Robert D. Drennan

  • Distinguished Professor

Robert Drennan (Ph.D., University of Michigan, 1975) is an archaeologist engaged in the comparative analysis of early complex societies from their beginnings to the enormous diversity of organizational patterns displayed by regional chiefdoms around the world. His research focuses on increasing our understanding of the dynamics of social change by identifying patterned variation in the trajectories of development of early complex societies. Topics emphasized in his research include regional settlement and demography, community structure at all scales, household archaeology, quantitative data analysis, spatial analysis, and GIS. These topics are all involved in his fieldwork in China, Mesoamerica, and northern South America.

Research Description

Comparative Analysis of Trajectories of Chiefdom Development

The sample of archaeologically known early complex societies ("chiefdoms") around the world is now large enough for us to move beyond cultural evolutionary typologies or simplistic dichotomies and develop the more sophisticated and nuanced concepts needed to characterize adequately the considerable variation to be observed. The Chiefdom Datasets Project is compiling a database including dozens of regions whose developmental trajectories can be compared on the basis of systematic analyses of primary archaeological data on settlement, households, burials, and public works. Its aim is to delineate patterns in the highly varied courses these trajectories followed so as to identify and understand more fully the social forces at work in them. Principal collaborators are Christian E. Peterson and C. Adam Berrey.

 

Early Complex Societies in Northeastern China

The Liaoning Hongshan Period Communities Project (LHPCP) focuses on the emergence and development of Hongshan (4500–3000 BCE) chiefly communities. Ongoing data collection in the area surrounding Niuheliang includes regional-scale settlement survey and study of local communities and households through intensive surface collection and small-scale stratigraphic testing. Similar fieldwork and lab analysis in the Upper Daling region was carried out from 2007 to 2014. The objective is to document the nature of human organization at household, local community, regional polity, and macro-regional scales so as to understand better the societies that produced the ceremonial architecture and elaborate burials that have attracted considerable archaeological attention. Principal collaborators are Christian E. Peterson, Lu Xueming, and Zhu Da. The project is an institutional collaboration between the University of Pittsburgh, the Liaoning Province Institute of Archaeology, and Renmin University of China. The LHPCP builds on work carried out by the Chifeng International Collaborative Archaeological Project between 1998 and 2007, with principal collaborators Katheryn M. Linduff, Zhang Zhongpei, Gideon Shelach, Ta La, Zhu Yanping, Guo Zhizhong, and Teng Mingyu.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Early Complex Societies in Colombia

The Programa de Arqueología Regional en el Alto Magdalena serves as an umbrella for a number of more focused projects whose overall aim is to document the developmental trajectories of the societies that created the archaeologically famous monumental sculpture and ceremonial/burial complexes of the Regional Classic Period (1–900 CE). The PARAM began field data collection in 1993 with regional-scale survey, followed by more intensive investigation of households at a local-community scale with shovel probes and small stratigraphic tests at close intervals. Analysis and publication of results from work through 2006 is nearing completion. The PARAM has subsequently included excavation of residential structures and associated features as well as mapping of structural remains with magnetometry and ground-penetrating radar. Principal collaborators are Víctor González Fernández and Carlos Augusto Sánchez. The PARAM builds on similar work carried out from 1983 to 1992 by the Proyecto Arqueológico Valle de la Plata. Both projects have been institutional collaborations between the University of Pittsburgh, the Universidad de los Andes, and the Instituto Colombiano de Antropología e Historia.

 

Early Complex Societies in Mesoamerica

The Palo Blanco Project studied Formative period (1500 BCE–250 CE) societies in Mexico's Tehuacán Valley. From 1974 to 1980 it carried out regional-scale survey and excavation at several local communities, following up Richard S. MacNeish's Tehuacán Archaeological-Botanical Project with investigation of the trajectories of development of early sedentary agricultural societies. Excavation of the Middle Formative village of Fábrica San José in 1972–1973 was carried out as part of the Valley of Oaxaca Human Ecology Project, directed by Kent V. Flannery.

 

Courses

Chiefdoms

Beginning as early as 10,000 years ago human communities of unprecedented scale began to emerge in many regions all around the globe. The process has continued in much more recent times as well. These larger communities, numbering at least a few hundred people, and ranging well up into the thousands, usually (but not always) became supra-local in character. Unequal, or hierarchical, relationships usually (but not always) came to occupy an important place in their social organization. The seminar takes a comparative approach to the social dynamics of this process, using the varied trajectories of chiefdom emergence in different parts of the world as an opportunity to increase our understanding of the forces that have driven this process and given the resulting societies such highly varied characteristics.

Regional Settlement, Communities, and Demography

In the absence of modern communication and transportation technologies, human social communities were constituted in patterns of interaction primarily at local and regional scales. Prehistoric interaction patterns are usually strongly reflected in the way in which a human population distributed itself across a landscape. Thus a central reason for studying ancient settlement patterns is to delineate communities in the past and reconstruct the ways in which they structured interaction of various kinds at different scales. Such an approach leads not only to purely social interaction but also to political organization and the organization of the production and distribution of goods. This seminar focuses on the social, political, and economic interpretation of regional-scale archaeological settlement patterns, once the patterns have been discerned through appropriate means of spatial analysis. All such interpretation rests finally on demographic reconstructions, so approaches to both relative and absolute demographic approximations at the regional scale are considered in depth. Finally, having discussed these features of ancient human organization that settlement analysis can tell us about, we consider how appropriate kinds of information to sustain such conclusions can be collected in the field.

