This chapter grows out of several stages in my own intellectual development in archaeology. I began as a European prehistorian with major interests in Bronze Age chiefdoms in Denmark and Western Europe generally (e.g. Levy 1982). However, after moving to North Carolina, I developed research interests in the later prehistory of the Southeastern United States. This cross-cultural perspective is helpful in illuminating both commonalities and differences in prehistoric human societies, including those called chiefdom, ranked, or middle-level societies. The literature on archaeologically known chiefdoms is vast; Earle (1987) provides a summary. Over time I began to find that the evolutionary perspective of much of this literature—that is, examining chiefdoms as part of a trajectory leading toward state development—tends to overemphasize the importance and, perhaps, rigidity of ranking in these societies. Both the Western European and Southeastern United States cases provide examples of chiefdoms which did not develop into primary states, so they offer an opportunity to look at the social dynamics of middle-level societies without focussing on what these societies might change into.