Frederic L. Pryor

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Bulbeck and Graeme Barker

Barker, Graeme. 2006. The Agricultural Revolution in Prehistory: Why did Foragers become Farmers? Oxford University Press.

  • Comprehensive and authoritative treatment of a key archaeological debate - why foragers became farmers
  • Integrates the findings of many disciplines across the humanities and sciences
  • More than 100 specially chosen illustrations provide context and interest and aid understanding
  • The Agricultural Revolution in Prehistory addresses one of the most debated and least understood revolutions in the history of our species, the change from hunting and gathering to farming. Graeme Barker takes a global view, and integrates a massive array of information from archaeology and many other disciplines, including anthropology, botany, climatology, genetics, linguistics, and zoology. Against current orthodoxy, Barker develops a strong case for the development of agricultural systems in many areas as transformations in the life-ways of the indigenous forager societies, and argues that these were as much changes in social norms and ideologies as in ways of obtaining food. With a large number of helpful line drawings and photographs as well as a comprehensive bibliography, this authoritative study will appeal to a wide general readership as well as to specialists in a variety of fields.

Readership: Scholars, students, and educated general readers of archaeology, especially prehistoric archaeology; prehistory; geography; genetics.


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Bibliography of published data

Pryor, Frederic L. 2010. Inheritance and Inequality of Wealth. Current Anthropology Vol. 51, No. 1 (February 2010), pp. 111-113. A Comment: Intergenerational Wealth Transmission and Inequality in Premodern Societies (Inheritance and Inequality of Wealth - A Comment - Frederic L. Pryor) Department of Economics, Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania 19081, U.S.A. ( 23 IX 09 The essays under review provide a model analysis of a sadly neglected topic, the distribution of wealth and inheritance in nonstate societies. They define three different types of wealth, measure the inequalities of holdings and inheritance arrangements within four groups of societies with the same economic systems, and then analyze similarities and differences between the four groups. This research procedure allows us to gain a broad perspective on the topic. The statistical methods employed are sophisticated, and the exposition of the results is clear. Nevertheless, I am uncomfortable with the interpretation of the statistical results, and the comments below present a different perspective on these calculations.

The Relationship between Gini Coefficients of Wealth and Inheritance β’s ---> Jump To Section... The β coefficient represents the percentage change of an offspring’s wealth associated with a 1% change in the wealth of his or her parents. As noted in the introductory essay by Bowles, Smith, and Borgerhoff Mulder (2010), represents a regression toward the mean; that is, in the very long run, with other things remaining equal, wealth will be equally distributed if β is less than unity, which is the case for every society in the sample. The lower the β is, the faster this equality will be achieved. Other things equal, we have reason to suspect, therefore, that lower β’s will be associated with lower Gini coefficients of wealth, a conjecture that can be easily tested with the data for the 44 societies.

Unfortunately, the results of a regression analysis do not support this conjecture. More specifically, if we examine the relationship between the Gini coefficients (dependent variable) and β’s (independent variable) with an ordinary least squares regression, we find a negative but statistically insignificant relationship (.05 level) for the foraging (hunting and gathering) and horticultural societies, a positive but statistically insignificant relationship for the pastoral societies, and a positive and statistically significant relationship only for the agricultural societies. These results are not changed if we add the relative importance of the different types of food production activities (the α’s) or a dummy variable indicating whether the calculated β is statistically significant. If we arrange the data according to the type of wealth (embodied, material, or relational) and rerun the regressions, we find a negative but statistically insignificant relationship between the Gini coefficients and the β’s for embodied and relational wealth and a positive but statistically insignificant relationship for material wealth. Adding to the regression, the α’s or a dummy variable indicating whether the calculated β is statistically significant also does not change the statistical insignificance of the results. So what is happening?

