April 17, 2023
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Connecting the Past and Present of Inequality through Archaeology
Economic inequality is an important issue in the world today, and the difficulty in reducing it has led many to presume it is an intrinsic property of human systems. Archaeologists have been increasingly vocal in countering this idea, pointing out cases in history where economic inequality has decreased or remained low over long periods. However, these contributions have most often been qualitative and thus primarily aspirational with regard to the present. The Long-Term Dynamics of Inequality or GINI Project, headquartered within the Institute, is seeking to change that by compiling and analyzing data from societies spanning six continents, six millennia of history, and sixty degrees of latitude. In this talk I share some initial results from this work, and then dive a little deeper into parallels between the dynamics of inequality in the contemporary US and the Roman World.
Scott Ortman is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at CU Boulder, Director of the Center for Collaborative Synthesis in Archaeology in the Institute of Behavioral Science at CU, and an External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute. His research focuses on the long-term development of human societies using methods and data from many fields, including archaeology, geography, linguistics, ethnohistory, biology, economics and complex systems. Prior to coming to CU he was Director of Research at the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center in Cortez, CO and an Omidyar Postdoctoral Fellow at the Santa Fe Institute. He is also author of Winds from the North: Tewa Origins and Historical Anthropology
(University of Utah Press, 2012).