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Description: Authority, an institutionalized form of social power, played an essential role in the evolution of large-scale societies during the Holocene. Religious authority and political authority both have deep histories in human societies, but the nature of their relationship is contested. We purpose-built an ethnographic dataset of 97 Austronesian societies and used phylogenetic methods to address two longstanding questions about the evolution of religious and political authority: firstly how and to what extent these two institutions have co-evolved, and secondly the order in which more differentiated and less differentiated systems of religious and political authority have tended to evolve. We found strong evidence for interdependence between religious and political authority, but no evidence for a tendency for systems of religious and political authority to become more or less differentiated. Our results provide insight into how political and religious authority have worked synergistically to drive the evolution of large-scale societies.

License: CC-By Attribution 4.0 International


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