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Example text

This is often a chronological progression, of course, but not always. There is nothing inevitable about the increase in social complexity, and its forms vary hugely. I will take most of my examples from Greece, not because it can stand for the rest of the world, but because its highly variable and often challenging environment provides a microcosm which highlights the development of social complexity and the control over surplus. The struggle for control over surplus begins with the need for riskbuffering.

This must be late enough so that impurities have been removed and the crop is at its lowest bulk and highest value, but not so late that it has already disappeared into people’s private homes or stores. Olive oil is most easily taxed after the crushed olive pulp is pressed, and dairy produce after it is turned into the durable form of cheese or butter. For cereals, this comes after threshing, winnowing and sieving. The clean grain is easily measured and transported, and the tithe collectors do not have to deal with the bulky straw and chaff.

Another modern dichotomy is that between the physical and cultural landscape. Mountains, ore bodies and fertile soils are taken for granted as always in existence, and they are exploited or built upon to create a cultural landscape of fields, roads and buildings. At its most extreme this is environmental determinism, in its new guise of Geographic Information Systems analysis showing the relationship between site locations and natural resources (Blanton 2001: 629; Gaffney and van Leusen 1995). A more sophisticated version couples the constraints of the physical landscape on human society with the impact that people have on that landscape.

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