Summary: Societies ranging from ancient Rome and the Inca empire to modern Britain and China have evolved along similar paths, a huge new study shows.
"Societies evolve along a bumpy path -- sometimes breaking apart -- but the trend is towards larger, more complex arrangements," said corresponding author Dr Thomas Currie, of the Human Behaviour and Cultural Evolution Group at the University of Exeter's Penryn Campus in Cornwall.
"Researchers have long debated whether social complexity can be meaningfully compared across different parts of the world. Our research suggests that, despite surface differences, there are fundamental similarities in the way societies evolve.
"Although societies in places as distant as Mississippi and China evolved independently and followed their own trajectories, the structure of social organisation is broadly shared across all continents and historical eras."
"Understanding the ways in which societies evolve over time and in particular how humans are able to create large, cohesive groups is important when we think about state building and development," he said.
"This study shows how the sciences and humanities, which have not always seen eye-to-eye, can actually work together effectively to uncover general rules that have shaped human history."