Journal of World Prehistory

, Volume 21, Issue 3–4, pp 173–193 | Cite as

‘The Bashful and the Boastful’

Prestigious Leaders and Social Change in Mesolithic Societies
  • Penny Spikins
Original Paper


The creation and maintenance of influential leaders and authorities is one of the key themes of archaeological and historical enquiry. However, the social dynamics of authorities and leaders in the Mesolithic remains a largely unexplored area of study. The role and influence of authorities can vary remarkably in different situations, yet they exist in all societies and in almost all social contexts from playgrounds to parliaments. Here we explore the literature on the dynamics of authority creation, maintenance and contestation in egalitarian societies, and discuss the implications for our interpretation and understanding of the formation of authorities and leaders and changing social relationships in the Mesolithic.


Mesolithic Social relationships Leaders Authorities Prestige Influence Dominance 



I would like to thank all those at the Cardiff conference in honour of John Evans, particularly Nicky Milner, Julian Thomas and Alastair Whittle for comments and discussion of the initial concepts presented there. I would also particularly like to thank Steve Roskams, Terry O’Connor, Geoff Bailey, Nicky Milner, Wendy Romer, Ivan Briz, Sven Feldmann, Laura Murray, Andy Needham, Wayne Britcliffe and Maurice Griffiths for all their ‘wise words, humbly given’ which I’m glad to have had the chance to listen to, reflect on and explore creatively. Thanks in particular go to Steve Roskams, Geoff Bailey and Terry O’Connor for comments on drafts of the paper.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Archaeology, The King’s ManorUniversity of YorkYorkUK

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