Aligning People

The Social Impact of Early Neolithic Medialities

  • Marion Benz (Autor/in)
  • Joachim Bauer (Autor/in)

Identifier (Artikel)


With increasing sedentism, many early Holocene communities of Southwest Asia experienced an unprecedented increase in medial priming, in various ways and on many levels. Here, we combine new research from the social neurosciences and investigations on mediality to trace the social impact of early Neolithic symbolism in Southwest Asia. We have analysed three case studies: the sedentary hunter-gatherer-fisher communities from Northern Mesopotamia of the 10th to 9th millennium BCE as well as the village farming communities of the Levant and Central Anatolia of the 9th to 7th millennium BCE. Our studies show that the increase in medial priming was not linear, but was rather driven by changing social conditions and human decisions concerning how to address the social challenges of increasing population densities. The novel mediality supported new relationships between people and places, between past and present, and strengthened new interpersonal relations. Outwardly similar symbols had different effects in varied social contexts. In the long run, we have observed a shift from integrative relations between humans and nature, to the dominance and representation of human groups, as well as a greater use of symbols within domestic households. Ever since this shift occurred, symbols have played a crucial role in creating commitment and aligning people.


Early Neolithic, Southwest Asia, social neurosciences, medial priming, iconic power