Explanations of the Disappointing Regression Results--->Jump To Section... Two easy explanations for the disappointing regression results can be offered. (1) Several of the papers mentioned differential shocks to individual wealth holdings—cattle are stolen or die from disease, climate changes nullify certain types of embodied wealth, or people die so that relational wealth evaporates. But, as conceded in the papers, no empirical evidence is available to determine whether such shocks actually had any impact on the Gini coefficients of wealth holdings. (2) The β coefficients are not a good measure of inheritance practices and, moreover, cannot be accurately calculated: slightly more than half are not statistically significant at the .05 level. If wealth is not equally inherited by a person’s children or if parents with the same wealth have a different number of children, then the ratios of a child’s wealth to that of his or her parents can be greatly different for parents with the same wealth, and an average ratio or a ratio calculated through a regression technique may not tell us very much if we consider only a few families. More specifically, in a society where each set of parents has only two children and each child inherits an equal share of the family’s wealth, the β may equal 1, while in the same family situation with primogeniture, the average β may equal 0.5 because one child inherits nothing. With different numbers of children per family, there may be a wide variation in the ratios of wealth of children to that of parents, and the meaningfulness of the β is open to doubt, especially in small samples. In the regression experiments described above, I included a dummy variable to see whether the lack of statistical significance of the β had any effect on the major results, but it did not. Such a test, however, does not adequately measure the bias of the wide variations of the ratios of children’s wealth to parent’s wealth for parents in a given wealth class. The inheritance rule, not the calculated β, is the key variable to examine.

Inheritance and Wealth Inequality: Alternative Explanations--->Jump To Section... What are the major mechanisms linking the inequalities of wealth and the calculated β’s? Three seem to be particularly important and, in the various papers, are informally discussed but not seriously analyzed.

1. One crucial mechanism is demographic. In this regard, consider the following situation: a society starts with an initial distribution of wealth among individuals, the adults marry according to certain rules (e.g., the degree of assortative marriage according to wealth), people earn income by labor and the use of their wealth according to certain rules (e.g., labor income varies according to some rule, the income received from wealth varies according to another rule, or there is a certain sharing or redistribution of income in the society), people save according to some rule, they have children according to their income (if they are wealthy, they have more—or fewer—children), they die and their wealth is redistributed according to certain rules (e.g., primogeniture, equal division, or some children receive more than others), and then the process then begins anew as the children marry. Although this process cannot be easily modeled analytically, it can be easily simulated by computer and run for many generations. The simulation results show that the distribution of wealth asymptotically approaches an equilibrium that depends on the various societal rules specified in the model, which also influence the speed at which this equilibrium is achieved (simulations discussed in Pryor 1973). In such a situation, the long‐term inequality of wealth may have little relationship to the inequality of wealth in the first few periods of the process.

Unfortunately, the papers in the special section focus only on the short term because the available data deal primarily with only two adjacent generations and they did not discuss changes in inheritance arrangements or wealth inequalities in the past. The β coefficient in the model is indirectly specified by the inheritance rule and its interaction with the other rules. Such a model provides a direct mechanism linking inheritance rules and wealth inequality, which the various papers in the special section discuss only in an informal manner.

2. The wealth distribution is also influenced by nondemographic societal rules and institutions. In those societies with slavery, wealth may be quite unequally distributed because a certain segment of the society is not allowed to have any (material) wealth. Inequalities may arise because of limited access to certain resources necessary for food production, for example, fertile land for agriculture or foraging rights for particular tracts of land, river bank rights for fishing, water rights and pastures for cattle herding, and so forth. Several of the papers discussed these influential societal rules in passing.

3. Finally, societies differ in the degree to which food and tools for food production are shared between family members, friends, or others, and this also has an important impact on the distribution of wealth. Clearly, a family in a society with extensive sharing is less likely to experience a downward spiral of income and wealth if misfortune strikes, and this suggests that societies with more sharing should have more egalitarian wealth distributions. This conjecture can be tested in several ways.