Archeological Data Analysis I

An introduction to quantitative data analysis in archeology, this course covers basic principles of statistics, including exploratory analysis of batches, sampling, significance, t-tests, analysis of variance, regression, chi-quare, and estimating universe means and proportions from samples. The approach is practical, concentrating on understanding these principles so as to put them to work effectively in analyzing archeological data. Much of the statistical work is done by computer. Statistical principles are dealt with in the weekly class, computer applications in the weekly lab. No previous computer experience is required, and no previous math beyond high school algebra is needed. Familiarity with archeology, however, is assumed. This course is open only to graduate students and anthropology majors who are concentrating in archeology and have previously taken other courses in archeology.

Archeological Data Analysis II

Advanced analysis of archeological data, primarily quantitative. This course carries on where the discussion of basic statistical comparison and contrast of artifacts, features, assemblages, and sites in Archeological Data Analysis I leaves off. Topics covered include sampling, data base management, analysis of spatial distributions (GIS), computer graphics, and multivariate statistics such as factor analysis, multidimensional scaling and clustering.

Publications

Robert D. Drennan, C. Adam Berrey, and Christian E. Peterson. 2015. Regional Settlement Demography in Archaeology. Clinton Corners, NY: Eliot Werner Publications.

Robert D. Drennan, Christian E. Peterson, Lü Xueming, Zhu Da, and Hou Shenguang. 2014. Settlement and Social Dynamics in the Upper Daling and Chifeng Regions of Northeastern China. Asian Archaeology 2:50–76.

Robert D. Drennan, Christian E. Peterson, and Jake R. Fox. 2010. Degrees and Kinds of Inequality. In Pathways to Power, edited by T. Douglas Price, pp. 45–76. New York: Springer. 

Lu Xueming, Christian E. Peterson, Robert D. Drennan, and Zhu Da. 2010. 辽宁大凌河上游流域考古调查简报. 考古 [Kaogu]: 2010(5):24–35. / 2010. Hongshan Chiefly Communities in Neolithic Northeastern China. PNAS 107:5756–5761. 

Robert D. Drennan and Christian E. Peterson. 2009. La Comunidad y el Cacicazgo: Un Estudio Comparativo de Patrones de Asentamiento Regional en el Alto Magdalena, el Valle de Oaxaca, y Mongolia Interior. In Economía, Prestigo y Poder: Perspectivas desde la Arqueología, edited by Carlos A. Sánchez, pp. 168–205. Bogotá: Instituto Colombiano de Antropología e Historia. / 2005. Early Chiefdom Communities Compared: The Settlement Pattern Record for Chifeng, the Alto Magdalena, and the Valley of Oaxaca. In Settlement, Subsistence, and Social Complexity: Essays Honoring the Legacy of Jeffrey R. Parsons, edited by Richard E. Blanton, pp. 119–154. Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, University of California, Los Angeles. / 2004. 早期酋长制群体的聚落形态比较研究–以内蒙古东部,安第斯山北部和美洲中部三个地区为例. 吉林大学社会科学学报 [Jilin Daxue Shehuikexue Xuebao] 2004(5):15–31. 

2006. Prehispanic Chiefdoms in the Valle de la Plata, Volume 5: Regional Settlement Patterns / Cacicazgos Prehispánicos del Valle de la Plata, Tomo 5: Patrones de Asentamiento Regionales. University of Pittsburgh Memoirs in Latin American Archaeology, No. 16. 

2000     Las Sociedades Prehispánicas del Alto Magdalena. Bogotá: Instituto Colombiano de Antropología e Historia. 

Christian E. Peterson and Robert D. Drennan. 2012. Patterned Variation in Regional Trajectories of Community Growth. In The Comparative Archaeology of Complex Societies, edited by Michael E. Smith, pp. 88–137. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Robert D. Drennan and Christian E. Peterson. 2012. Challenges for Comparative Study of Early Complex Societies. In The Comparative Archaeology of Complex Societies, edited by Michael E. Smith, pp. 62–87. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Michael E. Smith, Gary M. Feinman, Robert D. Drennan, Timothy Earle, and Ian Morris. 2012. Archaeology as a Social Science. PNAS 109:7617–7621.

Robert D. Drennan and Dai Xiangming. 2011. 运城盆地和赤峰地区的酋邦与国家—聚落系统的比较分析 [Chiefdoms and States in the Yuncheng Basin and the Chifeng Region: A Comparative Analysis of Settlement Systems]. 东方考古 [Dongfang Kaogu] 7:85–104

2011. El Área Intermedia, el Cacicazgo y la Investigación de la Dinámica del Cambio Social. In Arqueología en el Área Intermedia, edited by Víctor González Fernández, pp. 413–419. Bogotá: Instituto Colombiano de Antropología e Historia

The Chifeng International Collaborative Archaeological Research Project. 2011. Settlement Patterns in the Chifeng Region. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Center for Comparative Archaeology.

