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The term tribe is used in many different contexts to refer to a category of human social group. The predominant usage of the term is in the discipline of anthropology. The definition is contested, in part due to conflicting theoretical understandings of social and kinship structures, and also reflecting the problematic application of this concept to extremely diverse human societies. The concept is often contrasted by anthropologists with other social and kinship groups, being hierarchically larger than a lineage or clan, but smaller than a chiefdom, nation or state. These terms are equally disputed. In some cases tribes have legal recognition and some degree of political autonomy from national or federal government, but this legalistic usage of the term may conflict with anthropological definitions.

A map of uncontacted tribes, around the start of the 21st century

Few tribes today remain isolated from the development of the modern state system. Tribes have lost their legitimacy to conduct traditional functions, such as tithing, delivering justice and defending territory, with these being replaced by states functions and institutions, such as taxation, law courts and the military. Most have suffered decline and loss of cultural identity. Some have adapted to the new political context and transformed their culture and practices in order to survive, whilst others have secured legal rights and protections.

Anthropologist Morton Fried proposed that most surviving tribes do not have their origin in pre-state tribes, but rather in pre-state bands. Such "secondary" tribes, he suggested, developed as modern products of state expansion. Bands comprise small, mobile, and fluid social formations with weak leadership. They do not generate surpluses, pay no taxes, and support no standing army. Fried argued that secondary tribes develop in one of two way

The word tribe first occurred in English in 12th-century Middle English-literature, in reference to the twelve tribes of Israel.[1] The Middle English word is derived from Old French tribu and, in turn, from Latin tribus (plural tribūs), in reference to a supposed tripartite division of the original Roman state along ethnic lines, into tribūs known as the Ramnes (or Ramnenses), Tities (or Titienses), and Luceres, corresponding, according to Marcus Terentius Varro, to the Latins, Sabines and Etruscans respectively. The Ramnes were named after Romulus, leader of the Latins, Tities after Titus Tatius, leader of the Sabines, and Luceres after Lucumo, leader of an Etruscan army that had assisted the Latins. In 242–240 BC, the Tribal Assembly (comitia tributa) in the Roman Republic included 35 tribes (four "urban tribes" and 31 "rural tribes"). According to Livy, the three "tribes" were squadrons of cavalry, rather than ethnic divisions.

The English word 'tribe', stemming from the Latin tribus ('division of the people, tribe'), is generally seen as ultimately deriving from the Proto-Indo-European compound *tri-dʰh₁u/o- ('rendered in three, tripartite division'; compare with Umbrian trifu 'trinity, district', Sanskrit trídha 'threefold').[2]

Classification

Considerable debate has accompanied efforts to define and characterize tribes. In the popular imagination, tribes reflect a primordial social structure from which all subsequent civilizations and states developed. Anthropologist Elman Service presented[3] a system of classification for societies in all human cultures, based on the evolution of social inequality and the role of the state. This system of clas

The English word 'tribe', stemming from the Latin tribus ('division of the people, tribe'), is generally seen as ultimately deriving from the Proto-Indo-European compound *tri-dʰh₁u/o- ('rendered in three, tripartite division'; compare with Umbrian trifu 'trinity, district', Sanskrit trídha 'threefold').[2]

Considerable debate has accompanied efforts to define and characterize tribes. In the popular imagination, tribes reflect a primordial social structure from which all subsequent civilizations and states developed. Anthropologist Elman Service presented[3] a system of classification for societies in all human cultures, based on the evolution of social inequality and the role of the state. This system of classification contains four categories: