In this chapter, I will clarify the diverse evolutionary terms that have been applied to intermediate-level societies. My concern is to identify basic structural contrasts and largescale processes that together help explain social change in northern European prehistory during the Bronze and Iron Ages. Although the societies of these times have often been called chiefdoms, I want to emphasise that such a gloss term obscures the critical transformation that characterised European society at the end of the Bronze Age. It is the nature and the reasons for this transformation that I wish to illuminate in this paper.