Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

About the PNAS Member Editor
Name Carneiro, Robert L.
Location American Museum of Natural History
Primary Field Anthropology
 Election Citation
Carneiro is a leading theorist of cultural evolution. His work among the Indians of lowland South America, combined with ethnohistoric research in highland Colombia, led to influential articles on egalitarian villages and militaristic chiefly societies. His prize-winning 1970 paper on the rise of the state is an anthropological classic.
 Research Interests
I have for many years concerned myself with cultural evolution in the broadest sense and have developed techniques by which this process can be reconstructed, including means by which one can infer the order in which societies have evolved their inventory of culture traits. During my ethnographic fieldwork among three different tribes in the Amazon basin, I studied in particular their system of slash-and-burn cultivation. My field experience with the Kuikuru of central Brazil, whose subsistence system proved to be more productive than that of the Inca, led me to question the theory then generally accepted regarding the origin of the state. Further consideration of this problem led me to formulate the "circumscription theory" of how states first arose. I came to see that insufficient work had been done on the earlier stages of this process, namely, the development leading from autonomous villages to the multi-village polities called chiefdoms. Filling this lacuna in our understanding of political evolution continues to be the major focus of my research.

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