No gentry but grave-makers: inequality beyond property accumulation at Neolithic Çatalhöyük

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Archaeologists have adopted the Gini coefficient to evaluate unequal accumulations of material, supporting narratives modelled on modern inequality discourse. Proxies are defined for wealth and the household, to render 21st century-style economic tensions perceptible in the past. This ‘property paradigm’ treats material culture as a generic rather than substantive factor in unequal pasts. We question this framing while suggesting that the Gini coefficient can prompt a deeper exploration of value. Our study grows from multi-material evaluation of inequality at Çatalhöyük, Turkey. Here we use the Gini coefficient to scrutinise distributions of burial practices among houses. To the expectations of the property paradigm, the result is unintuitive–becoming slightly more equal despite rising social complexity. We explore possible explanations for this result, each pointing to a more substantive link between past futures and differentiated lives as a framework for archaeologies of inequality.

Original languageEnglish
JournalWorld Archaeology
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)584-601
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The work was supported by the Leverhulme Trust [ECF-2021-330]. All authors contributed data and analysis, and shaped the conclusions–which does not mean that all authors agree wholeheartedly. KK wrote the initial draft; all authors refined the text. KT and KK produced the graphs and tables. The larger working group from which this study derives is led by KT. We accumulated wisdom through discussions among the Çatalhöyük Research Project; at the SAA Annual Meeting in 2018; in our home institutions; through the editors and two anonymous reviewers. Thank you.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

    Research areas

  • funerary, Gini coefficient, Inequality, Neolithic, value, Çatalhöyük

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