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Timothy Earle

Professor Emeritus

PhD Michigan 1973
Curriculum Vitae

Research and teaching interests

Archaeology of complex societies; social inequality; economic anthropology; Andes, Polynesia, and Europe.


Tim Earle is an economic anthropologist who specializes in the archaeological studies of social inequality, leadership, and political economy. He has conducted multi-year, international field research projects in Polynesia, Peru, Argentina, Denmark, and Hungary. Having studied the emergence of social complexity in three world regions, his work is comparative, searching for causes of alternative pathways to centralized power. He has studied irrigation agriculture as engineered landscapes and how land ownership translates into political control. He has also investigated the role of attached specialists, prestige goods exchange, and predatory raider-traders.

He served as Chair of the Department of Anthropology (1995-2000) and President of the Archaeology Division of the American Anthropological Association. Tim is the recipient of many grants from the National Science Foundation and Wenner-Gren Foundation. He delivered the 2002 Distinguished Lecture in Archaeology (American Anthropological Association). A special session in his honor took place at the 2010 American Anthropological Society Annual Meeting. Tim received the 2020 Felix Neubergh Prize in Archaeology (Gothenburg University).

Presently, he studies comparatively the long-term development of political economies, emphasizing contrasts been intensified agricultural landscapes and long-distance trading and raiding as affecting political power.

Selected publications

Recent books 

2020   A Primer on Chiefs and Chiefdoms. Clinton Corners, NY: Eliot Werner Publications.

2017  An Essay on Political Economy. Bonn: Habelt- Verlag.

2010  Organizing Bronze Age Societies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (with K. Kristiansen)

2002  Bronze Age Economics: The Beginnings of Political Economies. Boulder: Westview Press. 


2000  The Evolution of Human Societies: From Forager Group to Agrarian State. Second edition. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press. (with A.  Johnson) 


1997  How Chiefs Come to Power. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Recent articles

2020 Political economy in the archaeology of emergent complexity: A synthesis of bottom-up and top-down approaches. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 27: 157-191. (with Martin Furholt, C. Grier and Matthew Spriggs) 

2020  Modes of production revisited. In The Matter of  Prehistory: Papers in Honor of Antonio Gilman Guillén, P. Díaz-del-Río, K. Lillios, and I. Sastre (eds), pp. 29-41. Mardrid: Bibliotheca  Praehistorica Hispana, vol. XXXVI. (K. Kristiansen) 

2018  Maritime mode of production: Raiding and trading in seafaring chiefdoms. Current Anthropology 59: 488-524. (with J. Ling and K. Kristiansen) 

2017  Collective action theory and the dynamics of complex societies. Annual Reviews in Anthropology 46: 183-201. (with E. DeMarrais) 

2016  Urbanization, state formation, and cooperation: A reappraisal. Current Anthropology 57: 474-493. (with J. Jennings) 

2015  Political economy in prehistory: A Marxist approach to Pacific sequences. Current Anthropology 56 (4): 515-544. (with Matthew Spriggs) 

2015  The political economy and metal trade in Bronze Age Europe: Understanding regional variability in terms of comparative advantages and articulation, European Journal of Archaeology 18 (1): 1-25.  (with J. Ling, C. Uhner, Z. Stos-Gale and L. Melheim)

2007  Eventful Archaeology: The Place of Space in Structural Transformation. Current Anthropology 48: 833-860. (with R. Beck, D. Bolender, J. Brown) 

2004  Culture Matters in the Neolithic Transition and Emergence of Hierarchy in Thy, Denmark. American Anthropologist 106: 111-125 

2000  Archaeology, Property, and Prehistory. Annual Review of Anthropology  29:39-60.

1996  Ideology, Materialization and Power Strategies. Current Anthropology 37:15-31 (with E. DeMarrais and L. Castillo)