Dr. John Kantner, University of North Florida

Development of Leadership

Anthropologists recognize that all societies, from the most egalitarian to the most stratified, have some form of leadership. Indeed, forms of situational and transitory leadership exist in Aboriginal ritual leader even the most egalitarian social formations. Permanent position of leadership, however, are not ubiquitous and emerged only in certain times and places. A key question for archaeologists then is understanding the mechanisms by which leaders emerge where they previously did not exist. While this has long been a topic of interest in the social sciences generally and anthropology specifically, there is a surprising under-theorizing of the topic in contemporary anthropology.

Dr. Kantner and several of his colleagues have been investigating this issue in a variety of archaeological contexts. Dr. Kantner's work on the Chaco tradition of the Puebloan Southwest is especially focused on this topic, because the events of the tenth through eleventh century A.D. represent what was probably the first emergence of permanent leadership, perhaps even with hereditary qualities. Even more fascinating is the fact that this leadership only lasted a few generations before seemingly disappearing altogether from the Puebloan world.

To further explore the comparative record of leadership in the archaeological past, Dr. Kantner and fellow scholars Dr. Kevin Vaughn of Purdue University and Dr. Jelmer Eerkens of UC-Davis Aztec leader organized an SAR Advanced Seminar titled "The Archaeology of Leadership." Participants included anthropologists and archaeologists who are investigating patterns of current and past leadership in societies as diverse of the ancient Nasca people of coastal South America, to the historic-period Enga of Papua New Guinea, to the contemporary Aboriginal groups of Australia. The results of this seminar were published in 2010 in the SAR Press Advanced Seminar series.