In this ground-breaking work, Norman Yoffee shatters the prevailing myths underpinning our understanding of the evolution of early civilisations. He counters the emphasis in traditional scholarship on the rule of ‘godly’ and despotic male leaders and challenges the conventional view that early states were uniformly constituted bureaucratic and regional entities. Instead, by illuminating the role of slaves and soldiers, priests and priestesses, peasants and prostitutes, merchants and craftsmen, Yoffee depicts an evolutionary process centred on the concerns of everyday life. Drawing on evidence from ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, China and Mesoamerica, the author explores the variety of trajectories followed by ancient states, from birth to collapse, and explores the social processes that shape any account of the human past. This book offers a bold new interpretation of social evolutionary theory, and as such it is essential reading for any student or scholar with an interest in the emergence of complex society.