José Luis Lanata and Robert D. Drennan. 2010. Crossing Boundaries and Academic Fair Trade. In Voices in American Archaeology, edited by Wendy Ashmore, Dorothy Lippert, and Barbara J. Mills, pp. 73–93. Washington, DC: Society for American Archaeology.

Christian E. Peterson, Xueming Lu, Robert D. Drennan, and Da Zhu. 2010. Hongshan Chiefly Communities in Neolithic Northeastern China. PNAS 107:5756–5761.

Lu Xueming, Christian E. Peterson, Robert D. Drennan, and Zhu Da. 2010. 辽宁大凌河上游流域考古调查简报 [Report on the Liaoning Daling River Basin Archaeological Survey]. 考古 [Kaogu]: 2010(5):24–35.

Robert D. Drennan, Christian E. Peterson, and Jake R. Fox. 2010. Degrees and Kinds of Inequality. In Pathways to Power, edited by T. Douglas Price, pp. 45–76. New York: Springer.

Peterson, Christian E., Xueming Lu, Robert D. Drennan, and Da Zhu (2010) Hongshan Chiefly Communities in Neolithic Northeastern China. PNAS 107:5756-5761.

Robert D. Drennan and Christian E. Peterson. 2009. La Comunidad y el Cacicazgo: Un Estudio Comparativo de Patrones de Asentamiento Regional en el Alto Magdalena, el Valle de Oaxaca, y Mongolia Interior. In Economía, Prestigo y Poder: Perspectivas desde la Arqueología, edited by Carlos A. Sánchez, pp. 168–205. Bogotá: Instituto Colombiano de Antropología e Historia.

Drennan, R.D. (2009) Statistics for Archaeologists: A Commonsense Approach. Second Edition. New York: Springer.
 

Robert D. Drennan and Christian E. Peterson. 2008. Centralized Communities, Population, and Social Complexity after Sedentarization. In The Neolithic Demographic Transition and Its Consequences, edited by Jean-Pierre Bocquet-Appel and Ofer Bar-Yosef, pp. 359–386. New York: Springer.

Robert D. Drennan and Mikael J. Haller. 2007. The Local Village Community and the Larger Political Economy: Formative and Classic Interaction Patterns in the Tehuacán Valley Compared to the Valley of Oaxaca and the Basin of Mexico. In The Political Economy of Ancient Mesoamerica: Transformations in the Formative and Classic Periods, edited by Vernon L. Scarborough and John E. Clark, pp. 65–81. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

2007. Chiefdoms of Southwestern Colombia. In Handbook of South American Archaeology, edited by Helaine Silverman and William Isbell, pp. 381–403. New York: Springer.

Drennan, R. (2006)  Prehispanic Chiefdoms of the Valle de la Plata, Vol. 5: Regional Settlement Patterns. University of Pittsburgh Memoirs in Latin American Archaeology, No. 16.

Drennan, Robert D.  and Christian E. Peterson.  2006. Patterned Variation in Prehistoric Chiefdoms. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 103:3960-3967.

Christian E. Peterson and Robert D. Drennan.  2005. Communities, Settlements, Sites, and Surveys: Regional-Scale Analysis of Prehistoric Human Interaction. American Antiquity 70:5-30.

Drennan, Robert D., and Christian E. Peterson. (2004) Comparing Archaeological Settlement Systems with Rank-Size Graphs: A Measure of Shape and Statistical Confidence. Journal of Archaeological Science 31:533–549.

Drennan, Robert D., Christian E. Peterson, Gregory G. Indrisano, Teng Mingyu, Gideon Shelach, Zhu Yanping, Katheryn M. Linduff, and Guo Zhizhong (2003) Approaches to Regional Demographic Reconstruction. In Regional Archeology in Eastern Inner Mongolia: A Methodological Exploration. Beijing: Science Press.

Robert D. Drennan and Dale W. Quattrin (1995)  Social Inequality and Agricultural Resources in the Valle de la Plata, Colombia. In Foundations of Social Inequality, edited by T. Douglas Price and Gary M. Feinman, Plenum Press.

The Chifeng International Collaborative Archaeological Research Project. 2011. Settlement Patterns in the Chifeng Region. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Center for Comparative Archaeology.

Robert D. Drennan and Dai Xiangming. 2011. 运城盆地和赤峰地区的酋邦与国家—聚落系统的比较分析. 东方考古 [Dongfang Kaogu] 7:85–104. / 2010. Chiefdoms and States in the Yuncheng Basin and the Chifeng Region: A Comparative Analysis of Settlement Systems. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology. 29:455–468

Robert D. Drennan and Dai Xiangming. 2010. Chiefdoms and States in the Yuncheng Basin and the Chifeng Region: A Comparative Analysis of Settlement Systems. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology. 29:455–468