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The farming-inequality nexus: new insights from ancient Western Eurasia

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 September 2019

Amy Bogaard*
Institute of Archaeology, University of Oxford, 36 Beaumont Street, Oxford OX1 2PK, UK
Mattia Fochesato
Dondena Centre, Bocconi University, Via Röntgen 1, Milan 20136, Italy
Samuel Bowles
Behavioral Sciences, Santa Fe Institute, 1399 Hyde Park Road, Santa Fe, NM 87501, USA
*Author for correspondence (Email:


This article advances the hypothesis that the transformation of farming from a labour-limited form to a land-limited form facilitated the emergence of substantial and sustained wealth inequalities in many ancient agricultural societies. Using bioarchaeological and other relevant evidence for the nature of ancient agrosystems, the authors characterise 90 Western Eurasian site-phases as labour- vs land-limited. Their estimates of wealth inequality (the Gini coefficient), which incorporate data on house and household storage size and individual grave goods—adjusted for comparability using new methods—indicate that land-limited farming systems were significantly more unequal than labour-limited ones.

Antiquity , Volume 93 , Issue 371 , October 2019 , pp. 1129 - 1143
Copyright © Antiquity Publications Ltd, 2019 

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