David Sandeford

Grad Teaching Associate
Graduate Assistant/Associate
TEMPE Campus

Student Information

Graduate Student
The College of Lib Arts & Sci


MA, Columbia University 
MA, University of Chicago
BA, University of Texas at Austin

Research Interests

social evolution; complex systems analysis; comparative social science


Sandeford, DS. 2019. An energetic analysis of the human subsistence system and its intensification. SocArxiv. osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/2ph8y.

Sandeford, DS. 2018. Organizational complexity and demographic scale in primary states. Royal Society Open Science 5:171137. http://rsos.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/5/5/171137. Awarded the 2019 Reynold Ruppé Prize for best paper in archaeology by a graduate student in SHESC.

Sandeford, DS. n.d. Chomsky versus Habermas on human nature. Master's thesis, University of Chicago.


Manuscripts in preparation for submission:

  1. The complex structure of middle-range societies in the American Southwest, 1200-1700 
  2. The fractal-like scaling of major transitions in human sociopolitical complexity (co-authored work)
  3. Settlement scaling in the prehistoric Oaxaca valley (lead author)
  4. Energetic analysis of early farming supports the farming/language dispersal hypothesis in Mesoamerica






Research Activity

I research the evolution of complex human societies. The scale and consequences of the evolution of human societies over the last 13,000 years are difficult to overstate. For millions of years human socities were universally small-scale, egalitarian, mobile, foraging groups. Today all humans live in large-scale, stratified, urbanized, agricultural states characterized by vast political and economic inequalities. I use complex systems analysis and large-scale, comparative data sets to model the processes and mechanisms that drove this fundamental reorganization of human social life.

I investigate many topics related to social evolution, including: the development, spread, and intensification of agriculture; the emergence of urbanism and the formation of chiefdoms, states, and empires; the complex social network structure of human societies; patterns in energy consumption; and, demograpic growth.

I am also deeply interested how human evolutionary biology or human nature informs social evolution. My earliest work was dedicated to the intellectual history of the notion of human nature in western social thought, particularly as it was developed in the social sciences after the enlightenment. I was heavily influenced by the work of Chomsky, E. O. Wilson, Pinker, and others, and remain committed to integrating the biological notion of human nature into social scientific theory. 


Courses taught at various community colleges: Introduction to sociology; Contemporary social problems.