The prehistoric entrepreneur: rethinking the definition

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: This paper aims to derive a time and place invariant definition of entrepreneurship necessary for the identification of prehistoric entrepreneurial behavior. Design/methodology/approach: The definition was derived by correlating a diverse set of archeological artifacts that could correspond to entrepreneurial activity with established anthropological and historical evidence of ancient entrepreneurial activity. The definition was formulated as a compact operational definition to ensure it could produce yes or no answers to whether specific archeological, anthropological or historical records could be associated with entrepreneurial activity. Findings: This effort produced a unique time and place independent definition of entrepreneur that enables the identification of prehistoric entrepreneurial activity and heretofore unrealized structure of entrepreneurial activity. Specifically, entrepreneurship as defined herein predates social hierarchy, political economy, markets and pricing mechanisms. Modern definitions often inconsistently limit the scope of entrepreneurial behavior. Research limitations/implications: This analysis was performed based upon specific, not exhaustive, sets of archeological, anthropological and historical records. Unexamined records or new discoveries could yield examples of entrepreneurial activity that transcend this definition. Practical implications: This definition challenges how we think about, measure and model entrepreneurial impact today and opens new avenues of inquiry to understanding the social and economic impacts of entrepreneurial behavior. Originality/value: A time and place invariant operational definition of entrepreneurship that could precisely identify entrepreneurial activity in the archeological record has not existed before. The definition enables the author to identify entrepreneurial activity among hunter-gatherers and in other locations not previously identified.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)458-475
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Management History
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 24 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • History


  • Anthropology
  • Archeology
  • Definition
  • Emergence
  • Entrepreneur
  • Entrepreneurship
  • History
  • Hunter-gatherer
  • Impact
  • Origin
  • Prehistoric


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