The Emergence of Social Complexity: Changes in Animal Management Strategies between the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age in the Near East

Hill_AustinBy: Austin C. Hill, University of Connecticut, Educational and Cultural Affairs Fellow

The Chalcolithic to Early Bronze Age transition in the southern Levant has long been considered a threshold event in the development of social complexity in the Near East.  Societies are argued to have shifted from small scale, village-based chiefdoms to true “urban” or city-state level societies. Nevertheless, much recent criticism has focused on the accuracy of this long held characterization and the degree of social change that occurred between these periods. Studies of animal economies, however, can offer direct insight into political and social systems, but have rarely been used to look at social change in this key period. The types of species raised, how and when animals are slaughtered, and the parts of animals that are consumed are all directly affected by the degree of hierarchically organized production and distribution. Rigorous faunal studies, therefore, are a vital line of evidence in studying the emergence of social complexity. My research at the Albright focused on extending our understanding of faunal economies in these critical periods by analyzing new material, and synthesizing published material. Continue reading

Metal Implements and Tool Marks from the Levantine Second Millennium BC

Blackwell-NicholasBy: Nicholas Blackwell, Bryn Mawr College, American School of Classical Studies at Athens, AIAR Educational and Cultural Affairs Fellow

The primary purpose of my Spring 2012 fellowship at the Albright Institute was to compile an extensive dataset of metal tools from the Levantine second millennium BC. This research began to round out the previously-incomplete Levantine category of a tool database assembled for my dissertation on Middle and Late Bronze Age metal tools from the Aegean, Eastern Mediterranean, and Anatolia (Bryn Mawr College, 2011). Furthering this study through reading excavation reports from Syro-Palestinian sites and visiting museums in Israel, I was able to add a considerable number of tools to my database. The updated data has proven useful by 1) revealing patterns of tool distributions and regional preferences within the Levant, and 2) providing some context and comparison for implement types and trends in the broader Mediterranean and Anatolian worlds. The result is a more informed investigation of cross-regional interaction as indicated by tool choices and depositional practices. Continue reading

The Chalcolithic to Early Bronze Age (EB) Transition – Investigation of a Weak Link

By: Eliot Braun, National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow

 My tenure as an NEH Fellow at the Albright was exceptionally productive as it freed me to direct virtually all my energies into research and writing related to the above project.

I was able to complete an article in which I challenge some scholars’ interpretations suggesting there was no Late Chalcolithic occupation at Ashqelon. In it, I demonstrate that Chalcolithic and EB I settlements occupied hilly ridges and troughs between them. Since the area was bulldozed flat prior to excavation, only low-lying occupation debris was left to be excavated.  Thus, remains of both the Chalcolithic and EB I periods were often encountered at virtually the same absolute elevations, leading to published accounts suggesting all sequential deposits were actually contemporary, when in fact Stratum 1 at one location might be Chalcolithic, while nearby Stratum 1 might be dated to the Early Bronze Age.  Continue reading

Kinyras: The Divine Lyre

By: John C. Franklin, University of Vermont, AIAR Annual Professor

Kinyras is the legendary king of Cyprus, generally known only for his incestuous seduction by his daughter Myrrha (Ov. Met. 10.298–502). Yet a large body of scattered references—never completely assembled—ranges from Homer to Byzantine poets and scholars, and even the sixteenth-century Franco-Cypriot historian Étienne de Lusignan. Homer knew Kinyras as a Great King who treated with Agamemnon (Il. 11.19–23). The lost epic Cypria dealt with Kinyras’ faithless promise to join against Troy. Alcman’s ‘moist charm of Kinyras’ (3.71 PMGF) connects him with a Cypriot perfumed-oil industry going back to the Late Bronze Age. Pindar, invoking Kinyras as an exemplum for Hieron, has ‘Cypriot voices much resound around Kinyras’, makes him ‘cherished priest of Aphrodite’, and ‘golden-haired Apollo’s gladly-loved’ (Pyth. 2.15–17), and recalls an ancient Cypriot thalassocracy when he refers to the ‘blessed fortune . . . which once upon a time freighted Kinyras with riches in Cyprus on the sea’ (Nem. 8.17–18). All of these sources accord with Kinyras’ great proverbial wealth (Tyrtaeus 12.6 etc.). Continue reading

