Northwestern University
Evanston, Illinois

From the reviews . . .

“[E]xamines the nature of chiefdom societies from a cross-cultural perspective along with exploring the evolutionary pathways by which these societies developed. Given the scope and depth of Earle’s work, this book can justifiably be described as a tour de force. . . . Earle’s masterful work . . . illustrates the relevancy of cross-cultural comparisons and the value of interdisciplinary investigations.”
Richard J. Chacon in Latin American Antiquity

““[O]f great interest to all who study the politics of power in all societies . . . regardless of your theoretical bent on the nature of political structure, power, or political economies in past societies. . . . [I]f you are interested in the . . . engines that drive the creation of complex societies, you need to have Earle’s Primer on Chiefs on your library shelf.”
Thomas E. Emerson in Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology

“Earle expertly summarizes a career’s worth of knowledge on the political and economic underpinnings of early complex societies. . . . [A] highly accessible volume . . . . Where this book truly shines is in the strength of its many case studies, which provide excellent cross-cultural comparisons of differing approaches to consolidating power in ancient societies.”
Mikael Fauvelle in Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology

“Chiefs and chiefdoms have interested archaeologists and anthropologists who take the long view of human history. . . . Drawing on archaeological research (much his own) and ethnographic data, Earle provides a primer on chiefly systems. . . . He sorts chiefdoms into four main varieties. . . . An appendix offers students a project: locate a chiefdom and analyze its processes.”
L. Lindstrom in Choice

Prepublication praise . . .

“A synthetic tour de force for general readers. Earle navigates theoretically complex waters and makes good sense of the complex ethnographic and archaeological record that we call chiefdoms. The book is a unique blend of archaeology and political science—well crafted, reader-friendly, and inspiring.”
Brian Hayden, University of British Columbia

“Earle distills everything he has learned about chiefs and chiefdoms in human history. Students of anthropology and archaeology—and just about anyone wishing to understand political relations—can learn how power and rulers emerged and were controlled. His argument is relevant today and will be into the future. Highly recommended.”
Kristian Kristiansen, University of Gothenburg

“Earle has spent a career studying chiefdoms—the dominant form of human organization in the Holocene—and masterfully brings together his lifetime of work on the political, economic, and ideological relationships in these precursors to modern states. This book is a foremost example of understanding power in traditional and modern societies.”
Charles Stanish, University of South Florida


Chapter 1
Chiefdom Ethnographies of Power and Identity

Chapter 2
Evolutionary Theory Integrating Anthropology

Chapter 3
Chiefdoms and Sociocultural Evolution

Chapter 4
Ritual Mode of Production Based on Religious Ideology

Chapter 5
Corporate Mode of Production and Defense of Land

Chapter 6
Asiatic Mode of Production: Engineered Landscapes

Chapter 7
Predatory Mode of Production and Wealth Finance

Chapter 8
Models for Archaeological Research on Chiefdoms



A volume in the series Principles of Archaeology

ISBN 978-1-7342818-3-5/paperback/184 pp./illus./April 2021/$32.95