Household economies under the aztec and inka empires: A comparison

Timothy Earle, Michael Smith

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

16 Scopus citations


How were household economies organized in prehistory? In most stateless societies, households dominate much of everyday life, including making a living, sociability, and ritual. A family produced much of what it consumed and exchanged reciprocally with neighboring households. Some specialization and exchange existed certainly, but they were apparently concentrated on special tools and social valuables. With the emergence of political and market economies, households adjusted, but the scope, tempo, and reasons for these adjustments are not well understood. Premodern economies were composed of four intertwined sectors, involving household subsistence, social relationships among neighbors, political mobilizing for finance, and mercantile trading. We focus here on the household as the nexus of these economic sectors, creating a field of necessities and opportunities that varied temporally and cross-culturally. All human societies have intimate household-size units, which typically are primary constituents in decision making, production and consumption, and childrearing (Johnson and Earle 2000). Because households vary greatly in composition and activities (D’Altroy and Hastorf 2001; Netting et al. 1984), they are good social units for cross-cultural comparison. Households are typically tethered to a house or a residential compound, which allows archaeologists to study the material remains of their activities and social conditions (Allison 1999; D’Altroy and Hastorf 2001; Hendon 1996; Wilk and Rathje 1982).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Comparative Archaeology of Complex Societies
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages47
ISBN (Electronic)9781139022712
ISBN (Print)9780521197915
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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