Archaeologists working on a 6000-year-old site, have discovered that Neolithic societies in the region were much more hierarchically organised.
The discovery comes from research conducted on a burial mound found at the hilltop enclosure of Hofheim-Kapellenberg. The enclosure dates to around 6000 years ago and is one of the best-preserved above-surface sites from the Neolithic. Earlier excavations also revealed a village of about 900 inhabitants that lived on the hilltop between 3750 and 3650 BC.
The burial mound is 90 m across and, while it cannot yet be dated, research suggests it was built between 4500 – 3750 cal BC and thus predates the village.
Although the burial mound was only recently discovered, excavations in the 1880s had already led to the discovery of two valuable stone axes in that area. One of which was finely manufactured out of Jade, sourced hundreds of kilometres away in the western Alps.
As such, these valuable items likely come from the recently found burial mound, suggesting the Stone Age society was more hierarchically organised than previously thought.
Instead of being an egalitarian community, it appears to have had an elite class capable of amassing the wealth necessary to obtain these axes and be buried with them in the extravagant monument.
Similar mounds from this period are found in Brittany, in the famous region of Carnac. This could suggest such hierarchies were spreading across Europe during the Neolithic.
Whether the expansion of this social structure was due to conquests or migration by a hierarchical group, cultural interactions with such a society, or just coincidence is unknown.