Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


9 November 2016

Revolution within evolution: the emergence of a ‘secondary state’ on protohistoric Bronze Age Cyprus

Arthur Bernard Knapp Levant 45.1 (2013): 19-44


In two studies published some 25 years ago (Knapp 1986; 1988), I argued that the rise of social complexity on Cyprus during the late Middle to early Late Bronze Age involved the interplay of trade and external demand, the accumulation and reinvestment of wealth, and the division of labour into specialized production areas. In two follow-up papers (Knapp 1990a; 1993), I traced the ‘incipient’ stages in the emergence of socio-political complexity on Cyprus back to the Early and Middle Bronze Ages, arguing that gradual growth in metallurgical and agricultural production enabled emergent power groups to establish pre-eminence in the northern part of the island by at least 2000 BC. Nonetheless, I suggested that locally controlled exploitation of mineral, material and symbolic resources continued to characterize island society until c. 1700 BC, and that the ‘transformation’ then seen in Cyprus’s material culture represented a gradual development of power differentials in society. Virtually all other scholars involved have adopted a similar, evolutionary stance — looking at gradual development over a period of at least a millennium or more — to consider the dramatic changes that took place between c. 1750/1700‐1400 BC (ProBA 1). More recent publication of several Early‐Middle Bronze Age sites and related materials necessitates a reassessment of the conclusions drawn concerning the gradual emergence of social complexity on Bronze Age Cyprus. The discussion assesses various viewpoints related to Cyprus’s socio-political structure during and after this crucial transitional period, and in conclusion it is argued that none of the material correlates of a stratified complex society or emergent ‘secondary state’ appear together in the Cypriot archaeological record before about 1700 BC (MC III), i.e. at the very outset of the Protohistoric Bronze Age.


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