Some cross‐cultural data from a large sample show that both reciprocal exchange and gift giving (one‐way transfers), which represent a type of relational wealth, are more likely to be found in foraging and horticultural societies than in pastoral and agricultural societies at higher levels of economic development (Pryor 1977, chaps. 7, 9). We would predict, therefore, that the differences in the Gini coefficients of different types of wealth would be lower (more equal wealth distribution) in the former than in the latter societies. Looking at the Gini coefficients for the various types of capital for foraging and horticultural societies in comparison with those for pastoral and agricultural societies, I find that such a hypothesis is confirmed to a statistically significant degree. Confining ourselves to the individual types of capital, we see that the hypothesis is significantly confirmed for relational wealth but not for embodied or material wealth.

Final Words--->Jump To Section... Despite my reservations, I believe that the comparative approach employed in these papers represents an important step forward. Moreover, their focus on inheritance represents research on a topic that has, up to now, been shamefully neglected in the literature on economic anthropology. I can only hope that the leads provided in these papers serve to encourage others to follow in their footsteps.

References Cited--->Jump To Section... Bowles, Samuel, Eric Alden Smith, and Monique Borgerhoff Mulder. 2010. The emergence and persistence of inequality in premodern societies: introduction to the special section. Current Anthropology 51(1):7–17. First citation in article, Abstract Pryor, Frederic L. 1973. Simulation of the impact of social and economic institutions on the size distribution of income and wealth. American Economic Review 63(1):50–72. First citation in article, Abstract ———. 1977. The origins of the economy. New York: Academic Press. First citation in article © 2010 by The Wenner‐Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. All rights reserved.

Origins of the Economy

Economic Systems of Foraging, Agricultural, and Industrial Societies

Pryor, Frederic L. 1977. The Origins of the Economy: A Comparative Study of Distribution in Primitive and Peasant Economies]. New York, San Francisco, and London: Academic Press. [ Review. 2010. The Journal of Economic History / Volume 39 / Issue 02 / June 1979, pp 612-614 Copyright © The Economic History Association 1979 DOI: (About DOI), Published online: 11 May 2010

Pryor, Frederic L. 1983. Causal Theories about the Origins of Agriculture. Research in Economic history 8(1):93-124.

Pryor, Frederic L. 1986. The Adoption of Agriculture. American Anthropologist 88(4): 879-897.

Pryor, Frederic L. 2005. Rethinking Economic systems: A Study of Agricultural Systems. CCR 39(3):252-292. See below:

Pryor, Frederic L. 2005. Economic Systems of Foraging, Agricultural, and Industrial Societies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. The concept of "agricultural system" is shown not to work, but there are data in the book and the online datasets below.


Appendices to essay "Economic Systems of Foragers."
   * Explanation of data file. Click here for PDF file.
   * Data file. Click here for EXCEL 6 spreadsheet. or obsolete 
Appendices to article "Cluster Analysis in Cross-Cultural Research"
   * Explanation of data file. Click here for PDF file.
   * Data file. Click here for EXCEL 6 spreadsheet. Notes on the Economic Systems of Foragers

2003. From Foraging to Farming: The So-Called 'Neolithic Revolution'. SSRN: or Social Science Research Network. Notes on Transition to Agriculture.xls ||| Data on Transition to Agriculture.xls

Economic Systems of Foragers 2003 with excel data

Pryor, Frederic L. 2003. Economic Systems of Foragers. Cross-Cultural Research, Vol. 37, No. 4, 393-426. #See below: two separate subtables A and B

Appendices to essay "Economic Systems of Foragers" Notes on the Economic Systems of Foragers