Prehistoric Anatolia and the Archeology of Warfare

By: Stephanie Selover, PhD Candidate, the University of Chicago


Stephanie excavating at Marj Rabba, Israel

My dissertation project centers on the study of evidence of warfare from Chalcolithic to Early Bronze Age Central and Southeastern Anatolia.  To date, research on the subject of warfare in the Ancient Near East in general and Anatolia in particular has been largely limited to overviews that include the entirety of the Ancient Near East and go into few details.  These include Roper’s “Evidence of Warfare in the Near East from 10,000-3,400 BC (1975), Ferrill’s The Origins of War (1985), Hamblin’s Warfare in the Ancient Near East to 1600 BC (2006) and Gat’s War in Human Civilization (2006).  Indeed, many such reviews of ancient warfare compile all of human existence from the Upper Paleolithic (100,000 BC) to the start of the Late Bronze Age (1300 BC) into a single chapter (e.g. Ferrill 1985: Chapter 2; Hackett 1989: Chapter 1).  Commonly, these studies lead off with the assumption that the origins of warfare start at some point in the ancient Near East then spread elsewhere (Ferrill 1985, Kelly 2000: 2; Vencl 1984).  Continue reading

Ulucak: A Prehistoric Mound in Aegean Turkey

Özlem Çevik (Archaeology Dept., University of Thrace, Edirne, Turkey) and Çiler Çilingiroğlu (Dept of Protohistory and Near Eastern Archaeology, Izmir, Turkey)

Fig 1: General view of Ulucak mound.

Fig 1: General view of Ulucak mound.

Ulucak is a settlement mound located 25 km east of İzmir, in western Turkey (Fig. 1). The mound contains cultural accumulations spanning periods from the Early Neolithic to Late Roman-Early Byzantine periods. The lengthy sequence at Ulucak allows observations on long-term continuities and discontinuities in the settlement layout, architecture, material culture, and subsistence patterns in Aegean Turkey over many millennia.

The start of excavations at Ulucak encouraged an increasing focus on Neolithic culture in western Turkey as the earliest occupation at the site is significant for understanding the neolithization mechanisms in the region. The early farming communities of Ulucak occupied the site from around 6750 to 5700/5600 cal BCE, thus providing us with valuable information on multiple aspects of their daily lives and cultural changes through time. Continue reading

From History and Myth, Anatolians in Mycenaean Greece

By: Josh Cannon, University of Chicago

The Late Bronze Age (LBA) of Anatolia is a period that has been described to us through history and myth. The history of LBA Anatolia comes primarily from the Hittites, who actively created and maintained records. Written in cuneiform, these records provide us with a wealth of information ranging from sweeping royal military campaigns to the correspondence of local leaders discussing missing slaves. The myth comes predominantly from the Archaic and Classical Greeks who wrote about how their Bronze Age ancestors interacted with their Anatolian neighbors. The most famous story of this nature is Homer’s Iliad. If we carefully weave the historical knowledge together with the myth, we can use the two together to accomplish more than either can do alone. However, this is a delicate task. Both sources need to be treated with their shortcomings in mind. For instance, one issue with the historical record is that it is incomplete. This is due to several reasons, though time will allow us to improve some of them. With time, scholars will continue to translate the many Hittite tablets that have been uncovered. Also, additional Hittite tablets will come to light through archaeological excavations. What time cannot touch are the historical details that were never recorded by the Hittites, details that were left out because they were deemed insignificant or perhaps politically damaging. Continue reading