According to David Wengrow, an anthropologist I have mentioned before, status and power were not always conferred permanently in prehistoric civilisations, and this is true in many places. Related to my recent posts about transhumance and other forms of mobility, people could have varying status in the group throughout the course of the year. In times when rituals were observed, there might be priestly classes who enjoyed high status at those times - a few weeks or few months - but then returned to another status when the event was over. These rituals often took place in cities, which may or may not have been occupied full-time. Or also, among mobile foragers as they made their yearly cycle throughout the territory, an individual might be a leader in one activity but just one of the worker bees in another. He is also picking up signs that the status of women might vary throughout the year and is pursuing that in research. There are signs of this in many places, from Peruvian to Kurdistani sites. It occurred to me that an explanation of the variable status for women might occur whenever brides are exchanged. There would not be an infinite number of other tribes where relations were good enough to engage in that kind of reciprocity, there would be only a few. Therefore, when the tribe returned back to an area year after year those women might have more knowledge of the terrain and resources. They might also have some ability to complain to the tribe they came from, resulting in difficulty and bad feeling. Or such things taken together might coalesce, even unconsciously, into a sense that they were more powerful as they came back to "their own area" and be in a better position to intervene with gods or spirits.
It is all part of the recent trend in anthropology to reject simple and linear explanations for tribal behaviors. Groups do not go in a neat line from hunter-gatherer to forager and then agriculturalist. Not only are the lines fairly arbitrary between those categories, but groups about-face and return to foraging after a try at agriculture. Or an agricultural group might fail altogether because of raiding or disease or famine and be replaced by foragers. Or a quarter of them might head out and join some foragers before the collapse. Or those who had done more foraging-style acquisition in the division of labor of the agriculturalists might be more likely to survive. The archaeological records are showing back-and-forth adaptations much more often than the neat progressions we have been putting in textbooks for a century.
I read anotherr article by Wengrow expressing irritation that another anthropologist had made a discovery as far back as 2004 that seems very interesting but seems to be ignored: the ancient mounds from Peru to the Mississippi were built according to a common standard of measurement and proportion.
Professor Wengrow seems to be making a habit of upending things.