Originally Posted by Yora
Can anyone tell me something about the origin of nobility and "civil offices" in "semi-civilized" societies?
I think this question is culture-dependent. "Semi-civilized" Scandinavians are very different from "semi-civilized" Sumerians or Navajo. Factors such as food production, trade, tech level, climate, environment etc can dramatically change the social structure.
To give a basic (and simplified) example, farming communities tend to evolve quite differently from herding communities. The farmers' basic needs are irrigation and a system for the surplus grain to circulate properly - and be put in store for times of need. That tends to lead to concentration of power and some sort of central authority very early, not to mention the effects of private/state property of land. They require organizing skills, so relevant civil offices are prone to pop up.
In contrast, herders can be a lot more isolated and independent from each other. Central authority is not needed as such, and civil offices may be completely unknown. The social structure tends to be more clan-based. Violence comes a lot easier (to protect the animals form predators and from thieves/raiders), and the equivalent of nobility may be "bravest toughest guy with a knife, or descendent of one"
until very late.
And when you take into account contact with other communities (which may be peaceful or warlike), external threats of any sort, religious functions overlapping with social functions, abundance or scarcity of resources etc, things get increasingly complicated.
Personally, for all relevant subjects, I hold in high esteem two books: "The Golden Bough"
by Frazer, and "The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State"
by Engels. They begin from different premises, they are written with a different mindset, they focus on different aspects and they often (not always) reach different conclusions. But I think that looking at things from many points of view is the best way to get the big picture.
If you're looking for something more specific, there's a nice monograph by Nora Chadwick called "The Celts"
, which explains institutions in early Celtic societies, and how they evolved.
Of course, when we're talking about an age before written records, a lot of things are pure conjecture. We'll probably never know for sure how exactly human society evolved in its early stages.