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date: 04 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Cultural complexity first emerges among complex hunter-gatherers of the Upper Palaeolithic in Eurasia, but only becomes widespread with the succeeding Mesolithic or Archaic periods in the Old World and New World. Increasing levels of complexity are argued to be related to the ability to produce food surpluses and to use them in a variety of strategies that enhance individual abilities to survive and reproduce. These strategies include the production and gifting of prestige items, reciprocal feasts, marriage payments, limiting access to supernatural forces, and investments in children for marriage purposes. The competitive use of economic resources (surpluses) for use in these strategies arguably led to the emergence of cultural and sociopolitical complexity, and ultimately to the domestication of plants and animals in the Near and Far East.

Keywords: hunter-gatherers, complexity, domestication

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