with local populations and landscapes.
ethnographic and ethnohistoric sources from small-scale so- Namita Sugandhi’s contribution (Chapter 9) critically
cieties, and they touch on suggestions about how the model reexamines territoriality in the Mauryan Empire (fourth to
might also be able to account for territoriality in more com- second century B.C.E.) of South Asia. Inspecting texts and
plex societies as well. stone monuments that historians and archaeologists have
Patricia Urban and Edward Schortman’s contribution conventionally used as markers of that empire’s borders,
(Chapter 6) on the Middle Preclassic occupations of the Sugandhi suggests that the Mauryan polity was likely con-
Naco and Middle Chamelecon-Cacaulapa valleys in north- siderably more diffuse and that it might be depicted more
western Honduras deals more directly with archaeological effectively as a meshwork of connections than a unified
Archaeology, Territoriality, and Politics 17

territorial entity. Accordingly, we can read the Asokan edicts and Marı́a Nieves Zedeño, Thomas Garrison, Morag Kersel,
carved into rock faces throughout the Indian subcontinent Steven Kosiba, and Monica Smith.
not as claims to surrounding territories but as elements in
the construction of a moral landscape—spear points in the
“conquests of dharma” through which the Mauryan Empire Notes
achieved hegemony over its domain.
In his discussion of the impact of the Inka conquest on 1. In a flourish typical of the global turn, Gupta and
the Rapayán Valley of Peru, Alexis Mantha (Chapter 10) Ferguson (1992) do not cite a wealth of earlier literature that
explicitly criticizes the distinction between hegemonic and understands the relationship between culture and place in
territorial strategies of domination, finding that it does not much more processual terms (e.g., Barth 1969; Frank 1969;
adequately account for the complex mosaic of differences Wallerstein 1974; Wolf 1982).
in the Inkas’ regional administration of land, labor, and 2. We prefer the label “social landscape archaeology” to
mentalité. Following Robert Sack, Mantha explores the the term “political landscapes approach” offered by Kosiba
changing articulation of intra-site and regional territorial- and Bauer (2012). In choosing this label, we wish to under-
ity precipitated by the Inka invasion of Rapayán, drawing score the approach’s shared interests with social archaeology
on both regional settlement data and discussions of archi- (Meskell and Preucel 2004), which include the political con-
tecture and spatial organization. By discussing how Inka struction of social practice and human subjectivity.
territorial strategies intervened in local communal mortuary
landscapes, he also suggests that Inka re-territorialization of References
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