Journal of World Prehistory

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 51–95 | Cite as

Emergence of complex society in prehistoric Korea

  • Rhee Song-Nai
  • Choi Mong-Lyong


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.

Key words

Korea complex society elites warfare metal industries mortuary architecture secondary formation 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rhee Song-Nai
    • 1
  • Choi Mong-Lyong
    • 2
  1. 1.Anthropology, Northwest Christian CollegeUniversity of OregonEugeneUSA
  2. 2.Department of ArchaeologySeoul National UniversitySeoulKorea

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