Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 319–346 | Cite as

The causes and scope of political egalitarianism during the Last Glacial: a multi-disciplinary perspective

  • Doron Shultziner
  • Thomas Stevens
  • Martin Stevens
  • Brian A. Stewart
  • Rebecca J. Hannagan
  • Giulia Saltini-Semerari


This paper reviews and synthesizes emerging multi-disciplinary evidence toward understanding the development of social and political organization in the Last Glacial. Evidence for the prevalence and scope of political egalitarianism is reviewed and the biological, social, and environmental influences on this mode of human organization are further explored. Viewing social and political organization in the Last Glacial in a much wider, multi-disciplinary context provides the footing for coherent theory building and hypothesis testing by which to further explore human political systems. We aim to overcome the claim that our ancestors’ form of social organization is untestable, as well as counter a degree of exaggeration regarding possibilities for sedentism, population densities, and hierarchical structures prior to the Holocene with crucial advances from disparate disciplines.


Climate change Last glacial Nomadic foragers Political egalitarianism Social organization 



The Political Egalitarianism Project (PEP) members would like to extend their appreciation to Frans de Waal, Christopher Boehm, Larry Arnhart, Melvin Konner, Richard B. Lee, and Arnon Dattner, and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Doron Shultziner
    • 1
  • Thomas Stevens
    • 2
    • 3
  • Martin Stevens
    • 4
  • Brian A. Stewart
    • 5
  • Rebecca J. Hannagan
    • 6
  • Giulia Saltini-Semerari
    • 7
  1. 1.Political Science Department, Gilo Center for Citizenship, Democracy and Civic EducationHebrew University of JerusalemJerusalemIsrael
  2. 2.Department of GeographyRoyal Holloway, University of LondonLondonUK
  3. 3.Nordic Laboratory for Luminescence Dating, Department of Earth SciencesAarhus UniversityÅrhusDenmark
  4. 4.Department of ZoologyUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  5. 5.McDonald Institute for Archaeological ResearchUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  6. 6.Department of Political ScienceNorthern Illinois UniversityDeKalbUSA
  7. 7.Institute of ArchaeologyUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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