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The Reconstruction of Social Hierarchy

The general level of poverty perhaps meant that early Dark Age1 communities were largely egalitarian. Archaeologists have recently analyzed evidence from burials, however, which suggests that Greek society had once again begun to develop a hierarchical system perhaps as early as 1050 B.C. The revival of a social hierarchy in Dark Age Greece clearly shows up in the tenth century B.C. at a site now known as Lefkandi on the island of Euboea, off the eastern coast of the Greek mainland. There archaeologists have discovered the richly furnished burials of a man and woman, who died about 950 B.C. Their riches included goods of Near Eastern manufacture and style, testifying to the ongoing contacts between Greece and the Near East in the Dark Age. These contacts deeply influenced Greek mythology and religion as well as commerce. The dead woman wore elaborate gold ornaments that testify to her exceptional wealth. The couple were buried under a building more than 150 feet long with wooden columns on the exterior. The striking architecture and riches of their graves suggest that they enjoyed high social status during their lives and perhaps received a form of ancestor worship after their death. Such wealthy and powerful people were probably still few in number at this date, but their existence at Lefkandi proves that marked social differentiation had once again emerged in the Greek world. Stresses in this hierarchical organization of Greek society, as we shall see, were to set the stage for the emergence of Greece's influential new political form, the self-governing city-state of free citizens.

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Lefkandi (1)

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