Chiefdom Confederacies and State Origins

Author: Gibson, D. Blair
Journal: Social Evolution & History. Volume 10, Number 1 / March 2011


A number of historical political systems of regional scale in varied locales across the globe have been described as confederacies, and some, such as those of Early Medieval Ireland, as chiefdom confederacies. In light of recent mulling as to whether some complex political systems of prehistoric and early historic North America could be considered to have been chiefdom confederacies (Pauketat 2007), this article surveys the political systems of the historic Iroquois league, Early Medieval Ireland, Late Iron Age Britain, Archaic Boiotia, Bronze Age and Iron Age Korea, and 19th – 20th century Western Iran with the objective of determining the essential characteristics of chiefdom confederacies. Subsequent discussion is given over to the question as to whether the states that arose out of chiefdom confederacies possessed organizational characteristics attributable to their origins in them.