The Evolution of Material Wealth-Based Inequality: The Record of Housepit 54, Bridge River, British Columbia

Anna M. Prentiss, Matthew Walsh , Thomas A. Foor, Ashley Hampton, Ethan Ryan

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The evolution of material wealth-based inequality is an important topic in archaeological research. While a number of explanatory models have been proposed, rarely have they been adequately tested. A significant challenge to testing such models concerns our ability to define distinct, temporally short-term, residential occupations in the archaeological record. Sites often lack evidence for temporally persistent inequality, or, when present, the palimpsest nature of the deposits often make it difficult to define the processes of change on scales that are fine enough to evaluate nuanced model predictions. In this article, we use the detailed record of Housepit 54 from the Bridge River site, interior British Columbia, to evaluate several alternative hypotheses regarding the evolution of persistent material wealth-based inequality. Results of our analyses indicate that inequality appeared abruptly coincident with a decline in intra-house cooperation associated with population packing and the initiation
of periodic subsistence stress. We conclude that persistent inequality in this context was a byproduct of altered social networks linked to a Malthusian transition and ceiling.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Antiquity
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)598-618
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Bridge River pithouse village
  • evolution
  • complex hunter-gatherers
  • inequality
  • Malthusian ceiling

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