Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


3 December 2013

Bright as the sun: The appropriation of amber object in Mycenaean Greece

Joseph Maran in Hahn Hans Peter & Weiss Hadas (eds), Mobility, Meaning and Transformations of Things. Shifting Context of Material Culture through Time and Space (Oxford 2013), 147-169.

From the introduction

The archaeological treatment of intersocietal exchange has suffered from the diffusionist legacy of directing attention to the reconstruction of abstract flows of cultural traits, while neglecting changes in meaning brought about by the agency of the social actors who integrated such traits into local contexts. As a consequence, research has condemned objects of foreign derivation to remain foreign, irrespective of the meaning attached to them in a new cultural environment. It is only recently that awareness has increased in archaeology of  the need to study the re-contextualization of foreign cultural traits through acts of appropriation. This focus, however, requires a methodological approach that combines the macro-contextual framework of the social imaginaries of a society with a micro-contextual analysis using find associations to infer past patterns of practice. This has to go along with a shift of perspective towards what Bruno Latour has called translation, that is, negotiation of the meanings of cultural traits received from the outside through their integration into social practice and discourses within constantly re-assembled networks comprising human and non-human actants. Due to this fluidity of meaning, generalizing designations as exotic or prestige objects should be avoided because they suggest a semantic stability which cannot be taken for granted.

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