Cultural Complexity

Ian Morris

in The Oxford Handbook of Archaeology

Published in print March 2009 | ISBN: 9780199271016
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Archaeology

Cultural Complexity

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  • Classical Studies
  • History and Theory of Archaeology



This article examines the issue of cultural complexity from an archaeological perspective. It explains that cultural complexity is one of Anglo-American anthropological archaeology's core concepts and it provides the framework for much empirical work in archaeology, and states that archaeologists have re-exported it to the other social sciences. The article proposes minimal and ideal-type definitions of cultural complexity and suggests that cultural complexity is the scale of practices characterising societies. It also investigates how to measure cultural complexity and how cultural complexity change can occur.

Keywords: cultural complexity; anthropological archaeology; social sciences; ideal-type definitions; empirical work

Article.  14299 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; History and Theory of Archaeology

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