, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 51-95

Emergence of complex society in prehistoric Korea

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A highly stratified society had emerged in the Korean peninsula by the beginning of the Christian era. It was expressed symbolically by ownership of valued goods and status burials. Four factors are basic to understanding the emergence of stratification in prehistoric Korea, around 2300–1700 B.P.: autonomous sociocultural evolution within the peninsula since early Chulmun Period, external pressures from more advanced culture spheres in Manchuria and northern China, the existence of elites able to facilitate integrative process, and warfare and conflict. The external pressures, in particular, resulted in a sociocultural process characterized as a secondary formation. For the evidence of emerging social complexity and stratification, the authors examine various archaeological data, with a special focus on differentiated mortuary architecture and its associated objects. Ancient Chinese accounts are considered as complementary evidence.