Over the past few decades, archaeological theory has shifted toward the idea that civilization arose in different regions around the world thanks to the evolution of cooperation. Archaeologists have discovered that the consumption of food and drink in ritually prescribed times and places—known technically as feasting—is one of the cornerstones of heightened sociality and cooperation throughout human history. [...]
[...] cooperation in non-state societies is achieved by “ritualizing” the economy. People construct norms, rituals and taboos to organize their economic and political life. Far from being quaint and exotic customs of “primitive peoples,” elaborate rules of behavior, encoded in rich ritual practices, are ingenious means of organizing a society where coercion is absent.
Ritual practices reward cooperators and punish cheaters. They therefore promote sustained group behavior toward common goals and solve what is famously known as the “collective action problem” in human social life—how do you get everyone to work together toward something that’s in everyone’s long-term self-interest? Feasting is a key component of this kind of sociality and cooperation.