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Beyond hierarchy: The archaeology of collective governance

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The question interrogated here, through the case study of agricultural resources, is whether the governance of collective rights of property in past non-literate communities can be explored through archaeological methods. Property rights and the structures for their governance are an expression of social relations. According to Alchian and Demsetz (1973, 16), the ‘techniques, rules, or customs to resolve conflicts that arise in the use of scarce resources’ that underlie property rights and their governance are likely to be consonant with each community’s perceptions of individual and collective relationships, rights and obligations in relation to others both within and beyond their own territory. This paper explores through seven brief illustrative exemplars the development of a methodology for inferring the practical details of collective governance of agricultural property in the non-literate past.



Common property regime, common rights, property rights, governance, pasture, arable

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World Archaeology

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Informa UK Limited