Research News

California Social Climbers: Low Water Prompts High Status

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  10 May 1996:
Vol. 272, Issue 5263, pp. 811
DOI: 10.1126/science.272.5263.811


New Orleans—You wouldn't know it from watching Hollywood's glitterati vie for choice tables at posh eateries, but life in Southern California wasn't always so status-conscious. One thousand years ago the original inhabitants, the Chumash, were an egalitarian society of hunter-gatherers. By the 1700s, however, they had acquired chiefs, ranks, and other social divisions. Archaeologists have often thought such changes occur gradually, but there's emerging evidence that social rank among the Chumash was born from a sudden episode of drought—and what one researcher calls “a crucible of violence.”