A Cycladic Perspective on Mycenaean Long-Distance Exchanges
Jason Walker Earle Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 25:1 (2012): 3-25.
Recent discussions of Mycenaean long-distance exchanges with the ‘East’ have focused on the goods exchanged, their means of production and shipment, and their significance for consumers. Despite voluminous research on these topics, consideration of Mycenaean long-distance exchanges with the eastern Mediterranean vis-à-vis the Cycladic islands during the Palatial Period has been minimal. Diachronic examination of the Late Bronze Age archaeological evidence from the Cyclades reveals the absence of certain defining aspects of Mycenaean palatial society. Missing, or at least not present to the extent seen before (and sometimes after) this period, are figured frescoes, sealings and seals, balance weights, inscriptions and imports from the Near East. Considered within the framework of ‘negative archaeology’, these objects are conspicuously absent from the Cyclades. When seen through the lens of the Mycenaean political economy, these absences shed light on the nature of Mycenaean long-distance exchanges and the place of Cycladic islanders in the Mycenaean world. Based upon this evidence, I propose that objects and absences alike served to integrate islanders into the Mycenaean culture of the Palatial Period, which in turn effectively excluded the Cyclades from participation in long-distance exchange networks. A model of directional Mycenaean long-distance exchanges that takes into account the negative evidence from the Cyclades is proposed.
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