Economic Systems of Foraging, Agricultural, and Industrial Societies appendix texts - Economic Systems of Foraging ag and industrial societies.html locate
Appendices to "Economic Systems of Foraging, Agricultural, and Industrial Societies"
External Appendices to Economic Systems of Foraging, Agricultural, and Industrial Societies
External Appendices to Economic Systems of Foraging, Agricultural, and Industrial Societies. 2005. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Appendix to Chapter 1. Click here for PDF file. Part One. Introduction.
Appendix to Chapter 2. Click here for PDF file. Part Two. Economic Systems of Foragers
Appendix to Chapter 3. Click here for PDF file. Part Two. From Foraging to Farming
Appendix to Chapter 4. Click here for PDF file. Part Three. Economic Systems of Agriculturalists.
Appendix to Chapter 5. Click here for PDF file. Part Three. From Agriculture to Industry.
Appendix to Chapter 6. Click here for PDF file. Part Four. Advanced Market Economic Systems.
Appendix to Chapter 7. Click here for PDF file. Part Four. Systemic Changes in Advanced Market Economic Systems
Appendix to Chapter 8. Click here for PDF file. Part Four. Marxist Economic Systems. appendix tables - Economic Systems of Foraging ag and industrial societies.html
See 2005 book p.xiii Economic Systems of Foraging, Agricultural, and Industrial Societies for the following?

External Appendices to Economic Systems of Foraging, Agricultural, and Industrial Societies

Table SA-1 Click here for EXCEL file. My Codes for Foraging Societies
Table SA-2 Click here for EXCEL file. Codes for Foraging Societies by others
Table SA-3 Click here for EXCEL file. Codes for “Intermediate Societies”
Table SA-4 Click here for EXCEL file. My Codes for Agricultural Societies
Table SA-5 Click here for EXCEL file. Codes for Agricultural Societies by others
Table SA-6 Click here for EXCEL file. Codes for Industrial Market Economies
Table SA-7 Click here for EXCEL file. Codes for Developing Market Economies


"Standard Cross-Cultural Sample"+Pryor

Pryor, Frederic and Nelson Graburn. 1980. "The Myth of Reciprocity," in Social Exchange: Advances in Theory and Research, eds. Kenneth J. Gergen, Martin S. Greenberg, and Richard H. Willis. New York and London: Plenum Press, 215- 237.

Pryor, Frederic L. 2003. Economic Systems of Foragers. Cross-Cultural Research, Vol. 37, No. 4, 393-426. Systems_Data.xls

Pryor, Frederic L. 2005a. Rethinking Economic Systems: A Study of Agricultural Societies. Cross-Cultural Research 39 (3): 252–292.

Pryor, Frederic L. 2005b. Economic Systems of Foraging, Agriculture, and Industrial Societies. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Pryor, Frederic L. 1985. The Invention of the Plow. Comparative Studies in Society and History 27: 740-744.

Frederic L. Pryor, 1986. The Adoption of Agriculture: Some Theoretical and Empirical Evidence. American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 88, No. 4 (Dec., 1986), pp. 879-897.

Frederic L. Pryor, 1984. The Transition to Agriculture: Some Empirical Evidence. Ms. These data are reprinted with permission of the author and the publisher. (c) University of Cambridge Press.

Frederic L. Pryor, 1977.

Citations with SCCS data

Matthew Baker, Erwin Bult, Jacob Weisdorf. 2010. The origins of governments: from anarchy to hierarchy. Journal of Institutional Economics 6(2):215-242. Abstract:

We analyze development trajectories of early civilizations where population size and technology are endogenous, and derive conditions under which such societies optimally ‘switch’ from anarchy to hierarchy – when it is optimal to elect and support a ruler. The ruler provides an efficient level of law and order, but creams off part of society's surplus for his own consumption. Switching to hierarchy occurs if the state of technology exceeds a threshold value, but societies may also be ‘trapped’ at lower levels of technology, perpetuating conditions of anarchy. We present empirical evidence based on the Standard Cross Cultural Sample that support the model's main predictions.

Javier A. Birchenall. 2010. Disease and Diversity in Africa's Long-Term Economic Development. Page 6. 2 Data and measurement Societal data. This paper uses the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample (SCCS) developed by Murdock and White [35] during the 1960s. ... As pointed out by Pryor ([38], 24-25), the key is to “ask how much these preindustrial societies have

The Plow

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2011 Special Issue of Current Anthropology

T. Douglas Price and Ofer Bar-Yosef. 2011. [ The Origins of Agriculture: New Data, New Ideas An Introduction to Supplement 4]. Current Anthropology 52(S4).