Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


10 August 2016

From reciprocity to centricity: the Middle Bronze Age in the Greek mainland

Sofia Voutsaki Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 29.1 (2016): 70-78


In this paper, I examine the role of reciprocal relations in processes of social change. More precisely, I discuss the transformation of modes of interaction and sumptuary behavior across a long period, from the collapse of the Early Bronze Age proto-urban societies, through the slow recovery during the Middle Bronze Age, to the intensification of social change during the transition to the Mycenaean period. A deep crisis swept across the southern Aegean at around 2200–2000 BC, bringing an end to the prosperous Early Helladic societies. While the causes of this crisis have been hotly debated, its consequences for the social fabric of the mainland communities have not been addressed systematically. In this study, I suggest that depopulation, social regression, and the ensuing fragmentation of the social body during Middle Helladic (MH) I–II (ca. 2100–1800 BC) were countered by two sets of practices: on the one hand, the establishment of reciprocal and segmentary networks of exchange that held together domestic groups, communities, and entire regions, and on the other, an emphasis on the continuity of the household that ensured its survival in this unstable period. The incorporation of the mainland into wider networks of interaction during the transition to the Mycenaean period (ca. 1800–1600 BC) brought about the transformation of kin-based MH societies to the differentiated Mycenaean polities. It is argued that this transformation relied on the manipulation of reciprocal exchanges and the subtle redefinition of modes of cooperation between households and kin groups.


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