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Keywords:

  • cultural genre;
  • Neolithic transition;
  • social hierarchy;
  • built landscapes;
  • prestige goods

Abstract

How did the emergence of hierarchical social structure that followed the domestication of plants and animals in the Neolithic actually come about? I suggest that material media were instrumental in this transformation, as culture was changed by incorporating such newmedia as landscape constructions and elaborate prestige objects. During the Neolithic transition in Thy, Denmark, local corporate groups formed, and, subsequently, Bronze Age chieftains came to power. Shifts in material culture suggest possible connections to these institutional changes, namely the materialization of property rights by burial monuments and permanent domestic architecture and the centralization of power through the controlled production of wealth objects. I conclude that, as part of social process, the nature of culture has been transformed by incorporating material culture with specific characteristics of scale, permanency, and control that were vital to institutional change.