Artifacts - Pacific Standard


Our multimedia presentation on the evolution of fairness continues with an examination conspicuous consumption among primitive peoples.
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There was clear evidence that there was food surplus, and that the surplus was not evenly shared. How did some members of the group end up owning a resource that everyone's life depended on? Why did the poorer members accept this arrangement as fair?

Additional evidence of inequality came from the artifacts found at the site. In this video, Brian Hayden shows us a few of them, beginning with an explanation of the two broad classes of artifacts—those that are exclusively utilitarian, and those that are known as prestige goods.

Prestige goods play an important role in the growth of inequality. Possession of them is one of the primary signals that the owner is a person of prominence and wealth—a force to be reckoned with in the community. They were the status symbols and conspicuous consumption of their day.

Next: Two Paths to Inequality