The relationship between increasingly complex societies and their subsistence base has long been known to be neither simple nor direct, but the various strands of complexity have been elusive and difficult to separate. One of the important findings of a symposium on transitions to agriculture was that the adoption of agriculture ‘entails major, long-term changes in the structure and organization of the societies that adopt this new way of life’ (Gebauer and Price 1992:1). The adoption of rice in Korea is an example of agricultural origins in a ‘secondary setting’ (Cowan and Watson 1992:209), which allows an examination of the effect of introducing a new and more productive crop into a society which already practised cultivation (with millets and perhaps other cultigens) (Nelson 1982a). While once it was thought that a new group of people had swept into the Korean peninsula with rice, dolmens, bronze and horses (e.g., Kim W.-Y. 1983:20), the increasing time-span of the introduction of rice into Korea and the level of detail which can be teased out of recent excavations present a decidedly different view. What emerges is a picture of the slow formation of an elite class, based on the greater productiveness of rice. Visible traces of the burgeoning elite include megaliths and their contents, especially burnished red jars and polished stone knives, later to be joined by bronze artefacts and jade beads. The introduction of rice into Korea is thus not a wave of advance nor does it represent independent invention; it is, rather, a slow absorption of a new crop with important local consequences.