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Big-Men and Small Chiefs: The Creation of Bronze Age Societies

Rune Iversen
  • Saxo Institute, Dept. of Archaeology, University of Copenhagen, Karen Blixens Plads 8, DK-2300 Copenhagen S, Denmark
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Published Online: 2017-12-07 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opar-2017-0023


This paper investigates to what extent the significant material changes observable at the end of the Neolithic reflect transformations of the underlying social dynamics. Answering this question will help us to understand the formation of Bronze Age societies. The analysis concerns southern Scandinavia with a certain focus on Denmark. The assumption is that the creation of Bronze Age societies must be understood as a long formative process that partly originated in the culturally-heterogeneous Middle Neolithic. Four aspects seem to have been essential to this process: the rise of the warrior figure, the reintroduction of metal, increased agricultural production, and the establishment of one of the characteristic features of the Bronze Age, the chieftain hall. These aspects do not appear simultaneously but are introduced stepby- step starting out in the late Middle Neolithic and early Late Neolithic to fully develop around 2000 BC. Consequently, this paper argues that the final Late Neolithic (LN II, c. 1950-1700 BC) was de facto part of the Earliest Bronze Age.

Keywords: Late Neolithic; Bronze Age; social transformation; Denmark; warrior; metal; agriculture; halls; Middle Neolithic


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About the article

Received: 2017-04-28

Accepted: 2017-10-07

Published Online: 2017-12-07

Published in Print: 2017-12-20

Citation Information: Open Archaeology, Volume 3, Issue 1, Pages 361–375, ISSN (Online) 2300-6560, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opar-2017-0023.

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