Archaeologists recognize that in some cases, in some places, at some times, simple societies for one reason and another morph into more and more complex societies, and some become civilizations. The reasons for this are quite controversial, but the characteristics of complexity recognized in ancient civilizations are pretty much agreed upon:
- social stratification and ranking,
- increasing sedentism,
- trade or exchange networks, leading to the presence of
- luxury and exotic goods (such as the baltic amber trade),
- craft specialization,
- control of food as in agriculture or pastoralism,
- high population density,
- monumental architecture,
- writing system,
- religious specialists such as shamans or priests,
- roads and transportation networks,
- centralized rule, and
- armed military force.
Not all of these characteristics necessarily have to be present for a particular cultural group to be considered a civilization, but all of them are considered evidence of relatively complex societies.
This glossary entry is part of the Dictionary of Archaeology.