Cycling in the Complexity of Early Societies
Warfare is commonly viewed as a driving force of the process of aggregation of initially independent villages into larger and more complex political units that started several thousand years ago and quickly lead to the appearance of chiefdoms, states, and empires. Here we build on extensions and generalizations of Carneiro’s (1970) argument to develop a spatially explicit agent-based model of the emergence of early complex societies via warfare. In our model polities are represented as hierarchically structured networks of villages whose size, power, and complexity change as a result of conquest, secession, internal reorganization (via promotion and linearization), and resource dynamics. A general prediction of our model is continuous stochastic cycling in which the growth of individual polities in size, wealth/power, and complexity is interrupted by their quick collapse. The model dynamics are mostly controlled by two parameters, one of which scales the relative advantage of wealthier polities in between and within-polity conflicts, and the other is the chief’s expected time in power. Our results demonstrate that the stability of large and complex polities is strongly promoted if the outcomes of the conflicts are mostly determined by the polities’ wealth/power, if there exist well-defined and accepted means of succession, and if control mechanisms are internally specialized.